Days 19-23. My fancy schmancy writing process!

Exciting title, right? Aren’t you just dying to have your socks blown off with some spectacular writing tips and tricks?

Is that setting the expectations a little too high? Probably.

Today’s post will be a bit of a departure from my usual. I don’t have any frustrations or complaints to hash out. There most likely won’t be any sarcasm or snarky remarks.

On second thought, there may be a few. It is me.

Today I thought I would explain my writing process. Now, it’s not something I’m necessarily proud of. I don’t think I use a mythical process that is superiour to anyone elses. I’m just sharing this information in hopes that someone can share a few of their own helpful suggestions, or maybe take some of mine for themselves.

When I started writing my book, I researched constantly. I scoured the internet day after day, searching for some lucrative advice. I was hoping to stumble across the hidden secret to tackling such a giant project, that one golden nugget that would “click” into my mind and turn me into a writing machine.

What I found instead was more overwhelming. There are tons of processes and guides out there. Everyone writes differently, and everyone has their own opinion on how you should write. I quickly realized I couldn’t find a single process I agreed with whole-heartedly. So I improvised and took a few tips from each one.

Side note: I was going to commit to the snowflake method, but do you realize how complicated snowflakes are? They are nothing like I used to draw as a child!

After forming my own mental collage of tricks, I nailed down my 3 step system.

Step One: The Moleskine.
Now before you say anything, I know this is a “hipster” notebook. I also know it makes me sound kind of pretentious, but when I was younger I used to lust after those overpriced notebooks. Every artistic person I admired had one. I dreamed of one day being deserving of such a notebook. (As it turns out, you don’t need artistic abilities to own a Moleskine. You need about 18 bucks.)
Anyway, I love to take notes. I can’t really work something out in my mind unless I put it down on paper first. In my Moleskine, I write my ideas as they come to me. I write it down even if I don’t think it’ll make it into my book. Instead of just mulling the idea over in my head, I write it down and move on. If it needs to be revisited, it’s in there. If it turns out to be crap, I can cross it out. This is where I write down characters I think up, plot lines I haven’t completely figured out, bits of conversation I hear, etc. I usually carry this around with me so I can jot things down on the go. I’ve noticed that inspiration hits at the most inoppurtune moments.
Also: it’s a conversation starter. You can’t just whip out your Moleskine in a frenzy and not have someone notice!

Step Two: The Binder
While my Moleskine is an idea dump, my binder is where the final information goes. I have it divided into tabs. There’s a tab for the outline, characters, facts about government/society, and scenes. (There are a few more but they’re unique to my story.) When I finalize a character, I write down a basic summary of the person. When I finalize a scene, I write out the setting and dialogue. This binder houses the most important pieces of my book, so all that’s left for me to do is connect them through writing.
Now I say everything is “final” in my binder, but that’s not always the case. As anyone who is writing a story knows, things change and adapt. So sometimes I have to rewrite things in my binder. (Sometimes this is because my main character visits me in my dreams and yells at me. It’s true. See previous blog posts.)

Step Three: Write!
This step is pretty self explanatory. I write. I find it really useful that I have so many of the big pieces written out in my binder. This means that writing, for me, is mostly just expanding and connecting. I write everyday. I write even on days I don’t feel like it. I write even when everything I write is crap. Having the binder and Moleskine makes it a lot easier for me. I always have an idea of where I’m headed, and a reference point to look back on.

I know this seems a bit extensive to some. I wish I was one of those people that could just sit down and write. Unfortunately, I am a meticulous planner. I can’t focus unless I have the next 10 things planned out. So this is what works for me.

Do YOU have any tips/suggestions on how I can improve my process? What process do you use?

Days 19-23 are down! 161 days to go!

P.S. Further defending my madness: My story doesn’t take place in society today. It actually takes place about 100 years into the future. Having this system helps me plan out what the world looks like at that point. It might not be necessary for a story that takes place in this time period.

Days 16-18. My imagination has ADHD.

Just a few days ago I had the worst writers block. I spent hours in front of my laptop trying to will the words to form. Every single sentence felt like I was wading through sludge, up a hill, in the rain, and with only one leg.

