Process to Creative Writing…

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Perhaps you’ve experienced it. You’ve been told there is a process to creative writing. First you brainstorm, then you outline, then you write. That process of outlining could include character outlines, webs, maps, chapter breakdowns, etc., on and on, and if you don’t conform to the process then something is wrong with you. I’m sure you’ve experienced it because I’ve experienced it, and let me tell you, it doesn’t work for me. It never has. Let me share what does work for me.

1. Writing
The process of writing puts me in the headspace to be able to sequence my writing and create the next step. I have never been able to envision my entire story. Maybe some people can. I can’t. I can’t outline a book and know how the story will end. For me….. I don’t even know who my characters will become.

I’m here to write but I’m also here to discover. In the end this lengthens my writing process. I end up writing multiple drafts. But in the end I am left with the feeing that I have created something sensual, rhythmic and organic. I spend less time feeling that I have forced a round ball inside a box. 

2. Simplification
Writing a novel is a massive undertaking so I break it down into steps that are easier to attack. What is the next plot step I need to take in order to keep the story moving forward? I don’t need to know all of them. I only need to know the next step to move the story forward. 

3. Get comfortable (not knowing)
If I waited until I knew the entire story to begin writing my story I would never complete a book. It’s okay not to know! Creating your world is a process that will last the duration of each book. It is not a solitary event. It’s ongoing. I don’t care who the writer is. From Hemingway to Cormac McCarthy, writing is difficult. It brings challenges regardless of how advanced you become.

4. Plot
Understand the general plot of your book. Instead of focusing on a hard plot (which allows for little flexibility), try a soft plot (which allows for more flexibility) as you write. This will help you build space into your book for you to grow into. 

5. Motifs and Themes
If it’s important to have a general idea of your plot it is also important to have an idea of what your motifs and themes are. Plot is the story you want to tell. Motifs and themes are what you want to say. Both matter. These are things that will recur in your book. It could be something as simple as a color. Maybe a color carries a certain meaning for a character. Maybe there is a necklace that a character glimpses throughout the story, and this consistent sighting cultivates reader interest. Motifs and themes function as threads that stretch from the start of a story through to its closing pages. They provide continuity throughout a book, and ultimately, convince a reader to care about your characters in the context of a story. When you hit a stopping point where you are unsure where to take the story next, refer to your motifs and themes (I like to keep a list handy) and see if they can be used to help propel the story forward.

6. People. Humans
We are both of these things, right? People like to read books because they see themselves in them. Remember, literature is about the human struggle. Try to remember that whatever story you are telling, it needs to tell the reader something about this thing of being human. Humans relate to humans. Kurt Vonnegut had a piece of advice. He said to never go too long in describing a new setting without incorporating a human into the scene. Weather, trees, shrubbery, birds, all these things are fine, but it’s the human your reader will relate to. This is critical in maintaining your own interest and theirs. 

7. Scene switch-up
It can be exhausting to write another scene from the same setting with the same character(s) doing the same things. If it’s exhausting for you to write imagine what it will be like for your readers. Writing should be fun and enjoyable. It shouldn’t be a banal process. There is repetition to writing but it should never feel repetitive or like a chore. If it’s getting tough then maybe you just need to switch up scenes or settings. You can also try writing in the same setting or with the same characters but using a different storytelling device. These things can be useful in keeping your storytelling enthusiasm intact. Your own interest in writing your story also tells you something about your reader interest so don’t simply trudge through. Use your own interest as a gauge for reader interest.

At its core writing a novel is about moving the story forward. If you can’t complete the story you can’t get far. A poorly written story is still a written story. This you can work with. Hope this helps!

Roman Newell

Graphic Composition:
by: Darlene Carroll

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