I’ve never understood the type of people who refuse to change the way they do things. You know the type. Even if what they’re doing is not going so well, they’ll hang onto the adamant belief that it is the best way to do it, simply because it is the way they have always done it. It’s even worse when it comes to opinions and beliefs. I have strong beliefs and opinions, but I like to keep my mind open and accept that knowledge and understanding are open to interpretation and change. If some new piece of knowledge comes along, I am always happy to admit I was wrong and change my way of thinking. I think the refusal to ever change your mind or admit you were wrong, is actually very dangerous. Anyway, in that spirit, I’ve been thinking lately about how I write now, and how I used to write. You see, over the last few novels, things have changed. And with the WIP I am on right now, and the book I have planned after that, I feel they are changing even more. Here’s how, and why…
- I edit as I go…Not word for word, not every paragraph, but I do now go back over what I wrote at the start of the session. And I always read what I wrote last before I start writing again. I used to do things quite differently. I would rush out this clunky, crazy first draft. It would be this desperate measure, this way of getting this thing out of my head once and for all. I’m not saying that’s wrong, and I think with some books it’s totally the right way to do it! But I have noticed lately that I’m slowing the process down. I’m going back over what I last wrote and editing out mistakes and typos. Previously I would not care about these in a first draft. I just wanted it done. Now I think I am probably saving myself some time later on, and it is also helping me get to know this story and its characters, to feel and breathe with them as they develop and take form. Reading over and checking what I just wrote is helping me to make sure everything stays on course.
- I plan more…I used to plan as I wrote the book…so as ideas came to me, I would jot them down and the novel would often change course and follow twists and turns as I wrote it. I would start, not really knowing how to finish. Now, I try to plan the whole novel before I start writing, chapter by chapter if possible. Not in too much detail, and always allowing for change and development and the surprises which will inevitably pop up. But now I like to be able to see where I am going…I like to know the general destination of my journey.
- I’m aware of my potential audience…This is not to say I am writing anything and aiming it at a certain audience. Doing this with The Tree Of Rebels caused me untold problems (see Did Choosing An Audience Ruin My Book?) so I won’t be making that mistake again. But I do have a better idea of the genre I am writing in before I start writing, an idea of the type of person who would pick this book up and want to read it. I never used to consider this at all, and had a very hard job picking genres and categories for my finished books because of it.
- I write the log line and synopsis first…Now, to be honest I am only just getting to grip with loglines! They are actually quite hard to do. The idea is you should be able to write a one to two sentence paragraph which explains your book, and if you can’t, you may have a problem. The logline can then help you to shape your synopsis. With early novels, I always left the synopsis to last and found them nothing short of utter hell and torture. How to condense a massive novel down to a paragraph or two? What to cut out, what to leave in? How to lure people in without spoilers? How to pick the right key words? Hard, hard work. With the last two books I penned (The Tree Of Rebels and Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, both still not quite finished) I wrote the synopsis first. I’m not sure why. It just seemed like a good idea, and I had a general idea of what to say, so I went for it. Neither is perfect and both will need tinkering, but overall, I think they both say what they need to say. Lesson learned. From now on, I work on the synopsis first!
- I research as I go…This is another thing I used to be quite lazy about. I was in a hurry. I just wanted to get the book written. So I would make up stuff as I went along, noting down that I needed to properly research it later. Now if something comes up that needs looking into, I do it there and then before I write another word. Again, this saves me time and stress later, and if what I research ends up changing the story in some way, it’s much better to know this early on! Plus it’s fun. I used to put off research of any story because I thought it was boring. Just detail that needed throwing in to make it all sound better. But now I look at it differently. It’s important to the story and I’m also learning new things all the time!
So, over to you followers! Have you always done things the same or have your writing habits changed through trial and error? Does it all depend on the book you’re writing? Let me know!
6 thoughts on “How My Writing Habits Have Changed”
Haha, these are almost all things a lot of writing advice blogs will tell you *not* to do, especially if you are first-drafting NaNoWriMo-style. Things that slow down the flow can be fatal for some writers trying to make word-count. On the other hand, I seem to be absolutely pants at revision, so I wonder if saving myself time during the first draft would save me a lot of time later. I’m often happier with what I write first, rather than when I try to “fix” something, so getting it right the first time doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Planning, however, is just not my bag. 😉
Yes I think it depends on the book and the writer. I know for The Mess Of Me, it was very much a stream of consciousness, and the plot happened as I wrote, the characters leading the way. I didn’t need to research too much for it either, but with later books, especially The Tree Of Rebels and Elliot Pie, I’ve needed to do much more research. It’s all relative I suppose!
Love the idea of starting with a log line and synopsis. I want to do this for my next series, but I can’t get over how hard this is!
I think evolving how you write makes perfect sense. My most recent books definitely begin with a lot more structure (outline, character list, locations) than when I started but some books are different than others. For me balance is key – enough guide posts so I don’t wander off, but not too many directions so that I can have a good adventure along the way.
Yes I agree, some books are different than others and require a different approach. Definitely, striking a balance between natural spontaneity and planning to keep it all on course is the idea, I guess! Thank you 🙂
These are actually a lot of things that I do. Especially the research. I can’t stand writing an inaccuracy, even if it’s just for that draft. If I’m writing police protocols, then I want to know then and there what they’d do in the situation at hand. Sometimes that can even add to your word count! As long as you’re quick and thorough at the same time it doesn’t hurt your writing speed. Researching efficiently is a great skill to have! I don’t plan that thoroughly, but I do have rough ideas of main point and events and where they fall in the timeline. I don’t plan out my chapters, I just start and end them where it feel appropriate. I also read the previous session’s writing before hand to sort of pick up my flow and immerse myself. I read what I wrote at the end of a session, not to edit but rather to make sure it has that flow to it. Each day is different and if you leave half a chapter to be written later, it’s important to read both parts together to make sure they sync up. My view is that while the entire scene is in your head is the best time to make sure what you wanted to say was said and what doesn’t need to be there gets taken out. Waiting until revision stages could make you time-blind to what you would’ve caught in the heat of the writing moment.
For revisions, try this: set the manuscript aside and don’t look at it for a certain amount of time (Stephen King recommends 6 weeks, but for some it could work with more or slightly less). Then begin your revisions with fresh eyes!
Can’t wait for your next book to hit! Luck and love!
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Thanks Shalaena! I can’t wait for your next book either!