I actually became desperate enough to entertain the idea of a “writers block exorcism”. There just has to be some holy writer who can sprinkle water on my laptop and shout “BEGONE WRITERS BLOCK! LEAVE, YOU EVIL DEMON!”

Right?

Thankfully, it hasn’t come to that just yet. Though I am still keeping a lookout for this elusive holy writer. You know, just in case.

It seems my imagination finally decided to get off its lazy bum and spin me some ideas. It just wasn’t in the way I had hoped.

My imagination threw up its hands and declared “To hell with book one! Let’s move on to the sequel!” Yesterday, all I could think about was the sequel. Idea after idea just came pouring into my head. New characters, new scenes, and even some snippets of dialogue. I have 70% of the framework completed for my sequel. (That includes a couple of hastily written scenes I wrote on my work computer and emailed to myself. Shhh!)

Just in case a refresher is needed, I haven’t even finished writing my first book. You know the one that is supposed to come before this sequel. It just happens to be the same one I’m supposed to finish by the end of the year.

Of course, I’m thankful for the ideas. I can’t ignore that it’s probably a good thing to know the basic outline of the sequel. I’m sure it will help me better navigate the first, provide a clearer picture of where everything is headed, and yadda yadda yadda. I just wish my imagination wasn’t’ so scatterbrained. It’s cantering off to the second book when I need it to focus on the first.

Side note: Does anyone else’s imagination remind them of the 11th Doctor in Doctor Who? My imagination makes me think of Matt Smith running frantically all over the Tardis, pressing buttons, and rambling about all the places we can go. Anyone?

At first, I tried to coddle my imagination. What a great idea, sweetie! Look at you go, this will be perfect for the second book! Now, how about we figure out this complex scene? I know you can do it!

Now I’ve moved on to threats. I’m not going to even THINK about writing this sequel unless you get your act together and give me some ideas!

Neither has worked.

For now I am forced to do what my “Doctor” imagination tells me to do. I will hold tight and pretend it’s a plan.

Days 16-18 are down. 166 days to go!

Days 9-15. Writers block is kicking my ass.

So it’s been a while.

I wish I had some grand excuse but really I’ve just been busy. (Busy is a fancy way of saying I’ve been sitting on my couch watching an embarrassing amount of the Office.)

Also, I’ve been dealing with writer’s block. It’s kind of been kicking my ass. I still force myself to write every day, like I am supposed to. It’s just becoming more and more difficult. I know that everyone has these days when the words just don’t seem to flow. I have to admit though, it’s still disheartening. Everything I’ve written feels like crap (so much so that I can’t even think of a more eloquent word for crap.)

I think writers block just amplifies my pessimism to an obscure level. All I can think is that I’m never going to finish this book! This will be the worst book ever written! People everywhere will throw darts at my picture during their book club meetings!

Of course, I know that watching The Office is not helping my creative abilities. I may have tried to force one of my characters into saying “That’s what she said.”

Even writing this blog post is a struggle. How do I write about how I am unable to write? What can I say other than “this sucks”? And where the hell is Rita Skeeter’s quill when I need it?

Anyway, Days 9-15 are down. I’m moving along, one crappy page at a time.

Apparently “writer’s block” causes my vocabulary to deteriorate to that of a 12 year old.

Days 6, 7, and 8. Shut up, I created you!

Is it normal to dream about the characters you create?

If so, is it also considered normal for your characters to chastise you for something you’ve written?

I’m hoping this is some sort of unspoken initiation into the writing world. Otherwise, I may be worse off than I thought.

In case a little bit of back story is needed: Whenever I am really “in” to something (books, TV shows, etc.) I tend to dream about them frequently. Most of the time, my dream just consists of the characters having random conversations. They talk about the weather or their weekend, just every day things that real people talk about.

Seriously, this is how creative my subconscious is.

The first time I dreamed about my main character was a few weeks ago. In my dream, I had a normal conversation with her. She casually mentioned that she didn’t agree with something I’d written. No big deal. She was actually quite nice about it. I reread the scene in question, and she was right. I chalked it up as a little reminder from my subconscious, and I changed the scene.

