Thursday, November 3, 2011

Process, Execution and Flexibility

This year I’m following scores of writers on various social networks who are participating in NaNoWriMo. There’s already the separation of those who are struggling and those who are very pleased with themselves. As it happens every year, there’s a wide discrepancy in actual word count produced in both camps, which tells me success or failure is rooted in goal setting and personal expectations. One writer may have 2,000 words down and be happy with their progress. Another may have surpassed 10,000 and have crippling doubts about their characters’ motivation.
I take the slow and steady approach. A little bit each day equals a lot over time. I use this opportunity to rebuild my writing disciple. I also want to increase my productivity. I’m not a particularly fast typer and I burn through way too many drafts. For me it’s about process AND execution.
When I planned the novel I’m currently working on I grabbed a cup of coffee and a stack of index cards and started jotting notes on each one. It was a form of brainstorming with phrases, imagery, rough or specific ideas or thoughts, each on one card. After about fifty cards the flow of my ideas began to slow so I stopped.
I sorted the cards, shuffling and reshuffling until some semblance of a story began to unfold. I combined a few cards, tossed some and created a few more. That’s process.
For execution there’s a built in goal to have 1,666 words written each day to stay on pace. I like to overachieve that number to give me some breathing room later if I need it. As for the actual writing, a.k.a. execution, I’ve been using each card as a prompt. This method has been freeing because even though I’ve been writing linearly so far, I know I don’t have to. If I get stuck or bored I have options. I can pick any other card and start writing. I don't care where the character or story takes me between those cards because, as a composer knows, "Music is the space between the notes."


A clear process, regular execution and the flexibility of options makes for a better writing experience. Try it with the other goals in your life.