Measure Twice, Cut Once

Someone asked me the other day how I manage to do all the stuff I have to and squeeze in any of the stuff I want to.  Well, it helps when work is slow.  And it helps when it’s winter, because yardwork drops to almost zero.

But more than anything, it helps to plan. I’m a strategizer and a list maker. I might change direction as new things arise midstream or I remember something else that needs doing, but I have a pretty good picture in my head of how my time and energy will be spent before I make my first move.

We’ll start with this: I have at least two hours a day where I commute. During that time, I map things out — the errands I have to run, the most efficient way to move from Task A to Task B, and so on.  Lately, I’ve been writing chapters in my head during my commute.  That means I have an hour or more to fiddle with the characters, the plot, the language.  By the time I get where I’m going, I can pretty much bang out the actual writing-it-down part pretty quickly.

I like to know where I’m going.  I don’t mind going offroad occasionally and in many cases I’m actually a big fan of getting lost and having an adventure and finding something new. But I prefer to do it with a full tank of gas and no external deadlines. In writing, that means I give myself space to wander, but only within certain enclosures.  “I know I want Chapter 12 to begin with this action and end with that plot point. The route I take is up for grabs. Ready, go.”

But I write long, y’all.  Even if I’m on point, I’m twice as wordy as I need to be. So for me, it’s much better to think and think and think before I type a single word.  I can go down all the rabbit holes and see which ones will take me somewhere useful. I can try on personalities and dialects without having to revisit them (until the editing phase, anyway.) If I stumble over something I really, really want to keep and use, I scribble a reminder on a post-it I keep in my change tray for that very reason — or, if traffic isn’t moving, I’ll put it in a memo on my phone. That makes it easier to cut-paste, yo.

What is your writing process?


About arwenbicknell

Editor by day, author by night.
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