Once again my friend Rocki St. Claire has joined us on the Playground, and as always she has something great to say. It's supposed to be 68 degrees today, so let's enjoy the sunshine and have fun with Rocki!
DNA: Do Not Ask…About My Process.
Hello, Playfriends! Thank you for inviting me back to one of my favorite writer hangouts. Today, I am euphoric. I’ve finished a book, turned it in, and have spent the last 48 hours rediscovering the family I’ve ignored for a few weeks as I’ve lived under the weight of a deadline. Of course, I’m thinking about what matters most in my career…the next book. Not the story. Not the hero. Not the title. No, I’m thinking about how to make the whole painful, agonizing, brutal, miserable, yucky process of writing a book…easier.
Why is it that the two most beautiful words in an author’s arsenal of thousands are: The End?
Because writing a book is so dang hard. Maybe you’re like me – holding firm to the belief that there is an easier way and someone out there will be able to explain it. I always ask other writers about their process, I always listen to the answer, and I always pick up a tidbit that I try to use.
And I always fail to change my process. I think how we create a novel from idea to submission is stamped in our DNA. It’s like our looks, our personality, our shoe size. Just like I will never be a 5’10” willowy brunette with delicate bone structure, a ladylike laugh, and the ability to do calculus, I will never write “fastdraft” in two or three weeks. I will never know the nuances of my characters before I start writing, nor will I follow the plot in my synopsis, no matter how detailed. I am not able to open a new chapter until I am relatively happy with the one before; I would prefer a slow and painful death to writing scenes out of chronological order; and the idea of putting a timer on my desk and not getting out of the chair until the bell rings is just laughable. On the contrary, I need a bomb to go off to remind me to stop. Well, maybe not a bomb. A glass of wine in my husband’s outstretched hand usually works around dinner time.
But some aspects of my process are like those character traits that are not pressed into our gene code, but have some room for man-made improvement. Plotting, for example. I never do it the same way twice and I love to learn other techniques. Sometimes I use a plot board with sticky notes for every scene, other times I jot notes on a yellow pad, and other times I just barrel forward, blind and optimistic. Sometimes I know exactly what scene should come next and why, sometimes I just throw stuff on the keyboard until it sticks. (Messy, but so satisfying when you finally get it right.)
The amount I write in a day also varies, depending on the book and my mood. Sometimes I write a scene a day, no more, no less, sometimes I power through a chapter or more, then spend the next four days reworking those pages to death. Sometimes I get up early and write at 5:00 AM every single day, my imagination oddly fertile at that ungodly hour; other days you can’t blast me out of bed and I don’t write a decent word until late in the afternoon.
The easier books always start with characters that have rock solid GMCs. Of course, I try to set the conflict and motivation of each character in stone, but there are always those books that require a month of chiseling at that granite to discover the why these people are doing what they are doing and how that could blow up in their faces. Why is that? Could I improve that process next time? Sometimes I know my villain better than the hero…sometimes I don’t know who the bad guy is until he tries to kill the heroine in the climax of the book. (I don’t recommend that to anyone except my enemies, by the way.)
I’m sure this topic has been front and center on the Playground before, but inquiring guest minds want to know. What’s in your process DNA that can never change, and what do you find you do differently from one manuscript to another? One commenter wins a signed copy of my new release, FIRST YOU RUN, which Marilyn has, of course, pimped so exquisitely*…AND a brand new hot-off-the-Pocket-Books-press Advanced Reader Copy of the next book in the Bullet Catcher trilogy, THEN YOU HIDE.
Thanks for inviting me to play!
*My review of FIRST YOU RUN will be posted on the Writing Playground website in April.