Recharging Writing

I took a break from Shade my WIP. I had this other idea come to me, what I’m affectionately calling Code Name Clemmings. I wrote the first chapter, and then feeling too much anxiety over not knowing where the story was going, I paused and wrote an outline.

Before CNC I’d been focused mostly on editing and revising Shade and partly on a couple of short stories and if we’re being honest, doing some tourism training in San Francisco. I wasn’t getting as much writing done as I wanted, but sometimes that’s just the way life goes.

But here’s my point.

I’d been in editing mode so long, when I embarked on writing CNC for kicks and giggles and because my Pitch Wars mentor Marieke recommended I try something completely different after finishing revisions on Shade—when I finally sat down to write something new—it was like my brain had forgotten how to be creative.

I’d been focusing on editing for so long, which is very important, I’d let the flow of being creative run a little dry. Granted, I had written a couple of short stories in the meantime, so it wasn’t a complete creative drought, but I noticed something.

Editing, without spurts of creativity, can give more power to your internal editor than your internal creator.

Although I’m sure the same can be said, and should be said, of being creative and never doing enough editing. You might be in this mode if you get severe anxiety when it comes to editing. It’s a delicate balance as a writer.

So how does one maintain a good balance between the internal editor and creator? How does one embrace both the yin and yang of writing? Because when both are in balance, skill grows in both areas at an impressive rate.

THE EDITING GAME

I’ve been in editing and revision mode for a few years now. I feel like it’s something I know how to do well, and feedback from critique partners doesn’t sting like it once did. I’ve learned to uncover the root of the suggestions (if the CP is less experienced) and glean good advice. Often they’re right—at least about finding the weak spot. Their suggestion may not be on the mark, but they still helped me find weak spots, and that’s a very good thing.

Since I’ve been doing this for a few years, I’m very adept at editing and revising my work.

In order to get into this stage yourself, I recommend first of all, embracing the editing. I have an entire series on editing available for help, which is based on my experiences over the past few years. Read books on editing and making better story. And most importantly, take it to people who will be honest with you.

Start with softer critiquers if you need. These can be friends and family who help you catch easy to face things, like typos and grammatical errors. Then find those honest critiquers who tell it like it is. Sometimes you can find these people at writing conferences or workshops. With Google Docs and the like, doing this editing online has never been easier.

And edit other people’s stuff, even if you think you suck at editing. You’ll learn a ton about writing, either in seeing what good writers do really well, or seeing mistakes to be avoided.

THE CREATIVE GAME

Often this is the least hard part to do for most writers. It’s the most enjoyable part. I probably don’t need to tell you how to have fun creating, but you may feel like writer’s block is knocking at the door or maybe you’re not sure what to write or maybe you’re losing the passion—whatever it is, you need to recharge.

The solution: read.

Okay, that’s not really the solution I’m going to talk about, but it is a big part of the equation. Have you ever said anything like this phrase: I’d love to read, but I’m too busy using what little time I have writing.

Maybe liar is a bit harsh, but the truth is you do have time to read, you’re just using that time to do something else. Even if you can only get a chapter in a day, READ.

Back to the other part of the solution: write.

I know, I’m probably driving you crazy. But I’m serious. Write. Whatever your genre, pick something completely different, and write a short story about it.

I highly recommend flash fiction. You must be brief, you have little time to info dump, and you have to create empathy for characters quick. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful in streamlining my novel writing. It’s also very refreshing. You don’t have to spend the same amount of time as a novel (although you may later if you really like the idea, but save those for after the flash fiction). You’ve finished something, which has its own sense of accomplishment. And you’ve done something a little different, so when you go back to the regular genre, you’re rejuvenated.

I think of it as always having to eat Italian food for every meal. Italian is really good, but after a while, no matter how good it is there comes a point when you’re done with Italian and you’re desperate for anything else. So you have a little Greek or a little Thai and suddenly Italian has all its delicious flavor back.

It’s not a long commitment, like a whole other novel. Plus, with flash fiction, you can enter it into contests and get yourself more writing creds if you intend to eventually query your work.

