Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What I Learned About My Writing Process This Week

Last Friday, I submitted another chapter of my WIP to my critique group [it was due Thursday, :( ] and I thought I’d use this post to muse on two lessons I learned in the process. 

Lesson #1. I don’t write well on deadlines. I spent two weeks trying to whip that chapter into something I’d feel comfortable submitting to my CPs, but as the submission deadline approached, my progress slowed to a crawl. I eventually turned in what I had, not particularly happy with the words, but figuring they were good enough for my CPs to spot pacing issues. 

The next morning, I slept late, relieved I no longer had to worry about the chapter. I eventually got up, had some breakfast, then fired up the computer and glanced at the WIP again. Almost immediately I realized what needed to be done to fix many of the trouble areas that had stumped me the night before. Within a couple of hours, I had fixed half the chapter to my satisfaction. Then it occurred to me that if I finished the revisions by that evening, I could resubmit the improved version to my CPs. Of course, as soon as I set that deadline, my progress slowed to a crawl again. Lesson learned. Deadlines are not my friends. 

Lesson #2. It’s not unusual for me to hit a wall when I’m working on a scene or chapter, and this chapter was no different. The scene was 80% ready, but there were sections here and there that just didn’t work. I rearranged words, rewrote paragraphs, etc. trying to determine what the problem was. I eventually figured it out, but this time I noticed a pattern. In each case, the problem stemmed from trying to rush through that part of the scene. Places where I had crammed too much stuff into too small a space, like I was in a hurry to move on to the good stuff. As soon as I fleshed out the scene, the problem disappeared. Now if only I can train myself to spot that problem earlier in the writing process. 

On a happier note, today’s my birthday. 

Picture courtesy Creative Commons

One of my friends gave me a White Castle gift card for a present. Guess where I’m heading for lunch today?

Question: How many of you enjoy White Castle? 



  1. Happy birthday!
    Safe to say you're one of those writers who should just ignore deadlines.

  2. I've only had White Castle once, while visiting New York. It was okay. I really don't remember how it tasted, but I didn't have any strong reaction either for or against it.

    The problem with writing to a critique deadline--and the distinction is important--is that you're very aware that others are going to pick apart your work. This makes you want to make it perfect, or at least really, really good. Yet the point of critique is to find flaws. We care too much what others think. We want so badly to hear how great what we've written is. But then why have critique? I only say this because I have the same problem. I can write to a deadline of other kinds, ones where it's not about someone reading it and tearing it apart. No problem there. And certainly writing without any deadline lets things flow so long as I don't insist on it being perfect. Remember, too, that you can go flesh out those scenes later. Write the good stuff and then go back and fill in. (Ah, but I can't practice what I'm preaching here; I'm one of those who wants it to be right before I move on. Still, I've discovered I strengthen my stories when I go back and fluff out the description on a second pass.)

    Anyway. Happy Birthday! Here's to another year of great writing!

  3. Hey! Happy birthday!! Here's to the October club!

    I hear you about the process and perceived deadlines. That's why NaNo only produces junk for me. That perceived wall is terrifying.

  4. Happy Birthday, Ken! (A little late)

    Deadlines are deadly for me when writing first drafts. Sometimes, I just need a few days to figure out how to implement the next step. That's why I will never do NaNo.

  5. Happy Birthday! Yeah, deadlines and I don't work well. I'll only adhere to them if I've got something ready. I guess that defeats the purpose, doesn't it? At least you figured out something that worked, even if your progress slowed.

  6. I hope you had a good birthday! We each have our own way of writing, but unfortunately it can take us awhile to figure it out.

  7. Happy late birthday! It's supper important to figure out what works in your process, but always watch out, your process can--and will!--change without notice!