Posted by: victanguera | November 27, 2009

Writing Prompt #103

One of the things I’m learning through daily writing is my own process–how I write, and what actually works for me. Working (ahem, cheating) on NaNo this year really drove the point home. NaNo is all about word count. Producing 1,667 words per day, every single day.

Three years ago, I did exactly that. I wrote at that steady pace for an entire month. I scaled back production after November, but still finished the first draft of that novel by the end of December.

Last year, I thought I could accomplish the same task, and sat down with a blank screen. I got about 10,000 words in, ditched the idea and started something else. But I’d worked on that prior to November, so I had to juggle word count. Those both sit in the bottom of a drawer, unfinished. Production was not the problem. Quality was.

This year, I thought I’d use NaNo to re-write the last half of a WIP. But here’s the thing about re-writing. Word counts vary. The delete key is a best friend. One thing I find very interesting is that if I edit as I write, I’m happier with the overall output.

And that breaks all these rules that exist that writing and editing are two different processes and musn’t be done together. I do agree, editing is much more analytical, but isn’t that a necessary part of creation?

In my art quilts, I often have an end result in mind. I’ll work on things until I get somewhere around the half-way point. Then I pin it on a design wall and walk away from it. To the end of the room. And stare at it. And stare at it some more. Often for days or weeks on end. I try to figure out what is working, what isn’t working and why. Then I go back to work.

In writing, we can learn techniques about proper composition, but sometimes get caught up with the beauty of allowing those words to flow. If we step back mid-production, and just look at it, actually pull it apart and think about it, it might help the final process.

NaNo allows our fingers to fly, but never gives a writer the time to step back and figure out why a piece doesn’t work. It doesn’t give us permission to go back and fix our errors when we recognize them. I have to confess in my first NaNo, I broke that rule big time and at the beginning, went back to add or change scenes frequently. I can tell exactly when I stopped doing that.

I’ve discovered via trying to work on daily writing prompts and failing at NaNo, that I need to write and edit together. I need to go back and forth, changing things at the beginning that fit with things that develop later and work better.

So for today’s prompt, take some time to think about your own writing process. What writing advice have you received that you took to heart, but doesn’t necessarily work for you personally? What do you need to change so your process works for you?

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