Erin Green Author - blog
As I said last time, I wrote in secret everyday. I literally opened a file on my computer and labelled it as my book - away I went. At this point I had no idea what I was doing but my struggle became my apprenticeship. I was open minded enough to try anything so whether it be free writing, timed writing, picture prompts or word goals - I'd give it a try to see if I was productive or not by using the method. I soon learnt that for me setting a kitchen timer which bleeps and having a specific window for writing worked. My concentration was best with a thirty minute window especially if I noted my word count at the beginning and the end. I am competitive by nature but not necessarily with other people, simply myself. Back then it felt good to see I'd written 300 words in thirty minutes and improved on yesterday's word count. It gave me the buzz I needed to repeat tomorrow or later the same day.
I soon realised that my writing was even more productive if I thought about my planned writing session during the day whilst driving, standing in queues at coffee shops, waiting for the kettle to boil, waiting for others - in fact any moment during the day when I could be still and quiet. If you start analysing your daily routines you'll see there are plenty of opportunities for the thinking/planning stage. Once settled at my desk, the words literally poured from me. Even now, I never settle at my desk without knowing the thing I'm about to write. Thinking time remains away from my desk.
Within a matter of a few changes I had altered my writing output. It felt as if I was on a roll and the positivity in me simply soared which in turn motivated me even more. This circular model of 'think, write and self-motivate' became my primary goal. Day after day, I simply repeated the habit.
I then began seeking the answer to my age old question 'how to write a book' was it the chapter by chapter method of write it, read it, polish, polish, polish it to death or not. It isn't. I was doing it wrong. By this time I had spent six years writing a novel called 'Her' which is unpublished but one day I'll rewrite it for publication as it is a decent story. I had also joined the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) which runs a fabulous scheme for New Writers (romance based) where you submit a manuscript and receive a written critique. I'd taken the plunge to join and begun attending their parties to network amongst other authors. Not that I dared speak to many of them at my first few parties I was overwhelmed to be in the same room to be fair. Though I still have 'girl-fan' moments with certain authors as my admiration remains sky high regards their achievement.
Anyway, I booked myself on to a writing retreat with Alison May on which I learnt that you start at the beginning and write to the end of the story or as much as you have planned or not planned as you can (I'll come to planning later). Draft one should look like a straight line from start to finish and not the laborious curling-back-on-yourself style I'd developed constantly revising before moving to the next chapter. Guess what, I tried the straight line writing - it worked. I now think of it as layering because I now write draft 1 then go back to the beginning save the document with the name draft 2 and start adding bits, defining details in a straight line again until I get to the end of that draft. I save the document as draft 3 and reread adding and changing as I go until I get to the end. In fact I never go backwards, I always go forwards and make notes of things that come to mind so I can amend on the next draft. Note: always go forward! It also meant that I always have the last draft should I need it. I'd addressed mistake number one (see previous Aspiring author - part 1)
So imagine, I now have 100,000 words labeled as draft three. I was ecstatic. I'd written a book, hadn't I? Nah, I'd got 100,00 words but not necessarily in the right order or the best sequence. That came as a shock. It suddenly dawned that with the best will in the world I might have ordered the sequence of events in the wrong, addressed issues in the wrong light, forgotten to craft arcs for the conflict, characterisation motivation and development, worse still have no pace - how the hell was I supposed to address those issues? And here is where us authors are divided into two groups: planner or pantser. Planners plan. Pantsers wing it by the seat of their arse and simply write. I had initially written as a pantser - I simply wrote my story but now I was being asked to think about the fine details. I had to go back through and find the bits that needed improving. Yes, finding specific bits in a 100,000 word document - I found that hard. I got through it, I did the best I could but I vowed I'd be planning the next book. Can you see how my writing rules came about by doing it, tripping up and realising my own errors. I'd written 100,000 words but still I hadn't written a book.
I have plenty of author friends who remain as pantsers. I admire them for their bravery, their nerve and their dedication because I did it once but never again. I'm told that pantser spend 25% writing 75% editing to reach the end of a project. Their dedicated time goes into editing/polishing their 100,000 raw words into a book. I am now a planner. I feel I spend 15% planning/day dreaming, 60% writing and 25% editing to reach the end goal of a book. I think that in terms of days or months it equates to the same amount of time but tackled and handled in a different way. Only you know which will work for you. I have realised that pantsers seem to love the editing task (which is a bloody good job given their one and only draft can be pretty raw). And, I've noticed that planners love the writing task but not the editing. If you plan there does seem to be less editing which may decide it for you.
Pantser method of writing:
1. create a document
2. write until the end
3. Edit like crazy
My planning method of writing:
1. find the 'nugget' of your story and create a mind-map showing a multitude of possibilities for that idea
2. I create a note book for each book I write into which goes any details that I might need to refer to e.g. family trees, street maps, character pictures cut from magazines, character profiles and additional notes to myself.
3. create characters onto which you can hang those mind-map possibilities onto (I find photographs and paste them into my note book).
4. note each scene upon a post-it note (this can be as complicated as you want using coloured notes for each character).**
5. try to pin point a theme which is surfacing from your planning - there is always a theme (can this theme be highlighted more?) - add it to your post-it notes where you can.
6. I pin my post-it notes to a cork board or stick it along the length of the staircase and spend several days looking/changing the sequence.
7. I begin writing when I can't not begin writing - at this point I'll be itching to start.
8. Create me document template and chapter headings.
9. Create a spreadsheet showing chapter by chapter the events I've written.
10. I begin writing at the beginning and go straight through to the end one post-it note at a time. I create draft 2 and add details as I read through from start to finish. Draft 3 if I need to reread and add more details. Stop writing at approximately 100,000 words.
11. Spell check. Print a hard copy. I then read through creating a note sheet of queries as I go - my main focus is the sequence of structured events. I'm looking for holes in the story too.***
12. Create a new draft and amend depending on what I found during step 11.
13. Once happy with the structural order I print a hard copy and begin seeking out the smaller errors then amend as necessary. After this stage, I feel I have a book but not before.
** I plan 75% of my story in this manner I know I'll have moments of inspiration whilst writing and I'll want to include the new ideas too but they arise for me as I write the book.
*** It is a bugger when you find that you've written an event in the wrong place or realise that it would be better else where but then you have to unpick that section and work it in else where.
For me the planning method works. I feel it is more logical and my brain can organise a huge amount of information in this way. I'll do research at any stage of the sequence but it can't take up precious writing time. I usually do research during downtime otherwise it simply swallows up your writing time.
Anyway, I'll love and leave you for today. I have a writing meeting to attend tonight. I have rejoined a large city group as it offers much more scope and has many published and aspiring authors that actually write!!! Unlike the one I mentioned in my previous post. I attend not to read my own work aloud, I have editors and readers doing that, but more because I missed the energy and buzz amongst authors. I enjoy listening to their ideas and giving support where I can.
I'll write part 3 of 'Aspiring author' in the coming days.