The most useful piece of my writing process that I’ve ever figured out

I don’t write novels.

I write chapters. Or scenes. A sentence or even a word at a time.

Yeah, I have to pull back and look at big picture now and again. But I don’t write that way.

I can do this when I break it down.

What’s the most useful piece of writing advice that you’ve ever received or figured out on your own?

Comments (30)

  1. Oh, what a good insight!

    Probably the best one for me, being a longterm loggorheac, was also the most painful: just because I wrote passionately didn’t automatically mean it read passionately.

    I don’t think I have yet recovered that sense that my big, striding, horizon-striking emotions are limp-ass fireflies unless I work like a demon, and even then many readers just shrug and sniff.

    • That’s a good point. It isn’t part of my process – I’m more calculating, as well as more of a rewriter. But I know other people who deal with the same thing.

  2. If I outline or even wordbuild too much, my story is dead in the water. Just start typing; I can always tidy it up later. (Though revisions are harder for me than first drafts, because by then I know the story, making it a lot less interesting.) What happens next is the consequences of what happened previous. If it feels like a fun idea, go with it — the enthusiasm is more important than anything except honesty to my characters. If I’m having trouble moving forward, it’s probably not what I’m trying to do but a problem two steps back.

    Very personal process, this — none of it advice I’d give to another.

    —L.

    • For me – talking about it to people is different than outlining. I can outline pretty thoroughly. But talking about it in detail kills the energy for me.

      When I have problems moving forward it’s always because there’s something wrong with what I’ve just done. Or am trying to do. It might be the wrong POV character, or I’m starting at the wrong time, or I need some more background – something.

      I wouldn’t ever try to give advice on process. But talking about process may prompt someone else’s process, get them thinking about their own process in a new manner.

  3. I suppose mine is rather meta and probably not the sort of thing you had in mind: if writing fiction isn’t being enjoyable, quit writing if I’m only doing it to try selling stories or to enjoy the company of friends in the critique group or other such motives that aren’t directly related to writing fiction for the joy of it.

    • That’s actually a really good point – why do it if you’re not enjoying it? Looking at the parts you do enjoy, and maximizing them, is an intelligent thing to do, and can actually help your process a lot.

  4. My mentor essentially told us this about writing our senior theses: Write crap but edit beautifully.
    I’ve taken it to heart. The hardest part is actually getting it down on paper; once you’ve done that, it’s all downhill from there.

    • That’s a really good way to say it. Me – I’m more of a rewriter than a writer. Once I get it down, I can rewrite it.

  5. Oh, what a good insight!

    Probably the best one for me, being a longterm loggorheac, was also the most painful: just because I wrote passionately didn’t automatically mean it read passionately.

    I don’t think I have yet recovered that sense that my big, striding, horizon-striking emotions are limp-ass fireflies unless I work like a demon, and even then many readers just shrug and sniff.

    • That’s a good point. It isn’t part of my process – I’m more calculating, as well as more of a rewriter. But I know other people who deal with the same thing.

  6. If I outline or even wordbuild too much, my story is dead in the water. Just start typing; I can always tidy it up later. (Though revisions are harder for me than first drafts, because by then I know the story, making it a lot less interesting.) What happens next is the consequences of what happened previous. If it feels like a fun idea, go with it — the enthusiasm is more important than anything except honesty to my characters. If I’m having trouble moving forward, it’s probably not what I’m trying to do but a problem two steps back.

    Very personal process, this — none of it advice I’d give to another.

    —L.

    • For me – talking about it to people is different than outlining. I can outline pretty thoroughly. But talking about it in detail kills the energy for me.

      When I have problems moving forward it’s always because there’s something wrong with what I’ve just done. Or am trying to do. It might be the wrong POV character, or I’m starting at the wrong time, or I need some more background – something.

      I wouldn’t ever try to give advice on process. But talking about process may prompt someone else’s process, get them thinking about their own process in a new manner.

  7. I suppose mine is rather meta and probably not the sort of thing you had in mind: if writing fiction isn’t being enjoyable, quit writing if I’m only doing it to try selling stories or to enjoy the company of friends in the critique group or other such motives that aren’t directly related to writing fiction for the joy of it.

    • That’s actually a really good point – why do it if you’re not enjoying it? Looking at the parts you do enjoy, and maximizing them, is an intelligent thing to do, and can actually help your process a lot.

  8. My mentor essentially told us this about writing our senior theses: Write crap but edit beautifully.
    I’ve taken it to heart. The hardest part is actually getting it down on paper; once you’ve done that, it’s all downhill from there.

    • That’s a really good way to say it. Me – I’m more of a rewriter than a writer. Once I get it down, I can rewrite it.

  9. My process has a great deal to do with what to leave out. My canvases are always large; sometimes it takes a while to realize that whole segments are character development and not really moving the plot forward. Sometimes that’s okay, but often it gets left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. These excised pieces could probably stand alone with a bit of work, but usually I’m just done with them and I move on. I rarely do short fiction, so the scraps are not used and genuine ideas for short work rarely get written because they’re too simple to bother with. Then I read a short piece by a true short story crafter and realize of course there’s nothing simple about it. Just not me very often.

    • I tend to work from the opposite end I believe – I start with the outline, just the tree and a few branches, then fill in more branches and leaves from there. But it’s an interesting concept, figuring out what to leave out, as opposed to what to fill in. Thanks for sharing!

  10. My process has a great deal to do with what to leave out. My canvases are always large; sometimes it takes a while to realize that whole segments are character development and not really moving the plot forward. Sometimes that’s okay, but often it gets left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. These excised pieces could probably stand alone with a bit of work, but usually I’m just done with them and I move on. I rarely do short fiction, so the scraps are not used and genuine ideas for short work rarely get written because they’re too simple to bother with. Then I read a short piece by a true short story crafter and realize of course there’s nothing simple about it. Just not me very often.

    • I tend to work from the opposite end I believe – I start with the outline, just the tree and a few branches, then fill in more branches and leaves from there. But it’s an interesting concept, figuring out what to leave out, as opposed to what to fill in. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Running uphill

    I use two guidlines. The first is that nobody writes well, people re-write well. The second is that all the fun of writing is at the beginning of the work, and lessens as one reaches the end (and re-writing is, woefully, the least fun of all).

    • Re: Running uphill

      The first part is definetly part of my process – I rewrite. The second isn’t as true for me–I like all the parts of the process. I really enjoy rewriting, re-visioning, strengthening and polishing the work. It isn’t the same as the first bit, and in some ways is more difficult, but I still find it very satisfying.

  12. Running uphill

    I use two guidlines. The first is that nobody writes well, people re-write well. The second is that all the fun of writing is at the beginning of the work, and lessens as one reaches the end (and re-writing is, woefully, the least fun of all).

    • Re: Running uphill

      The first part is definetly part of my process – I rewrite. The second isn’t as true for me–I like all the parts of the process. I really enjoy rewriting, re-visioning, strengthening and polishing the work. It isn’t the same as the first bit, and in some ways is more difficult, but I still find it very satisfying.

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: