She is also a parent. One of things I find so interesting about her Twitter account is when she mentions her children and I think, “How does she juggle everything and still have time to be a prolific writer?” Her post today opens that up a little for us.
The Writing Parent by S.A. Huchton
When you’re a parent, managing to do anything but be a parent is difficult on a daily basis. So, when asked about my process as a writer, it’s something I always have to take into account. I’ve narrowed down what I do in a general list. Now, I wouldn’t recommend some of my kamikaze strategies to everyone, but this is what I do and seems to work for me.
1. Flexibility. I grab every moment I can to write. A lot of this entails writing on my phone. Yes, my phone. My author friends think I’m a little crazy when I tell them I do this, but I swear it’s true. I’d estimate a good 30-40% of all of my content is written this way. When you have three kids and a deployed husband, sometimes locking yourself in the bathroom for 15 minutes is a necessity, not a luxury. What I use is an app called My Writing Spot. It’s cloud-based and free on the web, but the app (which I use mostly on my iPhone, but some on my iPad as well) is a one-time five-dollar cost. I write all of my first drafts there. I can keep as many projects there as I want, and work on it wherever I am. If I make sure I’ve synced it ahead of time, I don’t even need an internet connection to access it. I copy/paste it scene by scene into Scrivener later, where I edit and proofread, but the flexibility to write wherever, whenever, is absolutely critical to me getting any words done some days.
2. Lose a little sleep. I’m a notorious night owl, mostly since that’s when the house is quietest and I can hear myself think. This results in a lot of coffee-powered mornings/days, but it’s worth it to see my wordcount climb daily. If you want to do something badly enough, you will find a way to do it. Losing a little sleep might make me a bit grumpy, but I would be much, much grumpier if I wasn’t able to write. That’s not to say everyone should stay up until midnight or later cranking out stories, but consider getting up an hour or two earlier every day if you’re more of a morning person. Like I said, if writing is something you REALLY want to do, you will find a way to do it. Don’t be the person that perpetually calls themselves an “aspiring writer”. There’s no such thing. You either write, or you don’t. You can aspire to be a “published writer”, but no one but you can give yourself the time to write. Be willing to sacrifice a bit for the things that are important to you.
3. Find your creative sounding board. I am blessed to have more than one fantastic friend that will allow me to call them up and talk through plot points or ideas I’m having trouble getting a handle on. I’ve found that talking through problematic scenes clarifies them for me and I get a solid grasp on them once I’ve said them aloud. Even something as simple as one question from one of my friends can unblock me and send my brain shooting back down the path towards the end of the story. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without these folks. They may not realize how crucial they really are for my process, but I try to thank them whenever I can.
4. Brainstorm. This summer I had the opportunity to take several long car trips, a few without my kids thanks to some awesome relatives. While I can’t write in the car, I did take advantage of the long stretches of road to plot and plan stories. I probably look like a mental patient driving down the highway talking to myself, but, really, I’ve worked through many a scene this way, and even entire book synopses thanks to these road trips. It’s all about using the time you have in a creative way, even when you can’t put actual words on the page. Thinking through the story is almost as important as getting it on paper (or pixels, depending on your chosen medium).
5. Find a cheerleader. Or several. Whether it’s a spouse, an alpha reader, your mom, whatever, none of us can do this by ourselves. Never underestimate the importance of having someone in your corner sending you positive messages to keep going or who loves to read your words. If you’re lucky enough to find a cheerleader who becomes a rabid fan, even better. They will consistently badger you for the next scene, next chapter, or next book. This is a big motivator for me. I thrive off of approval, so when I get an email that says “OMG I LOVE THIS WHERE IS THE NEXT CHAPTER???” it gives me a huge incentive to churn out more words. Knowing that someone is reading and loving what I’m creating is the best feeling in the world for me.
6. Find a critical pair of eyes. Two or more is better. Cheerleaders are awesome, but you absolutely, positively need someone with a really strong grasp of grammar, story, structure, etc, to help you polish up that fantastic thing you wrote. Seriously. NO ONE gets it right the first time and NO ONE can self-edit a manuscript to perfection. No one. I’m not kidding. So whether you’re hiring an editor or are really really lucky and have someone in your back pocket that knows how to fix all the things, do it. Make it count. Let them loose on your work and expect it to bleed when it comes back. Your story will be better for it. Have a thick skin and realize that you are not a unique snowflake. Your book still needs to adhere to rules of grammar and punctuation. Take the criticisms and use them as the sandpaper and polish to make your story sparkle. I actually love the editing process. I love seeing all the red marks and knowing that I get to dive back into the story and make it even better. It means it’s fixable and I’m taking my work to the next level. Be prepared to do this. Have your cry, stuff some chocolate in your face, then roll up your sleeves and learn to love track changes.
Those are the biggest portions of my personal process when it comes to writing. Every writer has their own methods and each of my stories varies on how I do the actual writing and how quickly. The above are consistent for each book of mine, however. If I miss out on even one, the whole thing falls apart. It wasn’t a process I developed overnight, but now that I have it, I wonder how I ever lived without it. I am a better writer for these things and I hope sharing what I do helps others in their own pursuits.