Write flash fiction or short stories and you’ll find a renewed sense of energy in returning to your longer WIP. Plus it’s fun. And just so you know, flash fiction is—up to this point—just about this long.

Get recharged. Grow as a writer. And keep the balance.

What do you do to recharge your writing? Is your writing yin and yang out of balance? Have you written flash fiction or short stories before? Did you find the process invigorating? Anything you would add?

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29 thoughts on “Recharging Writing

  1. Sounds like me when I started book 4. I read, wrote test scenes, wrote poetry, and read the book outline every night before I went to sleep. Guess my method was the equivalent of locking myself in a room with my new book and a pair of nerf bats.

    • I think a lot on my outlines too. Although part of me is severely frustrated right now because I changed Book 1 so much I think the other books’ outlines have more or less been obliterated. That’s probably why I’m in some sense avoiding anything to do with Book 2. 😉

      • I have all 15 outlines for my series done. Every time I finish one book, I rewrite the next outline. I find that it changes no matter what. It’s the risk with outlining so far ahead. I’ve decided it’s also part of the fun.

  2. Yeah, I’ve noticed my short pieces on the Community Storyboard tend to be my better writing. I like this prompt thing we have going on, it’s just kind of fun to participate and see how other people interpret it. If you want to submit a short piece or two drop me a line and I can arrange that.

    So I just read what I wrote and it sounds like an advertisement but I so didn’t mean it that way. Just that the prompts have helped me focus on small things with your idea of flash fiction.

  3. I don’t necessarily plan various creative outlets. Sometimes, I just go ahead and let my imagination wander down a different fork for a little while, explore a different world, and a different story, take notes along the journey. Then, after a day or two of exploration, I find myself ready to go down the main stream of my WIP and dig back into editing or pushing forward.
    As for reading… My time for writing is so limited, that I tend not to read as much as I would like – unless you count blogs.

  4. I have been writing short stories and novellas for most of this year – at the expense of my bigger WIP – and it’s kept my creative side ‘tuned up’. Now that I’m returning to the WIP, I find I’m having to think differently…more long-term and it’s taken a little getting used to. 🙂

  5. So great to read this post right now because I’m doing the same thing – trying to switch from extreme editing mode to writing something new, and it’s been really hard! Still, I had a really good day of writing recently and it kind of reminded me why I love this part so much. I just need my internal editor to take a few more days off… 😉

    • Yep. Send the editor on a cruise. As soon as I find myself editing (a first draft) I tell internal editor to take a hike and move forward, not allowing myself to edit until I’ve finished the chapter at least.

      I’ll bet you’ve been going through the same thing. Seems like most of 2012 was polish, polish, polish. Thanks to Backspace and then Pitch Wars and I’m sure your other contest kept you in the mode. Must be nice to be trying something different for a change. 🙂

  6. I discovered that writing queries makes my editing better. My editor is pretty much always on. I’ve learned to live with her. Sometimes, I tell her to take a back seat, and enjoy the ride, but most of the time, I’m okay she’s there. I think it’s because I write in different genres. I’m also surrounded by inspiration a.k.a. my kids, other people’s kids, the general population. I can’t get creative under pressure. What I mean by that is, if I’m at a conference and they say write X, then I probably won’t be able to come up with anything … until I leave and it’s 3 a.m. I actually don’t think of myself as being very creative.

    You’re spot on about reading and editing other people’s work. I’ve gotten much better during the past two years. I still miss some of my &^$%, but I’m much better.

    There are some really talented writers among us. Seriously.

    • Yep. I’m very much impressed by the caliber of writers I’ve come across here in WP. It’s only a matter of time for all of them to find the success they’re hunting for (and some already have). Love the WP community!

  7. You were being serious when you replied to my comment saying editing is fun, weren’t you? I just stare at a swarm of words, thinking ‘I don’t know how to attack this. How do I know if my changes are better not WORSE?’ I don’t hate editing, though; I just worry about my ability to edit at times.

