Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stages of Writing

I've been told repeatedly that I don't talk enough about my writing process on the blog. "But everyone wants to know how you do what you do," everyone says. Part of the reason I don't talk about it is because my process is rather messy. Sorta like whirlwind cleaning before company comes over, I like to pretend that my books pop out of my head beautifully formed and perfect without effort.

That is a lie.

So, because I'm procrastinating (yes, chapter seven is looming in front of me) I'm going to share the steps to my writing process.

First, I come up with an idea. Usually, said idea sucks. Big time. So I gather friends, champagne, wine coolers and if I'm desperate a hot tub. Voila, bad idea becomes wonderful idea. It's amazing how rosy the outlook can become after imbibing alcohol. The next day I look at my notes and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

So I go back to the drawing board and discover there's a spark of genius hidden in the notes that I've taken. I massage it, fan it, work on conflict, motivation, characterization until I have something vaguely resembling a plot. I'm excited with my book at this point. There are so many possibilities. I plunge into the first three chapters so charged to get this project started and off to my editor. I'm hoping she recognizes the genius that I am.

And then I remember I must write a synopsis. It's at this stage that I realize I have neglected that little thing called plot while I was playing with my people. So I dash off something that takes the conflict I've created and turns it on it's head. I will routinely gloss over chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 with 2 to 4 sentences that are brilliantly written but say absolutely nothing. I concentrate on the beginning - because I've already written it - and the end because I know how the conflict must be resolved.

Feeling like I've hand wrestled a bear with nothing more than a safety pin - and won - I head back to my chapters. And realize that I've glossed over 4, 5, 6 and 7 and have no idea what happens next. I take a bath hoping the steam will loosen something in my brain. It usually doesn't. I phone a friend. During our conversations I remember the conflict I created in the first place and together we come up with brilliant and imaginative ways to torture my characters using that conflict. I finally write 4, 5, 6 and 7.

And after 7 - which is my personal nemesis, kryptonite and Achilles heel all wrapped in one - I give a sigh of relief. And realize I still have 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and probably 15, 16 and an epilogue to write. Thank God I usually know how the story ends.

So I write The End and then start over at the beginning. I reread what I've written - cringe a little, realize I'm not entirely a hack and layer in some of the details I've missed the first go round. I send it to some friends for their input. Only after they've confirmed that I'm not a moron for thinking this is good enough to send to my editor, I email said manuscript to wonderful editor (who will help me make the book perfect because she is a saint and should be cannonized at the first opportunity. However, revisions is an entirely different blog).

And that's my process. If you're a writer, does your process resemble mine at all? Please? Don't let me hang out here on the crazy branch by myself. If you're a reader, do you enjoy hearing about process? Do you like to learn the details that go in to bleeding across the page?



Angel said...

Though my process doesn't exactly mirror yours, the emotions certainly do. :) I also usually have at least 1 big stall in there where I try to convince myself I'm not totally crazy for thinking my writing is halfway decent.


Smarty Pants said...

My process...

1. Come up with idea.
2. Talk it out with friends and realize I have characters but not plot, conflict or forced proximity.
3. Revise idea and write synopsis.
4. Write first half of book.
5. Decide I'm a hack and this book sucks. Drink.
6. Write second half of book.
7. Look at synopsis to see if its even close.
8. Rewrite synopsis.
9. Send it out to people and pray.
10. Make edits and mail.

Playground Monitor said...



Problem Child said...

You mean I have to have a plot.

Damn. ~looks evilly at WIP~

And we know how I feel about chaper seven.

robertsonreads said...

Well to me this all sounds awesome. Of course, I am not a writer just someone who enjoys your books and reading, reading & more reading.

Thank you ladies.

Christine said...

Your process sounds a lot like mine. I used to bemoan my willy nilly style, but it works for me. I just can't be a technically proficient first draft yummy writer.

But I can massage the heck out of a story till it rolls out smooth.

Thanks for sharing. I still use you Q&D synopsis cheat sheet for mine.