By nastyjman on Apr 3, 2017 at 4:04 PM
  1. nastyjman

    nastyjman Senior Member

    Sep 27, 2010
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    Follow Your Bliss; Find Your Process

    Discussion in 'Articles' started by nastyjman, Apr 3, 2017.

    Joseph Campbell said to follow your bliss. My bliss is making up stories and experiencing them as if I’m inside the character’s head. (Sometimes I hear their voices, but they shut up once I put them on paper.)

    At one point, however, writing became as excruciating as pulling teeth and jamming them back in.

    A little background:

    I always believed that in order to write professionally you needed to outline. So I did an outline for a novel that I always wanted to write. I had everything completed. I had a scene list, a timeline and a character sheet.

    I was prepared.

    But when the time came to write, I choked.

    For some reason I couldn’t write. I had been enthusiastic when I was creating the outline, but that enthusiasm didn’t translate over to actually writing the story.

    I went into writing depression for months. I got out of the funk when I read that Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and, to some degree, George RR Martin were discovery writers. For those who don’t know, discovery writers don’t do outlines. They’d jump in the story without an outline to buoy them.

    Writing without an outline? Sounded crazy. And scary. But at that time, I had nothing to lose, so I experimented. I started small, wrote a short story without an outline.

    Tell you what, it was fun.

    I felt like a kid again, that kid who tapped on his daddy’s typewriter, writing stories, conceiving of worlds and scenarios that delighted me and me alone. Bliss. Oh childhood bliss!

    After that, I learned I was a discovery writer . . . to some degree. You see, I still outline. I enjoy outlining actually, mapping out how the story unfolds in those ugly bullet-points. But here’s the kicker: I outline only after the first draft.

    It is my process. It is my bliss. Some are discovery writers. Some are outliners. Some are just maniacs who type gold.

    Campbell said to follow your bliss; for us writers, it’s find your process.

    Everyone has their own way of writing a story. For me, I’m slowly discovering it although I’m not sure I have it pat down. Take a gander of my trainwreck of a process:
    • 1st Draft
      • Write the damn story
      • Keep a free writing file to keep track of thought process
      • Outline as you go. Use the beats format below. (VERB-ING, Etc.)
    • 2nd Draft
      • Phase 1: Read through, note taking and commentary
        • Work on a print out for this
      • Phase 2: Create Proposal Outline for 2nd Draft
        • Don’t fill in the Action/Reaction Beats. If there’s Action/Reaction Beats that needs to appear, make note of it, but don’t fill it all.
      • Phase 3: Write the 2nd draft with an Active Outline as a guide
        • Similar to “outline as you go,” fill in the Action/Reaction Beats on the outline
    • 3rd Draft
      • Phase 1: Silent read and revise as you go.
        • Do 10 pages at a time, then rest
      • Phase 2: Read out loud and revise as you go.
        • Work on the computer using a pacer
        • Do 4 pages at a time, then rest
      • Phase 3: Read out loud, and apply final edits, polish and touches.
        • Work on a print-out of the manuscript
    So how do you find your process? Well, think back on how you crafted your novel or short story. Go through the process in your head and write the steps down. You can outline it or whatever. It’s your process. Do what you want.

    Break them down in drafts, like the one I have above. Next step is to label the phases for each drafts. Phases are actions or to-dos or special rituals, like summoning Cthulhu, within each draft. With my process above, you can see the phases I go through on the second and third draft. Use that as a template, then fill out your own process.

    You hear about how artist steal. Well, my fellow artist, here you can steal my writing process. (But why?) Your brain might be repulsed by it, and to that I say, “good.” My brain was repulsed when I outlined my story. Oh, here’s a secret: the writing process above is stolen from multiple writers. It is literally a Frankenstein of writing processes.

    But why write it down? The very act of writing it down makes it tangible. You can see areas where you can improve, innovate and, more importantly, experiment. If I hadn’t experimented on writing without an outline, then I wouldn’t have finally finished my first novel. And having it written down is like capturing your trade-secret as a writer.

    Does that mean you have to follow your process every time you write a story? Of course not. Like I mentioned earlier: improve, innovate and experiment.


    follow your bliss; find your process.


Discussion in 'Articles' started by nastyjman, Apr 3, 2017.

