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Posts Tagged ‘The Writing Process’

Read to Write

Posted by tansyrr on May 30, 2011

There are times in my life when I forget how to read.

To be more specific, I forget why it is that reading needs to be a prioritised task, if not in my day, then at least in my week.

Priority of tasks is one of those things that absolutely drives my day. I have two daycare days a week for my baby, which is heavenly, and yet my elder daughter’s after school activities take a chunk out of both those days – so my working day starts somewhere about 9:30am after the school run, and finishes about 2:30 as I head out for the second school run. Five hours, twice a week.

On non-daycare days, I get somewhere between an hour and two hours of baby-free time, depending entirely on how long she naps. So priority of tasks is huge to me. I have to write, obviously. I have a book to finish this year. I don’t have enough time to be able to manage two big brain-heavy working shifts in the day, which means if there are edits or proofs or other writerly tasks to be done, it’s that OR drafting the new novel, not both.

All other tasks, like blogging, checking emails, housework (ha!), (damn that reminded me I had to set the robot vacuum going while writing this post), book publicity, etc. all has to be squeezed into those precious baby-free hours – or I have to ask myself whether it is in fact something which can be managed during a baby-present period of the day.

I can work while the baby is there. It’s just harder. Sometimes she plays at my feet or watches Play School or runs off into corners to giggle with her big sister. Sometimes she clings to me like a limpet. Sometimes she really really REALLY wants me to read that story to her for the third time, or dance like a giraffe, or build a tower so she can knock it over with her mighty tiny hands. No, she can’t talk yet. Yes, she gets her message across.

The tasks which get pushed into the ‘sure I can do that when the baby’s awake’ list, it has to be said, tend not to get done at all. It’s an erratic sort of list and I do feel rather sorry for the tasks that get shoved there indefinitely.

Technically anything that involves my laptop (WRITING BOOK) should be easier than anything that requires me being in another part of the house (WASHING UP, and damn I still haven’t set the vacuum going…). But I have to think about my brain, too. I’m fairly well acquainted with how it works these days and while it is technically possible for me to write a few paragraphs of the new book draft in between breastfeeding and ‘this little piggy,’ it’s not a very effective way to produce dark, sexy prose.

Which is all a long way around saying that reading books, a task which can technically be performed anywhere, and which technically requires less attention span than writing books, often gets shoved into the ‘oh I can do that while baby’s awake’ list. And that’s how I end up with books scattered, half-read, across the house, all with their bookmarks missing (Jem likes to steal bookmarks, it is less appalling than her book chewing phase was, but the glee on her face as she does it makes it very clear that she know EXACTLY HOW EVIL IT IS) and my ability to concentrate on anything more complex than Spot Goes To School goes out the window.

It’s easy, when I’m not reading, to think about the task as an indulgence, or a reward. Something to be done when the housework (DAMN IT, okay, I’m setting the vacuum up now). Somehow I have no problem justifying the expense of books to myself or my partner (duh, tax-deductible!) or the space they take up in the house (THESE ARE MY TOOLS OF WORK!) but I still can’t shake that guilty feeling if I have to admit I spent half my work day reading.

But here’s the thing: reading makes me write better. I don’t just mean research books which I hope will save me from major Jubilee-Line-in-World-War-2 type faux pas, or even those gorgeous classics of literature which train me to write better sentences, through pure osmosis. Reading anything, but especially books that inspire me with their goodness and occasionally those that anti-inspire me with their woefulness, flips a switch in my head that makes me think more actively about writing, and technique, and theme, and what I’m actually doing in that dratted book of mine.

No other leisure activity does this so successfully. Some do a bit – my new habit of inhaling Big Finish audios are quite close to it, and TV & movies-at-the-cinema often spark off the Story Creatures in my brain. (I recently watched 4 episode of Skins in a row and by the end of it was trying to figure out if I could achieve anything close to it with a series of linked short stories IN SPACE) But books are the best. They remind me, over and over, that I am a writer, and if I’m reading regularly while writing first draft work, then the work I produce is better and cleaner and more inspired, and faster to produce.

As long as, you know, I remember to put the books down SOMETIMES and pick up the damn laptop. Which really isn’t a problem at the moment, as I’ve got so out of practice at reading substantial works that I don’t seem capable of sitting still for more than 15 minutes at a time. Good for a less sedentiary lifestyle, not so good for finishing the latest Glenda Larke before Volume 3 comes out.

