Creating Opportunities to be More Creative

As a writer, being a creative person is a pretty big deal. We pride ourselves on how creative we are and yet there are times when we feel we just aren’t creative enough. It’s sort of a Ping-Pong match between the two. Some days it’s one, and a whole lot of other days, it’s the other. There have been quite a few times when I personally felt like I lost the game all together. Many times I found myself asking “Am I creative enough to be a writer?” or “What can I do to be more creative?”. In the end though, maybe it’s more of a question of how can we be the right amount of creative to accomplish our goals?

I want to tell you a story. Something that happened to me over the last few years that changed my life forever (causing me to abandon my blog for awhile too — sorry!) and made me see things in a little different light, especially concerning the way creativity works.

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The End is Here

The EndThe end. The most two satisfying words a writer can ever write. The end. Two words standing alone that means more than all other words put together. And as those two words are written and then stared at in shocked disbelief, a rush of emotions hit in one great punch. Ecstatic happy dancing commences… Swirling ribbons of sadness twist in the stomach at the realization that a great journey is finally over… But mostly a profound relief settles and solidifies as the truth finally hits home… after countless days of hard work, overcoming large bouts of self-doubt and writer’s block, constant rewrites and edits, and grueling self imposed hours The End finally came.

Yeah, that was me three weeks ago as I finished my novel Blood Feud.

Granted, I’m not completely done. I sent the last draft out to pre-readers to get some feedback. Once I hear back, I may make a few changes here or there, but for the most part it’s done. And even though I say that and have had three weeks to bask in my novels completion, I’m still somewhat in disbelief. I’ll be honest there were many days, weeks, and months when I never thought the novel would ever be completed despite my always optomistic behavior of “I will get to the end no matter what!”

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How Many Drafts Does it Take to Finish a Novel?

Now that’s a good question. I hear the “it takes three drafts” a lot, but really it depends on the writer and the writer’s experience. Though the more experience you have in writing, the less mistakes you tend to make the first time around and typically add more “correct” information in the first couple of rounds (because you have a stronger idea of what makes a good story).

Even still, there are many well-published authors who do a lot more than three drafts (check out Lisa Gail’s interview with authors as she asks How Many Drafts Does it Take to Get to the Query Stage?). It really boils down to writing style and an individual’s organizational mode. Every writer is different. Check out this interview with Earnest Hemingway…

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.
— Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review Interview, 1956

Gah! 39. Now that’s a lot! But he’s right, it’s about getting the words right even if it take 39 drafts or 390 drafts.

And then there are the super star writers who can do up a novel without much rewriting at all.

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and write it sentence by sentence — no first draft.”— Dorothy Parker, The Paris Review Interview, 1956

And some people write drafts with certain issues they want to address in that particular draft.

Leslie Rose (from How Many Drafts Does it Take to Get to the Query Stage?) wrote:

Here are my drafts:
1 – vomit draft – let it fly baby
2- Story arc pass – main story subplots – overall structure
3- MC & supporting character arcs – including character development & embellishment
4- grammar/punctuation pass & bad habit pass (adverbs/tense/sentence variety/word choice)
7 – Hard copy read – make corrections
8 – Kindle read – make corrections
OUT TO BETAS
9 – Including Beta notes pass
10 – Holistic read – wearing my audience hat
11 – Corrections from Holistic read
QUERY TIME

Writing a novel doesn’t even really start until draft two and on (well, for most of us anyways). It’s the rewriting that shapes the story into what you actually want it to be. The first draft is just mental vomit.

“Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” — John Updike

In my case, I found I didn’t even know what I wanted to say until my third draft (my novel will take a total of five drafts to be completed by the way). I have whole chapters from draft one and two that will never see the light of day (thank god!).

“Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.” — Helen Dunmore

And then there is the multiple rewrites that happen within a draft. You know, the tiny rewrites that happen over and over until you feel like you can bleed the words (though these rewrites and edits should happen in draft two and beyond).

“By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl

Basically it’s up to you how many drafts you write (and don’t let anyone tell you different!). What matters is that the story progresses in a way that you want and gets the point across.

Here are some other posts on how many drafts it takes…

Karen Woodward’s How Many Drafts Does it Take to Write a Novel?

Joanna Penn’s Writing a Book: What Happens After the First Draft?

And check out this article on How Many Rewrites is too Much?

Sooooooo, how many drafts does it take (or will take) you to finish a novel?

 

To Be a Good Writer Means to Be a Good Thinker

Writing is 99% thinking, and the rest is typing. — Ray Bradbury

When I first started writing, I did it the hard way. I just wrote the first thing that came to mind. I got an idea, character, setting, or ect. in my head and I wrote it down immediately.

It was fun. I produced a story, or maybe a part of a story, or maybe really just words on a page. But damn if I didn’t feel proud of my accomplishment. A proud Momma with her precious baby.

And then I got some experience under my belt and that happy bubble popped when I realized I was doing it all wrong.

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Finding the Time to Write

This year I decided not to do NaNoWriMo despite my success at doing the challenge the last four years. Mostly because my time schedule just wouldn’t allow for it. I resigned myself to “hopefully” completing rewrites/edits for two chapters of my current novel in progress, and I figured that would be a stretch.

Guess what?

I got four chapters done.

Freaking awesome. I know. Sure it may not be much, but I doubled my best case scenario expectations. And it feels good. It feels real good. How did I do it? How was I able to go from my recent writing norm of completing maybe one chapter a month to four? And still not skimp on my other “paying” work that needed to be done. Well, I changed things up a bit.

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Writing Prompts: What If

WHAT IF? (Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers)

How to Develop and Finish Stories 
Find a story that you are stuck on. Next write in the top of a blank page What If. Now write five ways of continuing that story, not ending the story, but continuing the story to the next event, scene, ect. Let your imagination go wild. Loosen up your thinking about the events in the story. Your what if’s can be as diverse as your mind can make them. More than likely, one of the what if’s will feel right, organic, to your story and that is the direction in which you should go. Sometimes you will have to do several groups of what if’s per story, but that’s okay as long as they keep you moving forward.


Exercise from What If Writing Exercises for the Fiction Writer by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter