Recently, we had a conversation on one of my author loops on applying Six Sigma/Lean Manufacturing techniques to writing. Apparently some guru will soon be teaching a class on using Kanban boards to increase author efficiency.
One of the Six Sigma terms I remember from my training back when I worked in the manufacturing sector was “hidden factories”—process steps that take time and resources but don’t add value as defined by the customer. For example, let’s say you have a coffee shop that puts a little paper doily on each saucer before placing the baked good on the plate. If the customer (not the waiter, not the baker, not the store owner) doesn’t perceive that doily as adding value to his bearclaw, that step is a hidden factory.
So how would the concept of hidden factories apply to writing? I’m just riffing but here are some things that authors put a lot of time into that don’t necessarily improve the quality of the book from the readers’ perspective:
- In depth research into careers/jobs held by characters.
This is definitely one of the reasons why it takes me so long to write a book. In The Demon’s in the Details, the protagonist was a painter. Since I’m not even a tiny bit artistic, or even crafty, I had no clue how artists view the world. She was, specifically, a muralist, and I didn’t know how artists go about painting murals. Continue reading
Writers love to talk about writing processes. We’re pantsers, or plotters, or ultra-plotters. We follow the hero’s journey, or Lisa Cron’s story genius method, or the snowflake method (no, seriously!), or one of a thousand either guru-inspired approaches. We write chronologically. Or out of order. Or by writing all the turning points first and filling in the interstitial spaces after that. We swear by writing every day, or binge-write a few times a week or a month.
By the time we’ve spent a few years on this journey and gotten a few completed stories under our belts, most of us have discovered our own process, our unique mix story theory and project organization and time management that ultimately results in a book. And once we understand our own approach, we learn to rely on it to get us through the next story deadline, and the one after that, and…you get the idea. And that can be a wonderful thing. It’s a well-worn path that becomes a shortcut to our creativity. An annotated roadmap to get us from nascent idea rattling around inside our bizarre writer brains to full-fledged story ready to go out into the world. A comforting guide to get us through the rough spots.
Until it stops working.
While every book requires tweaks and adjustments to our approach, every now and then there’s a book that so special (yes, that’s a euphemism for PITA) that we have to throw our trusty process right out the window. And so that’s where I find myself today, with the next installment in the Harrow’s Finest Five series, Harry and Adelia’s love story.
If this ever happens to you in your creative journey–and odds are, it will–it’s important to remember it’s normal, it’s surmountable, and it’s probably even good for you. After all, what good is creativity if it’s easy and stagnant and follows that same stupid rut-filled path every time, anyway? And in case you do ever hit that wall, I’ll tell you the same thing my wise writing friends have been telling me: Continue reading
This is the home of authors Stephen and Tabitha King in Bangor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
Now that we are in the month of NaNo, many of us are hunkered down,
grinding out a daily 1,667 words letting our imaginations take flight in a concentrated, one-month writing extravaganza.
You can maybe tell this is not my thing.
However, I am deeply attracted to the idea of a writers retreat, where people can go and maybe write or maybe just cogitate or brainstorm. I like the idea of getting away from daily life, a healthy disruption that removes us from our routines and can jar those neurons into bouncing in new directions.
So here’s a retreat I’d like to try: Continue reading
Last week I finished plotting out The Demon Wore Stilettos, the third book in my Touched by a Demon series. In case you haven’t been following my progress with bated breath, I set this book aside in January after discovering I’d written myself into a corner.
(Note: when you create characters who cannot lie, be very careful about the situations you put them in. Being unable to tell a convenient fib may work well in Heaven, but it’s a major handicap on this messed-up planet.)
So I set it aside and started work on Book 4, The Demon Goes Hungry, and then set that aside to finish up Girl’s Best Friend, my contemporary that had been sitting in a virtual drawer for a couple of years.
Last week, after sending Girl’s Best Friend off to my editor, I reread what I had done on The Demon Wore Stilettos (approximately 150 pages) and realized it wasn’t terrible. I backed up to the point where I was no longer walled into a cul-de-sac, rewrote a couple of scenes, and I was good to go.
Then I spent the rest of the week thinking. My goal was to lay out the rest of the book, ensuring the events fit together with causal links, and to make sure I had things in the right order. I went for long walks in the crisp autumn air, taking notes on my phone as I solved various issues or had ideas about things that needed to happen. It all went splendidly, with ideas exploding in my head like so many Guy Fawkes firecrackers.
My question is: why couldn’t I do this ten months ago? Continue reading
I had originally intended today’s post (which is late…note the procrastination topic above) to be about another copy editing challenge you can overcome (here’s my last one on apostrophes), but this article caught my eye:
Procrastination is an Emotional Problem
Wait, what? All my life, my mother has hammered into me that procrastination is a time-management problem, and this article is suggesting otherwise?
I dove in and started reading. Because procrastination isn’t just a problem for me. It’s a skill I’ve unwittingly mastered. And I blame my procrastination on everything from attention deficit disorder to my two kids (I know, unfair, right?) to just plain having too much to do.
But it turns out, based on research, that procrastination is tied to your emotions. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I finished the complete draft of my Victorian romance that will come out this fall. It’s a bit more than a first draft, having already been through first-round revisions along the way, but it was “the end for now,” and my coach asked me what I was doing to celebrate. Around the same time, I was answering a series of interview questions, and one of them was, “How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?”
I didn’t have an answer for either of them.
The truth is, I don’t celebrate the end of a stage of the creative process so much as mourn it. And curling up in a blanket on the sofa, rewatching episodes of Dead to Me and Santa Clarita Diet, staring at the pile of TBR books I’ve been so anxious to read but now don’t have the energy to tackle, probably isn’t the answer they want to hear.
Taking Comfort in Community
As it turns out, the post-creativity slump isn’t all that unusual. When interviewed for an article on the Fast Company website, film writer/director Jeffery Lando talked about having post-movie depression. He captured one of the elements of my own creative journey. Continue reading
I have attention deficit disorder. I’ve had it my entire life, and because of a heart condition, I can’t take medication for it. ADD makes staying focused one any one task for a long period of time very difficult (unless I’m really excited about the task — like reading a book from my favorite author).
In the past, I’ve tried setting goals in order for me to get my writing done. But word count goals didn’t work for me, especially when I was editing. Did I really write 1,000 words? No idea…too much cutting/pasting/adding. Plus, there were some days Continue reading