For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been driving myself to finish editing a short story before the next Writers of the Future deadline (3/31/11). I’ve been working on this story for several months, and until Thursday, had worked on it solid for nine days, including weekends.
On Thursday, the day of the deadline, my mind went on strike.
I knew what I wanted to do. I have the outline of how the story went. I knew where it was going. I just…couldn’t…put…it…down. It was like my creative processes said, “That’s it. No more. We’re shutting down and refuse to do anything until we get some sleeeeeeep!”
I looked at the remaining ten pages I had left to edit, and reluctantly conceded that I would not made the deadline. I then spent the next 24 hours in an absolute funk.
I know in my head I did the right thing. Even if I did sit down and forced myself to finish editing those last ten pages, it would have been very sloppy edits. On Wednesday, I looked at one of my scenes and thought, meh I don’t need it. Yesterday morning, while thinking on it more (because my mind refuses to stop thinking about the story, even though it won’t let me work on it anymore), I realized it had been a key scene that sets up the main characters actions for the rest of the story. If I had left it out, readers wouldn’t understand how she goes from acting one way to acting another. It’s little mistakes like that that makes a difference between an Honorable Mention and a Finalist.
I still felt like a failure, though.
Today I thought why I felt so sucky all weekend and what went wrong. I realized that part of the fail was not realizing where I was in my writing process. Although I’ve been writing professionally for almost seven years now, I never wrote it down because I was still in the process of figuring out what it was. Well, now’s the time. So here’s how my writing process goes:
1) When I get an idea for a story, I write it out either longhand or in the notebook section of Writer’s Café. I don’t even consider it a first draft. I just want to put the idea down on paper.
2) I write up the first draft in Word. Usually it involves cutting and pasting, but I also flesh out parts that needed. I use the commenting section to make notes.
3) I use Scrapbook in Writer’s Café to look at the story from the outside, figuring out the theme, the characters, everything I can think of. I do a lot of freewriting in this stage. I also identify what research I need to do.
4) I let the story rest while I do research. I give myself about a couple of weeks for it.
5) I look at how my research impacts the story and what, if anything, needs to be changed. I use Storyboard in WC to draw up a second outline.
6) I write another draft incorporating all the research and changes I’ve decided to do. I also flesh in details and make the prose stronger. Out of all the processes, this one takes the longest because I’m thinking about how each word, each line, each paragraph impacts the story; how it fits with how I want the story to go and the characters to act according to the rules I’ve set up. It’s usually here that characters may act differently than the first draft, certain plotlines become stronger while others get weaker, or even get dropped altogether. Strangely enough, this is also my favorite stage, although by the end of it, I am absolutely sick of the story and just ready to send it out.
7) I send the story to beta readers to make sure that what I wrote isn’t crap, which I usually think it is by the end of the previous stage.
8 ) When I receive feedback, I either adjust the story accordingly or leave it as is if I feel it’s important. Mostly, I revise for clarity.
9) I do a final revision which cleans up grammar, spelling, work with few last stubborn sentences that don’t sound right.
10) I submit it.
Looking at this, it all makes sense. I would say that my story is still on Stage 6, which is the longest stage in the process. I should’ve recognized that the story wasn’t nearly ready as it should’ve been, but at the same time, I could see why I pushed myself. It’s usually in this stage that I get impatient to finish the story, and oftentimes I have to force myself to slow down to think things through. If there are certain events coming up that take away from my writing time, the urge to finish the story gets stronger.
Such as OdysseyCon happening this week. And in two weeks, my 40th birthday. And Easter. And Daniel being on spring break…
That was what made me push so hard to finish the story. And that was why I got so burnt out. I simply do not do well being rushed. Especially during stage 6. If I was in stage 8 or 9, I probably would’ve made the deadline. But I’m not.
So. Deep breath. I have to stop beating myself up over it. I don’t suck. I need to rest my brain. Refill my creative cup. Then start working on the story again tomorrow, but go back to my regular schedule, not the crazy write-every-single-chance-I-get schedule.
Maybe I’ll finish in time for my birthday.