When I was 9 years old, I had an idea. A sci-fi story came into my head. It wasn’t long before I sat down with notebook, pen, and markers and started writing. Soon I had Wildfire — 50 illustrated pages of sci-fi adventure.
When I was 13 years old, inspired by Tron, Back to the Future, and enjoying access to my first computer (an Apple IIe, FYI), I typed out a 36 page, single-spaced sci-fi story. The Secret Computer World hero was definitely me — and involved people from my life at the time, too.
When I was 17 years old, I was in a high school creative writing class. Disregarding the teacher’s formulaic “write what you know” suggestion — I wrote out a technothriller short story (I may have been reading a lot of Tom Clancy at the time). I shit you not — I got a ribbon and certificate during a school award ceremony for Secrets Revealed.
In college, I worked on — but never completed — a fantasy story. Fall of the Emperor will most like NEVER see the light of day (at least, not as originally conceived).
While bored at work one afternoon in 1998, a fantasy scene came into my head. I wrote it out. Soon, it was followed by another, and another — and Seeker of the Source was born.
Eventually, I had this novel edited. This would be the first time I revised a story. A lot. From this edit was borne the series name The Source Chronicles — and Seeker of the Source was renamed .
Though I wrote in fits and spurts for the next decade or so, this pattern became ingrained. Create — revise — repeat is incredibly empowering.
Revision is the second step for a reason
I can tell you that one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to revise your work.
Particularly when you remove something that felt right at the time. Like the scene that inspired the rest of the work.
The opening scene I wrote for Seeker in 1998 — which led to the rest of the novel, then the rest of the series — is no longer in the book. Part of it appears in flashback — but the scene, as written, is gone.
This also applies to the original chapter 2. Granted, the first version of chapter 2 had to be revised because the character it introduced changed. But then, after editing, the whole chapter was completely removed.
Seeker now opens at what was originally chapter 3. And it introduces two main characters in a much stronger, more engaging way.
For some people, the idea of revising their work is anathema. All the effort you give it — and then, what, you redo it? What was the point?
Of course, to write well, revision is necessary. At the very least, editing fixes typos, grammatical issues, and can find and alter poor contextual matters.
However — revision should be a second step. I know some writers will, as they are working on a project, go back and start revising before finishing. But then they wind up in this loop — and can’t finish what they started.
There are times you need to revise before completion. The original chapter 2 of Seeker needed to be revised because the character — as he was introduced — was not what he becomes about halfway through the book. I had to make him fit a different mold from the original I used.
Revision should generally not be undertaken until the initial writing is complete.
Repetition is the process
For me, writing is not just my vocation — but a source of joy. That’s why I write blog articles 6 days a week, as well as put energy into writing sci-fi and fantasy books.
For the longest time, my fiction writing process was this: Sit and write. By the seat of my pants. Keep writing until the story reached its conclusion. Edit and revise. Do it again (repeat).
Recently, I’ve taken a more planned approach. Now, my fiction writing process is becoming this: Sit and write out the overarching details and plot. Outline the chapters for the books. Write the chapters and books. Revise each book as complete. Repeat — write the next book.
Using this process, I will be publishing 6 total books in 2021. Two are already available (Unexpected Witness — Forgotten Fodder book one and The Void Incursion Book Three — Strategic Crush). The other 4 (three more Forgotten Fodder books and another Void Incursion novel) are complete. Of those, 3 of 4 are unedited.
Having completed the first four books of Forgotten Fodder — which is a singular story arc — I have begun plotting the next adventures of these characters. I’ve laid out a new arc and am outlining chapters. I expect it will produce 3–4 more books. Then, I have another series arc for these characters I’m considering.
Additionally, I’m plotting the arc of a new series tentatively called The Savagespace Saga.
That’s another part of the repeat process.
In 2022, I intend to publish the last Void Incursion novel, Check and Mate, and the third Source Chronicles novel, Harbinger. Likely, the next Forgotten Fodder arc and the Savagespace novels will join them.
This is the repeat element of the process. But that doesn’t mean it’s not new and unique.
Create — Revise — Repeat
For most artists, this is our process. Create — revise — repeat. While some arts make revision challenging (you can’t uncut wood or un-chisel stone) this is still the process.
Create the art. Revise as necessary. Repeat by creating more art.
Writing is easier to revise in that words can be altered, changed, replaced, or removed with relative ease. But when you “kill your darlings” (which means revising by eliminating characters, storylines, subplots, and so forth) it can feel like either a betrayal or unwanted change. Yet sometimes that change is the difference between a good story and a great story.
Create — revise — repeat. As a professional creative that’s the process of your life. Yet it’s not tedious and joyless. This process and all its elements are what drive creativity. I know that they make me feel content and accomplished.
Whatever it is I work on — write — revise — repeat — is kind of a mantra. When I have days where writing starts out feeling like a chore — and I have such days (and so do most artists, far as I can tell) — keeping this process in mind helps me continue. Making create-revise-repeat (or as a writer, specifying “write” in place of “create”) a mantra helps give the process more power — while empowering myself.
Create — Revise — Repeat. That’s not stifling or defeatist — it’s encouraging.
Do you have any mantras for your creativity?
Originally published at https://www.mjblehart.com on May 1, 2021.