Reviewing, plotting and just writing

Plotter or pantser

When I started writing, I found the question about being a “plotter or a pantser”. Plotter would be the person that plans the story before they write and a pantser would be the person that only lets the inspiration guide and build the story as they write. Initially, I was sure I would fit the plotter role, I wanted to set up everything correctly before starting to write. It didn’t work that well. As soon as I started to write, characters acquired life and different scenarios/events invaded my mind. I remember thinking then that I was definitely a pantser and welcomed the idea of getting inspired as I wrote. I ended my first manuscript of my first project, ditching the plotting and welcoming the pantsing.

The end result was not the best. After some rounds of feedback and self-revision, I found out that the story had many holes in it. The story was weak and it wasn’t working as I wanted. I started to re-shape the story, changing chapters, deleting scenes, adding new plot twists, etc. But after several rounds, I still was unhappy with it. Now that I look back, there wasn’t a time when I totally felt confident with how the plot evolved.

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Editing while writing

Then comes editing. When I started to write, without any previous experience, I reviewed/edited my reading after a couple of paragraphs or even after a single paragraph – trying to get the perfect grammar and writing. That didn’t last. This method certainly cut my inspiration and it would take me ages to finish a single chapter. Then my first NaNoWriMo came and I thought that this was the opportunity I needed to be able to end my first manuscript. And I sort of did it. I didn’t finish it, but I learn how to sit and write without giving a look to previous paragraphs. Editing would come later.

The result wasn’t the best either. There was terrible writing everywhere – not acceptable for requesting feedback. I had to go through a couple of rounds of editing before it was presentable. Those two/three rounds took me a lot of time, probably more than a month. And I really hated them.

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What I found out this time

It was trial an error. I still did a couple of mistakes when I started to write my second project. I initially tried to start as a pantser – my objective to write until the manuscript ended and already dreading the rounds of revision in advance. But I already got a feeling that the result would be a plot filled with holes and a writing so embarrassing that would only lead me to endless rounds of revisions. I stopped after a couple of chapters. Why would I need to be either a plotter or a pantser? Why I had to decide between editing while writing or editing everything at the end?

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I took a break after a couple of chapters. Then I started reviewing everything I had written. I wrote a little bit more – with a better mindset of the story in mind and continued writing. Then I reviewed my last written words, changed them into a more decent writing and continued. The result:

I write a couple of chapters. I go back to read them and do a general revision of the writing itself. I analyze the plot a little bit before continuing. I do a little bit of planning for the next chapters and continue. It’s a mix of all methods above. And I found that it works for me. There are no longer surprises, fears, or even apathy to future rounds of editing. There is no structured planned plot that cuts my inspiration but I also don’t write with no horizon in mind.

I edit my writing as I go. I don’t do it immediately, I let it sit for a couple of chapters so that it doesn’t cut the flow or the feeling of writing freely.  I go back to review the writing of previous chapters to make sure that I have a decent writing over there, knowing that at the end it won’t be a terrible manuscript, that it will be readable and that might only need few editing before requesting feedback. I like my own method. And I’m not suggesting it to other people. I’m only saying that each writer has to find its own way to do things…

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Scheduling your priorities

I didn’t want to write about this until I knew what I was doing. I still don’t, but I’m improving. For years, I’ve tried to form a good daily writing habit. There had been periods of time when I had written almost every single weekday for months, and then months when I have written nothing. Could I just have a good writing habit that could be sustainable? I want to be able to write every single day or at least 85% (6 of 7 days) as a permanent habit. It doesn’t matter if I only spend 30 mins, 1 hour or more, I just want this to be ingrained in me, in my daily tasks, like taking a shower – I could skip one day, but more?

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For the previous months, I’ve been doing a re-engineering of this process, wanting to make the most of my time: balance my work with writing, personal activities, hobbies and getting a proper rest. I had been failing for years, but I feel that I’m taking a sustainable approach now. How? Simple: I schedule my life priorities, and one of them is writing.

I’ve scheduled writing for the past months for the early mornings, as the first thing I need to do when I wake up. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve missed the process during my vacation. But the key is to understand that this is a life priority; it should be scheduled and not added for “when you have time”. Because let’s face it, if you leave writing for when you manage to organize the rest of your day, your work, your personal life, and everything else, you won’t find time or you will be too tired for it.

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I’ve heard that in order to make a habit, you have to repeat it twenty-one times. I don’t know if that is the magical number, but from personal experience, at least you need a whole month. My “habit making process” has been taking me several months so far. I still struggle with it, but I noticed one change, it’s beginning to be forged into my mind. Like taking a shower, I wake up thinking about writing and that is good enough to care and schedule it. I know I’m going slow –  and sometimes I can only give it thirty minutes per day – but I feel that at least half-an-hour every single day will get me somewhere as opposed to no writing for the whole week.

Any other tips I can give? To support this habit, I’ve started to meditate. I honestly suggest it. It recharges you, and it’s the only time that you actually have for yourself. If you’re not good at this or don’t know how to start, you can take a look at the Calm App.

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Any other good tips for building a writing habit?

