Yesterday I have embarked on my usual task of reading the first draft of TUBE from start to finish in as short a time as possible before starting the next draft, and in these two days I have witnessed a huge change in my process. It came out of nowhere, on its own, unbidden. I had but to oblige and let it take over. It startled me. I wonder if this is some kind of a milestone or something, but I'll write it out here so it will make more sense to me, and maybe shed some light for you on your own writing process. Or tell me how yours has changed over the years, as I find it fascinating and would love to learn from you.
1. In the middle of reading I suddenly felt compelled to write a summary.
Well, this is new. I haven't done this since Siren Suicides. I did it before writing the first draft of Siren Suicides because all the books on writing I read told me to do so. Being a studious pupil, I did it, and even rewrote it several times, and hated the whole process. It felt stifling. When writing Rosehead, I abandoned the whole thing and since then haven't planned or plotted any of my books. TUBE wasn't planned in any way either, except the first opening image, but the story is so complex and there are so many characters and hidden layers, that I involuntarily felt the urge to jot down scenes in one-liners to make it easy to grasp as a whole. I did, and ended up with 104 short snippets. There are 53 chapters in TUBE, so that's about 2 lines per chapter. Wow. Interesting. Okay. Where did that come from?
2. I have a document with the characters' wants.
This is also new, and not new. I wrote long extensive character histories for Siren Suicides, and haven't done it since. Here is cropped up again. It's just one page, one line per character (there are about 20 of them), and each has a want, so in a way that's about 20 sub-plots as each want represents a plot-line. So now I clearly know who wants what and whether or not they will get it at the end.
3. I'm ditching music.
All of my writing, every draft of every book, has been done to loudly blasting music. Siren Suicides was the only one written to songs with lyrics. The rest was written to instrumental music only. All except the very last revision draft of The Badlings. It was the first time I revised by reading every sentence out loud until blood spurted out of my nose or I found the right rhythm and moved on. Now that I'm done reading the first draft of TUBE and will start the second draft tomorrow, I won't be listening to any music. Instead, I'll be reading aloud until I find the right words. This is also new, and this will help me write much better, as anything I stumble on while speaking needs to be fixed in writing.
4. Only a few post-it notes (30 as opposed to 300).
In the past, when reading a draft, I used to write what needed to be fixed on post-it notes. They filled up the whole board that hangs over my desk. As I fixed things, I peeled them off and put up new ones as they simply didn't fit all at once. Now I have only 3 rows of them. That's it! I listened recently to a Paulo Coelho interview, and in it he said that notes are unnecessary. Everything you need is in your head. I guess it had a profound effect on me, or maybe because TUBE's first draft was written slowly (I gave myself time to think), I don't have as many things to fix? I dunno. But this is freeing. Very much.
5. I know it's okay to take my time.
Now that I've seen what happens when I rush my writing, I don't intend to rush this book. I will take my time. And suddenly the fear is gone. Taking time to step into various characters' heads was what would freak me out. I felt pressure to keep moving, keep writing, and realized it was out of fear that I did it. I was afraid to fully feel those characters, so I skimmed along. The result was not so well developed characters, awkward dialogue, you name it. A lot of stuff that needed to be fixed later. But when I give myself time to think, it all comes to me. This is liberating.
6. I don't need feedback anymore.
I'll still post every draft on my site for you to peruse however you want, but I no longer need detailed feedback. What matters is what I think, and what I think is right. Somehow the doubt is gone. I don't how it happened, but I love it. There is this sense of gravity somewhere in my center, and it's holding me together. Again, this feels great.
7. I no longer cater my reading to my writing.
I used to have a very specific reading list composed to aid my writing. So, if I wrote a kids book (like The Badlings), I'd focus on reading kids books, and so on. That was all out of fear as well. I felt like I needed to see how others did it so I could do it too. This has fallen off. Fascinating. Is this some kind of a 3-year milestone?
There might be other new changes that will crop up tomorrow once I actually start Draft 2, but these things above are astonishing enough. What will happen next year? What about 5 years from now? 10? Will I feel like a total genius? Can't wait.