Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Writing Process

This explanation is pretty short:

I don’t have one.

Well, I guess that would physically be impossible from being true. Obviously there is some sort of system that ultimately leads to words on a page. What I mean to say here is that I have no formal process.

I don’t use outlines, although I wish I did. It is not that I think I am too good to use outlines, simply that I am not good with foresight. I find that, when writing an outline, I find it constricts the picture of action. Our textbook for Creative Writing, The Truth About Fiction (Schoen) offers a lot of good advice about outlining and planning stories. I’m hoping to put some of that advice to good use, and I’ll definitely post the results of those attempts here. Attempts to pursue a long-germinating novel have not gone well. The issue for me has been a difficulty following through. Writing brief scenes is something I excel at, but I find it difficult to draw those same scenes out, build suspense, complete long-term plotting.

These difficulties aren’t unknown to me. As someone living with Bipolar Depression, being able to plan in the long-term, as well as wait in suspense for things, is something I struggle greatly with. Real life, imitating art again. Luckily for me, the exercises for planning fiction and life are very similar.
Something I do as part of my process to keep my abilities sharp is writing fictionalized versions of scenes that I have experienced. This helps me stay observant in my personal life, but also helps me hone my ability to present and deliver details in fiction. As an exercise it allows me to concentrate on setting the scene, creating characters, and using descriptive language. Often I do this in my head while driving to and from places I am very familiar with (like work or school). When I am bored or having difficulty understanding a situation (like an argument, perhaps) I will commit the scenes to paper, to try to better understand where things deviated from my expectations. I’ll try to write a few of these out and post them this month so you can see what I am talking about.

Part of taking Creative Writing was me accepting that I would have to participate in the pre-writing process. As a teenager, when I did most of my writing, I disdained the pre-writing process as something lesser writers do. I now see that foreshadowing doesn’t happen on accident, but that it is very necessary to pleasing fiction. Last night I failed to complete two assignments in Creative Writing, entirely due to my failure to pre-write. I’m very upset with myself about this, and hoping to avoid it in the future, a process I will kick-start today by beginning my homework for Creative Writing this afternoon. In past weeks I have waited until Tuesday or Wednesday, with assignments due on Friday. This time, I will take the extra days to participate in the pre-writing process (actually pre-pre-writing process, since the assignment is an outline for a future story) using the suggestions in the text. I often tell customers of the cellphone provider I work for that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Taking my own advice, I must accept that if it IS broken then I must fix it. I hope building my pre-writing skills can help me do that.

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