Find a writing process that helps you to not suck

There are exactly seven ways to write a novel and every one of them is wrong. Sometimes. Actually, there are lots of ways – maybe even a million – but how do you know which one is right for you? If you’ve ever tried to write a book before but have never finished the job, then you are already familiar with at least one approach that is apparently wrong for you. One down, 999,999 to go.

Here’s a simple, three-step process that’s guaranteed to find a method that will work for you…

  1. Pick one of the million methods that you haven’t tried, and begin writing.
  2. If you eventually type “The End,” and still feel good about your story, stop. You’ve found a good process.
  3. Else, goto 1.

Sorry, there really is no other way.

But it isn’t quite as futile as that 3-step process makes it look. First of all, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no such thing as the one, best method. And even if there were, you don’t need to find it. All you really need is to find is any one of the good enough¬†methods – and there are lots of those. Let’s face it – the most important accomplishment of your first novel is not likely to be winning the Pulitzer, or getting your tale made into a blockbuster movie. Nope. The most important accomplishment will likely be proving to yourself that you can actually finish¬†a damned manuscript – proving that writing a book is something you can actually do. Regardless of whether that first book is totally brilliant or completely suckaholic, you cannot begin to write better novels until you’ve convinced yourself that you can write any novels. So relax. Take the pressure off. This is a long-distance event. All you really need to do for now is find a method that lets you reach the finish line before you collapse in frustration, discontent, self loathing or boredom.

There’s more good news, too. Assuming you have even the slightest glimmer of self-awareness, you’ll be able to reject many of the methods you read about without having to actually try them. You know the one that requires self-flagellation and cosmetic eyebrow surgery? Probably not for you. And what about that other one that begins “Start with a million dollars?” If that one sounds good to you, contact me offline, but the rest of you can probably reject that one too.

Of course, what would really help you get started is a simple, no nonsense list of methods. Or better yet, an index of the methods different working writers use, and what they think about them. So that’s what I’m hoping to start here – a sort of creative process menagerie, illuminating the variety of approaches others have taken, and offering some clues to how you might adapt them for yourself.

To help assemble this menagerie, I’m going to start a new series of posts I’m calling The Creative Hot-seat. In each installment, I’ll be interviewing a different author, probing into their creative process. This isn’t going to be a “where do you get your ideas” kind of fluff series – I’ll be asking each author the same set of initial questions about how they go about their work, from initial concept to “The End.”

In the end, I hope this will give us a better picture of how the creative process works for all sorts of writers, working in all sorts of genres and styles, but initially, I’m going to focus on science fiction and fantasy writers, because I think their needs may be a bit more complex than many other genres. Besides, that’s the area I work in, so my house, my rules. :-)

Anyway stay tuned… I’m hoping to go after some big fish.

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.