The writing process has come up more than a few times on twitter. I’ve mentioned that Once Upon a Time in Iowa is not coming along in the usual way. Always, in the past, I’ve written in a very linear fashion. It made sense. Beginning. Middle. End. Right?
The writing process itself is pretty linear. You come up with an idea. You write your first draft. You edit, revise, and rewrite. Polish it until it shines. Then, you share it. Basic. Right?
Elementary, my dear Watson
The truth is that the writing process isn’t as simple as all that. That’s what we learned in elementary school. We weren’t writing novels in elementary school. It’s safe to say that our writing process includes so much more than all of that now.
I wish I could say that I just sit down and begin to write. That’s what would be ideal. I’d boot up my laptop, open Microsoft Word (I know, I know. Everyone else has totally upgraded to some super cool word processor while I’m still clinging to my Word.), and I’d spend hours writing.
My novel would be done in no time. Then the next, and the next, and the one after that. But, nothing’s ever that easy.
Should we call it a ritual?
I can’t work in silence. Sometimes, music can be enough. But lately, I find it incredibly distracting. I turn on the TV and log into Netflix.
I choose shows that cannot influence my writing. I also select only shows I’ve seen before so that they won’t be a distraction. Recently, I’ve been rewatching Criminal Minds in the background while I write.
TV on, noninfluential television show playing for background, I boot up my laptop. By now, I discover my coffee’s grown cold. While my laptop is booting up, I go to refill my cup. If I’m lucky, I’ll find that there’s another cup remaining in the pot. If I’m not lucky, I find that the guys took the last of it before they left for work. Either way, I’ll also be brewing a fresh pot at this point.
My computer sits, ready and waiting.
Time to write
I can’t just dive right into Once Upon a Time in Iowa. When I try, these are the days that I stare at the blinking cursor and ultimately give up. I need to write before I can write.
Sometimes, I come here to my blog and write something for all of you. Other days, when I haven’t got a clue what to blog about, I’ll take to my journal. If both fail me, it’s just not meant to be a writing day.
What’s in a journal
Some things from elementary school just stick. I remember black composition notebooks and silent writing time. I remember that sometimes the teacher gave us an assignment. As writers, we still use these writing prompts. Other times — these were my favorite times — the teacher would tell us to free write.
That’s what you’ll find in my journal. I’ll just sit and watch the world around me. I’ll write about whatever comes to mind. It might be that very world I’ve been watching. Some are short stories, inspired by absolutely nothing, with no purpose other than to stretch my writing muscles.
Finally ready to begin
I’ll open up Word, and, with writing muscles properly stretched, I settle in for the long haul. Okay, long haul is probably dreaming again, but we’ll get to that later.
When I started Once Upon a Time in Iowa, I was writing in a linear fashion. It was all saved in one Word document. As my writing process changed, I found that this was no longer working. I separated each scene into its own save file.
There’s still so much to do
When I’m not actively writing, ideas — and even entire scenes — come to me. I try to jot them all down. Sometimes, they are additions or corrections for sections already written. I locate the file and make the changes. Save it and close it again.
For the unwritten parts, I have to decide where they belong. If their place is not yet written, I’ll set them aside. This is when I return to my comfort zone. Linear writing.
I get to pick up where I left off, always aware of those orphan scenes and concepts that are waiting for me to find their location and include them. If I write myself to a place they can fit, I add them in.
Stops and Starts
My other job gets in the way. I’m a stay at home mom. I’m home with my laptop. There is no boss and no scheduled hours that I must comply with. Freedom. Not!
Just as I’m getting into my writing, my daughter needs something from me. Pause. Ok, back to writing. Washer just buzzed. Switch it out, start a new load. Refill coffee. Back to writing. Husband texts. Writing some more. Dryer buzzes. Switch, fold, put away. Back to writing. Cats are hungry. Dang it, I forgot about the dishes. Wash the dishes. Back to writing. Watching the clock. Writing is suffering. Dinner needs to be started. Oh, forget it. Save. Shut it down. Try again tomorrow.
There’s no wrong way to get it write
It feels like it is taking me so long. The research. The writing. The entire writing process. There are days I feel like I’m never going to reach the end. Others where I think it’s almost finished. So close to the end that I fight it. I don’t want to write that last scene, even though it’s already mostly written (that nonlinear thing again).
One day soon, I will have no choice. The End will arrive, and my only option will be to finish it. Until that day, I’ll keep writing and rewriting every bit of story that comes before it.
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