Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Changing Process

For a long while, I’ve been completely focused on editing. On Sunday, I finally managed to finish another round of edits on Resisting Wonderland, and I’ve sent my MS to a few test readers. I’m nervous, but I’m excited to hear what they have to say about the project I’ve been raising since August 2009. But that isn’t what this blog is about.

Since I finished my edits, I decided to start my long awaited third novel for the Resistance series - it will complete the trilogy. I’ve been waiting to start it for such a long time, and even with my extended break, I expected to jump straight back into my usual writing patterns. For some reason, that didn’t happen.

At first, I was confused. I thought writing was like a bicycle, and that I would never forget. I hadn’t worked on a manuscript since December, and even though this was the longest break I’d ever taken between MSs since I started writing my first series, I still thought it would be natural. As I was writing, something kept tugging at me. It was making me stutter and start in my writing. I thought it might be how much rested on this final novel, or my nervousness at sitting down to write it.

It took a whole day for me to realise what exactly had been bugging me about writing. I was still stuck in my editing mode. When I was writing yesterday, I kept thinking about sentences, grammar, dialogue – I was over-thinking. As a rule, I don’t over-think these things in a first draft; I work on them during editing, as I’m only trying to get the novel in a basic shape. Recently I’ve spent so much time editing and focusing on that mindset, I was putting pressure on myself when I didn’t have to. I needed to change my process.

As soon as I realised this, I tried again to work on my MS. This time, there was no resistance or restraint. All I did was type the words which my characters wanted me to. I thought about the narrative and nothing else. It worked wonders. It took me less than an hour to complete the chapter, when it had taken so much back and forth to type the night previously. I relaxed into writing, and I changed my thoughts from editing to writing.

The processes of writing and editing are two separate things. I have two entirely different systems in how I deal with each of them, and trying to edit whilst I write simply does not work for me. I have to have that first draft down before I try to tackle those small details. I need to see the bigger picture.

Hopefully, writing in that aspect will be much easier for me now I’ve realised where I was going wrong. It’s my sixth novel, and the first novel of the new year. It’s going to be an incredible one to write. My only vice is how emotional it will be, as I’ve already found out. The first chapter almost made me cry. There are events in this novel, and the way Alice deals with what has already happened in the previous novels, which are difficult for me to write about. It’s her pain, and since it’s in first person perspective – as well as holding a special affinity for her as my first ever MC – it’s hard to be so involved and not feel her pain as I write it. I want this novel to be as true to her character and the plot as possible. Basically, I have to stay true to how Alice’s story will end. If that means a few tears along the way, I’ll gladly keep a stack of tissues on hand.

So, I have two questions for you. Firstly, have you ever had trouble separating the different processes of writing? And secondly, have you ever gotten emotional when writing?


  1. Hm. For me: no and not yet. I try to stay pretty cautious when I write, if not only because I write my college essays in one go and I can't really afford to do poorly on a first draft. This isn't to say I don't miss things, because I do. I miss A LOT of things, but the more I notice the things I do miss, the more I start consciously (and subconsciously) thinking about them as I write.

    Then again, I thought I'd stopped abusing 'that' and 'back'--but they're still everywhere... I'm delusional sometimes :D

    As for getting emotional, I know I've got some scenes that need to be more powerful. I think I've been in a 'just get it done' mindset for awhile now, and I lost some of that impact. I'm hoping I can really get into it when I start my second draft and really pull myself into the narrative and feel the right kind of pain :)

  2. I don't have troubles separating them, I have troubles going between them. When I get into a true editing mindset (which I don't think I've attempted to go to since September or something) it's very difficult for me to get back into writing. I find that my words come out stilted and just NOT RIGHT.

    Kinda sucks though cause if I just hammer out a scene and then look back and it's not as good as I'd hoped... I HAVE to edit it. It can be quite annoying.

    I haven't had any emotional scenes to write yet, really. But generally I don't feel the emotions I'm trying to convey. It's something I'll definitely have to work on.

  3. Sometimes I have trouble moving from an editing frame of mind to a writing frame of mind and I just have take a day off to put myself back in the writing frame of mind.

  4. I'm the same way. I have to just power on through for the first draft and not let my editing brain get in the way. Then, once the story is mapped out I can focus on all the details and cleaning.

    Six novels is impressive! I hope to be there one day.

    By the way, I selected you for the Stylish Blogger Award. I hope you have room for it on your shelf. It's a little heavy. ;)


  5. Jessica: I know I'm going to write a lot in the future. So with each experience I have writing a first draft, I always try to make it a slightly better condition than the last. I'm constantly learning things about my own writing and habits, so as I write more, my first drafts will be in an even better state. Though I can understand why you need to change this on college essays, which you can't afford to be relaxed on due to deadlines.

    I think when you as a writer begin to get emotional over what you are writing about, it has a greater chance of making an impact on a reader. I think creating a vivid sense of emotion is one of the best things you can achieve in writing - it shows you've managed to get a reader emotionally invested. Always a fantastic tool to have. Like you said, it does require a lot of hard word to get it to that place.

    Devin: I'm actually finding the same thing at the moment. It's almost as if I'm stuck in a writing rut, as I know what I want to say, but it doesn't seem to appear correctly on a page. I'm discontented with it, and it bothers me more than anything. You just have to find a way to make it through, at the end of the day.

    It's interesting how different people view the process. I tend to get more involved with what I'm writing, but the only problem is sometimes I can become too involved and my writing quality suffers for it. Which means more editing. But having something raw yet emotional can sometimes be easier to edit than adding raw emotion into a draft.

    Sonia: Good idea, it's better to give yourself the time away from a project to settle into the right frame of mind. It means you'll be more prepared when you return to the process.

    Sarah: In writing sometimes, I think we have to struggle in order to get to the place we need to be. Changing processes is another part of this. Having a basic structure in a first draft is incredibly useful as well, as it lays the framework for anything else you want from your novel, and gives you a chance to make it better through editing.

    Thank you! They're not in the best state though, as many haven't undergone any editing. It should be a pretty busy year for me :)

    Thank you for selecting me! I did something similar called the Versatile Blogger award with my seven things, feel free to have a look. http://diaryofasecretwriter.blogspot.com/2010/12/limitations.html