Monday, March 13, 2006
What's Your Process?
At the end of last week, I read an article in Inklings by Shelley Bradley reporting on a presentation given by author Candace Havens about her process. In a nutshell, she speeds through her first draft, getting it on paper as quickly as possible, ignoring everything else during this period of time. A few weeks later, she does the same with her editing. This article made a big impression on me because in some ways it is similar to the process I think I have.
I say "think" because I haven't actually written a book according to my supposed process, but there have been several clues as to what it is. I've always been the type to plan in advance, but end up working on whatever has the nearest deadline. Since I'm not published and don't have an editor to keep me on my toes, my books don't have a specific deadline. Thus they get moved to the bottom of the writing priority pile more often than not. This is always justified by the thought that I'm still writing, just not on my book. An article here, a short story there. Polishing up that synopsis for a contest entry. It's still writing, right?
In the middle of my last book, I went away for the weekend. This trip to a B&B was a gift from my husband for Mother's Day. Lovely man!!! Did I plan to relax while I was gone? Sure. But I chose to make that weekend a time to focus on my book. I wanted to jumpstart it and use that precious uninterrupted time to get as much done as possible (in between baths in the old-fashioned tub and naps). And I did. After a few rough starts, I managed to focus really well. That was my most prolific time ever-50 pages in 2 days.
When I came home, I continued to work on that book until the end. Amazingly enough, it was easy. I stayed immersed in the characters, allowing their reactions and interactions to come more naturally (or so it seemed to me). I finished very quickly, with less angst than I usually run into when I'm starting and stopping. This was a revelation to me. If I didn't have to spend time getting back into my characters' heads and refreshing my memory on where the story has been and is going, then the writing is much quicker. I'm not a fast writer by any means, so speeding it up is a good thing. Plus, when I do finally get a contract, I'll know better how long it actually takes me to write a book from start to finish.
This was my first inkling as to what my process is. And I knew that from two things 1. the positive impact it had on my writing and 2. it fit in with what I already knew about myself as a person and as a writer. My idea for my next book is to get any outstanding commitments out of the way, then block out a period of time to just work on this book. I'm not talking about holing up in the mountains for weeks on end. Real writers have lives. But I'm planning to use any and all writing time to focus on this project. And letting some things slide in the short term (like housework and extra commitments-especially ones that I dislike anyway). :)
Then I can edit to my heart's content. See, I'm one of those people who love to edit. Getting the initial draft on paper is like walking through sand for me. Hard and tiring. I have to force myself through it, which means I don't particularly like it. So why not get it over with?!?! Then I can focus on the good part.
This was one of those AHA moments that writers love, similar to the first inkling I had of what my voice really sounded like. A moment that comes not from what another has told you, but a self-revelation. It feels really good-and right. Deep down within.
So what kind of process do you have? Are you a plotter (like me?) or a panster (like all the other playfriends?)? Are you a mixture of both? Do you love to do the first draft or just get it down so you can move on to the good stuff? What is one thing that makes your process unusual?
I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.