One of the greatest misconceptions about writing, specifically fiction, is that we writers sit in front of a computer keyboard or a typewriter or journal or a notepad and sweat. That we force these words onto the medium. That it's some sort of mechanical process beyond fingers or hands moving to form words.
While yes, ultimately the mechanics of writing can be boiled down to actually doing the deed, the process by which it goes for the writer is as unique and individually sculpted as that writer's style, word choice, or themes.
Writing is messy, but maybe not in the way it is personified in movies and television; the writer, blocked or frustrated, scribbling madly on a sheet of paper, crumbling it, tossing it aside, starting anew. No, not that kind of messy. The kind of messy that can distract you from a task. The kind of messy that makes you scribble notes or highlight passages in other works. The kind of messy that fills a folder on your computer's desktop with images that you find inspiring. The kind of messy that winds up giving you a playlist chock full of songs that evoke the emotions or themes flying around in your head.
My writing process is messy. Repetitive. But it's not tangible. Sometimes I get asked "how do you write a whole book?" The explanation itself is messy. I have to put them in my own mind so they can live for a moment with the images, sounds, scenes, colors, vistas, landscapes, and looping bits of dialogue. Being a creative is akin to dreaming while walking, but you're awake and cognizant and can semi-function outside your own head. As I get up in the morning, I'm reviewing a scene or a conversation between two or three characters in the work I'm currently writing. As I'm in the shower, names roll in a long list in my head as I try to name that new side character. As I try to fall asleep, entire scenes play in my mind, most will play and replay, loop in my head as consciousness leaves; each iteration is a re-iteration of what came before it, my mind's way of revising without ever having to write what I'm seeing down.
When I finally sit down to write what's been forming and reforming in my head, I have already picked a song or clip of a song to put on loop. It fits the scene's general emotion. I already know what the characters are doing, how they move, what they say. It's all blocked out before I ever write a word.
I'm not a reviser. I don't just ejaculate onto a page my un-hewn ideas. I seldom rewrite in an organic way. An example: The Cyneweard was written three times before what eventually got published made it to completion. The initial try got to the 60,000 word mark. I read it. It sucked. I put it away. I came back to it. Still hated it. Started over, got to 40,000 words. Things worked better but they weren't there. I put it away. I thought. I waited. I started again. 20,000 words in, I gave up. My lead character was unlikable in a way that made him annoying to write, not in the original "you shouldn't like this guy" style I was going for. He was just a prick for the sake of being one. Names were nailed down. The world was nailed down. Personalities didn't fit. I had to start over again.
After 120,000 words of "draft" material and about a six month hiatus that saw me create a Dungeons and Dragons module for The Whistlands world I had created, I started again. Things clicked. Characters felt like they should. 90,000 words later, I had my first ever non-Fan Fiction novel complete and out there.
It's not wonderful. I am my own worst critic. The pacing is jarring. There's no real diversity of types. My lead character is somehow likable and root-for-able even though I wrote him as I would have a serial killer (which is essentially what he is). But it was complete. It introduced the real world to my fake one. And I feel it's set me up for a much better opportunity to tell an engaging story in this world.
I just hope Whistlend can break through that line The Cyneweard only tip-toed on: a read enjoyed by many instead of the few.
Time shall tell.