It’s week 11 in the MFRWauthor bloghop challenge, and our prompt this week is to discuss our writing processes. An interesting challenge for me since I’ve written 10 how-to books about writing, all of which talk about my writing process. Obviously, the challenge part here is not the talking about my writing process, but to be succinct enough to talk about it in the space of a blog post.
Writers are generally pretty curious about other writers’ processes. We like to see how the other guy works, to compare what we do with what they do, to pick up pointers on how we might be able to do it better. Non-writers are curious for other reasons, mostly having to with figuring out how writers “magically” turn a thought into a book.
I wish I could say it is, indeed, magic, but as any writer knows, writing takes a lot of hard work. There’s no right way and no wrong way to go about it. The only requirement is that the writer actually get words out of their heads and onto paper (or the computer screen, but paper just sounds more dramatic to me.) So my process? Honestly, it varies by the book. what worked for me 20 years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. What worked for the last book I wrote might not work for the one I’m writing now.
Generally speaking, though, my process is kind of fluid. I plan a little, write a little, plan a little more, write a little more, and so on until I get to the end. Most of the time, I “interview” my main characters before I begin writing so I can learn things about them. I like asking deep, probing questions about their emotional baggage and their current emotional state. What they look like and where they live is way down on my list of priorities.
I don’t always interview characters, however. Sometimes it works better to just let them evolve organically, and other times I don’t start asking them questions until I’m already deep into the book and hit a stumbling block.
I also plot in advance–kind of. When I’m writing on proposal (submitting the germ of an idea and perhaps 1-3 chapters of a book along with a synopsis detailing how the book will play out) it’s necessary to have a general idea of where the characters are going. Editors like details about motivation and conflict, and some idea about how you plan to resolve those conflicts by the end of the book.
But again, exactly how I do it, and how much I plan in advance varies by the book. Some books I have plottted from beginning to end before I wrote a single word. Some I’ve plotted in bits and pieces as I wrote, ad some I’ve “plotted” at the end, just to make sure I’ve pulled all the different story threads through effectively.
In the early days of my career, I wrote 7 days a week, holidays included. I was driven and…well, some might say “obsessed.” I prefer the term “obsession-adjacent.” Then life happened, and things changed and I reached a stage of critical burnout. I realized I couldn’t continue to main that writing pace and my sanity at the same time, so now I write 5 days a week, Monday through Friday.
I write best in the mornings, but can write in the afternoons pretty well. Evenings are difficult for me. My brain is ready to be done by the time 5:00 rolls around. I either write the whole first draft and then go back to revise, or I revise in waves as the book progresses, depending on the book. But I do revise. A lot. I revise to a point on the computer, then prefer to print the manuscript and work on hard copy. I need that tactile feel of pen and paper.
That’s it in a nutshell. I’ll be interested to learn how others work their magic.
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