I guess I was unaware of just how much sass I had written into this girl. One dream visit was not enough; she had to make another appearance. Even in my dream I was not amused. Is it not enough that I have to write in her voice every day? Does she have to start talking in my head while I’m dreaming?

This time, she meant business. You see, I had changed a difficult scene because I was too upset to write the outcome it needed. It required her to do something I felt too sick to write about. So I changed it.

I know, I know. Bad aspiring writer!

I never pegged her for a “hand on the hip” type of girl, but I guess my subconscious was really peeved. She came in and threw a temper tantrum that would’ve made most 2 year olds blush. In my dream, I was terrified of this person. Instead of arguing or pleading my case, I just timidly agreed to rewrite the scene.

When I woke up, however, the fear was replaced with annoyance. I kept mumbling “who does she think she is?” and “she better leave me alone”. Even my cats started to look at me strangely.

But really, who does she think she is? I created her! I can make her into a bald, potato farmer if I want to! I can make her never speak again!

I feel like I may be getting carried away.

My question is: will this be my life from now on? Will I constantly dream of my characters telling me off? Will I be doomed to spend my time mumbling snarky retorts to imaginary people?

She has become my own version of Freddy Krueger. I may never sleep again.

Needless to say, I rewrote the scene. She was right, after all.

Days 6, 7, and 8 are down. Only 176 to go!

P.S. I’ve heard of another author whose characters visited her in her dreams. Stephanie Meyers. Can you see why I am so concerned?

Day 5. Here’s to you, Biebs!

Planning the dedication of my book, the book I haven’t even finished writing yet, probably seems a little overzealous.

I’m asking you to just go with it.

If my book ever makes it to publication, it will have a surprising dedication in it. Justin Bieber. Now, before you either get really excited or really disgusted, please know that I am NOT a fan of the Biebs. In fact, I think he’s one of the worst musical artists (I’m using that term loosely) ever. He’s made even more unappealing by the gaggle of giggling girls that wear his t shirts and cry during his songs.

Worse, of course, are the older women who do the same thing.

But I have to thank Mr. Bieber. He was one of the driving forces behind the start of my book. I had been humming and hawing about starting my book for a while. Who was I to want to write a book? I didn’t know if I should actually try it or just let it go. Que my liberation in the form of his prepubescent face staring back at me from the cover of his book. I was horrified.

I think my face closely resembled that of Carrie’s when they pour the pigs blood on her.

Why does he have a book? What contribution does that book make to the literary world? WHY IS HIS STUPID, LITTLE FACE ON THIS BOOK?

If I hadn’t been in a public place, I may have thrown a tantrum.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know there is only a 1% chance he actually wrote that book (no matter what he says!). I’m almost certain he had a writer who specialized in sounding like a 14 year old girl. But I still had to question, why?

It was in the middle of the book section of Target that I made my decision. If this whiney, immature child can have a book then so can I! If there are authors out there that can have bad books published (ahem, Stephanie Meyers) then I can at least write my book! That’s all I was asking for! I had spent so much time feeling inadequate. No more!

Side note: The difference is my story is actually good. No sparkling vampires or ambiguous main characters. I promise.

So that is why I have to thank Justin Bieber. So thanks, Biebs! The fact that you can pull your pants up long enough to “write” a book means that so can I! You can always return my thanks by promising to never make music again. Please?

Anyway, day 5 is down. 179 to go!

Day two, three, and four.

Obviously, I will not be updating this every day. I think 182 posts of me saying how frustrated I am about writing might get a little repetitive. Might.

Day two, three, and four went by just fine. I think it’s a bit of a cheat though. I’m in the middle of a scene that’s heavy dialogue. So yay for extra line spacing!

Side note: Can my entire book be dialogue? I’m sure somewhere that would be considered edgy.

I still have entire list of things I need to do planning wise. Who knew thinking of names for things could be so difficult? I’m starting to question why I didn’t decide to write something that takes place here and now. If I did, I wouldn’t have to think of different town names and government names and yadda, yadda. 

