Saturday, January 12, 2013

Writing Process: A Walk in the Park

Happy New Year!  I've ended the old year and begun the new with a lot of R & R ...including another "R" of reading.  These "other R's," by the way, are my low key alternative to that big "R" known as making Resolutions.  (Really...what is with this tradition of jumping up for more as soon as you've fallen over the finish line of the previous year? Just say'n.)

With all this taking it easy though, I realize it's been a while since my last post!  So here's one on "writing process" I wrote a while back. It kind of fits with my R & R frame of mind.   

Even if I've long ago discovered that "a writing process" will change with each story, I still have this fantasy about finding a method to my madness.  I imagine how nice it would be to have a process as easy as a "walk in the park."  And by this, I mean a very well designed park, with minimal backtracking.

Sure, I know I will veer off the beaten path, but I want to feel that sense of order.  I want trail markers.  I want to know how long this path will rough is the far from civilization will it take me?  Will it loop back or connect to another trail?  I want to know as much as I can about a lot of things. 

Other things I'm okay with not knowing. I want to exit the main trail because it tempts me with unknown possibilities.  But I also like setting off with some reassurance there will be a marker down there somewhere on the branching path that will direct me back to the main trail.

I'm a wanna-be plotter.  I want to be linear.  But more often than not, the early scenes for a story that pop into my head takes place somewhere off the beaten path.  The first scene I think of for a story might be destined for page 20 or 220.  It is what it is.  I create the map after the fact, from the inside out.

So much for a "walk in the park" right?  But I'm still not ready to abandon the ideal of an organized writing process.   Because never is the yearning for order greater than when things are in disorder.  When the WIP has lost it's illusion of being a walk in the park and becomes a wilderness of disconnected and overlapping trails, it's a lot harder to trek into the disorder.  The temptation is strong to abandon the story altogether.  Or maybe start fresh. It's not as if plenty of other ideas aren't calling!

At this point I need a bit of a reminder that it is rare for a writing process to be all I think it should be.  I have so many doubts about my process that I feel the need to go back to the basics for reassurance. 

Ironically, in a document called "Three Steps to the Writing Process," a caveat to the basic steps fit what I wanted to hear.  I liked it so much that I substituted the word"book" for "theme" and got an interesting result:

Writing a fully developed theme BOOK is not easy, but you can master the technique if you think of writing as a process with three stages—prewriting, writing, and postwriting (sometimes known as invention, shaping, and editing). Remember, though, that “the stages always overlap,” and that the writing process is too recursive, too full of starts and stops and loops backward, to break into clearly distinguished stages.”

--(John C. Bean and John D. Ramage, Form and Surprise in Composition: Writing and Thinking Across the Curriculum, New York: Macmillan, 1986, 10-11). The full text of this .pdf document does focus on a term paper, but if you want to look: Three Steps to the Writing Process

For some reason this amuses me.   Because apparently, it's very easy to say "three steps" to...well...anything!  The only thing you need to do is keep in mind that "the stages always overlap, and they are full of starts and stops and loops backward."  It is, in fact, like a walk in a park.

So it looks like I'm doing it right after all.   Might as well keep going, right?


  1. Melissa, welcome back! And I love this post. I really want to have a definable process, with clear markers, BUT I don't want it to take out the fun and adventurous exploration parts. LOL I'm a wannabe plotter too, but my brain can't seem to work in a linear fashion without a lot of grumbling. :) I get random scenes in my head all the time, and they aren't always for the current story. Okay, most of the time they're not for the current story! But I guess that's what makes all of this so fun. :)

    1. Donna, thanks for noticing I'd been gone! LOL!

      Oh, yes, the scenes in my head that aren't even for the current story...I can't even think what kind of map that would be of my writing process!


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