While chatting to a friend and fellow aspiring novelist, she obviously asked me how the writing is going. I answered “I’m theoretically working on it.” It was a vague and slightly lazy answer in which I admit a certain level of procrastination and also acceptance that for me, writing is 80% thinking about it and 20% putting words onto the page.
There is so much written about the writing process from inspiring quotes attributed to legendary authors to esoteric articles describing planning, structure and word counts to entire books on style and harnessing a muse.Some people can sit down and bang out a draft just by putting the time in with their keyboard, some people paper walls with inspiration, Post its and index cards and there’s everything in between including word count goals and specific apps to reduce distraction.
The bottom line in all of them is that the process is different for each writer. What works best for one person will not work at all for another and it takes some time to figure out what will work. For me, I am a very slow thinker. I’m not indecisive, except maybe when faced with a restaurant menu that has more than 2 pages. Much the opposite, once I make a decision I commit and devote myself to it. It just takes some time. I prefer to think things through in every possible incarnation that pops into my head and to fully digest each thought before deciding what is best. It is slow but I am not a ‘flip flopper’.
So when I say I am theoretically working on my novel, I mean I think about it every second of the day while continuing to do every-day things. I’m observing people I see, describing life around me (just in my head, for the most part) and thinking about the real world exploring how the world in my novel may differ from it or reflect it. To the outside world, I realise it looks like I’m just commuting or doing laundry, but it was while doing these things that I got the initial spark for the novel and it was while hanging up wet clothes I made my latest breakthrough into my main character in a flash of thought that left the rest of the clothes to languish in the washing machine while I found my notebook and wrote it all down.
I am a Nanowrimo ‘winner’. I wrote more than 50,000 words in 30 days, but instead of editing since December, I’ve not made much tangible progress. It has taken most of the last few months to stop beating myself up over what could be perceived as procrastination and recognise it as just my writing process and to accept that this is the way I will write my first book and hopefully more. If it takes me 20 minutes to decide what to eat for dinner, why would I expect major plot decisions to come any easier? I know it takes time to craft a story, to put words on the page but it was a surprise to realise I need to take time to learn my writing process to find out how my voice is best channelled. I may have to revise my initial writing schedule, but that’s just fine by me.