Friday, March 10, 2017

My Writing Process

I'm always totally fascinated by other people's writing processes. Are they slow to finish a project or do they pull an all-nighter and complete like seven novels at once? Do they edit as they go or allow themselves to all but faceplant into their keyboard to finish a first draft? Do they fuel themselves with tea or coffee? These are the real questions.

Since none of you asked for this unsolicited, detailed post I'm sure you're all anxiously waiting to hear what my process is, I thought I'd tell you in a list, because everybody loves lists (or maybe that's just me).

How I write:

1. Get five-thousand different ideas when I'm already in the middle of seventeen.
2. Start writing like a madman with the writing utensil closest to me.
3. Get stuck three pages in.
4. Go back to the work I was supposed to be finishing in the first place.
5. Realize everything that's been written there is utter nonsense.
6. Cry.
7. Eat some chocolate.
8. Procrastinate by watching reruns of “Doctor Who” and “Supernatural” or pretending I'm being productive by pinning writing prompts to my board on Pinterest.
9. Go back to my computer.
10. Write some more. Rinse and repeat.

Honestly, "It's Hard to Be the Bard" is so relateable as a writer.

I'm just kidding (mostly).

What I really do is something more along the lines of this:

1. Get an idea.

This is seemingly, but deceptively, easy. I could get half a dozen different ideas from Pinterest alone, and then there's overheard conversations, new takes on fairytales, fan-fiction that took on a life of its own, etc. etc. etc.

The trick is finding an idea that interests me enough to stick with it. I've saved sooo many different writing prompts that I thought might be good to try out, but when I go back to them months later, my reaction is, "Hmm, cool, but I know I'm going to get bored with this six pages in." If I'm going to dedicate tons of time to an idea, it better be a good one.

2. Start writing down random ideas that eventually turn into a vague outline.

Sometimes once I get an idea, I know the first few lines or even scenes that go with it. Anything even remotely related to the idea (lines, plot points, side characters, a song that fits the theme of the story), I jot down in a notebook or a Word document. I like to let it all stew in my brain for a while before I do anything serious with it.

Once I'm pretty sure I've come up with everything I could for the time being, I'll start creating an outline. I can't believe I haven't always done this. It doesn't work for everybody, but I looove having an outline to keep me on track. So many of my abandoned novels could have been saved if I knew at least vaguely where the story was going to go from beginning to end.

My outlines usually include a clear beginning and a clear end, with some scenes in the middle that might just say, "Maybe these three characters go to the movie or something and one of them gets mugged on the way back? IDK, we just need some action here." As long as I have a plan I can follow for the most part, I'm good. I can always be flexible if I need something to change.

3. Write a first draft.

The fun (and painful) part! Because with first drafts comes both streaks of inspiration and days of writer's block, which is by far the most frustrating part of writing.

Finishing a draft can take anywhere from a few months to a couple years. No joke. My 2013 NaNoWriMo novel is still the longest one I've written to date, and I wrote it in two and a half months. But it took a year and a half to finish an incredibly short draft of what I now think is my best novel. The time doesn't matter as much as the content, but it does feel good when a draft goes fast.

4. Set it aside for at least a month.

If I go through the draft immediately after writing it, chances are I'll still think it's freaking fantastic. Which is good, I mean, I should think something is good if I'm going to attempt to do something with it. But I need to wait a little while before picking it up again so I can be horrified when I realize how many adverbs I used. *shudders*

This is the very basic outline of how I approach each project. No two stories are the same, which means every time I sit down to work on a new one, I'm going to do it a little differently. There are other things I like to do when I write, too.

-I'll create a book soundtrack, imagined as a movie. If I need inspiration, I'll listen to it while I write. Right now I have a pretty lengthy soundtrack for More Than Words, which always puts me in a good mood:

"Intertwined" - Dodie
"Neptune" - Sleeping At Last
"She's so High" - Tal Bachman
"Kiss Me" - Sixpence None the Richer
"There She Goes" - Sixpence None the Richer
"The Great Escape" - P!nk
"More Than Words" - Extreme
"Doctor Who Theme" - BBC National Orchestra Of Wales
"Whataya Want from Me" - Adam Lambert
"Yesterday" - The Beatles
"Listen To Your Heart" - Roxette
"Broken Wings" - Mr. Mister
"Animal" - Neon Trees
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" - Rex Harrison
"I Could Have Danced All Night" - Julie Andrews
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" - The Police
"Alone" - Glee Cast
"People Will Say We're In Love" - Gordon Macrae and Shirley Jones
"I Won't Say (I'm In Love)" - Susan Egan and The Muses

-I'll light my Sherlock candle, which smells awesome. I especially like to use it when I'm doing edits for Ms. Holmes.

-I get a snack (like popcorn or Cheez-Its) or a drink (usually some form of tea).

-I like to write in fourteen-point font, single-spaced, but edit in twelve-point font, double spaced. For whatever reason, that's how I'm most productive.

-I write out of order because inspiration for different scenes hits me at different times. This makes it easy to e-mail myself snippets of scenes while I'm out, because I'm not confined to writing in order. Having an outline helps with this, because I know where the scene can fit in later.

-I cast actors and actresses for the fake movie on my Pinterest board. The one I made for Beneath the Moon and Stars is still my favorite casting job. I'd flip my lid if I got to see a movie with these actors.

-I mirror my characters' expressions as I write them, but only if I'm by myself at my desk, because it looks freaking weird. If I'm trying to figure out how my character looks when they're mad, I'll act like them and figure out what my face is doing. It helps with descriptions, but would probably make others question my sanity.

-As much as it's hard, I have to resist the urge to fix my story as I go. Instead, I took a page out of Stephanie Morrill's book and write “GIRAFFE” in all caps by whatever needs fixing. That way it's really easy to find with a CTRL + F search later when it's time to edit. Usually "GIRAFFE" is paired with a snarky comment I've left myself, like, “You call that dialogue?”

So that's me.

What about you? What does your writing process look like? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I'm on the Front Page!

I was interviewed recently by my local newspaper! It was mainly to highlight my recent Scholastic writing award wins (two silver keys and three honorable mentions!), but the article also talked about my other writing projects, my blog, summer writing camps, and me playing the violin. Yesterday my parents surprised me with a physical copy of the paper and the article and my picture were on the front page! Crazy, right?!

If you want to check out the whole article (plus a video of me), you can click here. :)

Since the video they took included me playing the violin, I'm curious: what instruments do you play (or would like to play)? Leave a comment!