NaNoWriMo Chronicles: My Personal Writing Habits
Writing, like any form of creation, is a personal process. Everyone approaches it differently, everyone’s methods are different, and that’s okay - that’s how it should be. However, sometimes it can be helpful to see/hear about others processes and trying to find new ways of creating that may help to enhance your own personal growth as a creator.
Today, I’m going to touch on my own personal writing habits. From original fiction to blog posts, get ready for an interesting ride.
So, the biggest part of my writing habits is just that. The Habit. It’s one that I have found I have to set for myself, or I won’t do it. I need it scheduled into my routine, or I will fail to practice my writing. And practicing is important. Speaking of practice, let’s touch on two of the ways I practice writing.
Fanfiction - It sounds dorky, but I am a strong believer in the idea that fanfiction is perfect for practicing writing. You are able to build on your strengths or focus on your weaker points without worrying about everything else a story requires you to develop. Struggle with dialogue? Choose some characters from your favorite TV show and plop them down for a conversation. Plotting not your thing? Write a fanfiction based on your favorite book with characters and places that are already in place to practice your plotting. It puts you in a place where you don’t have to think about the parts you don’t want to, and it’s a beautiful field for practicing in.
Poetry - Unlike my fanfiction that pretty much all is published on the internet somewhere, my poetry rarely sees the light of day. BUT the point of my poetry isn’t for others to read it. The point is for me to write it. Poetry is an interesting writing practice because it doesn’t need to have a purpose or follow any rules beyond what you give it. Most people think of rhyme, rhythm, and flow when they think of poetry. There are traditional types and ways of writing poetry, such as ABAB rhyming or iambic pentameter, but these things don’t have to be present for a work to be a poem. A poem is what you as the writer decide it is.
So, how do I schedule this practice into my routine? To start with, I give myself time to write in the evening, before bed. It can be fanfiction, poetry, or just a brain dump… but whatever it is, it’s on paper. It’s a hard copy. It not only allows me to free-flow my writing for even just a few minutes, it allows me to ‘brain dump’ before trying to sleep.
The newest thing I have done with ensuring I have time to practice writing is that I get up earlier in the morning than I used to. I have a time period of about an hour (it’s a bit longer than that) scheduled every Wednesday morning that I am allowed to write about anything I want. Currently, I’m working on a fanfiction romance series that consists of shorts that I’ve been working on. The other days I have about an hour set aside for blog work at the same time, which two of the four days is writing these lovely posts for you all. I have writing scheduled into my days. It’s literally on my Google calendar. It makes sure I get it done.
Let’s get away from my ‘routine’ writing and take a look more at my personal habits when I write a novel.
When I’m working on a larger piece, if it’s an original work or even a large scale fanfiction, I have specific steps that I tend to work through before I begin writing. As I have stated in the past in the older creative writing series videos, I tend to start with characters. Even if these characters are vague, I will take down as many notes as I can about them. What do I think they look like right now? What am I willing to let change about their appearance/personality this early in the game? What do I think needs to stay for the sake of what I’m trying to do? As an example, let’s look at my NaNoWriMo work from last year.
The idea started with two people, Naresh and Grete. At the time they didn’t have names, just races, and status. Naresh was a ‘drow’ or dark elf of sorts. I knew he physically looked like the traditional dark elf, but I wasn’t sure about much beyond that. He had the dark skin that was a shade of bluish gray and the dark eyes. He was a king or a ruler of some kind. Beyond that… much was in the air. Was he kind? I wanted him to be mostly benevolent, but he was a ruler and oftentimes rulers come with expectations and when things don’t fit those expectations like I intended Grete to, they can become… rattled. I knew Grete’s appearance was to be more traditional human, but I hadn’t decided much about her looks beyond that. Her personality was more concrete than Naresh, she was to be strong-willed and somewhat brash.
So, I have a vague idea that begins with these two characters finding themselves falling for one another while also being backed into a corner together. Beyond that - everything is up for change. I began this particular project by writing a scene with the two of them together. This helped me to flush out their personalities a bit more and to see how they interacted together and if I liked it. This scene turned into a bit of plot.
Now, you have some more distinct plot. This is good, run with it. Take that small plot and as yourself several ‘what if’ questions about that plot. Write them down if you need to. In this particular scene, Naresh was realizing that the feelings that he had been harboring for Grete were the same as hers, despite the understanding that she would never really care for him. So, what happens from here? What if she accepts her own feelings and his? What if she refuses them even given her own feelings? What has gotten them to the point of being this close? What could stifle these feelings this early on? What could cause them to grow?
All of these questions begin to open plot ideas for you, which help to extend the characters, plot, and world. Basically, this step is brainstorming. I brainstorm for a week or so, however long I feel like I need to really get a good grasp on the basics of the working plot arc. Then I sit down and hammer out character profiles for any primary characters. These can be as extensive, or as short as I feel like I need to get the job done. Usually, you can find a survey of questions online for free to help you flesh out more of your characters.
Next, I turn to plot. This is where I began to break down each chapter and scene. I start with the major points in the plot. For Naresh and Grete these were pretty basic, boy meets girl, boy chooses girl to marry him and she cannot refuse him (at this point I didn’t know why she couldn’t yet), boy and girl find themselves on the same side of a political thing and they have to fight together, boy and girl are triumphant, boy and girl have fallen in love along the way. There was more to the plot that than, but I don’t want to get too complicated right now. So, you lay out these major plot points and just write scenes that lead you from one to the other. Start slow. Work on the ones that make the most sense to you. The ones that come naturally. As the scenes begin to fall into place the plot begins to emerge slowly as a whole, and the characters begin to fall into themselves. All of this can be broken down into the following for a longer work:
Brainstorming - characters then a bit of plot
Write a few basic scenes and ask ‘what if’s
Plotting - writing out scenes
Finally, at the end of all this, I will force myself to do some world building when it is needed. I will be the first to admit that I hate world building. It is the least natural part of writing for me. I will dive deeper into how I do world-building, and how bad I am at it when we get into Preptober in a few weeks.
Those are my set personal writing habits. Everyone creates differently, so don’t think that if you create in a way that is different from how I create that you are worse off than I am. You’re not. However, if you think that some of these habits could benefit your personal creating journey - then please try them out! Let me know if they are helpful, or if they are just frustrating.
What are some of the habits that you find help you create? Let me know in the comments!