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I've been meaning to write about my process for quite a while now. Originally, I was going to just write one post about my writing process and be done with it. But the more I put it off, the more I realized that maybe this was something that wouldn't fit into only one post...because the more stuff I thought of that I wanted to say about each step of the process.

So then I was going to write a post about the first stage of outlining... But somehow I never did, and eventually I realized it was because I had a lot to say about the process of creating a process before I moved on to actually talking about my specific process.

So this is that very meta post.

The process I'm going to be talking about is something that's been developing for a while; I suppose I really started thinking about some aspect of it two Yuletides ago (2014 -- Yuletide is the one time when I tend to be moderately ambitious as well as actually finishing that moderately ambitious story, so I tend to learn a lot from Yuletide). Two Yuletides ago was when I realized one of the main aspects of my process as it has developed: get through to the end, and then worry about the rest (instead of making each part perfect as I write them), because it's more important to have everything there than to have everything perfect. I did it because I just really wanted to finish the whole story I had in my head, but after Yuletide, I looked at what I'd done and decided it was good.

Finishing has always been a struggle for me, but it turned out that a really useful thing that process could do for me is to make finishing seem possible. So now one of my goals in having a process is that I always want the path from where I am to a finished product to be fairly obvious (even if I don't end up following the path I think I see, even if things turn out differently than expected as I go along, as is usually the case). Process helps me keep writing and not get discouraged.

I've added more to the process over the course of last year, working toward a better understanding of story structure, and it all came together during Yuletide 2015, and the process I'm using now (I'm in the middle of outlining a novel) got its first test-drive then. I don't think it's final yet, so even though I'm planning on writing about "my process", really all I want is to get down some of the things that I've done so that I don't forget what worked, so I can start to think about why it might have worked (and if there's anything that might work better), and whether I might be leaving anything obvious out that really ought to be part of my process.

I have a few other goals when it comes to process. I've already talked about making getting to the end seem possible. Another goal is that I want to have a process that will work for things of any size. Maybe I can get through shorter things more quickly, but I don't want to have to rearrange the whole process just because I'm writing a short story, or a six part monster of a story. Story is story.

And of course (I think this is the point of having a process at all) I want to keep using the same process over and over again, and make it better, so that writing becomes easier and easier because I know what I'm doing and what actually works for me. I've done this in the past on an ad hoc basis, but I want to pay more attention to what works and what doesn't necessarily work.

The final goal I have for my process is that I want to make each step of the process seem easy. (This is sort of weird to me, I used to be far more into doing things that are difficult... I liked being heroic and conquering the impossible tasks. I don't seem to like it as much any more, probably because... well, most of the things that I want to write are really long, and one can only be heroic and go full speed ahead for so long. So I'm going more for a tortoise-type process, and a confidence that eventually I'll get there :) ) So my process is full of baby steps.

However, having said that, I also like complexity, so there are places where my process embraces complexity in a way that I wouldn't necessarily expect to be appealing to anyone but me. But hey, this is my very personal process, which I'm developing around my strengths and weakness and preferences and goals. When I call it "my process", I really mean it. I'd be surprised if it worked for anyone but me, because it's got a lot of steps to cover things I find difficult (structure, plot, I need to add something for tension) and totally ignores things that I don't feel I need the support for (character, worldbuilding).

So that's what I want out of a process in general. Specifically, these are some of the approaches I'm using to meet these goals:

1) Quick passes and lots of cycling through the story. I've quit calling them drafts because draft seems so much more heavy-weight than what I do. This is not, of course, unique, it's sort of like the idea behind something like NaNoWriMo. Do it fast, then take what you have and do it again. This keeps me from getting stuck on any one idea or problem, and it lets me keep a more holistic view of the story.

It also lets me change what needs to changed on each pass without getting annoyed, because I haven't usually put too much work into the idea that needs to be changed.

Things do seem to change quite a bit between passes (and this is something that used to happen to me when I was more perfectionist in early drafts too, and I remember that eventually I just got totally sick of revising and gave up even though I could see how to fix something, I didn't want to do it). So the quicker I make each pass, the more light-weight the early writing, the better things seem to work for me.

2) I generally start off with very abstract ideas, so my process moves from abstract to specific.

In a lot of ways, my ideas move from ideas about forces and oppositions and dynamics and relationships to (eventually) specific events and telling details. The details come last, but that's not because I don't think of them at every stage, it's just... they might not be the right details, they might not all fit together, they might not tell a story unless I pay attention to the story and then come up with the details that fit.

There's no guarantee that I can come up with a story if I start with details, but starting with something abstract and drilling down does seem to result in a story. And I can always come up with more details, so even though I might lose some cool details, well, that is the price that has to be paid sometimes.

3) My process is based on the idea of fractals. (I may have gotten the basic idea from the Snowflake Method, but that one doesn't work for me at all.) The idea of fractals is that you repeat the same pattern at different scales, so however much you zoom in or out, you keep seeing the same pattern. Or, in other words, you start with a certain pattern, and then you fill in each section of that pattern with smaller versions of the same pattern... (This is hard to explain, here have a video by Vi Hart.)

The pattern that I use is motivation and reaction. It's motivation and reaction all the way down, at every scale. I think this makes sense -- it makes just as much sense to look at the second half of the book as a reaction to the first half of the book as it makes to write a couple of paragraphs containing a character's motivation followed by a character's reaction.

(Also, so long as I'm talking about reactions, another link to an interesting post that I happened to run across as I was writing this. Not exactly the same kind of reaction, but interesting!)

4) I suspect that my process is more complicated than it needs to be, and even though I like complicated, perhaps I will be able to streamline it as I grow more practiced at some of these things. Perhaps writing about my process will help with that :) I suppose only time will tell.
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