I'm planning to participate in Fully Booked's Graphic/Fiction Contest and this is a peek at my writing process.
Here's one writing paradox that's true for me: when I'm on the keyboard, I have difficulty writing. When it's time for me to not write (i.e. heading for work, away from the computer, taking a bath), I'm itching to write. It's like playing a cat and mouse game with your muse and the latter only turns up when you're not looking.
Anyway, what I want to talk about is non-writing time. Last night I was so engrossed writing my short story that I did not notice that two hours had passed. I would have gone on had I not hit a "wall"--that is, there's something in the story that I don't know how to continue. Sometimes, it's not a big issue and in this case, nothing research can't solve. Sometimes, it is a big dilemma and you end up trashing your short fiction and working on a new story entirely.
I consider research to be non-writing time that's essential to writing. You gotta do it and you have to take it into account. That's more of a conscious effort though.
There are times when you just got to leave your story alone and let the ideas fester. Your subconscious is working on it and elements will pop out later. For example, yesterday, as I was leaving for the office, new elements started to creep up that made me want to return to the keyboard. But I didn't and I continued walking to work. The more I walked, the more ideas popped up. By the time I reached the office, my short story had the potential to be something bigger and grander in scope. So relaxation time I think is another non-writing time that's essential to writing. Sometimes, you have to strangle your muse to get something out (which was the case when I was initially formulating what to write about). Sometimes, you have to give it time to develop (that's why don't cram your story!).
As pumped up as I am about my story however, when it comes to actually writing it down, what appears on the page is different. I think this is the real challenge--and what makes writers who they are. Everyone has this idea or story in their head. Actualizing that idea or story is what makes writing a profession or an art. Which is to say that while I'm excited about my story when I'm not writing it, when I'm actually writing it down, there's always the fear that it's not good enough. Let's not even start about waiting for the acceptance/rejection slip.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Right now I'm at 1,000 words and by my estimate, 1/4th of the way to the finish line (yes, I know, that's what I said yesterday when I was at 600 words... stories change!). Before one can talk about what's a good story and what's a bad one, it's not a story until it's finished (unless you're Kafka).