I am very, very ADD and so, my writing process is most easily likened to roping the wind. It really is a beautiful thing because most of my writing occurs in the brain and by the time I actually set down to compose a story, the words just kind of fall out of me. Sometimes, it takes a while for me to write because, on my bad days, I spend most of my mind trying to reign in my myriad of thoughts and trying to stay away from my social media pages. I can describe my writing process in a two step process: “Creating The Thought” and “Organizing The Thought”.
I am also a self trained author so I’m not sure what tools authors are “supposed” to use to write. All I know is my own process and the tools that make it all necessary for me. That’s all I have to offer and I’m going to give it to you. I hope, by the end of this post, you have gained some sort of understanding about writing tools but if you don’t, you’re probably a normal minded and well adjusted author. Congratulations on that…you’ll probably find writing a lot easier than I do sometimes.
Creating the Thought
This is not an exact science. My brain is seriously dangerous territory and sometimes I’m not even sure that I really understand how this happens. What I have learned is the method and tools that allow it to happen more freely.
1. Headphones and Music
It’s not that I want to block out the world while I write (okay, maybe a little bit)…but I find that creating playlists for my novels helps to maintain rhythm in my writing (something that I struggle with a lot). It also helps because music invokes deep emotion for me and so when I’m having issues with “feeling” a scene, I find a song that communicates the needed feeling and drown myself in it like a break up mix. I just have to be careful not to loose myself in it too much. My current soundtrack go to for Willow Moon? Monster by Imagine Dragons.
2. Pen and Paper
You know that creepy double-speak thing that demons do? Well, my brain does that…a lot. So, I have to keep a pen and paper handy so that I can quickly jot down my second thoughts, shopping lists, cures for cancer…really, just whatever “extra” ideas jump up in my mind while I’m working desperately to finish the scene at hand. I know I could just open a new project and make a note there but opening multiple windows is a seriously dangerous game for me. I might end up lost in cyber land while my MC is trying to talk their best friend off a cliff. Because I can’t have characters dying while I’m playing Candy Crush, I opt to do it the old fashion way: with pen and paper. Besides, the voices in my head like it this way. It’s much easier for their voices to slide down my fingers and onto a piece of paper than onto a keyboard.
Confused yet? Yeah, me too. What you need to understand is that the one thing my brain really needs to work properly is distraction…lots and lots of distraction. This distraction can come in many forms. I think more thoughts come to me while I’m reaching for a drink of my soda, lighting a cigarette, or doodling smiley faces on my notebook than the entire time I spend with my hands perched safely on my keyboard and my face staring intently at the computer screen. If I’m really stuck, I will take a bathroom break (making sure I have my trusty dusty notebook) and the ideas will begin to flow again. I know it’s TMI but a lot of my material has been written on the john…that’s just the bleak truth of it. If I’m really desperate, I will get up and do the dishes. By the time I’m finished, my plotholes will be fixed and my characters will be moving, happily along again. To keep myself from derailing, I try to refrain from the big distractions (like Facebook). They are tucked securely inside a glass box with a sign that reads: “Break glass in case of Writer’s Block”.
Organizing the Thought
There is really just one tool that I use these days for organizing my thoughts: Scrivener. It was the single greatest investment that I have ever made in my entire life because it helps me to tame the monsters in my head. Here is how I use Scrivener (and whatever supporting tools I use).
1. Taking Notes
Having a little insight into my writing process, you can imagine the notes and scribbles that collect directly to the left of my laptop as I’m writing….well, it’s much worst than you can ever imagine. I have gotten to the point where I have to organize my notes every day because if I don’t I wont remember what is relevant to which project. It’s insane to remember what this process was like before I got Scrivener…I’m sure a lot of trees died just to maintain it. Even then, I’m certain that some of my best ideas ended up in the garbage or as housing for discarded bubble gum. With Scrivener, I can simply open the project I have created for the 10 novels I’m working on at the moment and insert the day’s one liner’s, notes and research leads before I shut off the computer and crawl into bed.
2. Doing Research
Because when I’m free on the internet, I’m a vagabond. With Scrivener, I can import the research specific to multiple projects as it happens and all is not lost when I, inevitably, ,wander into the depths of irrelevant philosophies. I can easily research multiple projects at once without ending up with unnamed Word files with random and scattered research notes. The demons in my brain are very happy about this because they are free to use their double speak to remind me that I ALSO need to research ancient tribes of lost cities which has nothing to do with the research I’m currently doing.
3. Turning Thoughts Into Written Words
The mechanics of it are always the same…the thoughts become words which ebb and flow with the overall story. To accomplish this, I use the usual tools: dictionaries and thesauruses. With Scrivener, I can highlight a word, double click it and be taken to a thesaurus or dictionary. This helps me work with the wording of my novel without having to wander around to find it. It’s my favorite Scrivener “easy button” and the ADD brain’s best friend.
4. And the parts become a whole…
After a while, my individual words become sentences and these sentences become paragraphs. Once I have a bulk of work, I can begin to order it. When I’m working on a project, I create a folder for a chapter and safely tuck the individual scenes within it. These chapters and scenes can be reordered by the click and drag so I don’t have to have 50 different Word files or worry about copy and pasting to achieve the order that I want for a novel. It’s freeing, really, to know that I can write in whatever mish-mashed order that I want and then I can wrap it all together with a pretty little bow.
I hope you’ve gotten something from all this (even if it is just that I write on the toilet and allow the voices in my head to guide my writing). It may seem like this is just a big Scrivener testimonial but it really is not. Scrivener works for me. It works because I’m a scattered and unfocused writer…it works because I don’t always have the time to manually organize like I should…because my brain is not normal. What is really important in all the text above is that you realize how differently our brains work and you try to find the tools that work for you.