I recently read a book on legal writing- Garner on Language and Writing by Bryan A. Garner. Why I was reading it is a whole other story, which I won't get into here. What I learned is that even a topic as dry as legal writing can be made not only readable, but just plain fascinating if it's well written. I would recommend this book to anyone wishing to improve their writing skills. It's true, I skipped over probably half the book- the strictly legal half. But at least 500 pages of this huge book on legal writing, I was able to apply to noveling.
A concept Garner introduced me to that I particularly loved was the Flowers Paradigm. Betty S. Flowers came up with a way to describe the writing process that really got me excited about the writing process. Each step (pre-writing, outline, rough draft, edit) has a distinct personality. Each personality has a job. And no personality should interfere with any of the other personality's job. Just remember: madman (pre-writing)- architect (outline)- carpenter (rough draft)- judge (edit).
The madman's job is the most fun, but also the most difficult in my case. He comes up with a flurry of ideas. He just spits them out, not worrying about rhyme, reason, continuity, connectivity or flow. He is every errant thought you have throughout the day, written down so they don't get lost.
The architect, I can identify with a little more. He picks through the madman's ramblings. He identifies the ideas that can go together to create a piece of work that will stand strong. He tosses out anything that doesn't fit or will make the end product weak. Then he messes with the structure of everything until he gets the blueprints just right. Then he sends it out to the carpenter.
The carpenter is my strongest writing personality. Unfortunately, my carpenter has been trying for years to do the work of the madman and the architect as well. My poor carpenter has been overworked and under appreciated. His job- and his only job- is to take the architect's blueprints, and build. He fleshes out the outline into an actual story. Not a polished, beautiful, ready-for-the-grand-opening story, but fairly complete and ready for close scrutiny.
The judge is also a strong character for me. So strong that I've had to bind and gag him at times so the carpenter could get his work done. The judge reviews the work, finds the mistakes, the holes, the flaws, the weaknesses and figures out how to fix them. The judge would like to think he's the most important part of the process, but if he tries to get involved too soon, he could ruin the entire project.
So now you know the Flower's Paradigm. I'm going to make a conscious effort to distinctly separate my writing stages. Doing this with my blog posts will give me practice for the bigger projects- school papers, and bigger still- my novels. Wish me luck.