I was recently chatting over Twitter with The Distracted Writer about this.

I think that as writers we’re often the worst judges of our writing. After reading and editing the same piece of work a dozen or so times, it can get tough to determine what’s good or bad, and insecurity can creep in.

I’ve stumbled across so many other writers struggling with the same insecurities, and you know, it’s a relief to know these worries are pretty normal.

I love this graph by Maureen McHugh (who’s written many novels and knows so much more than I do). I think it illustrates the writing process brilliantly.

Stages of novel writing
Stages of novel writing

Because it’s a little hard to read I’ve typed out the stages of the process here:

  1. This is the greatest idea I’ve ever had.
  2. Okay, it’s harder than I thought, but still good.
  3. This is going to take some work.
  4. This sucks and it’s boring.
  5. (Dark night of the soul)
  6. It would be good to finish it because I will learn for the next novel.
  7. Hey, I can at least finish this suckfest in just another 10,000 words.
  8. It’s done and it sucks but it’s not as bad as I thought.

When I’m having a rough time writing a story, I wonder if I’ve finally reached the dark night of the soul. It’s only up from there right?


Writing Discussion

Flow: that state of mind where the words drip out of your fingers at the speed of thought, the story unfolds in clearly front of you, the words echo its shape and feeling, and you lose all sense of time.

It doesn’t always happen for me. Some days it’s just plain difficult to achieve. When I’m tired, stressed, or distracted, I have to dip into my magical bag of writer’s tricks to help get the words going.

I always keep it in my pocket. Let’s see, I have it right here!

The red velvet pouch bathes your face with a golden light as the drawstring is pulled loose. A tag clearly labels it as “Tessa’s Magical Bag of Writing Tricks”. When you are no longer blinded by its magnificence, you notice several pieces of paper spread out on the table. You have a sneaking suspicion someone’s been eating a lot of fortune cookies.

The papers read:

  1. To brainstorm is divine.
  2. Get physical. Use a pen and paper.
  3. Keep a journal. Save your sanity.
  4. You will soon desire tea and a blanket.
  5. A  glass of wine is the solution.
  6. Daydreaming is writing minus the typing.
  7. Go for a walk. Your body will thank you.
  8. Your lucky lotto numbers are: 5 10 21 38 42 46

Journal writing is a big thing for me. I can’t sit down to write until banished the stresses of the day. My journal usually degenerates into a story brainstorming session, but that just gets me in the mood to write. Really my bag of tricks is just a list of things that help me get comfortable. I get the words unstuck by throwing a lot of them down onto paper without worrying if they’re good and bad. It’s about getting past the writing and back into the story.

Still some days it’s impossible to get into the flow.

What’s in your bag of tricks?