My writing process has remained essentially unchanged for many years. How I do what I do has proven reasonably successful. But when does habit become rut?
I've recently attempted to change my process to see if I can improve the process.
I rarely outline my stories prior to writing, and even then my outlines are nothing more than a sentence or two. So, I studied the "Save the Cat!" beat sheet, which is a general outline for successful movies, to see if it could be used to outline short stories.
Though many of the "beats" in "Save the Cat!" match the beats I use instinctively when writing fiction, there are additional beats I can add to flesh out stories. After a few false starts, I've successfully outlined three short stories using every beat in "Save the Cat!"
I have not yet written any of the stories I outlined this way, but it's clear this method can produce valid plots. And, though I have yet to write these specific stories, I have a greater appreciation for and understanding of my own method of plotting.
I have also reached the point where I'm starting to worry about carpal tunnel syndrome, among other things, and desire a less manual method of putting words on paper.
After I had my quadruple bypass surgery in 2008, when I couldn't sit upright for long stretches of time, I purchased dictation software for my computer. I attempted to write stories with it, but found the process cumbersome and frustrating.
Shortly before Christmas I purchased a new computer and installed new dictation software. Two of the four stories I've submitted this year were dictated, one successfully and one not.
The first draft of the first story I dictated was a garbled mess. Though the software usually correctly interpreted what I said--a vast improvement over the software I used in 2008--I attempted to dictate the same way I write.
My process is sometimes chaotic. I may write the first scene and then follow with part of the third scene, jump back to make notes for the second scene, and then write a rough draft of the last scene, jumping back and forth until I've created a full draft. This did not work while dictating and I found scenes out of order and parts of scenes stuck in the middle of other scenes.
The first story required extensive editing prior to submission, and I found myself rewriting entire sections. In short, dictating added work rather than saved it.
On the other hand, my second dictated story was successful. I thought more about the story before I began dictating, I had a better grasp of the plot and the characters in my head before I began, and I was able to dictate each scene in order so that I had little editing or rewriting to do after I had a complete draft.
I suspect studying "Save the Cat!" helped with dictating my second story because I was thinking more about plot prior to dictating than I usually do before I sit down to write.
I doubt I will use "Save the Cat!" to plot all of my stories, and I doubt I will dictate all of my stories from this point forward, but I do know I've added new tools to my writer tool chest and, perhaps, will be a little more productive in the future.