Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Adaptive Writing Process

Gene Lempp wrote a nice article on the ROW80 website Monday. In particular, I appreciated his "adjust, adjust, adjust" sentiment. Flexibility in goals is something I personally struggle with. I'm very much an A-to-B-to-C type of person. That is to say, I enjoy making lists that I then act on in order.

Marriage has taught me many things. One of the toughest early lessons has been that, well, not everyone is like that. Apparently, there's a whole segment of society out there that, um, doesn't make lists. I know. Blew my mind, too. I'm still not sure the notion has sunk in.

(If you're not a list person, you're probably laughing at me. Like, "Well, duh. Of course not everyone is type A." Only fellow list-makers can understand. Even entertaining the thought of living without lists is so foreign and scary to me, that it's practically unthinkable. How do folks like that accomplish anything?! I can't explain it, but it exists. Like the platypus.)

It makes sense, then, that my writing process reflects my generic personality type. For my first two novels, I've basically written them a day at a time. I'm not a huge outliner, but I do make a general timeline to start each book, then I knock off the scenes like items on a list. I start at the beginning, and write straight through to the end. The revise, revise, revise.

I'm about 3 chapters into my third novel, and recently I've had to become more adaptive. This summer has been a busy one for me, and writing time has been hard to come by. Previously, I'd been able to reliably squeeze in an hour or so each day. Writing in small daily chunks made sense. It worked for me. And, perhaps more importantly, it worked with me. It was a type-A writing process.

My goals have remained unchanged. I still want to average a page per day of new fiction. Not to mention my blogging goals. The problem with this summer is that I can't rely on squeezing in that hour. Some days, it's simply not there. Instead, my process has adapted of its own accord.

I've never experience this before. I didn't sit down and think, "Gee, I really need to adapt." I had my goals. I didn't allow myself to shrink away from them, despite a busy schedule. That means I had to make hay while the sun shines--or--take advantage of the windows of time that I do have.

Recently, I've been writing in larger chunks. Several pages a day have become the norm. What's more, I don't even really notice it. It's like subconsciously I know I won't get to spend as much time with the story as I'd like, so I need to get it all out now. I'm writing a lot faster. I'm writing complete scenes in one sitting.

I'm also making a lot more mistakes. Previously, I would edit the prior day's page, then write the next one. Now, I spend entire days editing sometimes... but I add enough that I'm still netting a page of new fiction. I find that I'm naturally writing around a scene, and then going back to fill in some of details.

It's all really odd to me. My writing process has adapted to fit my needs. Have any of you writer types experienced this?

Gene's advice on adaptation is solid. I suppose I just wanted to add my own lesson: sometimes it's enlightening to let your Muse have her way. You might be surprised to learn that you can operate in a different paradigm.


Eden Mabee said...

As amusing as I find it (from a more B-type personality that cannot even imagine making a list) to hear "how can those people get anything done, I do understand it. But the truth is, I think a lot of the B-types have our lists in our heads rather than on paper or a device... I know I'm always mentally checking off little markers--perhaps it is the same for others.

Still, glad you've managed to "adapt". I think it's less adaption however than the classic "we make time for things that really matter to us". Clearly writing really matters to you.


Matt said...

Well, my lists are generally in my head as well. My wife, on the other hand, is borderline-phobic of lists. They stress her out. She just pretty much does what she feels like and things have a way of getting done. It baffles me.

I like the thought that this is an example of writing mattering to me. It's good to know you're doing things for the right reasons.

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