Rediscovering Creativity in Your Writing

Jan 29, 2013

If you've read this blog much, you know I'm a BIG fan of structure as part of stories. I honestly believe that having the right kind of structure can help you tell the story you want, whether you plan it or pants it. Either way, that first draft is going to need some revisions. I go through specific drafts as I revise-- one might focus on character arcs and relationships, another on macro plot revisions (cutting/adding/restructuring), another on enlivening the setting, etc.

I love it. I'm one of those crazy people who relishes doing an autopsy of my own work so I can find out what killed it. The fun thing is that I'm god of my world, so once I know what's wrong, I get to figure out how to bring it back to life.

Here's the thing about revisions. They require a more left-brained part of me than came out in the first draft. The deeper I get into revisions, the more nit-picky and analytic I get as I get down to the details. The creative part that paired up with the analytic part earlier in revisions gets a little forgotten.

This is how I felt during that fun revision. (source)
This time around, I did something new and fun. After some brainstorming with my agent, that creativity sparked back to life. So I did another round of revisions, focused on playing again. I had spontaneous ideas that made me giggle. I let my character loose so she could think and say what she wanted again. I let myself think of crazy things that would never work, but that led to less-crazy things that would. You know what was amazing about it? I got excited. I rediscovered how much I loved this story. I had fun with it again.

And the story is all the better for it. Bringing creativity in after all the structure and analyzing added back the excitement of the first draft. Hopefully for the reader, too, and not just for me.

So, my friends, how does your right brain work with your left brain? Does one lose out to the other at certain points? Do you ever do anything to bring back the fun and creativity? Or are you just a bucket full of creative enlightenment at all times?

And if you haven't heard, the awesome David Powers King announced a publishing contract for his co-written book, Woven! I've been looking forward to reading this one. Congrats to DPK and Michael Jensen!

32 comments:

ilima said...

I LOVE that idea of revising with "playing" in mind. Sometimes I feel like I've revised my book to death...that is so smart to bring back the personality and spark. I'm gonna steal your idea. :)

J. A. Bennett said...

Maybe it's the stubborn left brain that makes revisions so hard for me. Seriously, I wish I was more like you. I tend to always want to start something new. But I will focus when the time is right!

J.L. Campbell said...

Sounds like you had a whale of a time all right. Haven't ever tried that before - going to the creative/fun part after I'm into revisions.

Romance Book Haven said...

Hi Shallee!

Great post. Sounds like a great idea. And good for readers too.

Nas

nutschell said...

I'm all about structure when I'm plotting/outlining/revising/editing my stories. But when it comes to actual writing, I leave room for my muse to work her magic. :D


Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

MKHutchins said...

First drafts actually tend to stress me out and make me overly-analytical of all my story choices. I feel like I'm laying a foundation, and it all has to be right. Revisions are my favorite -- no blank pages; I can just play with what's already there and turn my muck of a first draft into something I'm happy with. :)

Beth said...

OMG! I hate revisions. They've gotten better w/ experience though. Congrats to David.

Linda Jackson said...

Love this post, but I especially love: "I'm one of those crazy people who relishes doing an autopsy of my own work so I can find out what killed it." Brilliant.

Tara Tyler said...

great insight into tackling revisions & loosening up for creativity! resusitating that wip!

i usually start out with organization and have to add creativity and conflict to juice it up!

DL Hammons said...

My revision process utilizes my left brain as well. And although I can switch back and forth at will, I'm better off staying in one mode during a revision session. I just make up my mind ahead of time how I'm going to approach it that day! :)

Madeline Jane said...

I totally know what you mean! Right now I'm reading through a really detailed outline, and I need to remind myself to be creative before it turns into a 70k monster. Thanks for the reminder! And I really wish I had a ball pit in my room. Maybe even a trampoline. . . ;)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I am very much like you, Shallee. I know some writers think predominantly with either their left or right side of the brain. I couldn't imagine not being able to use both sides. I love being creative, but I'm also analytical when it comes to edits.

Cherie Reich said...

That's a good idea to let the right brain side out to play while revising. I do find that both sides work together a lot, though. For example, the left side might know something needs to be fixed, and the right side creatively fixes it. :)

Tanya Reimer said...

Yeah, my revisions are several reads that do focus on very specific things. But, I always allow myself the freedom to play with every read. This is a great post. It reminds us of the importance of both the creative expression and the professionalism.

Miranda Hardy said...

That sounds like a great way to approach revisions. I need to do that! I'm very analytical too.

Deborah Walker said...

I don't know much about structure. Or I might do, and it's internalised. I'm talking short stories here. I suspect that novels are very different.

But last year I did some work on short story structure, looking at what makes a story work. I call it story bones. It was very helpful, but alas unfinished. I should get back to that one day.

Christine Rains said...

A great post! You're lucky that you enjoy the revision process so much. I drag when I hit that point. I get such delight writing a first draft, though.

Hart Johnson said...

Ohy, I have to get out of my way for the right brain stuff. The left comes naturally. I am a researcher by day and my original story seeds are usually the character arc (my education is in Psych). I love when I can mix creative connections in, though. Though I can't edit and write in the same span of time. It takes a few days to transition.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

During first drafts, I like to let my right brain sleep a little. My right brain has a tendency to be overly harsh and critical. But I pull it back out during revisions because it's handy there.

Daisy Carter said...

What an excellent idea, to play after all the structured editing and revising! I'm on a new round of revisions with my agent - sounds like I need to let my characters out to play again. Thanks! You always have such great advice!

Meredith said...

I absolutely love this idea! Next time I'm revising, I'll definitely be doing a more creative round. Thanks so much for the advice!

shelly said...

Since I'm a panster for the most part, I have a tendency to let my imagination lead the way when I'm writing. Although, I do find myself saying this couldn't possibly be while my character says of course it can.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

akossiwaketoglo.com said...

Once revision shows up creativity goes on vacation in my case. I do hope to be able to keep both of them handy in the future when I'm revising.

Leigh Covington said...

Seriously, could you be any more brilliant? I love reading your blog!

I usually can only use one side of my brain at a time. The left side is great and I love analyzing and revising, but I also love to step away from that and allow the right side to come into action again, because... like you said... you fall in love with your story all over again. :)

Charlie Holmberg said...

"I'm one of those crazy people who relishes doing an autopsy of my own work so I can find out what killed it."

Love this. :)

I'd probably say my creative side drafts and then is almost completely overwhelmed by my logical side during revisions, which might not be a great thing...

Medeia Sharif said...

When I use spreadsheets and take out the highlighters and ruler--I use that for printouts to see if I read every comment or mark made by a beta reader--it does seem like another part of my brain is being activated, rather than the other side of me that gets into the spirit of drafting when I lose myself in the writing.

Monica B.W. said...

OMG--that pic is just so cute! I'd love to always feel that way while revising. I'm glad your revisions turned out fine and I can't wait to read that deal on PM! :)

Jessie Oliveros said...

All these posts on structure are convincing me I need to structure my MS better. I do believe that with each revision I get more and more excited about how much better I can make it. I also get more and more tired of it:P

Vanessa Morgan said...

I love that you say you're the god of your world, that once you know what's wrong, you know how to fix it. We can all learn a lot from that phrase alone :)

The Golden Eagle said...

My right brain tends to dominate--though the left will intervene at strange times, which can lead to an uneven mess.

Anthony Dutson said...

Nicely put! Playing with the revision can bring out more of the unexpected. And we all know how we HATE to be predictable. ;)

nutschell said...

What a great strategy for revising! Maybe I'll try that with my own WIP. Thanks!

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

 
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