Thursday, May 21, 2009

Running Naked in the Snow

By Kim Dare.

Every so often, if you contribute to a blog where other people choose most of the topics, you get one which makes you sigh. You see, I've never liked the idea of "The Creative Process". It always seems to be trying to make writing sound mystical and otherworldly.

It's a bit like "witchcraft". Not real paganism but the type of "witchcraft" you tend to get on TV, the one that's all about running around in the forest sky clad doing complicated rituals for getting high. Maybe in other parts of the world that idea could fly, but I'm telling you that if British pagans spent half as much time running around stark naked as TV producers like to think they'd all have died of hypothermia a long time ago. Paganism in reality is very different.

The same with writers. There may be some writers who depart to the south of France to "finish a book", and who then either fall in love or solve a murder, depending on which genre they write in and what TV show they are taking part in. Maybe. But the reality is very different for most people.

So, where does this whole idea of writers needing a creative process come from?

They say (ie, I read it on the internet somewhere, but can't remember where...) that the average fiction writer will write over a million words before they start earning any money from it. It sounds about right to me - I know I hit the million mark before I had something accepted.

And if someone does that much of anything, they will generally form certain habits around an activity. Good luck charms, rituals, whatever you want to call them, most writers I know didn't set out to adopt them, but have developed them over time.

Some writers have a specific time, or place, or even a particular pen, that helps get them going.

Me? I like to feel organised. Not necessarily be organised, you understand - but I like to feel organised. I'm dyslexic, so my thought process is naturally a bit all over the place. As a result, I've learned to over compensate in that area.

Before I start writing each day, I take a quick glance at my various spreadsheets. There are quite a few of them. Daily plan (all the different areas of my life on one spreadsheet). Daily word count (including a little widget that tells me if I'm on course if various projects and word counts). Ideas (list of all stories written or waiting to be written). To Finish List (Started projects that still need work). And quite a few others too.

After a few minutes, I know what needs to be done that day. I can forget about anything else. Ideas I want to work but don't have time to tackle right then can be pushed aside. I'm focused on the right project. It makes it easier for me to get things done. I wouldn't call that part of a creative process half as much as I'd call it being practical.

And when it comes to writing what then?

I write one first draft at a time, straight onto the computer. I write it start to end - and I do at least 1000 words on that first draft every day until it's done - no excuses. I find that routine works well for me.

I may have made a few notes before hand. Something along the lines of:

Chapter 1.

1st half - Dom's POV. Sub meets Dom at a bar. Dom thinks Sub is a brat. Kiss.

2nd half - Sub's POV. Sub follows Dom home. Blow-job on doorstep.

But that's as in depth as my notes tend to get until I actually start writing.

Once the first draft is done, it goes into the list of stories that are finished but need work before they can be submitted. When it comes to the top of the list, a story will then be worked on until it's ready to submit.

Sometimes they go have to go through a major re-write. Other times they skip straight to editing. I work from large problems to small problems, so the first edits are all about making sure the right things happen, then making sure the thought processes are clear, down and down until I'm looking for word repetitions and what-not.

Either way, I'll eventually have a draft (usually after the sixth or seventh edit) where I'm happy to print it out for the first time and let someone else read it. Two beta readers - one for content and one for proof reading. Then it's ready to be sent off.

Nothing mystical. Nothing that I would actually call a "Creative Process". As Garce said yesterday "I don't do magic."

Writing is about putting the work in. It's about writing down one word at a time until you have a first draft. It's about changing half those words until you have the right words as well as the right number of words. It's about finishing the projects you start. It's as much about being practical and bloody minded as it is about being creative.

Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard. I quietly love the days when it's bloody hard work as well as those when the words flow easily - I'm like that, lol.

Having read all the posts that Lisabet, Jamie, Jude and Garce have put up, I'm pretty sure we all agree that there's nothing all that mystical about getting a book written. In that respect, I'm sure that my first thoughts when I saw the topic for the week were way off base. But at the same time, I think a lot of people who haven't been writing for that long, would be far better off forgetting about a creative process and just focusing on getting the words written.

When it comes down to it, writers write. Simple as that.

Everything else is nothing more than window dressing. It's nothing more than running around naked in the snow and getting frostbite where you really don't want it - just because that's what pagans are supposed to do.

What do you think? Does the idea of a creative process help or hinder? Let me know.

Kim Dare.
Kink, love and a happy ending. Do you Dare?


  1. Kim,

    Great post. You said a couple of things that made me simply nod.

    Writing is about putting the work in. It's about writing down one word at a time until you have a first draft.This is something I've said to newbies a time or ten. There's nothing glamorous or magic about the actual process. It's work and practice.

    The second thing:

    When it comes down to it, writers write. Simple as that.This is the practice part. Add reading to it and you're on your way.


  2. You just described your creative process, although you didn't call it that. Just another way to look at it.

    I don't think the idea of a process should hinder. But I do think, bottom line, writers have to sit down and just do it.

    Great post, Kim!

  3. Hi Kim

    You said something here that made
    me hopeful. It takes a million words before you start earning money. I figure I've got about 800,000 to go.

    I read this book once called "Chuck Amuck", by Chuck Jones. Chuck Jones was the director of all the Warner Brothers cartoons of the fifties such as Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. He invented the Road Runner cartoons. During a college course on animation he told his students "You have a pile of really excellent cartoons inside of each of you. Your problem is they;re buried under a much bigger pile of really bad cartoons. So the sooner you start working your way through the bad cartoons, the sooner you'll reach the good ones."

    800,000 to go!


  4. Kim,

    Yep, writing is work. Pound on those keys and get the story out on paper. That's pretty much what I do, although I do spend time outlining and brainstorming to nail down stories. I find it helps me find a way into the writing.

    Like Jamie said, you just described your creative process. It's not glamorous, but then neither is mine! Glad to know you enjoy doing the work anyway ;)

  5. Hi, Kim,

    Sometimes the magick happens anyway! But as you say, most of the time it doesn't, and you have to sit there and get the words out anyway.

    Your process is actually quite a lot like mine. Beginning to end, and trying to feel organized!

    I don't think, when Garce proposed this topic, that he had anything at all mystical in mind. He was just curious to know how it works for us.

    By the way, Jude and Jamie, I'd love it if you can chime in and say something about how your process works when the two of you are working on a book together.



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