What is your writing process?
This past week on Apex, we spoke with Sam Witt, an author who published over a million words of fiction last year. He’s a fast production writer and had some great tips to help writers overcome obstacles and speed up their writing process.
He nailed it.
The basic idea is this: you want to enter what is sometimes called a writing “flow state” as quickly as possible, so that the words and images just flow out of you. Longtime writers understand that this is almost like a form of meditation. Here are my tips on how to do it.
- Prepare to write: the night before you write, think about the scene that you want to write. Create an outline on a notepad, and go to sleep.
The reason for this is twofold. You want your subconscious mind to be focusing on writing, and it will actually begin working on the story in your sleep. But this also helps you “defeat the blank page” by deciding what scene to work on and how to approach it.
- Get comfortable. Some people have favorite chairs that they like, or background music that is conducive to writing. Some people might want a certain type of drink handy, or write at a certain time of day. It’s okay to have such pre-requisites, but don’t be a slave to them.
I’ve written very successfully in a lot of places—on beaches, in hotels, in crowded airports. When you get good at this, you’ll find that you don’t have to be sitting in your man-cave with a scented candle, listening to Mozart while sipping pina-coladas. It gets easier and easier to slip into a writing flow state.
- Don’t communicate with others. This means that you don’t write emails, read posts on Facebook, read messages on your phone, and so on. Shut yourself off from the world so that you can focus.
Please not that this means that you don’t edit while composing. Part of your goal is to drop out of the Beta state of consciousness into the Alpha state, the creative state. Writing comes from the Alpha state, while editing is more of a Beta-state activity.
Now, there is kind of an exception to this rule. Many writers find that if they edit a scene that they wrote the day before—particularly if they are reimagining it and adding imagery—it will help to get them focused on the story and slide into it more easily.
- Start your story by putting yourself into the mind of a viewpoint character. Imagine what type of day it is, where your character is at..
Imagine these things:
What is your character doing? How does he or she feel at the moment? What does he or she hear, and what do they see?
Write it down. As you do, you can add details like what they smell or what they feel as far as tactile sensations go. You also may need to report on what they are thinking.
As you do this you’ll find yourself thrust into an imaginary world where your character must react to stimuli and try to overcome obstacles. It only takes about 25 minutes of doing this for you to reach that Beta-state of consciousness.
Here’s the key: imagining yourself in this other world and putting yourself there entirely, using all of the senses, is what unlocks your imagination.
Once your reach this Beta state, if you keep it up for an hour, you may find yourself becoming so hyper-focused on your story that the writing itself seems magical and comes alive. You may drop deeper into the Theta-state of consciousness, where it feels as if the characters and world come to life and are writing the story almost perfectly without you.
When this happens, your goal isn’t to enter a deeper sate of creative consciousness, it becomes to protect your mental state—to ride the flow for as long as you can by minimizing distractions!
It’s okay to come up for a rest occasionally. You will need to get drinks, use the restroom, perhaps sketch out your next scene, and so on.
Sam recommends that you take short breaks, but make sure that you practice writing “sprints,” where you get into the flow state, several times a day.
He’s right. This is how it’s done by the pros. For more of his tips, go ahead and check out our group at www.apex-writers.com. Sam’s tips should be up this week.
Many of you are aware that Forrest Wolverton has been working with writers for years to help them overcome blocks and streamline their writing process. This week, Forrest will be opening a new office at Integrate TMS in Saint George.
The Runelords Board Game Kickstarter should hit 60% funding today, but I’d love to see it hit 70%. Once we reach funding, the game designers plan to create some fun new stretch goals. In addition, anyone who backs it up to today (this includes previous backers) will be entered for a raffle, do receive a signed hard copy of Runelords which you cannot get anywhere else. Check it out here!