Ever Changing Writing Habits

The one thing I've learned about my writing habits is that they are constantly evolving.  They seem to
change with every project; what worked for one book doesn't always work for another.  But there are some constants I am finding as I revise my fourth novel and start thinking about the fifth.

There are always false starts:  somewhere in the first draft, I will write whole scenes, chapters or (gasp!) larger chunks of the manuscript that will get cut from future drafts.  None of these words are wasted. Sometimes they help me understand a character or plot point.  Sometimes, those words are necessary to show me what doesn't work, so I can start to figure out what does.  The upside of this constant, is that knowing that some words won't ever see the light of day gives me more freedom to experiment and surprise myself. 

First drafts are scary: every single book overwhelms me at the first draft stage.  I have this anxiety that I'll never have enough words, enough plot, enough time, enough guts, enough talent, enough.  The anxiety is always there, like a critic over my shoulder, doubting every word.  Some books come with more pressure than others, but all of them are scary in their own way.  On the plus side, knowing that anxiety is part of my writing process, somehow makes it easier to face.

At some point I hate the story:  I get mad crushes on my characters and stories at the beginning of the writing process.  I daydream about them and spend hours thinking of ways to torment them.  But after the 37th draft and two months rewriting (and then rewriting again) the same scene, I eventually get to the point where I can't bear to look at the story.  But then I do anyway, and I always end up finding my way back to it again. 

My characters will go off book:  No matter how carefully I plot or outline, somewhere along the way the characters will take a detour and wrest control of the story from me.  I've learned to go with it, because even if I end up with pages I can't use (see false starts above), I always come away from it with a better understanding of character and story.  And sometimes, the new path is far better than what I had planned in the first place. 

I will write the line "he holds his hands up in mock surrender" at least once:  Seriously.  This sucker shows up in every one of my manuscripts, sometimes more than once.  I've gotten better at looking for it and cutting it out, but I'm pretty sure you can find it in more than one of my published books.  At least now I know to do a search and replace for it. 

I won't give up: This is the most important thing I've learned about my writing process.  No matter how rough the writing gets, a little grit and a lot of determination will see me through to the other side.  In the end, perseverance is the only writing constant that matters.


Sometimes after we recognize our writing habits - whether they hold or stay the same - it's all we can do to just hold up our hands in mock surrender. :)

Beth Distracted Hull May 29, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Whoops, whether they CHANGE or stay the same.

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