No rules for the writing process

I struggled a lot with my first project. I read many books on the writing process and even attended some courses on it. I tried to be as systematic as possible and write by the rules.  I learned valuable lessons and this helped me get through the process and finish my manuscript. However, I didn’t like the end result.

For this new second project, I started a couple of months ago, I tried to let it go and just be a pantser instead of a plotter. However as nice as it sounds to be a pantser, I also knew from my first experience, that there needed to be some infrastructure in the plot. Endless inspiration doesn’t take you to a perfect plot. And there are characters, my weakest point. The very reason why I let my first project remain dormant for the time being is that I ended not liking my characters at all. They needed and still need more development if I ever go back to that first project.

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In this second project, I had started writing as a pantser, letting the words and scenes come to my mind as I wrote, but then I reached a point (a couple of days ago) where I didn’t know where I was heading and if characters were being developed as I wanted. So I did something I avoided since I started writing. I stopped after more or less 35000 words and went back to the first page to review it slowly. I know the manuscript is not even in the middle and I have no clue yet where the story is heading yet, but I felt the need to go over what I have written so far to make sure the 35000 words made sense and that the characters didn’t suck. If you’ve gone through writing advice, classes, etc, you will hear that they don’t recommend this approach that much, that editing while still writing might not be the best. But I found out that it actually helps me. I’m in time to detect current plot failures and find opportunities for character development. Who knows, with this initial review, the plot might get a twist and a new rewrite. At this point, I wouldn’t mind the re-writing. I’m not that far in the story. Rewriting 35000 words doesn’t feel as bad as rewriting more than 100 000.

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This approach seems to work so far. Maybe it’s already suggested somewhere or maybe some other writers do something similar. I feel that it might the “thing” that works for me. I believe the purpose of getting experience with the writing process is to find your own path and your own method. My objective is that my first manuscript feels good. It doesn’t matter if I need to do a heavy editing after it. I just want to be able to feel that I’m telling a good story.

 

 

When writing is only about writing

To be honest, I’d been stuck with my manuscript for months already. Recently, I wrote how I planned to practically start over from scratch. At the end, I decided to take a similar approach, go over it but not with editing eyes (I’ve edited those sentences so many times that I didn’t know if I was actually improving them or making them worse) but read it critically, plotwise, characterwise. I felt that my biggest weakness was character development, I felt them flat. That is why I choose a very good advice from my blog friend Glynis in “Productive or Busy” (who also took it from her friend Shari) about writing separately several character pages (not necessarily related to the plot but their life story in general) to get a feeling of the characters. I loved the idea and started doing this on my current manuscript.

As soon as I started just writing, I got those chills you have when inspiration hits you and you just start typing endlessly, feeling the flow of the words. I love this state. I know I don’t do my best writing from the grammatical/structure point of view, the writing is rather awful, but I get to release all the feelings and everything I feel should be put to paper.

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After this cool experience, I had to go for a fanfiction story. I know being a geek has led me to write fanfiction stories before. This is a weird path for writing since fanfiction involves writing about characters that have already been created, but it is still writing and I had to do it. It felt so liberating that I thought that I was finally rediscovering my writing spirit again. The fan fiction story only awoke my inner writing muse. This was a one time short story and it is already finished, and I don’t plan to revisit the world of fanfiction for a while, however this process has stirred the desire that I’ve been having for some time to start a new story, for leaving my manuscript resting for a while, and just start telling this new story that has been doing circles in my head.

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I realized that I might not be the first one. I’m pretty sure several writers have jumped to a different work and left others to rest for a while.  So I’ve started writing a new manuscript for a week already. I’ve been doing it daily (which wasn’t happening with my other writing) and I feel excited about it, ideas are flowing to my mind and I feel happy. I still plan to revisit my previous manuscript’s character pages since that aside process was been going well, but I feel like this new writing has strengthened and invigorated my new writing spirit.

And you, has it ever happened to you that you started writing other projects without finishing others? Do you think it is a good idea?

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Is it time to start the manuscript from scratch?

It has been several months since I haven’t posted a blog post. And today was the day that I decided I would not go to bed until I finally did it. Work and travel are the excuses in general – and I won’t go to discuss them more since I want to jump into blogging pools as soon as possible without lamenting why I didn’t blog these months.

My manuscript continues to be a manuscript. However, it seems it was for the best. After going through multiple reviews and editing rounds, I decided it needs a complete makeover. The story is nice, the theme topic is interesting, but it is not the book that I think it could be. I’ve struggled so much to keep the same characters and to bring to life all situations in the book, but I reached a point where I need to acknowledge that my characters might not strong enough, neither interesting enough and some situations feel awkward and forced into the plot. Maybe leaving the manuscript to rest for a long time was a good idea after all.

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At this point, I’m not completely sure how to target this. Should I work on revamping the book, adjusting situations, and changing the characters over the existing framework, or just start from scratch?

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Starting from scratch sounds good, but if I were to start a new complete book, then why insist on this “theme topic”? I have a couple of other better theme topics to explore. However, I cannot simply give up almost two years invested on this manuscript. Somehow, deep inside, I still want to rescue it and rescue all the time invested in it.

I guess I relate to this:

Have you experienced something similar? Any Advice?

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