Hugh Todd

Since I’ve started getting into writing seriously, I’ve read a ton of book, articles, interviews, etc. about the writing process. My conclusion is: everyone’s writing process is different! I know, big revelation, huh?

I first create a rough outline, including characters, world (less or more detailed depending on how much worldbuilding is required) and general key plot points. I then spend some time going into a lot of detail about the first section/act/whatever so that I know where I’m going for a while. I generally know where I’m going in the middle part and have a pretty clear notion of where I want everyone to end up by the end of the book before I begin writing at all. Then I begin. I sometimes plan generalities about what I want characters to say, but I always leave the actual words to the moment. To my mind, it makes it a bit more authentic if I make up the words they say at the moment, but maybe that’s an affectation.

I tend to wake up in the morning, go straight to my workstation (a Surface Pro tablet, with the internet turned off. More about that in some future post) and start writing. Depending on when I run out of steam, or when lunch rolls around, I eat and/or take a shower. For me, the shower is my creative haven. It is the best possible place to think up new pieces to add to the current section and figure out where I want the next part to go. If I’m stuck, the shower will almost always fix it. During my first novel, at one point I was taking three showers a day. Not ideal, but it got the job done. Sometimes driving can help as well, especially if the radio is off. I’ve come up with some great ideas while driving, but it’s not nearly as consistent as the shower.

I would say what the hard parts are, but so far after 1 and 1/4 books, all the parts seem like the hardest part when I’m in the middle of them. Particularly difficult for me is the first 20% and the middle  20%. Once I get to about 60% on the first novel it got a lot easier.

I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’ve taken some time off, or I’m just beginning to write something, it feels irritating to even begin writing. To me, it feels like how your voice sounds like when you hear a recording of it: it sounds fake, harsh and very contrived. Once I can get past that, writing comes more easily.

When I first began, I thought coming up with ideas would be a hard part of the whole thing, but after a few years, I have more ideas than I could write in a decade. It seems to me that once you start exercising the idea engine part of your brain, it gets better at it and starts generating more than you can actually follow through with. Getting it down on the screen is much harder.

“I hate writing, I love having written.” — attributed to Dorothy Parker.

This is definitely true for me. I have heard of other writers being driven and I’m certainly motivated to write, but not by some internal message needing to get out or some maniacal need. For me, I need to make myself put down the internet, or a video game or a good book and sit down and write. However, writing is not only drudgery or I guess nobody would do it at all. I imagine it will feel really fulfilling to have an agent or publisher read my work someday and decide its worth getting out there, but even now, I feel energized by (what I think are ) good ideas. And writing is a whole lot better job than a lot of others I’ve done over the years. One piece, in particular, that I appreciate is the focus of only working on one or two projects at a time. As opposed to my years as a project manager, when I was constantly juggling and prioritizing dozens.

Of course, this whole discussion should be taken with a grain of salt. I’m only through the beginning of my second novel. I plan to write one a year, so I guess we will see what I think of process in five or so years from now. I may have an entirely different perspective.

2 thoughts on “Process

  1. Mom

    Thanks, Hugh! Loved your pictures. Glad you had a good time; sounds like you made the most of your opportunity. Mom

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