I also need to take a lesson in excess. I started to create back stories for all of my main characters. I realized, after writing almost 3 pages for each character, that I had given them all tragic, depressing stories. I’m sure there’s some psychological reason for why I decided to give all of my characters such traumatic pasts, but I don’t want to delve into that can of infinite darkness. So I had to delete a lot of that information. Which is fine, I can just save it for whatever depressing characters I have in future writings of mine. Given the current situation, I’m sure there will be tons.

I’m really trying to accept the fact that my first draft is word vomit. I have this irritating urge to edit every sentence right after I write it. I have to force myself to move along and just accept whatever crap flows from my mind. I didn’t used to do that. When I started this project, I would write and then edit the next day. This is probably why I was unable to move past the first few pages for weeks. I can already tell that editing is going to be a bitch. My word vomit is extra vomit-y.

So days two, three, and four are down. 180 to go!

Day One

So, I’m writing a book. Or rather, I’m attempting to write a book.

It hasn’t been quite the same process I envisioned when I was younger, and I dreamed of becoming a writer. I used to imagine writer’s as elusive and ethereal beings. In my imagination, they would have a sudden stroke of inspiration, and the entire story would just pop into their heads like a little gift. No writers block. No frustration. It would just flow effortlessly.

As I’ve come to find out, this is not the case. For me, writing has been a difficult and stressful process. My idea did pop into my head in an unexpected way, but it wasn’t fully formed. It was more like a hurried sketch on a napkin than a little gift wrapped in a pretty bow. It was a rough skeleton of a “could be” story, and I still had a lot of filling in to do. I spent six months just going over the little pieces of information in my head before I decided I might as well give it a go. This was last November. I told myself I would have my first draft done by the end of 2013. No big deal, right? That gave me over a year. I had researched some tips from published writers, and most of them agreed that your first draft is complete crap.  How hard could it be, really? I would just bang out a paragraph or so every day and then by the end of the year it would be finished!

Again, I had unrealistic expectations.

Apparently, there is more to it than just sitting down and typing. For example, my story doesn’t take place within the confines of our own society, so there’s a lot of detail about the setting that just comes from my own head. I quickly found it’s almost impossible for me to force creativity. No matter how long I stared at my blank notebook, it wasn’t getting any easier. I kept waiting for that second little wave of thought to crash over me.

It never did.

So I’ve realized that although the idea may have been put into my head by some elusive inspiration, the rest was completely up to me. I started to do the only thing I know how to do when I feel pressured. I made lists. I made lists of things I still needed to figure out about this world and the people in it. I made lists of names I still needed for characters and places. I made lists of the character traits and setting descriptions. I even made a list of any twists and turns I wanted to include in the story.  The planning paid off; I had the framework for 85% of the story and the characters.

However, I still wasn’t writing. I had typed out a few pages here and there. Instead of writing every day, as I told myself I would, I just “planned” instead.

You can imagine my horror when I realized that it is now July, and I am not even close to halfway done. It would be an understatement to say panic has now set in. It may not be a life or death situation, but if I can’t even complete the first goal I set for myself in my writing career then I am off to a terrible start. I’ve been jumping ahead worrying about the book not being published or ever read. In reality, I need to worry more about actually writing it.

It was time for extreme measures.

Say hello to my militant writing schedule (by my standards anyways). I will be writing 2 pages every week day and 4 pages every day of the weekend. There are 182 days left in the year so that should leave me with roughly 420 pages on top of what I already have. If you can tell, math was never my strong suit.

So maybe my writing process isn’t what I imagined it would be. I am not able to calmly sit and type out wonderfully written prose at the drop of a hat. Every single word I’ve put into this story has come with its fair share of sweat and frustration. There may have even been moments where I was reduced to tears (when I realized I had used 25 of the most overly used words). However, if I can stick to this schedule then I will complete my first draft by the end of the year. Then I can set it aside and ignore it for 3 weeks while I try to regain my sanity.

I decided to start this blog as a way to release my writing frustrations, and also as a way to hold myself accountable for my work. So if we’re friends and you see me out and about then you should ask me if I’ve done my 2 (or 4) pages. If I back away from you slowly and avoid eye contact then you know what that means. Please find the nearest (soft) object and (gently) hit me over the head with it.

As for Day One, I completed my 2 pages (and an extra half for good measure). So that’s one day down and 183 more to go.