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?