Does reading make YOU write better, or does it get in the way? What fiction has inspired you lately?

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 16 Comments »

Writing Process

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 15, 2011

This one is for the Gorgeous Goth Girl, who dropped by the writers’ table at Brisbane Supanova and asked if I could do a post about the Writing Process.

Writing Process is such a huge topic, I thought I’d review some of the posts we’ve done in the last couple of years.

Starting with the Aspiring Writer’s Check list.

Here is one on the Writing Process.

First of all, are a plotter or a pantser? And what can you do about plotting?

So how do you grab the reader in the first 10 minutes?

One of my favourites that I like to use, Deep Point of View.

And here’s a really nerdy one, Characterization through View Point, revealed by Action.

How do you integrate back story?

And here’s one we all need to beware of The Sagging Middle!

What if you were going really well with your book, then life got in the way and you had to go off and do something else for a couple of months and now you want to get back into the book? See here for tips on getting back into your manuscript.

When it is all done, then there’s the Revision and Editing.

But don’t just listen to me. One of the writers I keep going back to is Holly Lisle. This is her page of extensive writing tips. Here is her page on courage for writers.  Frankly, we all need the courage to believe in ourselves. And this is Holly’s page on How to Finish your novel. And while we are talking about really useful site with lots of writing tips, there’s our very own Richard Harland’s 145 page guide to Writing. He breaks it into Good Writing Habits, The Elements, Characters, Story, Language and Getting Published.

There you are, Gorgeous Goth Girl, no excuse not to get stuck into your manuscript!

Out of curiosity, are there an requests from our readers?

Posted in Characterisation, Editing and Revision, Plotting, Point of View, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

The Writing Process

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on August 21, 2010

Jane Austen’s Writing Desk: Photo by Stuart Freeman

About fifteen years ago, my husband gave me a book which had the draft first chapter of well known books followed by the printed first chapter. By reading one after the other you could see the process that the writer went through to polish the first chapter. (Don’t ask me what the title was, I can’t remember).

In the foreword the editor said that, with the advent of computers (see it was a long time ago) we were losing this kind of record of the writing process. In the past, the original hand written or typed manuscript of a classic might be donated to the national library. This way the development of the book from draft to printed version was saved for posterity.

Now we write over the old version. (Although I do admit that if I am going to make major changes to the structure of the book I save the earlier manuscript as V1, meaning Version One). Still, I would never bother to print off a copy of my earlier version and even though I do constant saves of my work-in-progress to USBs I’m sure these earlier versions will be lost.

All of which brings me to the Writing Process. For those of us who are writers, it isn’t mysterious, but for non-creative people it is arcane and hard to comprehend.

It is pretty amazing when you consider that we sit down with a blank word document and pull worlds and people out of our heads, weaving them into stories.

What prompted this post was an article in the UK Daily Telegraph about Jane Austen’s manuscripts drafts which will be on display. (For the full article see here). Ceri Radford says:

‘The two draft chapters of Persuasion that will be on display show neat, looped writing, occasionally scoured out with thick, angry black lines. It is a visceral thrill to see a favourite writer’s thought processes on paper; to realise that the sentences etched on to the page with such elegant certainty were scribbled out and scrawled back in again. It draws a direct line between the book on your bedside table and the woman who sat frowning at her desk, nearly 200 years ago.’

Much thought has been given to the Writing Process (not by me, I must confess – I just sit down and write). Crawford Kilian from Dark Waves has a page dedicated to it with many sub links from Developing Efficient Work Habits to Reading a Contract.

ROR’s own Richard Harland  has a large section on his Writing Tips on .Good Writing Habits. In his Preparation section there are 8 subheadings. Writing Through contains 7 subheadings and Feedback and Revision contains 9. (I feel thoroughly ashamed!)

And then there is this site compiled by Sue LeBeau on The Writing Process. Every thing from the ABC of the Writing Process to Revise Wise Writing Activity.

As for my Writing Process. I just sit down and write and when I get stuck, I get up and clean something. There’s always something that needs cleaning. I find repetitive mindless activity really good for freeing the subconscious brain to make those intuitive leaps.

Twice in the last week I’ve woken up with the solution to a plot problem, one that I didn’t even know I had!

So there it is. What is your Writing Process?

Posted in Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Research, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »