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What is your writing process?
Samantha Jane
Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2011 12:41 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 15

I'm fairly new to the "hoping to publish" game, but I feel that it's important to have several pieces of work at the ready, so I decided, after I finished a final first draft of my first novel, that I would work on 4 other stories simultaneously, b/c at that point, I didn't want #1 to be #1. Yeah, my head hurts.
Here's how it goes.
WiP #1 Maybe This Time. ten chapters are posted here. I am revising as I go, b/c my computer hates me, and it's easier to retype the whole thing. The critiques have helped immensely, helping me cut 10 more pages off!

WiP #2 The Long Way Home--The Regency England story inspired totally by Lady Gaga music is complete in the roughest of drafts. I've uploaded a couple of chapters, and will keep posting as I finsh. I've already gotten rid of pages and pages of bleh just revising from paper to computer.  (Oh, yeah, I usually start out with paper and pen then put everything on the computer)

WiP #3 Just Dance (working title) Inspired by music and dance. Twenty chapters are written. One chapter is currently posted on BC in its roughest form, NO rewrites at all.

WiP: #4 Calendar Girl (I HATE that title). Working on one specific chapter for each month, as to how the holidays in each relate to the storyline. There are scenes but nothing connecting them.

WiP #5 The second book in a series. It follows WiP #1. Scenes are written to music, some stuff is in the computer.

So, I've got a lot going on, and although I didn't describe my technique as well as I wanted to (I outline, but I don't follow it. I have arts and crafts night to collage for each character to get some images flowing. I don't do much general research before I start, I just vomit my mind and go back figure out what I need), I think you get the general idea. I like chaos. 

But what about you? What do you do?

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 8:25 PM
There’s certainly nothing wrong with working on several projects if that works for you, but I think you’ve missed something important as a concurrent activity. Nowhere in do mention adding to your current knowledge of craft through the acquisition of greater knowledge of the field. And to my way of thinking, that’s critical.

This is personal, and I mean no insult, but when someone tells me they would rather write something new than complete an existing project it’s usually because they're bored with the existing work, so editing felt more like work than continued creation.

You say, “Maybe This Time is your first novel. What odds would you give that the first time out, triggered by a story-idea and a desire to write, you made all the right presentation decisions? It's not impossible, but it doesn't happen often.

I looked at what you have posted. Everything else, aside, it appears that your presentation and the layout of the scenes is pretty much what’s expected in a first novel. As Mark Twain put it, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We all share a skill we call writing, so it makes sense that when we begin, we apply that skill to the profession called Writing. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things we “know for sure that just ain’t so.”

It’s odd. We all learn math but know we need more skills-training to be a professional Mathematician. The same goes for Chemist. We even realize our writing knowledge, alone, doesn’t make us playwrights, screenwriters, techwriters, or even journalists. But because storytelling is such a personal skill we believe that using our in-common writing skills to record the story as we would tell it is enough.

But is it? Certainly, when we read it back we can hear ourselves telling the story, so the reading calls forth the image of the scene that’s already in our head. And that makes the story live for us. And as we write we naturally include the asides and the backstory we use to set the scene when we tell a story in person. It’s how we’ve always done it.

But does that work for anyone but the author or a performer who has time to perfect the delivery? Can I, reading the words you would use, hear your voice as you do? Probably not.

Knowing nothing of the story, will I see the same scene and setting that comes to mind as you read? Will I intuitively know where you would tinge your voice with anger to demonstrate the protagonist’s mood, if I don’t know the character inside and out as you do? How could I? I won't know what's going to happen till I rinish reading the sentence and by then it's too late.

Can you, on paper, and with words alone, give me the things I would get from a performance by someone who already knows the story? Absolutely. You can give me all of it IF you know the tricks unique to writing for the page—the tricks we’re not taught in English class.

Each branch of the writing profession has its own body of craft, special knowledge, tricks-of-the-trade, and techniques that have been developed as tools over the years.

My point is simple: I may not use a given tool well, no matter how hard I try or how much I study. But, if I don’t know it exists or is needed, the finished product is going to lack what that tool can provide.

