My Writing Process: Visions, Revisions and Hoarding Bad Writing
I’m not the kind of girl who outlines when I write novels. When I was in college, I studied both interpersonal communications and speech communications and the speech side was all about the outline. Later when I worked in PR, I learned the best way to write a good press release was to slap down words in a formulaic fashion then watch as journalists regurgitated my words in their own reviews, previews and interviews. So I know how to use an outline, I know how to use a formula, and I know the benefits that can come from both. But when I sit down to write a novel, the best way for me to get from one page to another is to write the story as the thoughts come. Sometime this is in chronological order. Most of the time it is not.
My best writing comes to me in visions. I’ll be on a walk or taking a shower or gardening or driving when BOOM! out of nowhere comes a fictional scene playing out as real as any of my memories. When this happens it is magical. The details are so strong, the feelings that need to be conveyed are so clear I can’t help but to clutch onto them, begging them to stay until I can get them down on paper. These scenes are the ones that stick in the manuscript, revision after revision after revision.
A month ago, my agent challenged me to write the first draft of my new novel in 30 days. This meant less waiting for amazing story visions to appear on clouds of gold. It also meant moving forward on the novel – no going backwards, no stopping to critically pick over everything I just wrote. Since the month is up, I can officially say that at this point in my life with all that I have going on (small children, touring husband, obligations that aren’t so fun as well as the ones that are), writing a complete first draft in four weeks is just not possible for me. However the challenge did get me into the mode of writing everyday, moving forward without revising, and putting words down even if there are no visions to guide me.
How much of what I’ve written in the past month will make the final draft? Who knows. For Learning Not to Drown, I currently have 53 pages that have been cut out of the novel and moved to a trash document. I justify keeping this writing in a trash file with the unrealistic dream that some of it might be used for something else. Although, I’m pretty sure that I’m just hoarding bad writing.
When draft one of this new book is done, I’ll start revising and then I’ll let the super-organized, over-thinking part of my brain take over and remove clichéd dialogue, overdramatic scenes and anything else that belongs in the garbage.
For now, it’s time to keep writing and get this draft done. Without an outline.