By Aimee Hyndman
My writing process begins in an explosion, usually accompanied by dramatic music. The initial spark of the idea usually comes from something exceedingly simple. A line of dialogue from a friend. A cool move in an action scene. A lyric. And sometimes the ideas come from literally nowhere. Like my idea for HOUR OF MISCHIEF for instance. A single concept that hit me without any preamble: One armed thief teams up with the God of Mischief to save the world.
From the idea, it’s generally all downhill from there (or uphill, depending on your perspective). My mind starts compiling characters, side plots and scenes like a sponge. I start spacing out in class and walking with a glazed look in my eye. The novel almost plots itself.
This is of course why I’ve never tried to be a pantser. I have never gotten an idea for a novel without knowing within a day how the novel is going to end. My mind is too impatient to let it be a surprise. So I have fully embraced the moniker of ‘outliner’.
Outlining comes immediately after the idea stage and I love it. I love breaking down my plots into moments and through the process I discover a lot about my characters and the themes I want to showcase in the story. I make up fun world building details and the project begins to solidify in my mind. Eventually, I have a detailed outline and the novel plays through my head like a movie. It should be easy to just copy it down.
The problem is, things are never as good on paper as they are in my head, a problem many writers share. So when I hit the writing stage there’s only one thing to do: allow myself to suck.
The first draft comes quickly, like muddy water from a hose. I have, without fail, written all of my first drafts in one month. It’s a way to combat my ADD and get it all out there before I can lose interest. Forcing myself to write 2,000 words a day is good for my creative process too. I get lost in the words and end up coming up with new ideas I never thought of in the outlining process. Sometimes new characters break onto the scene without me planning it. Sometimes I come up with my best jokes while I’m speed writing, because you never want to try too hard with humor.
Even if it sucks (it always does) I can always polish it and make it shine in the editing process. I can add a coat of paint at a later date and micromanage each and every word. But there is a time and a place and the first draft is not that place if you plan on writing it in a month.
When the final word is typed, I toss the manuscript into a DO NOT TOUCH folder for two months and let it simmer. I work on other projects. I catch up on TV shows. I might even reclaim my social life if I’m feeling ambitious.
Two months later, I take a look. And it’s terrible. I make a long, long list of everything that needs fixing. I add scenes and subplots, flesh out characters and add legitimate descriptions of my settings other than ‘this is a forest’. The first draft in all of its speed written glory always takes a lot of work. But it acts as a framework for so many good things.
The nice thing about a backspace button is that things can always be deleted and retyped. Endings can be completely reimagined. Characters can be deleted and added. A kiss scene can be revamped. (All things that happened in the editing process of HOUR OF MISCHIEF). But you can only change what’s on the page.
So this November, it’s important to give yourself permission to suck. Throw perfectionist tendencies to the window and just get it down. You can always go back and edit it later when you have more time.
Besides, and this is very important: You are never as bad as you think you are. And even speed writing can bring sparks of brilliance to your novel.
Aimee Hyndman is the author of HOUR OF MISCHIEF (2015), and has been writing ever since her toddler fingers could grasp a pencil. A lover of all things speculative fiction, she spent many a night penning the beginnings of novels that would never see the light of day. Now attending college in Iowa, double majoring in Creative writing and English, she has clearly never lost her love of the craft.
When not writing and avoiding her school work, Aimee enjoys reading, singing, and acting at her school’s theater department. She is also a lover of anime and all things Disney. Her area of specialty is fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres— whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment. The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words.