Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trust Your Creative Process

I spent the week mucking around revising a book. I've already written 450 pages. I've got a solid plot, good dialogue, smart sub plot, etc. But this book is a new genre for me. I really want it to work. (Read-paranoid I'm in over my head.) I'm doing everything I can to make the book "right." So I make the mistake of doing what "everyone" says must be done-not what I "know" works for me. I muck-I spend hours looking at individual paragraphs and sentences and word choices. After all I've been told is the only way to sell.

When I first started writing, I wrote two drafts and the book was done and on it's way out of my house. I got back good rejection letters-hand written not form rejections. Then I joined writer's groups-went to workshops to learn the craft- to figure out how to get better. I learned people actually look at their paragraphs and make sure they don't have the same word starting a paragraph for at least three pages. They look at word choice. They work on sentence structure. Ugh- are you kidding me? You can't see the story for the trees.

But they must be right- after all they said they were right. Everyone in the room nodded and agreed. Blogs are written every day about it. Critique partners go on and on. So I slowed down and followed the rules. My rejection letters turned from hand written to form. What? So, I dug down harder-working more craft-trying harder to pick each word just right...

Well meaning "craft" people are all very convincing that this is what must be done to produce a good book- to be salable-to be professional. Slow down- slog through. (besides if I don't send it out I won't get rejected, right?) So, I spend hours-slog along-trying my best to "fix" each word while keeping my own voice and not over polishing. Mostly I end of feeling like a complete loser as a know-scarlet L on my forehead.

Then I read a blog by Dean Wesley Smith best selling author of over 90 published novels.

He spoke of writing fast-quickly and well-something I did naturally before I got paranoid and started looking at the words... (It's a great blog-hop over and take a look.) Something he said struck a cord with me.

He said- "Writing slow is an invention of those who know nothing about the creative process, for the most part. Teachers love to believe that writing slow means writing better (mostly because they have fewer papers to grade that way). And rewriting is a myth that has built up also from people who really don’t understand the creative process.
That said, every writer works differently. There is no right way, and if cranking out ten words a day and rewriting then over and over works for you and you are selling tons of novels, then for heaven’s sake, don’t change it. But if you are doing that and it’s not working very well, or you are listening to your agent about how to rewrite because you think your agent is a better writer than you are (And if so, why is the agent only earning 15% and not writing on their own?), you might want to step back and hit some basics.
So, how do you train yourself to write from that creative side, write faster, and maybe even write an entire novel in under three weeks? Answer: You have to get out of your own way and believe you can do it."

Wow- trust your personal creative process. I am an idiot. I let paranoia throw me off my own process. What was I thinking? I jump up- do a happy dance! This week I'm sending out queries.

My point-whatever your creative process- never let anyone tell you you must do it their way to be "right" - trust your own way. It's the one God-given thing you have. Find the joy in it. Cheers.


Marty said...

Great post - thanks!

Ann Victor said...

Nancy, this is a struggle I have constantly - learning to trust my own creativity. So I understand your frustration.

I wrote a four part series on my blog called "What is Creativity?"
The four parts are:
a. a skill that can be learned
b. an innate personality trait
c. a process that can be perfected
d. a flash of Divine Inspiration

The first part starts here
(November archives in case link doesn't work!) and there's links to the other parts in that post.

As you can see, it's been a huge struggle for me to take that leap and trust my Muse. Hope your new genre book works well! GOOD LUCK, 450 pages is a lot of work!!
I'm off to take a look at that link...

Ann Victor said...

Nancy, pop over to Lady Glamis blog called The Innocent Flower there is a MAGNIFICENT video of Elizabeth Gilbert (author of eat Pray Love) talking about the creative process. It's long but really worth watching! So inspiring.

Marty said...

I agree with Ann Victor so much that I wanted to provide this link to Lady Glamis. Just give it a click - yes, it is a long video but well worth the time.

Morgan Mandel said...

It's hard for me not to agonize over every word on the first draft, but I've got to do it to get the book done.

Morgan Mandel

Ann Victor said...

Marty, how did you get a link to work in a comment? I just can't get my links in the comments section to work. (I can do it in a blogpost but not in a comment - go figure!!!)

Marty said...

