Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Three Signs Your Process Might Not Be Working

Ultimately, the only person who can say whether your writing process is truly working is you. Because you're writing for your own goals. (I'm assuming here that you're not dealing with other parties who have a vested interest in the outcome of your writing.)

That said, here are three things which might be a warning sign that your process isn't taking you where you want it to.
  1. You're ending up with lots of unfinished work. I know some people who say that this is part of their process, and if they're still meeting their goals, I certainly can't say that they're "doing it wrong." But, to me, unfinished work represents time spent with only minimal return on the time. (I wouldn't say none, since you're getting more experience as a writer even then. Though, on the flip side, you could be reinforcing some bad habits.) If I put even a couple of hours into writing something, I'd like to think that it will be something that someone else will read eventually and (hopefully) that I'll get paid for. If I don't finish a first draft, or if I finish a first draft but don't revise, then I'm not going to meet those goals.
  2. You're spending a lot more hours working than seems appropriate for your output. Again, everyone's different, so this is something that really only you can decide if it applies to your situation. For me, if I found I was spending lots of hours at the computer and only getting a single short-short (flash) story out of it, I'd feel like there was something amiss. And to a certain extent, I think it's reasonable to include ancillary time (writing-related correspondence, chat rooms, message boards, etc.) as part of your "working" time. None of those things are bad things, but they aren't inherently "writing" and while some of them may be necessary (submitting stories, dealing with contracts, etc.) it's still good to keep an eye on your overall time "spend."
  3. You're not having fun. Writing, for many of us, is work. Writing, for many of us, is also play. It's an interesting dynamic. If it's starting to feel like drudgery, not just once in a while, but on a regular basis, then you might want to take a step back and evaluate what you're doing and why. It may be more than just a "process" issue, in this case, but a malfunctioning process could be one possible cause.
One of the things that helps me is to do a certain amount of self-evaluation of these things (and others). Am I getting stories finished and out the door? Am I spending a "normal" (for me) amount of time on writing? Am I having fun? When I can answer "Yes" to all three, I know I'm in a good place.


  1. Great post, Michael!

    I *love* #1. Some people concentrate on word count, and while that's a valuable tools, that doesn't give us the big picture. And your point about reinforcing bad habits is very insightful. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Hi, Jami. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad that you found the post useful.

      Yep, raw first draft word counts don't get you much of anywhere if you're not refining those words (to the extent that you need to do so) and getting them out the door.

  2. Hi Michael, just wanted to pop by and say how much I've been enjoying your blog, this post especially! Your first point resonates with me, I've been thinking the same thing. So nice to have ones thoughts echoed by another writer. :)

    Now, if you could just post a solution ... ;) Kidding. (grin)

    1. Karen, thanks for your comments! #1 seems to be really ringing true for a lot of writers.

      As far as a solution goes... This may apply better (in some ways) to short fiction than longer forms, but earlier this year I scheduled a "Revising Day" where I took a vacation day off work and went to a bookstore/coffee shop and sat down and made final revisions to stories and got them sent out the door. It worked very well and while I can't justify the day off work very often, I think it might be time to do this again before long, as a way of trying to help myself get caught up.