Rambling about the writing process, beneath the cut.
Last night I came across a single fic I’d written just after my first fandom (HP), before the many years of writer’s block I had before Sherlock. It remains unpublished for many reasons, mostly because at the time I wrote it, I didn’t want to throw my hat into another fandom ring — and I still don’t. Anyway, I ended up re-reading it.
It’s 22k (which I didn’t know, because I didn’t count words at the time I wrote it). Unbeta’ed, because I never had betas until Sherlock. It was written with no outline or planning at all. It’s juvenile, full of cliches, incredibly cringeworthy, and yet? It has a flow to it. A certain effortless sense of fun. Clearly I didn’t care about the cliches or even how good it was, I just told a story. I don’t even remember much about writing it, I must have plugged away somehow, but that fic wasn’t painful. And I’m looking at it thinking, why? I’ve worked SO much harder on my writing since I wrote it, and I’d like to hope I’m getting better. So why did this fic just… happen, and why did it accidentally achieve some of the things I’m working so hard to achieve on purpose?
What an amazing experience, Mars! I’m sorry to hear you sound so troubled, but I think I can see the silver lining here.
For the last few years I’ve been dissecting my own process, and realizing that the language really gets in the way, because there are all kinds of different parts of the work of “writing” that all need to be understood separately (as well as collectively). For the same reasons you’re remembering, the one part of the whole thing I haven’t tinkered with too much is that sheer act of sitting down and putting words on a page.
But then, I’ve always gone at this for two reasons: 1) I wanted to get better, and 2) I want to enjoy the hell out of every part of the experience, because this is my free time and I’m doing this for fun.
I didn’t tinker with the “putting words on the page” part of writing because I find it hella fun as it is. I’ve come to see any feeling of unpleasantness as a sign that there’s a problem with my process, because if I’m not having fun, it’s not going to happen, let alone result in anything good.
If your process is not letting you just write in that free flowing way that’s fun and uncomplicated, then let’s have a look at that process. If it’s tripping you up, something’s wrong.
What I’ve done for myself is separate out the planning and major plot construction from the act of putting words on a page, but what I give myself are small goals (usually scenes, but sometimes not) that I can just let go and have at when it comes to just free-wheeling writing. I build stories out of these smaller goals, and each is basically defined by what I can comfortably write in a single sitting.
So when I sit down to write, I look at my plan and say, oh, okay, today I’m in X place, and I need to get from point a to point b. Sometimes there’s lots of detail, often there isn’t. This is where I get to just go to town. My plans generally don’t go down this deep, so when I sit down to write I get to really dig into the feelings and details, and what’s around, and what’s everyone thinking and saying, so I still feel like it’s a brand new world and I can do whatever I want. I give myself such small goals from day to day that it mostly feels like what I used to do with a seed of an idea for a fic. Just sit down and explore it.
That’s what’s worked for me, but of course no one process works for everyone. I would love to chat with you about your process and where it’s hurting. No process should ever hurt. If it hurts, lose it. There are plenty more processes out there.
If there’s no joy in writing a story, I’m not sure how there’s meant to be any joy in reading it!
Call me, Mars. I find your case interesting. It’s at least an 8.