Ann, I created the link in blogger then cut and pasted it to comments. There are other ways to do it but that is just easier.

Nancy, I appreciate your patience with my return visits. ;D

L. Diane Wolfe said...

His advice makes sense - I hand-write everything first, because I can do so quickly and without inhibitions. Then I go back and start working on the structure and fleshing out the paragraphs more. I will rewrite many times after printing out the first typed version, but it's only little tweaks at that point.
BTW - I think I started doing this because I am a slow typer and write much, much faster!

L. Diane Wolfe

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great Comments- Marty and Ann- So glad to have your repeat comments and good links-

Ann- great blogs- thanks for the links!

Marty- thanks for teaching me how to link in comments.

L. Diane- cool about handwriting- I think I posted this on another blog but I can't read my own handwriting so typing is best for me.

Morgan-It really is all about your personal process, right?

Thanks everyone!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Nancy, great article! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I went through something similar. I wrote my first novel in six weeks and the second in about five. They just flowed and I enjoyed writing both immensely. I've got a couple of others half done stories. Good premise, but… Those came about when I started second guessing myself, much like you did. Agonizing over every word choice, phrase, and paragraph.

I had a friend and crit partner that basically kicked my butt and said what ARE you thinking? Since when do you listen to the perfect paragraph nazis? It's not your style. You aren't writing literary fiction. You're writing adventures. This piece of crap I just read is perfect in execution and about as dry as toast. It has no life, no zest and I don’t FEEL a thing when I read it. It’s all buried under perfect words.

You’re so right; everyone has their style, their method of creating. We have our own. Be true to ourselves, trust ourselves. Editing? Sure, we’re going to half to do that. But if I spend too much time editing my word choices, and myself as I write I lose the excitement of my story. I need to get it down first. Then I can go back and add a bit here, subtract a bit there, and maybe rearrange a bit. Those ‘bits’ help enhance the story.

I like Dean Smith’s thoughts. Thanks for sharing them. Good luck with the queries! Keep us posted. :-)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Thanks, Sia!

Good luck with your stories, as well!

Jessica said...

Awesome post! It's true that before I learned the "rules" writing went much faster. This time around I'm trying to let my mind be more creative and then go back and check things.
You're so right about crits being heavy on stifling a writer's style.

Marilyn Brant said...

Wonderful post, Nancy, and so, so true. I think the only "rule" should be to write and finish a book your target readers will find interesting. Fast, slow, in order, out of order, with plotting or without...whatever makes the story come alive for the writer so it can be devoured by the reader, and so it'll seem to them as if the book's creation were effortless. A total myth, of course, but that's the "ideal" in my mind :).

Kathryn Magendie said...

Wow! Some writers do that? the three page thing? I'd not heard of that...huhn!

I write fast and furious - and then after I get it all down, then I start the editing process - and that's in stages - the first is read through and see if any other ideas come up and if I've stayed true to voice and POV and all that - then I read again for more "nitty" things....and finally, I look for even nittier things *laugh* ....but if I had to be too structured, I'd grow bored, or the work would be stiff.

Yes, listen to that voice...that instinct!

Linda Kage said...

Wow, that sounds so familiar to me. Listening to everyone else and trying to do it the "right" way did make my stories taste a lot more like stale cardboard. But when I was slinging out stories all willy nilly, now there was some spicy flavor.

Write faster? I love it. Great advice.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Great advice. I've had those insecurities after returning from a critque group. Now I've discovered that it is better to listen to my inner voice - if I agree with their suggestions, I make changes and if I don't agree, I leave it alone.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Martin Powell said...

For whatever it's worth, I never write more than two drafts of anything. I'd starve if I attempted to do more!

Howard said...

Excellent post. I have had the same toruble myself. I write fairly fast and things generally pour out of my head and splash all over the page. I have found when I try to slow myself down--because I have also been told it can't be any good if I am writing fast--I start second guessing everything and then nothing looks right! Especially first draft. If I have stop and start thinking about word choice right then...I'm in trouble. I worry about that in the 3rd or 4rth draft, where I am no longer paying much attention to story because I have it already--I am simply tweaking structures and words or tightening. Writing should come naturally and whatever style a writer uses--fast or slow--they should stick with it and not try to force themselves into another.