Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

The Power of the Creative Voice

Trust the Process…

I have said that simple statement a lot over the years to other writers.

And for years at a time I had that simple saying over my computer.

Trust the process.

So simple, yet so hard to do at times.

Tonight, let me tell you about something that happened to me to illustrate that saying.

Point one… You all know I write into the dark. I have no idea where any book or story is going, never do any work ahead, just sit down and write and trust the process, trying to entertain myself as I go along. Anything else would be too boring for words and I would have stopped decades ago.

Point two… Most of you will know I also have no memory of my own work. (I can see all my friends nodding right now.) Kris is my memory often for my own work. When I am done with a story or novel, I never look at it again. I am moving onto my next book. Someone can say a title of one of my novels to me and I can’t even remember what series it was in, let alone what it was about. Drives Allyson at WMG nuts at times.

So at the moment I am working on a Seeders Universe novel. It’s flying off into the unknown as all my books go. All great. Tonight, as I neared the end of a chapter, I wrote a simple line that jumped off the page at me.

Until I wrote that line, I had forgotten about a toss-off detail in the previous Seeders Universe novel. I have no idea why I put it in that book and since I don’t rewrite, I just left it. Sort of a detail that went nowhere.

And if I let anyone touch my books, more than likely it would have been a detail that might have gotten taken out. Or if I was silly enough to be into polishing, I would have taken out that detail.

But my creative mind put it in and I trust the process. I let the detail that went nowhere just stay.

Now, solidly into the next book, that toss-off line in the previous book (that I had completely forgotten about and not given a second thought), sprang back to life and is suddenly a major plot turning point in this new book.

No way in hell am I smart enough to plan that out ahead of time. That’s my creative voice just sort of having fun behind the scenes as I sit and try to type fast enough to keep up.

I trusted the process, didn’t rewrite to kill the process, and now in the next book here comes something I would have never thought to use, but my creative voice sat it up a book earlier.

Makes me look really smart to readers reading the series one book after another.

I am not that smart. But my creative voice is.

And I have learned to trust it.


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  • Linda Jordan

    You made me laugh about the toss-off becoming a major plot point. I love it when that happens. That’s when writing becomes magic, the brain is an amazing place.

    I’m currently writing a cozy mystery, way out of my genre. I almost always write Fantasy & SF. But this idea’s been hitting for a couple of years. So, I decided to give it a try. For Nano. And yes, I’m cycling because I hate rewriting too. I’m willing to put in the extra hours now to make it clean.

    Anyway, I’m hoping that all these toss-offs I’m writing, that make little sense to me, will show up in later books in this series, or at least in discovering who the murderer is

    Thanks for talking about your process here. I wasn’t happy with mine and seeing yours gave me ideas about things to try and they’ve worked so much better for me. Writing is much more fun now, than all the outlining and rewriting that I was doing before. That was years ago, but it still makes me shudder.

  • James

    I can understand that “detail which becomes crucially important later” aspect, but I have a question. You have a couple of continuing series of short stories, such as Poker Boy, where keeping details of which powers they’ve developed and the current status of relationships, etc., is getting more and more complex. How do you keep track of those when you don’t reread your own stories?

    • dwsmith

      I need to do better. You have hit upon one of my biggest problems, same one I had when writing Trek back twenty years ago. With Poker Boy, I try to keep details on a yellow pad beside my computer as I write something. But I flat don’t do that at all with the other series and I need to. I have all the main character names now of the Seeders Universe because of another issue I’ll write about next week. But I suck at this. I suggest that writers keep track as they write. But I keep forgetting and just moving forward.

      • Harvey

        I most often write a “reverse outline” (learned from you) after I finish a story and keep it in the folder in a .txt document. Works great for chapters/ major scenes of novels, so I figured why not for short stories too.

      • Melissa Bitter

        My stories take place in a fantasy world, and to keep everything straight, I keep a word document formatted to help keep everything consistent, kind of like your yellow pad. Because it’s such a pain, but a critical pain, to keep everything tracked, I’ve toyed with the idea of one day hiring someone (like a research assistant) to help keep this reference document accurate and up to date.

        This way I could just write and someone else could un-sort it all. Have you ever thought of hiring anyone to do this for you? I would love to know the pros and cons you came up with.

        • dwsmith

          I like hiring people to help get my work out to readers. But if the person didn’t have to be in my office, sure, if I had the money and thought it was important, it would work. But they would just have to take my published books and just do it from the books, not from my notes. Those are mine and are pretty much unreadable by anyone else on the planet.

          A person at WMG Publishing put the 36 or 38 Poker Boy stories in order for me at one point. We are using that order to number them with new covers. So sure it would work.

  • Marsha Ward

    I didn’t understand (or really care, at the time), when a certain character was put in charge of a crew who had to do a particular job in a novel I published in 2012. When I was working on the next book with the same characters, which was set in an earlier time, it suddenly became clear why that man got that job later in the timeline. This is a reverse example of how the creative mind puts good stuff in, but it worked out just fine.