It took me nearly thirty years to perfect my writing process. I’m counting the early years, because the truth is that I’ve been writing for most of my life. I was in elementary school when I wrote my first book. It was about a cat named Daisy who roamed our neighborhood and it was a joint effort between myself and several other kids in the neighborhood, but I still count it. My next big project was in middle school when I filled two notebooks in a handwritten story about a pony named Clementine (what can I say, I LOVE animals). Along the way I also began writing poetry as well as a book dealing with the loss of my father because a friend of the family suggested it might be helpful to others to hear a child’s perspective. At the time, I didn’t get very far with it, but nearly twenty years later I was finally able to sit down and put into words everything I was left with after his passing and how I have lived with those scars ever since.
Starting in middle school and carrying on all through high school, I entered into probably hundreds of story ideas, and exited two seconds later. At the time I couldn’t figure out why I was unable to commit to these bursts of creativity that I was initially so excited about and it wasn’t until much later that I realized that my biggest problem was my lack of patience. I simply couldn’t write out my ideas quickly enough, so while I was putting pen to paper my mind was running a mile a minute, replaying every detail over and over again to the point that I was bored with the whole thing and lost interest after having only handwritten a few pages.
Soon after, I abandoned the idea of writing anything of length and focused solely on poetry for several years, mostly because it was the only thing I was ever able to finish.
Then along came motherhood and suddenly I found myself sitting at home alone with a baby and no one to talk to but myself. So, I borrowed my mother’s laptop and began to write. I wrote anytime my daughter was sleeping or contentedly entertaining herself with her toys two feet away from my desk ( mostly while she was sleeping) and before I knew it, I had finished a screenplay. It was the most thrilling feeling to have actually completed something.
It took another two years after that before I was finally ready to write a novel, but once I did, there was no stopping me and before I knew it I had written three books back to back. Sure, it took me almost three decades to get here, but I not only have tons of ideas I collected over that time period I also needed to go on that journey to learn what worked for me. And I did learn from every aspect of it. The years of jotting things down in notebooks by hand is still my starting point now. Only now, I limit it to brainstorming and move on to typing when it’s time to really get started.
It’s a mess, but it only has to make sense to me…thankfully 3 years later I can still look at those notes and know exactly what I was talking about 🙂
Next I move on to a script writing program I downloaded a while back. It helps with my-lack-of-patience-versus-racing-brain issue because it takes very little to put the outline of the story into words. There are designated spaces for everything from descriptions to dialogue and has nifty features like remembering characters and locations throughout the story and filling them in automatically as you write. Sure, maybe it sounds like I’m being lazy…but I say why work harder when you can work smarter?!
This is where the years of writing poetry comes into play because I developed a habit of writing regularly. Therefore writing on a daily basis is not something to be feared. Whipping out a few hundred words, or even a thousand, once a day isn’t daunting, it’s something I’ve done a ton of time before.
Once I finish the story in script format, I usually need a little break from the story. Nothing too long, just a couple of weeks to get some distance from it so that I can return with a fresh mind to a story I already feel like I know inside and out. After the break, I am usually ready to come back and find all the little details I missed the first time around and the story truly comes to life as I add more dimensions to the characters and take the time to focus on their journey and what motivates them to go on it in the first place.
I save this task for last, because if I started here, I would be right where I was in middle school. I love the details. I mean, I really LOVE the details…but they’re time-consuming and can be extremely distracting. I could literally get lost in them and if I didn’t already have a course mapped out for myself I probably would never reach my destination.
And I have to say, reaching that destination is pretty freaking awesome!