Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.
If you didn't catch Monday's post, I talked about the idea of pursuing a process rather than writing goals. Which led us to the question of how to go about creating a writing process.
It's important, I think, to recognize that your writing process is unique to you and to your time of life. It'll change as you enter new phases (college versus high school, kids versus no kids). There are also seasons within those seasons. I always have kids—but part of the year they're in school and part of the year they're at home with me. That impacts how I get stories written. You might be in school nine months out of the year, but for three of those months you play competitive volleyball. That'll make a difference.
So the point of this discussion is to help you determine what works best for you right now. I love Theodore Roosevelt's advice, "Do you what you can, with what you have, right where you are."
Could you be a more productive writer if you didn't have to be bothered with Geometry and if you had your own office? Probably, yes. But if that's not where you are right now, then it doesn't do us any good to dwell on the ideal. Instead, let's figure out where you are and how to build a good process.
Evaluate where you are in regards to:
Writing time: When do you write? Where do you write? How often do you write? When you write, how long do you do it for? Do you turn off distractions to focus on writing or do you frequently take breaks for a quick email or Pinterest browse?
Organization: When you have a book idea, what do you do with it? If you read a thought-provoking article on writing, do you have a place to store it? What do you do with notes that you make about your current manuscripts?
Getting the story down on paper: How much time do you spend writing, and how much time do you spend talking about writing? Do you write fast first drafts or do you edit as you go? How much planning do you do beforehand? How do you develop your characters? Are you able to write full books or not yet?
Growing as a writer: Do you take steps to grow as a writer? Do you read craft books or download classes? Do you have blogs you read? Do you have a critique group or partner? Do you read in the genre that you write?
Evaluate what's working and what's not:
I don't know who first said, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten," (my brief internet research credits it to Einstein, Mark Twain, and several others) but it certainly applies to writing books.
As you consider the way you currently do things, ask yourself if it's working for you. And I don't mean that as, "Are you a bestselling novelist?" or even, "Are you writing publishable books?"
By "is it working for you?" I mean, does what you do now consistently lead to improvement in your writing? Maybe progress is slower than you'd like, but is it there? Are you doing the best you can with what you have right where you are?
If not, what can be changed?
Here's three examples from my past of ways I've had to consciously change my way of doing things:
- When Jill and I were working on Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book,between the book and the blog, I was spending way more time talking about writing than actually writing. As soon as we finished that project, I knew I needed to re-calibrate how I spent my time. It was surprisingly difficult to get back into the discipline.
- Years ago, I realized I was in a bad habit of writing half a book, going back and revising the first part, and then getting frustrated and putting the story aside. I decided I need to try writing bad first drafts, and that's worked really well for me ever since.
- I used to get so excited about story ideas that I just plunged right in and wrote until I ran out of steam. I later figured out that spending a little time plotting before I wrote helped me to stay excited about a story for longer. I still hit stretches in the first draft where writing feels incredibly hard, but I'm able to power through much better.
Just because a method for writing a book feels comfortable or natural to you doesn't mean it's the best way for you to go about it. My natural bend as a writer was as a pantser, but as I moved further in my writing career, I saw how it benefited me to plot. On the other side, some people hide behind planning and storyworld building as a way to procrastinate from writing.
Have you learned anything from evaluating where you are? Do you have ideas for things you want to adjust?