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:
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.
- WRITING PROCESS (SUMMARY)
- 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
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.