For me anyhoo…
It’s a weird thing. I have a 35 year history in Information Technology. I’ve worked on Macs and PC, TokenRing and Ethernet, Novell, Windows, and Apple Servers. I was a C# developer. Now I’m a certified Project Manger (PMP) and Enterprise Architect (TOGAF). I’m even certified in many modeling languages (UML and ArchiMate for example). Hell I’m also a licensed Real Estate Agent, but now I’m boasting.
You would THINK (he says with some trepidation) that I would rely on processes for just about everything. Or at least some sort of FRAMEWORK like what PMI and TOGAF use.
Unless routine is a process. I’ll think on that.
But when it comes to writing… I wing it. I go into free flow. I like the thrill of the moment. I like the discovery of things with the characters. I thrive on the law and chaos moments when my brain spills over onto the page. I have a few rules, but little process when it comes to writing.
What is a Process?
I’m only adding this to clarify the different between process and routine. Hopefully. A process is a repeatable series of steps that happen in a specific order. Let me rephrase. That HAVE to happen in a specific order. It’s not a habit, or a routine.
I’ll pick an easy example. You want to “drive to the store”. What’s the process? Get in car, start engine, put in Drive, drive to store, park, stop engine. And, the end point is parking the car because once you pull in and park…you’ve driven to the store.
So what happens if you’re on E after you start engine? Well, another process, which can be a subprocess (right?). I’m thinking out loud here, bear with me. Once you put it in drive you go to the gas station. Enter subprocess. Stop car, get out, pay at pump, pump gas, get in car, start engine. This happens between “put in Drive” and “Drive to store” in earlier example.
See? Processes are easy! In fact, this one you do so much you can do it an autopilot.
But what about writing? Well… it gets a little muddy here because mine are still in development, and here’s why. As I explained above, I wing it. This makes me a “pantser” as in “I’m writing by the seat of my pants with no idea where I’m going and no direction home”. I don’t know my characters. I don’t know the setting. I don’t know the genre. I don’t know the timeframe. I don’t know the END.
It’s like taking my process above and instead of “driving to the store” we’re “going for a drive”. That’s it. I guess the ending here would be to return home but… that’s not always guaranteed. I would hope to come home, right? So I know there is an end. I don’t know when (may not be tomorrow, or next year), or how (may not be in MY car). I know there’s an ending. And returning home isn’t the guaranteed ending either.
When I started Darkness of the Northern Sky, it was November 1st, 2004. It was my first National Novel Writing Month. With only a short story I wrote sometime in the late 90’s that I liked. I ran with it. I got on my clunky heavy Gateway laptop and went. I churned out the required 1500 words per day and by November 30th I had a “50,000 word novel”.
This was quite an accomplishment. Up until this point I considered myself a flash fiction writer. Writing what I called “1-page stories”. They aren’t any good, but that’s besides the point. 50,000 words was a LOT for me. Probably more than my entire output up to that point.
Fast forward 16 years later, I decided enough: I’m publishing something. So I went to work on this novel. No plan, no outline. I had a bit of a 50,000 word rough sketch. After about 4 months I added another 56,000 words. And I had a bit more of an idea of what the story was, what was supposed to happen, etc.
Then I revised. (this is not my process by the way, this is my lack of process). I thought revision after revision was the way to go and soon it would all pan out. Finally satisfied and having officially typed THE END I sent to to an editor.
Editor: “The writing is great, really good prose, blah blah blah. But you don’t have a story and your structure is all over the place. Do you outline?”
::crickets:: Me: “No.”
So, I read books on outlining and story structure. Jim Driver, K.M. Wieland, James Scott Bell. Books I’ve had in my kindle library, by the way, for over a year I’m sure. I started formulating a process. A way to do things.
A method to the madness.
IF (the big if) I had done this in late 2020 when I decided to start this journey, my book would be on the market right now. But now…I’m sorting out the structure, pulling things out, inserting things, color coding things, documenting things. I’m building a process.
There’s a productivity Golden Rule: 1 minute of planning save 10 minutes of work. Brian Tracy said that (not verbatim). I say this a lot as a project manager.
My next novel will go much quicker, I’m sure. It’s already in process.
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Like stories in the Fantasy Sword & Sorcery realm? Check out my current work in progress Darkness of the Northern Sky.
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