Inside a Writing Process + Getting Around a Psychological Block


Everyone has a different writing process. Over time, of course, some methods grow stale and new "systems" take over.

Poetry

I like to write first drafts of poems in the company of other poets. We read our favourite poems and then dive in and write for 45 minutes or so, and then we share what we've written. It also helps that these writing sessions take place early in the morning, before the inner critic is awake.

I usually write whatever I feel attracted to write about...and I don't worry too much about the result. That comes later when I transcribe what I've written and have a look to see what material I have. Sometimes the very things that I thought were working during the writing process are flat, while other bits and pieces that I wrote that I thought weren't working become the actual material that seems to have some energy in it.

In terms of editing, sometimes it doesn't work to just keep moving the original words around. I have to basically start from scratch all over again. I don't mind rewriting alone. But it's great to be around other poets when you face the blank page - it's comforting and the air is rich with ideas.

Short Stories

I find that I am either totally absorbed in writing stories or else I'm on a break from it. In other words, my short story writing seems to come in cycles. I don't need to be around other writers to write fiction. Usually something from my real life sparks a story. I also don't worry about the result when I'm writing short fiction, because I write first for myself and I tell myself it doesn't have to be seen by anyone else. Only later, after it's finished, will I consider whether it's something worth submitting somewhere. So in short, I guess I go on short story writing sprees and then when I've had my fix, I can leave it for a while. Same thing when it comes to editing short stories. I'll suddenly really be interested in polishing and sending out stories to magazines and then once I've done that, I feel satisfied for a while.

Novel

When I wrote the first draft of my novel, I had a quite extensive preparation time. I wrote loglines for many, many story ideas. That was fun in itself, just brainstorming ideas and trying to condense them down into one sentence.

You've probably heard that writers often combine two different story ideas into one. I decided to do that as well. I had to spend a lot of time figuring out the turning points and major events. Once I had the basic structure, I wrote a sentence or two outlining what needed to happen in each chapter. I wouldn't decide the exact scene, but I'd have to at least decide what kind of action would be needed. I also spent a long time going over the details of each of my characters. So when I sat down to write, I didn't have to invent things like where the character lived because I'd already created their world.

I can see why I never could find one book that could truly explain how to write a novel because there are so many steps and also each person is going to ultimately have to find their own way to do it!

I got over a huge psychological obstacle by doing the following:

1) I decided that if four-paged chapters were good enough for Jane Austen, they were good enough for me. Since I gravitate towards short bursts of writing this helped me solve the psychological block called: "How am I going to write 300 pages?"

2) I used a writing app called Scriptito to organize my writing and the bonus of this app for me was that I couldn't actually see how many pages I was writing. I could only see my word count for each chapter. For some reason not being able to see the page breaks, but just having one small blank screen to write on, helped me to keep my focus and not obsess over how many pages I'd written. I knew I had a minimum word count that I wanted to meet for each chapter and although I'd go slightly over or under that depending on what the actual scenes required, once I was close enough to the word count I needed, I would close the chapter and be done writing for the evening. This also helped me get over the psychological block called: "How am I going to write 300 pages?"

I could share more, but this seems like more than enough for one blog post.

Happy writing and please share what works for you!