(Admin suggested I put this up as a blog post. This was originally posted on my personal blog, blogyinyang.com, on April 22, 2015.)
Everything we do has a process. How you get ready for work. How you cook a meal. How you get dressed. Your process may not be like mine, or anyone else’s. In “All in the Family” Archie debated with Michael sock, sock, shoe, shoe, while Michael preferred sock, shoe, sock, shoe. We all have a process. For me it is sock, sock, pants, shoe, shoe. That way I don’t have to roll up my pants to put on my socks and shoes, and then roll down my pant legs, possibly rolling down my socks.
When it comes to little things, the process, such as socks and shoes, may not be that important, but I guarantee if you switch them up your day will feel a bit weird. You might find an improvement, but it will take adjustment.
When it comes to the big things, the process is important. If you sew, you have a process. Maybe it is fabric, then idea, then thread, then approach. If you paint, maybe it is idea, then color, then brush, or it could be idea, brush, then color. It is how you think, how you process the craft of the task.
My writing process is still evolving, though I have definitely found some solid processes that I will retain.
The idea process is one I cannot quite delineate, though I certainly have one. I examine topical issues; at least they are topical to me. Out of the mass of conflicting thoughts will develop a spark about a specific character, line, or issue toward which ideas begin to gravitate. As I said, I cannot quite define that idea process yet, but I know I use one. I can feel myself on the hunt, I track scents and broken twigs until I spot a target.
The writing process, on the other hand, I have defined rather well. Once the target has been spotted, I mull. I muse over the idea, allowing it to take an elusive form in my mind. Then, frankly, I begin writing.
Many writers create outlines. That is a good and valid process. I, however, do not. Outlines are great when you are trying to match an end to some established product. If you want to replicate how you woodworked that awesome bookshelf, an outline is a good thing that helps to guarantee repeatable results, however for me and storytelling, I have no desire to match some pre-existing result. I fear an outline will lead me into pattern and cliché.
That said, I do make notes. As ideas and connections flow into my mind, I jot them down. I have a little notebook beside my bed for those late night revelations. At the bottom of my initial writing file I collect a host of notes. All the while, I keep writing.
Writing is two steps forward, one step back. Write today. Tomorrow, read what I wrote, edit it, and then write more, following the flow. The next day, read everything written so far, edit, and then write more. This process continues until a chapter or short story has been accomplished. Then, with a new chapter or change of direction in mind, I read what has been written, making edits if I feel them, and then jump to a blank page to begin the process anew, referring to my notes if necessary. Write paragraph, read paragraph, edit paragraph, then write some more. Write pages, read pages, edit pages, write more. Finish chapter, read it, edit it, loosely button it, and move on.
As the story begins to resolve, the entire work gets a read, and a re-read, some edits, and more re-reads, grammar grappling, word wrestling, character cleaning, and structure scrutiny.
I have learned the value of creating the audio book before publishing, and intend to follow this process for all future works. While in the writing process, I am thinking about writing. I have my mind on the craft and the typing. As I work on an audio book, I am given the opportunity to hear what has been written while detached from the act of writing. I am more focused on the sound and flow. My fingers are not involved. The overall structure becomes more clear, as I am not as focused on the structure of sentences. More often than I can recount the audio has highlighted a subtle missed opportunity, or a clumsy unnatural sentence. It looks great in print, but who on earth talks like that?
It does often follow the writing process, however. Record a section, listen to it, and realize a wonderful opportunity which calls for a change in the writing, which means the section must be re-recorded. Two steps forward, one step back, but the results are well worth the process.