Geek Girl Explains Her Creative Writing Process
Okay, let's be serious.
Except, not really. Please take this article with a grain of salt (and a slice of lime if that's your thing), I'm not being serious at all. If you do, however, gain some sort of nugget of knowledge from my incessant rambling then, yay! I've never really considered myself a 'good' writer, even when I get compliments on my writing; I usually just shrug it off with an 'Ebenezer Scrooge'-like, "Bah humbug." I do know that I improve each day, and I'm trying to learn an organized process to help me out. (I am not the best at the organization thing, and am much better at the 'let's just wing it' thing.) Much hilarity has ensued.
Ne'ertheless, I'm kicking my own butt to improve and that's basically the only thing you can do if you really want to be a writer. Write and write,and then write some more. Sometimes you may even feel like puking; I do suggest, though, that if what you are writing is making you want to puke, you may want to reassess what you are writing about.
So, I want to write; What's the first thing I do?
Consider what I'm thinking about: What has sparked my sudden inspiration, and what sounds like fun to write right now? Once I have a vague image in my head, I get the closest writing utensil and any paper and start jotting down phrases and imagery that I'm thinking of. (I even write on napkins, sometimes. Food can inspire you, too.) I can't force myself to write about anything, and if I try to, the writing just turns into forced garbled nonsense; different, of course, in the fact that I have to force it. Usually the garbled nonsense just kind of pours out of me and I rearrange it into a readable form.
Next, in the 'forming an idea' stage, I just start 'Googling' everything that has to do with my idea. So, say my idea has to do with Halloween: I would just start searching for anything that has to do with Halloween and writing down everything interesting I see/hear. This, unfortunately, is where my plan often goes awry. I find myself searching for hours upon hours for all these things, and the next thing I know, I'm looking at 'The History of Circumcision in Religion' and I have no idea how I got there. Then I lose interest in writing, and end up playing video games or reading or eating an entire jar of olives as I binge-watch something on Netflix.
Outlines! All the Outlines.
If I can make it past the terrible abyss that is the internet search, sometimes I'll start making outlines. Outlines of EVERYTHING. My biggest issue is I'm not good at simplifying my ideas into little phrases that are an outline. I'll write a main point, then a detail, and another, and another and then I realize... I just wrote a paragraph with bullets. It just looks like my paragraph walked in on a mob deal gone wrong and here it is. Good for you paragraph, such a survivor.
So, if the outline thing doesn't work, I also try to make "bubble charts" to try and visually see what I am going for and how everything relates. So Halloween would go in the big center "bubble" and then you put ideas from that in smaller "bubbles" and connect those to the Halloween one with a string, and so on and so forth, until you have one giant bubble octopus monster full of ideas. Then you throw the whole thing in the garbage cause you have no idea what in the world you were trying to go for; you just have random words everywhere.
Eventually, with much struggling, I am able to pull some kind of organized outline out of thin air. I'll usually stare at it with much pride and think, "Yeah, now I'm going to be the best writer ever!"
Fleshing it Out Sounds Too Dirty.
Now comes the fun part, the pain-staking, hand crippling rough rough draft. (Fun fact: If you say rough rough draft to your dogs, they think you're talking to them.) This is when the words start coming together to make thoughts. Thoughts turn into sentences, sentences to paragraphs, et cetera, until you maybe have a page or so of an idea coming to life.
This is usually where my doubt starts setting in, and the "oh my god, what am I doing" thoughts start nestling into my brain. Please, do not feel this way. It's a rough draft so it's not going to be perfect, and that's something that is hard for me to get through my head. Right now, in the rough draft stage, you just need to be writing things out without overthinking it too much. I always sike myself out at this stage, and it's a bad habit that I have trouble breaking. "Don't do what Donnie Don't does."
Once you have a substantial amount of writing, and you've procrastinated as much as you can (read a couple chapters of somebody elses writing, perhaps weep a little), you can officially say you have something that's like a rough draft!
Editing Sometimes Feels Like You're Trying to Polish a Turd
If you haven't already started, you need to start pointing out all of the mistakes that you made. Try your best not to pull a "me" and throw it in the garbage and rage quit forever (usually drowning my writing sorrows in piles of carbohydrates and overdosing on internet memes). It's best to try not to delete to much, but to try and rearrange, change the wording, try your best to make it work. There's something there, you just have to find it.
I like to edit with red pen, so the severity of it and the horrible grade school flashbacks set into my brain. Edit however you fell comfortable, but try and stick with one way. I find it helps you feel the progress more if you associate the editing process as the finish line just on the horizon; you're almost there. Once you've gone through it with the proverbial fine tooth comb, you can set into the final sprint.
My Editing Process
Have you finished editing? Read over it again, and again, and again. Make sure you are pleased. You can edit as much as you feel comfortable with, and add on as much as you want as long as you are happy with it; that's the main thing.
Repeat this process as many times as you need for your article, book, story, whatever it is you're writing. I usually go through the editing process once around every three pages; alot of editing at once can be pretty daunting. The official "Geek Girl" writing process involves at least two cry/snack breaks every couple of hours, sometimes more often depending on the content of the paper.
Once you've finished it all up, and are feeling pleased as punch with yourself for actually finishing something, fine tune your stuff and remember to always make sure you're giving it a little "spice." No one likes to read something that's boring, no matter how informative it is. Above all, remember to have as much fun as possible, be silly, and don't let yourself get you down. You're the most awesome "you" that's ever been!