Friday, May 23, 2008

Novel Writing: Kaizen

I'm taking a few posts to discuss novel writing. This is again a nuts and bolts week for my blog. I will focus on personal experience with an eye on the universal. This week I'm discussing my methodology of writing. I came across a Japanese efficiency method called Kaizen that calls for gradual incremental changes. The heart of this philosophy is that every area of life can be improved. This philosophy absolutely mirrors how I write books. The Kaizen philosophy embraces five foundational elements: team work, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circle, suggestions for improvement. I find these elements are essential to writing a book.

First team work, this is the reason why building writing clips is so necessary to your writing life. You need the experience of working on a team, even if it's just you and your editor. Writing a book is not something I want to do in an ivory tower which I descend from every 10 years with one of the great masterpieces of the world. My mojo is born out of teamwork. A vibrant team environment is the star nursery of greatness.

The next element is personal discipline. You must write every day. I have found that I can lean on the experience of discipline in other areas of my life to help me become a more disciplined writer. I especially like to think about the mountains of laundry I have folded, the large concrete floors I have busted out, the many chemical reactions I have balanced, and the thousands of diapers I've dealt with -- obviously the spark for personal discipline can come from many places. Without building on a project in a daily incremental way the piece will lack focus and cohesion.

Another element is improved morale. You've got to have a positive attitude to write books. Listen, I'm cup half empty sort of person, so I find this a personal challenge. Thankfully, over time, I have learned how to keep myself up at least part of the time. I take time to celebrate every success. When I write a query, I give myself props. If I write a page, I then take time to experience the pleasure of having added to my project. If no big stuff is on the horizon, I pick a little thing that I'm sure I can achieve and then go for it. I let myself laugh with glee and cry with joy when I achieve a new milestone: a started story, a completed story, a submitted story -- I take time to improve my morale.

Quality is a piece of the writing equation that I long avoided but now embrace. I've found many writers focus on the big picture but neglect the details. You must become a person with finesse when it comes to grammar and vocabulary. For me this has meant worksheet after worksheet of grammar related exercises. It means taking the time to go through each manuscript with a thesaurus and doing whatever I can to punch up the language. This is technical stuff, folks. Every word shades your meaning. Words must be chosen with great care. Grammar also shades your meaning. My best advice: invest in the quality of your writing.

The last piece of this: seeking suggestions for improvement or critique. I have found that to create top notch work you need to listen to the sensibility of your readers. Open yourself to the opinion of others. Listen to them and revise with their thoughts in mind. Expect to have more critique in the end than the length of the novel. Expect for each novel to go through two or more critiques. Try to keep a balance. Your intent should be twined together with the advice of your peers. There is excellence to be achieved by relating to the critiques of others.

I hope that you have found something useful here. Happy writing.

Constant dripping hallows out a stone. Lucretius

By request of Janet Lee Carey, I'm adding a little feature to my weekly blog.

I'm a lifelong doodler. So...

From the imagination of Molly Blaisdell: Doodle of the Week

©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permisison!


Vijaya said...

Thanks for that post, Molly ... I feel as though you wrote it for me. Love the doodles ...

Janet Lee Carey said...

Love this doodle, Molly

It reminds me of The Little Prince.