I essentially have three modes of writing.
1.) The first and best is when I'm fully committed. That means everything else takes second place. I focus exclusively on the story. I spend hours sometimes just getting in the mood, contemplating it, creating a cushion around the actual writing, so that when I finally start typing I have a pretty good idea of what I want the chapter to accomplish, have visualized much of it, and have a bunch of telling details in mind.
I've heard creativity described as a shy pet that you must coax out from under the couch. I want to be persistent but gentle. This more or less takes all of a day. I can't let anything get in the way. Full attention, but not forcing it. Letting it come, but giving myself plenty of time.
When I do this, I usually write a full chapter, between 1500 and 2500 words. (I probably could write more, but I think it helps to approach each new chapter fresh.)
2.) The second mode of writing is when I'm basically spending the mere hour or two a day it takes to put down about 1000 words or so. Not a lot of cushion or planning or mulling. Just jumping on the first idea that comes along and starting from there.
It's amazing, but this doesn't actually turn out that bad. But it's much less satisfying, somehow, and I suspect in the end there just isn't as much depth. It also requires going back and fixing things.
3.) The last mode I try to avoid. That's when I constantly revisit the same material again and again until I've lost all sense of what I was trying to do in the first place. This happens more often as a followup to the second mode--the idea that I can come back and fix it later, instead of having thought it out in the first place.
So why don't I always do the first mode?
Because it is exhausting and time-consuming. I get a little weird from isolation, I neglect things, my eyes and neck start to hurt. I forget to eat and bath and sleep. It is my price for being a writer.
I let myself do the second mode because sometimes I want to be casual, I want to think about and do other things. Holidays get in the way. Or I just reach burn-out.
The alternative to the second mode is not writing at all.
The third mode happens because there is enough substance to some of these second-mode stories to try to fix them. Most of them end up in my Book Vault, stories I may never finish or if finished, may never put out. None of the effort was wasted, though. I've learned something with every book. Sometimes I start out in the second mode and if the idea is strong enough, switch to the first mode. (And vice verse).
All of this is a consequence of trying to at least finish a first draft of every story I start. (It's very easy to fall into the trap of writing 10 or 20 or 30 thousands words, setting it aside and thinking I'll come back later. Those stories most often never get finished. I've got half a dozen in my word processing program right now.)
So I'm in the second mode right now. When I read the story back to Linda is sounds pretty good, even though I just tossed it off.
When the first of the year rolls around, I'm going to shift into first mode and write the next Virginia Reed book. Two to three months of hermitage while I write the first draft. It's both alluring and daunting. But I think it will get published and that's a high motivation.
4 days ago