Through the course of writing my first full length novel, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt when it comes to my writing is this: go with the flow.
This doesn’t mean blathering on endlessly for paragraphs for about whatever comes to mind – ultimately every word, sentence and paragraph should serve a purpose in moving your novel forward – it means trusting yourself enough to just sit and write.
Like anything, with practice comes confidence. It’s taken quite a lot of time and many words to be able to sit and write without feeling the need to endlessly analyse everything that hits the page, the moment it does so. I wait until at least the end of a chapter 😉
I should also note that this does not in any way prevent me from procrastinating before I sit down to write. Latest news headlines? Perhaps I should just take a quick look at that first…or I haven’t checked in on Facebook or Twitter lately, I should really make sure I haven’t missed anything…good gosh, look at what my son has done to the house, I really ought to tidy that up before I start writing…the list goes on. When I do actually get around to writing and let it flow, here’s a few of the surprising benefits:
- hours slip away
- word count goes up!
- dialogue flows, sometimes quicker than you can type
- characters take on a life of their own
- your manuscript can take some unexpected, but fascinating turns
And it’s this last point that brings me quite neatly to the topic of my second novel.
Creativity can take unusual directions – you just have to trust it
After the completion of Radiant, I had every intention of getting straight to work on the sequel. Thought I might be able to pull it off by (last) Christmas.
My creative brain had other ideas entirely. Every time I started plotting out the sequel to Radiant, my subconscious got a little vocal. Usually along the lines of “Enough already! I’ve been concentrating on paranormal romantic suspense for two years now, I’m keen for a break.”
So things stalled for a number of months. Or so I thought. In the background it turns out my mind was working away on another idea entirely, it had just failed to tell me about it, until one night I had what we often coin a ‘light bulb’ moment. I sat up in my chair, went ‘Ah, ha!’, grabbed my computer and spat out a quick synopsis.
It seemed utterly brilliant, unexpected and unforced at the time, but in retrospect, I now realise this novel had been trying to escape for a while. My ‘Ah, ha’ moment was just a generous way of my subconscious giving my ego a bit of a stroke. Thanks for that, by the way 😉
A day or two later, I pitched the idea to my best mate. I wasn’t entirely oblivious to the fact that she was days away from having her first child – her stomach was a dead give away – but she’s been one of my main confidant’s throughout this writing gig. It was necessary that I pump her for advice and suggestions before she went off and got distracted with the project of child rearing and was knee high in dirty nappies, washing and sleep deprivation. Not always the most conducive to clear thinking.
So thanks for that, best gal, I wasn’t stealing your impending baby thunder I promise!
After my unofficial ‘pitch’ I was back writing again. And it was glorious. The story flowed and I let it.
Never mind it’s not the sequel to Radiant. Or that it’s not romantic suspense. It definitely hasn’t got any paranormal elements in it!
But it’s coming together and I’m finished the first draft and currently in editing mode. The marketer in me reminds me that I can have more than one target market anyway, right? So, what’s it about, you ask?
Is chick-lit the equivalent of a chick flick?
Well, it’s fun and it’s girly. It’s romantic. In my mind, it’s the rom com chick flick you watch after you’ve just seen the action/thriller and you need something more light hearted.
My female lead has a long trail of exes and a big mouth (not necessarily related, although occasionally it is a causal factor). Clearly, she needs help and, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it, her closest girlfriends are willing to lend a hand.
There’s an expensive fast car (I couldn’t help myself, if I can’t afford one myself fiction allows me to live vicariously), an up and coming marketing agency, exercise boot camp and a reliance on wine.
And men. Did I mention there were men?
So it’s very much not the paranormal romantic suspense that I had in mind, but I am very excited about it!
When has going with your creative flow become a rewarding experience?
6 Replies to “Learning to go with the flow”
HI Bel! I agree, it’s good to just let go and go with the flow. I’m struggling with that at this very moment! I’m working on two novels and I feel stuck for the moment because there is so much I don’t know. It’s paralyzing me! It’s bad because a few days ago I was so sure I was on the right path. Hopefully I can let go and just go with it and see what happens! I think I want more from my story but I’m not sure what that more is yet. 🙂
Hi Victoria. Yup, going with the flow isn’t always easy and it’s not until after the fact you can reflect on the journey. I guess if you’re feeling stuck try and take a break for a bit and then come back to it, often I find letting your subconscious work on it while you’re doing something else completely different (and preferably fun) can help when you do eventually come back to it. Good luck!
dear Belinda, thank you for this post. go with the flow … and the pitch, and the inflection … works for songwriting, too. tony
Hi Tony. So true. I’m a piano player (who is better playing my own stuff than others) and you are so right! Thanks for reading.
I’m with you, totally. And when the creativity is gone, let it be gone. Don’t force it. I did that earlier this spring and the results were totally maddening. Now I have a really crappy half-manuscript that I don’t even want to look at for like a year. Let it flow when it flows! I’m not one of those who say “Write something every day!”
Hi Julie, it’s been a while since I wrote this post and your reply comes very well timed! I’m at the end of a project and need to get started on the next but am struggling. I know if I force myself to write right now it’s probably going to be very average as you say (and not well thought out) so I need to allow myself the space to think, plan and just be for a while. I’m not sure what it is but I feel like I’m not being productive as a writer when I’m not actually writing,..which is silly because so much of this writing gig isn’t actually the writing!