    On the other hand, I know how you feel when I got back into quick-fire writing. It was, like, ‘wow, is this really writing? What am I doing?’ (didn’t help I was on the first plane of two to Uganda at that point as well). Fair to say I question a lot of what I do! 😛

    And, hehe, mini Harry gif. *is happy* Coincidently, the post I’m writing for my blog at the moment is about summer reading, though it’s mostly me talking about me. I’ll tag you.

    • Good work. Never stop reading. Lately I either feel justified in my approach (because the novel I just read wasn’t so awesome) or I learn something fantastic. YA has got some really, really good reads sprinkled with a few subpars. I feel like I go in shifts of really good books and not so great ones. That’s why editing is so, so important. We want to be numbered among the good reads. 🙂

      • Mmm, I agree entirely. I’m very picky when it comes to reading. I started Mosse’s ‘Labyrinth’, but I couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters because they were written in present tense. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t get into many present tense books.

        Sometimes I wonder, though. There are loads of great books out there,but when I read them, I find myself going into editing mode, saying ‘this is all exposition’, ‘why is this unnecessary backstory here?’ ‘I don’t care what this bit-part character looks like’. It irritates me so. Have you read Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’? Wonderfully magical, but it starts off with two pages of Dickensian scene-setting. I mean, I like that, but we’re always told not to do such things, and then writers create a bestseller with those same no-nos.
        Sorry. Rant over.

        • Ugh, I’m glad there’s someone else out there with the same opinion of Stardust as me. I saw the movie first. Big mistake because, wow, some parts I trudged through with skim-reading. I think at some point the author’s name can push through a few foibles we beginners couldn’t get away with. But I don’t ever want to be ‘getting away’ with anything—at least not on purpose. I’m hoping each book I publish is better written than the previous.

          But yeah, I’m the same as you. I can’t turn off the internal editor, unless the story is extremely compelling. There were a couple YA books I read recently that really overused the word ‘could.’ She ‘could’ see this, she ‘could’ hear that. Why the delay? She saw, she heard—finito. Know what I mean? But I guess it’s helpful at the end of the day, to see what to do and what not to do.

        • Yes! *high fives* Stardust I’d say is my favourite movies of all time. And that’s saying something for someone who doesn’t have a list of her favourite movies. So, of course, I went into the book with high expectations. I should have expected that the differences would be more than slight. Hmm, I skimmed, too, especially the first chapter.
          Mmm, I agree. I don’t want to be getting away with these things, which is why I’m annoyed that other, more famous authors can. Surely each submission/story plan should be treated the same, no matter who from?

          Yeah, I know just what you mean. Urg. I’ve been peer editing for a collection of short stories, and one of them… It drove me mad the amount of telling this writer had done. Luckily, the ‘could’s only popped up afew times.
          Actually, that’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask. Is there a way to rephrase sentences along the lines of ‘If she climbed the mountain, she could conquer the world’. Okay, that was a bad example, but I can’t think of any actual examples off the top of my head. You know?
          Ah, I love discussing writing with you, Jae. 🙂

        • Why thanks! I love discussing writing with you too. 🙂 Someday when we’re both published authors we’ll have to figure out how to be at the same writing conference and do a panel together. 😀

          I think with could, just see if if it can be cut or not and if not then it’s okay to use it. There’s nothing wrong with could per se, just that it gets overused in telling us too many things our characters ‘could’ do and we start to wish they would just ‘do’ it. It’s like ‘there was.’ 99.9% of the time we can probably rephrase, but there are still those few times when it makes more sense. That’s something I’ve been trying to focus on lately. Knowing when to cut and when to keep.

          Speaking of editing, I’ve been getting burned out on it. Not all of it, and not my own, I think just the newer writers, and I do mean NEW. The ones whose stories read more like poorly written outlines. I think they haven’t bothered to edit themselves and I feel like I just want to pass on doing it altogether. I suppose I could. It’s just for a writing group thing.

          Do you ever burn out on editing newbie’s work? Or do you do a lighter edit to save your sanity?

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