    1. Thomas Babel
      Thomas Babel
      I was recently just figuring this out, myself. I'd gotten to that rightfully dreaded 30 page mark, and had no idea where to go from there. This was followed by two months of stone cold writer's block, and certainly not for lack of motivation. I thought about it every day, told myself I was going to write when I got home... but there was nothing. I'd forgotten how I got to 30 pages in the first place: I'd had, up until then, a "to hell with it" attitude (if you will). And I realized that by 30 pages the characters should, by then, start writing the story for me. I have a clear idea of how the book's going to end, so... what am I so worried about?

      Can't say that I've actually written further than those 30 pages, but now that I had them, I opened up a fresh notebook and decided to explain the events of the story as though I were telling someone verbally what was going on. Now, all of the sudden I have ideas and material for probably another 20 pages. Which I wouldn't have been able to do if I hadn't done this whole process "backwards" like this: 1) just write, 2) outline a bit 3) return to step one before overdoing step 2.
    2. Megs33
      i love this SO MUCH. i keep teetering back and forth between whether i want to outline or "just write", and i keep stopping myself up. i need to give your method a go...
    3. Lew
      @nastyjman, that is a beautiful! Hats off, from one "pantser" discovery writer to another. Especially the part about getting inside their head. But as for losing their voices when you start typing, well, for me, I am taking dictation from them and sometimes have to type fast to keep up. A lot of time they won't repeat if I ask them to.
    4. Lew
      And @Megs33, it does work! I write technical publications, and of course I outline them to death. But if I brought that technique to my creative writing I would squeeze the life out of my stories.
      Megs33 likes this.
    5. Marina Grönbäck
      Marina Grönbäck

      I love this. Well done! Keep it coming...
    6. Chris Before
      Chris Before
      I used to write plans and strategies for a large organisation that required masses of research, clarification and agreement of goals, project planning, consultation and re-writes. This may have been the correct approach for the organisation but it was laborious and tedious for those involved. As a writer, I want to enjoy what i do. Perhaps in rebellion, I keep those laborious and tedious parts to a minimum. I will mentally play with an idea for a while, testing and expanding it. Play with an outline, do some relevant research and write a few lines of text to see where it takes me. My outline is a guide, illustrating potential routes, not a road i must follow. If the ideas and writing creatively takes me in new directions i will amend my outline, sometimes creating a range of outline options, some of which i will choose and others ignore. Perhaps not a recommended route for everyone but one that works for me.
      One outcome, which may be related, is i do not get writers block. I allow the ideas to flow and not be constrained by rules that do not work for me. I appreciate a tighter structure helps keep many people on course. Essentially, i suppose, we each need to find ways of writing that work for us.
    7. Que
      Well done! Made me smile more than once. I too am a discovery writer who, sooner or later, must stop and struggle to give my "free writing" a bit of coherence before going back to banging on the keys.

      Your article reminds me of something Ray Bradbury wrote. "Plot is the footprints in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. It's observed after the fact, not before."

      Free writing came to me in the movie Finding Forester, starring Sean Connery as a professor of writing. His student couldn't think of anything to write, so Forster kept exhorting him to just start typing mindlessly. The boy resisted so Forester gave him the phone book and told him to start typing the names on each page.

      What a wonderful scene it was! The boy started typing names in the phone book, and you could tell he was doing it mechanically, as if his hands were just connected to his head. Then something changed, and he began typing from his heart, not his head. Inspiring movie--whether you are discovery writer, outline writer or a blend-of-both writer.
    8. Scarlett_Rav
      This is awesome - thanks for the tips! I'm finding free-writing without an outline (though a solid idea of where I'm going) to be the best creative process for me as well.
    9. Abby LaVal Clark
      Abby LaVal Clark
      When I first starting writing I started right with the beginning of the story and add the other elements on the fly. It made it fun, the dialogue came natural and I just let it flow. After learning from the best authors in the world of how to properly write a screenplay. There was extreme editing needed to polish the script.
      Now I take the time to detail everything out. I make notes about each character, the A, B & C storylines. The theme, the outlines or beat sheet. It is easier to get to the end if you know it in the beginning.
      I love your thought process. Thank you for sharing.

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