The Process: Writing a Novel Part 1
I thought I would take some time today and ramble a little bit, if that's ok? I haven't done much this week and it felt like something I should do. So, let's see what I have to say.
First off, something I really want to say is that I love vacations from work. I think everyone does, but it's on my mind seeing as how I was just on vacation all last week and it was glorious. It's always nice to get a break from the day to day monotony of life, and I took full advantage of that this week. It was supposed to be book release week, and I was planning on taking the time off to focus on marketing and promoting and refreshing my Amazon dashboard every 13 minutes to see if I'd made another sale, but after getting impatient and releasing the book the week before, it became much more about relaxing and taking time for myself, which was needed. Release week - and lets be honest, the weeks leading up to it - were stressful and scheduled and a constant state of waiting on one thing to be finished before being able to move to the next. I'm a bit of an instant gratification type person, so the waiting and planning always weigh heavy on my mind. It was nice to have a week of no obligations to help clear a lot of that stress away.
Secondly, and the main thing I wanted to talk about here, is that during this week of debauchery I still managed to find time to write and start rebuilding that habit. When I was working on PsyConics (the first time) I was still trying to find the right process for me. That search took nearly two years. Something that you'll hear a lot of writers say, and something I read a lot when looking for "writing advice" is that you have to make writing a habit. You can be naturally gifted as the best storyteller of the generation, or have a 200 page outline of your entire series living in a binder somewhere in your closet, but if you can't make yourself write words it all means a big bunch of nothing. Until I moved to this new apartment, I didn't think that was true. I thought I could sit around and wait for the muse to strike, knock out a chapter or five, and then take a break for another three weeks while I recharge the creativity. Turns out, this works wonders if you're looking to create a folder of five chapter excerpts from unfinished stories, but not so well for finishing a book.
Something you need to know, before I dive further into this series (Yes, I want to try and do a whole series on my writing process and such, just to give the posts here some sort of outline) is that writing a book is hard. It's easy to think it's not, I used to also. People can come up with ideas for stories in 30 seconds, all day, every day, Telling a story isn't hard. Writing is hard. Writing is hard because you have to take those 30 second ideas that you've crafted in your brain, translate them into words and then put those words onto paper. Even then, you can't just put those words onto paper because your mind doesn't work in words, it works in feelings, emotions, colors, sounds, textures, images, smells. It works in abstract vibes that can't be explained. It shifts and drifts and dabbles in one thing for a moment before moving to the complete opposite. The job of a writer, therefore, is to contain all of that into a structured mass of letters and words and ideas that are understandable to other people. That's why writing is hard.
The more I write, the more I realize that this is why you can't wait around for the muse to come and save you. The muse is great, don't get me wrong. It's there to give you the perfect words for that vibe that you were feeling, or to connect those two unconnected ideas into the perfect plot twist in the second act, but it's not there to help you finish the book. The muse only wants to be around for the fun parts. The boring parts, the parts where you need character A to get to position G before the big gun fight in chapter 12 but don't know why they would be there in the first place? The muse wants nothing to do with that. That's where the habit comes in. The habit doesn't care that the words aren't flowing perfectly, that the feeling of the chapter seems off. Habit just wants progress. Habit knows that it's doing the hard work, and it appreciates that someone has to. Habit mines the ore and smelts it into an ingot, the muse turns it into a sword.
Before I leave you with these terrible metaphors, a few blatant tips for people that might read this and have thought about trying to write a book.
Build the habit: obviously this is an important one, you have to make yourself write each day. Some days you'll want to and some days you won't. Do it anyway.
Find a wordcount that works for you and try and stick to it: this is something everyone has different opinions on, but it worked for me. I try for 1k a day. Sometimes I get more, sometimes less, but it's a goal and it helps keep the habit.
Find a time of day that works best for you: I used to think that since I was an night owl, writing at night was when I'd get my best work done. After experimentation however, I discovered that mornings, before noon preferably, are my best times to write. My brain is fresh and the ideas flow freely. The words might not be the best, but that's what editing is for.
I was going to talk more about the new story and why I'm enjoying the process of writing this one, but I felt like if I'm going to start a series on writing, I needed to start at the beginning. At least that's where everyone says you should start.