|Photo credit: deegolden from morguefile.com|
From what I can tell, this latter issue is the linchpin of my process problem. I don't stay consistently motivated generating material only for myself. I have a terrible weakness in wanting feedback while I draft. I really don't know how to break myself of it or if I should. I see a lot of benefit in others with some emotional distance telling me, "hey, your story took a wrong turn at chapter 4" while I'm only on chapter 7, because I don't have to throw out and redo from scratch as much material.
I'm also not sure if I should abandon my method of "draft-ivizing" as some call it, because many other organic/pantser writers I know also stop when a plot problem appears, go back and fix what needs to be fixed, and only then continue moving forward. Steven James's Story Trumps Structure (one of the only books I've read that works with rather than tries to change pantser process) makes clear that pantsers' creativity doesn't work in a linear manner. If it did, we'd be plotters.
This particular story went places I'd never imagined, especially for what is ostensibly a sequel with mostly existing characters. Because a venue change brought to light new things about them. And some of the plot ideas that excited me most required a lot of research, research that opened up some pretty interesting horizons. I now have a lot more knowledge about HIPAA and hip fractures, personality disorders and protocols for EMTs, military re-enactment and draft policies, aphasia and vericella zoster, anti-vax trends and 60s fashion, chemical properties of artists' oils and French idioms, weasel hunting and Pennsylvania driving laws. It's a weird list, I know. I'm not sure what the NSA would make of my Googling habits.
I suspect one of these days, I'll end up writing historical fiction, because I really grooved on all the research. Writing what you know is boring. Writing what you want to know is where it's at. Learning and discovery fuel my creativity. But I suspect I would have just as much fun with my research if I were doing it more methodically, during set periods, instead of chasing down facts as needed.
I know how you readers come to me expecting tips, but we're all learners here, folks. The best I can give you is some of my lessons learned and questions I'm grappling with that I hope will enable me to be progressively more productive with future projects.
- Be willing to let go of preconceived ideas about existing characters. Otherwise, they rebel.
- Be willing to live with ambiguity and notes to yourself so that you can do batches of research at one time rather than constantly stop to look things up.
- Be willing to change your process if it isn't getting you where you want to be
- Consider whether your desire to tinker with a scene is helping your imagination open more or if it's just holding back your forward motion.
- Consider when you seek feedback. Would other eyes sooner help or hurt your forward motion? Perhaps there are other ways to gain accountability and encouragement besides critiques on an incomplete project.
What parts of your writing process do you want to change?