At What Point Do You Dig In to Protect Your Writing Process?

025A shot from Los Angeles last week and lunch with the delightful Lynda Ryba (@fishwithsticks). She’s going to be helping out with my Facebook Author Page, so we should see VAST improvements in that! (Really, it couldn’t get worse…)

What with it being NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if you live under a rock – basically you commit to writing 50,000 new words during November), I’ve been thinking a lot about the writing process. Quite a few people wanted me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I could, because I’m seriously drafting book 3 in Covenant of Thorns right now. (I think it will be called Rogue’s Paradise.) I’m almost 20K into it and will almost certainly write at least 50K during this month. And I’d like to be supportive – I really would. Some of the newbie writers in my local chapter are doing it and I can see it would be helpful of me to join in. I like being supportive that way.

Except I said no.

Why? Because I *have* to turn in this book – complete and polished – by December 31, according to my contract. Worse, my editor is going on this long trip to New Zealand (yes, we hate her) and really wants the manuscript by December 25, so she can take it with her. Really a week doesn’t make that much difference, but it makes the deadline ever so slightly tighter. I cannot miss this deadline.

But Jeffe, you say – isn’t that all the more reason to do NaNo, to crank on getting those words down?

See, it’s really not.

Over the past several years, I’ve put a lot of effort and concentration into learning and refining my writing process. I say “learning” because I really believe we all have an organic process that we have to discover and love. It’s rough to go against that. I’ve now written six novels and novellas according to the method I’m using now. I know how much I can do each day (right now, about 2,250 words in 2-3 hours) and how long it will take me to complete the draft and then to revise. Being able to reliably create on a schedule is crucial for being a professional writer. This process is delivering for me. That makes it precious.

Which means I’m not going to mess with it.

No way.

Call me superstitious, but I’m not changing a thing.

I’m feeling much the same about workshops and classes. Now, I’m a huge believer in continuing education, lifelong learning – all that stuff. I was the girl in college who took 21 credits every semester, just because there were so many interesting classes to take. That said, I don’t have a writing degree of any sort – no English major, no MFA. I’ve taken tons of writing workshops, etc., over the years, but for the time being, I’m feeling like I want to stay away from them.

This isn’t the hip thing to say these days. Particularly not in the romance-writing community. (In fact, I don’t recall seeing this perspective much at all in the literary community. Those writers are much more apt to be protective of their process and to be vocal about it.) People love to point out when established writers come to workshops. They say things like “I’m never done learning!” and “not taking workshops can lead to stagnation.”

In fact, someone said that last to me just the other day. I threw the question out to Twitter (of course). I framed the question carefully, asking if any of the writers – especially well-established ones – found themselves staying away from classes and workshops, to protect their method. I tried to phrase it to weed out the happy “I love to take classes!” answers. Even so, I still received those responses.




 Another author, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me about an experience early in her writing career about “you can’t do that” that stopped her flat. She didn’t write for almost a year.

I think if I cast my net wider, I’d hear more of this kind of feedback. Because it sounds better to be enthusiastic about learning and growing, those writers who feel protective of their process might be less likely to speak up. But, I think it’s an important point – and speaks to the gal who said that not learning could lead to stagnation, a very common view – to remember that growing isn’t necessarily derived from taking workshops. There are thousands of ways to learn and grow as a writer, not the least of which is reading!

It’s certainly a fine line to walk. And it’s not that I think my process or my art is perfect. I do feel, however, that it’s working for me. I’m continuing to improve as a writer and that’s important to me.

More, I’m protective of it.

10 Replies to “At What Point Do You Dig In to Protect Your Writing Process?”

  1. For the newbies classes are great. But if you have a system and it works, I would stick with it too. If you are in a writing group you may glean new things through them 🙂

    1. I totally agree on the newbie aspect! Lord knows I took PLENTY of classes. But yes, there’s comes a transition time when you realize that you’ve had enough for the time being and what you’re doing is working.

  2. I think there’s a season for everything. A time to try on new ways of doing things AND a time to embrace, “it ain’t broke, don’t even THINK about trying to fix it.” When my muse needs a fresh coat of paint, he’ll let me know–usually in the form of silence.

    I think it’s great you’ve got your “way” worked out (for now) and that you’re protecting it. I think the trick is the flexibilty, knowing when to/not to add something new.

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