A while back, I made a blog post about a new method of writing I was trying out–that is, under-writing instead of over-writing. It’s long been my style to write a whole bunch, far in excess of what I need for a book, and then go back and chop, chop, chop until I have a smaller, streamlined story that isn’t full of extraneous bulk. Although I’m a person slow to change, I decided this past year to start trying to under-write, instead. By that I mean, not writing as much to complete the story–say, write the entire bare bones structure to around 50,000 words, and then while editing and revising, I add more and bulk it up, usually to around 70,000-80,000 words.
At the time I wrote the post I had only been doing this for a few months, and I wasn’t really sure if I would like it or if it would work for me. I needed a change of pace and I thought “why not?” I could always go back to my old method if things didn’t work out. Well, now that I’ve written two books in this manner, I’m happy to say it works and I enjoy it! That doesn’t mean I’ll never go back to my old ways, it’s just something that’s working for me right now. I’ve learned in my seasoned old writerhood not to be resistant to trying new things.
Here’s some of the reasons I’ve found I enjoy under-writing and then adding more to the story later:
- I end up with more product. I’m a pretty fast and prolific writer to begin with. As I stated above, I’ve already written two books this way. I can write a lot of stuff, rather quickly. By under-writing I end up with more ‘finished’ stories faster, and that leads me to the next plus:
- I enjoy editing and revising. I used to hate editing, back in the day, but now I’m a huge fan of it. I like revising, fixing, and shoring things up. Producing more stories quicker means I get to spend more time doing my favorite part of the writing process. I can write a bunch of books, and then I get to spend a lot of time working on making them whole and better. It’s a good way to keep switching gears in my creative brain, so they don’t get rusty.
- Ideas follow ideas. I’ve found once I have the whole story laid out before me, I can look at it from beginning to end and see where stronger emotional connections need to be made, where things need to be clarified, and where things need to be expanded upon. It’s easier to put in fine details and crank up the conflict when I have the complete structure to study at once. I discover ways to improve the story that wouldn’t have been clear while I was in the middle of writing it.
- I feel a lot more accomplished. Even though when you balance it all out I’m probably not writing any more than I was before, having a book done faster and ready for revision makes my brain think I’m doing more and accomplishing more, and as long as the ‘writer anxiety’ stays at bay, I don’t care if I’m only fooling myself.
This is just an update on how things work for me. Everyone has their own method of writing, and I’m not trying to sell anyone on this process because it may not work for you. Everyone has to write according to the way their own brain and creativity works. But I like trying new things, and I like finding different approaches and methods. Maybe it’s simply a breath of fresh air for me right now from the way I usually do things and that’s why it seems so shiny and fun. I guess I’ll update you again at some point and let you know if it’s still working.
Have you ever changed up any of your writing methods to try something new?