Over the past month I've been taking advantage of the break in my editing schedule to work hard on the first draft of one of my pseudonym's WIPs. I've tried all sorts of different strategies from writing for two hours a day to eight hours a day, scheduling specific blocks of time to write to blocking out an entire day, writing on very little sleep to getting lots of sleep, etc. Here are some things I have learned over the last couple of weeks about my writing process.
I can write for 4 hrs/day fairly consistently and for 6 hrs/day for a few days, but not 6/hrs/day consistently or 8 hrs/day for even one day. Provided I go to bed around 11pm or midnight and get up around 8am, my brain is at its best between 10am and 8pm, provided I take care to eat regularly.
Regarding food and sleep
My brain demands more food when I'm writing a lot, and if I skip
breakfast or ignore my hunger pains, my brain shuts down in protest. I had thought that maybe trying to write on little sleep would help me let go of the inner editor and write without judgement, but it turns out that watching Project Runway until 5:30am, getting up at 9am and trying to write after breakfast leads not to writing all the words but instead to a) about two handwritten pages of disconnected notes about everything from the ms I'm trying to write to the fashion collection inspired by food I'd design if I had any sewing experience or fashion sense, and b) a 2.5-hr nap.
Regarding plotting and other aspects of Rachel Aaron's 2K-10K system
I'm more capable of plotting than I previously believed. Asking myself
"Why am I not excited about writing this scene?" can lead to surprising
and super helpful breakthroughs that lead not only to more writing but
also a better book. It can also lead to several days of being stumped.
I've been putting on moody instrumental music that I like but which I can ignore and lighting candles at the beginning of my writing sessions. Just after lighting the candles I've also been dabbing on a particular scented oil my friend Cheryl made for me for the purpose of grounding myself and stimulating creative energy. I don't know that these activities are the cause of writing more words or having better concentration, but there does seem to be a correlation.
I struggle with constant tension between wanting to finish something and not wanting to force it. Deadlines help me up to a certain point, and at a certain point I just feel overwhelmed by the amount of work I have left to do and freeze up. And
then at some point I stop caring about quality of writing and just want
to get the f*cker done, so I start writing the abbreviated version of
what happened and it somehow turns into a scene.
Regarding shitty first drafts
Even really crappy, incomplete scenes feel better than just having notes about a scene. Also, I
am in fact capable of writing a really super rough draft and feeling okay with
knowing that I'll have to go back and add/change things later. I didn't think the inner critic would allow that, but evidently working with other people's manuscripts and seeing how other people handle drafting has given me confidence that I can do it, too.
Regarding the order in which I write scenes
One of the most interesting parts of this process is that I seem
incapable of writing scenes in the order in which they appear in the
book. I start with later parts and they give me clues about what has
come before and then I'll write the earlier parts and realize I need to
change something that happens later or I'll move on to the next section
of the book and then jot down notes for a couple things I need to change
in the earlier section because new information has emerged in the
writing that needs to be planted earlier. It's a messy, messy process.
There's a part of me that likes linear and logical and is super
uncomfortable with all the ambiguity and recursiveness of this process.
Then there's another part that is completely comfortable in the messy,
dirty, tangled skein of moist entrails that is my novel taking form.