I have been writing for a long time. When I was young, I would pound out stories that only amounted to a couple hundred words each. I evolved and the stories got longer. Then I began to come up with more ideas and so I had dozens of stories floating around.
My process worked thus:
1) Work on a story from the beginning. If it was already partially written, I would edit and tighten and add new ideas. If it was brand new I would jump in and start writing without any more planning than maybe my main character’s name.
2) Get a new idea. This could either apply to the story I was currently working on, or any of the others. In either case the result would be going back to step one.
My process did not contain a lot of focus. I would jump among my projects all the time. The only way I would make any headway is when I stayed interested in a project long enough (and didn’t have any shiny new ideas) to get to the end. This did not happen very often.
However, over the years, due to sheer number of hours, the cream steadily rose. The stories for which I had ideas continued to get better and develop. The stories that weren’t as great fell by the wayside.
Then three years ago, I had an experience that started me down the path to serious self reflection. One of the many things that came out of that was a desire to gain mastery of writing.
I picked one of my stories, Shifting Winds, and I worked on it exclusively. I read articles, I read books, I struggled with my free time and my other obligations and I eventually found my DIYMFA mentor.
I struggled a lot with my process. October and November of last year I started over with a brand new story, The Storyteller, which I worked on ‘revising’ from January to June of this year. Through mostly pure grit, I kept with it through figuring out that I didn’t really have a rough draft, to realizing how underdeveloped the world and the characters were and trying to figure out how I was going to get this story from where it was to publishable.
I am still adapting my writing process. When I started The Storyteller, my plan was to force myself to focus on the story and just write through to the end. Well over the period of six months I came to realize that that process didn’t work for me. Since I develop my story as I write, writing straight through to the end just gives me a lot of scattered thoughts and rewritten scenes.
So I had to stop over this month of downtime as I let The Storyteller sit, and think about how I could improve my process. What worked for me in the past was writing and then going back and cleaning up, and then writing a bit more, then going back and cleaning it up, etc. What didn’t work about that back in the day was my jumping around among stories, but I don’t have that problem anymore now that I decided to be more focused.
I’m still working on accepting the fact that I am just going to be slower in turning out books than other writers. I am annoyed by this fact. That’s okay. I can be annoyed. I just have to keep writing, which thankfully has become a habit at this point.