06 September 2012

Back To The Basics

When people ask me how long I've been writing I tell them since the age of ten. And if they know my age they will usually stop for a moment and start calculating on their fingers how long that's been. Eight years. The thing is that amount of time is wrong, and the more I think about so is the answer that I always give.

I've been writing seriously, meaning with the goal of one day seeing my books on a shelf somewhere, since the age of ten, but I was making up stories long before that. All those games of pretend I played as a child, all the stories I invented during my time spent on the swing during recess, those were stories. Just because they weren't on paper doesn't mean that they were anything less than writing.

I've been writing seriously for eight years, but that is only the time that has passed since I made that choice. In truth there have been stretches of time where I never wrote a word. Writing slumps, those times where it seems like no matter what I do the stories just aren't there for me to tell. Having those stretches of time where my imagination felt like a barren wasteland never made me any less of a writer just because I wasn't writing, even if they felt like it.

So what does all this have to do with going "back to the basics" as the title implies? When I was younger and didn't have my own computer I did most of my writing with pen and paper. Roughly six years worth of that has been packed away in variously places around my room. Sometimes I like to pull these memories out and look over them. For a laugh, maybe. To remind me of how far I've come and how far I still have to go, maybe. After each of these walks down memory lane I always come away learning something.

Then I got my laptop and my writing became purely digital. No more notebooks spread around my room, each with bits of a different story. No more boxes used to file things away. No more ink staining the side of my left hand to the point that I thought I would never be able to wash it away. Everything was safely filed away onto my computer.

Somehow in this transition from the old fashion method to the digital way I lost something to my writing. I changed my whole approach. The girl that carefully planned everything out, that had three notebooks at minimum per story for characters and world building, got left behind. I became a so called pantser taking things as they came. As much as I love getting up each morning to sit down at my computer to just start typing and see what happens I've started to miss all those notebooks and details.

Looking at all those stories from my past stacked around me and remembering what writing was like when I was ten has made me think about things again. The lesson I walk away with now is a simple one, something I picked up this time around because of all the time I've spent doing Camp NaNoWriMo this summer and rushing through things. The lesson that maybe my younger self was on to something with all those extra notes and careful plans. All those experiments.

I spent all of 2011 experimenting with my writing with poetry and short stories. It was different for me, challenging because I've always thought of myself as more of a novelist. Up until this past August I hadn't actually finished a draft of a novel since the end of 2010. That's a lot of time to go between two drafts never finishing anything. Looking back it wasn't just because I had stopped planning in such detail, but also because I had let myself build a comfort zone.

I talk all the time about how I pick projects because they challenge me. The past few projects have all challenged me but they've all fit into the general fiction category. When I noticed this comfort zone had been allowed to develop to such an extent I was a little afraid. I don't want to have a comfort zone. And I want to have the old feel of a pen in my hand as I build a new world.

The cover for the newest project.
There will be a pitch/synopsis coming soon.
That's why with my newest project I'm not rushing into it like I have with my Camp NaNoWriMo projects. I'm going to give it time, go back to the basics of my writing, and plan things out. I'm going to build the characters and the world, give them every detail I can even if they aren't going to be used in the book. I'm going to slowly immerse myself it the story rather than diving in. I'm going to challenge myself more than I ever have.

It's going to be interesting and difficult for me. Not just because I'm going back to a method I haven't used in years, but also because this project is so far out of the comfort zone of realistic fiction that I've developed over these last couple years. Oddly enough it seems like something I would have written when I was younger with an imagination a little less afraid of all the things it created. A project that I don't know if I can handle properly enough to tell it right, but that's part of the fun.



  1. Amazing post! I love how you feel as though you need to go back to pen and paper to truely develop your story!

  2. Loved the post! I know how you feel with wanting to go back to planning and immersing yourself into the story more. Usually doing Nanowrimo there isn't much time for that. So planning and putting myself into the story is what I am doing with my current project and while it is time consuming and a bit different, it is also fun and I'm learning a lot about writing itself and also myself as a writer.
    I look forward to hearing more about your writing project!