In other words, if all I own is a hammer, everything’s gonna get whacked.

So my suggestion: concurrent to your writing, check these two articles for size. They show how to get yourself off stage and explain what a scene


And, if they make sense, dig up a copy of, Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight Swain. It’s focused on the basics—the nuts and bolts of presentation. It’s the inspiration for both articles.
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Rant over. I feel much better now.

Sorry for the lecture, but the fact that no one, in all the years of our schooling, tells us they’re teaching us a non-fiction approach to writing—fact based and author-centric as against emotion-based and character-centric—drives me a little crazy because it condemns most who would write to wasting an enormous amount of time in practicing the wrong techniques untill they're nearly unbreakable habit.

Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011 7:38 AM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216

Well, I kinda like the title “Calendar Girl.” What’s wrong with it? ☺

My process is extremely boring and methodical. I write romance, so intrinsic to this process is discovering elements of interest to the niche demographic I’m targeting. So I put my marketing background to good use. E.g., the single most important thing that people care about in terms of public policy is protecting the environment. So, if I’m going to write about a character who works in politics, he or she will have a reputation as a “green” legislator. I also study the characteristics of my targeted readership: advanced education, career professional (white collar), urban dweller. So, my characters will always have these traits.

(Am I boring you yet? Okay, let me try a little harder.)

I start with an idea and find the theme of that idea. In “See Sabrina Run,” it’s “unconditional love.” Then I think about the motives that I intend to use throughout the book as metaphors: Sabrina’s townhouse (her heart); Gage’s hand-carved bed (love). Okay, now we’re cooking with gas …

I natter out a description of my characters. This is the “getting to know you” part of writing, and it’s largely for my own personal use; to make my character’s actions consistent, I have to really know who they are.

Then I write a 50-page, detailed outline of the novel. Next, I go over it and make sure that the crucial “turning points” of the book happen in correct sequence at or around the expected page number. The outline can a loooong time, because sometimes I reach an impasse -- or -- I have a couple of different directions in which to take the plot and have to decide.

I don’t write from start to finish; I write the “scenes” in the book as I feel them. Because I already have an outline in place, I know I’m not going to color outside of the lines. If I have writer’s block or don’t feel like working on the book that particular evening, I give myself a break and catch up on “Law & Order.” I’m the kind of writer who can write 25 pages in one day, skip a day, then write another 25 pages – if the muse moves me.

I’m always going to choke on the first chapter. Finessing Chapter One comes last.

The first draft is very rough. Well, you can tell from the books I have up here that … well, they’re rough. I’m in the process of first revisions, now that I’ve received input. The revisions are usually such that I can carry them throughout the entire book, for the most part. I’ve only had one fairly substantive change, but it didn’t derail the plot or change anything dramatically.

After revisions is CLEAN UP. Most people would just call it ‘editing,’ but it’s a little more than that. This takes forever and a day, because this is when I get precious about sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc.

I’m not a very good multi-tasker; I do occasionally get ideas for future stories, and if I do, I’ll scribble them down so I won’t forget them. But I force myself to stick with one project at a time until I’ve done all I can do with it.

That was probably about as exciting as a Benadryl drip, wasn’t it?

Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011 3:16 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157

At the moment, I'm sort of working to due dates and publisher requests, so my process isn't entirely determined by me. Juggling multiple projects eventually becomes a necessity, but it also meant I had to learn to juggle effectively. Currently

- Angel in the Middle has gone through the first edit round with the publisher so I'm waiting for the next round. We have a deadline we have to meet but so far, the edits have gone well. The second in the series is in fairly decent draft form but needs some tweaking. (I've got a lighthouse scene all wrong as far as layout goes. A friend provided photos of the space I need to fix)

- 2 novels in the mystery series need to be completed. Both were half done books that I put away when it looked like publisher of the first two was going under. But the first two have been acquired by a new publisher who would like the next two.

- "Fae" (working title) is only about half done and needs serious attention.

- Misc. other projects are in various stages but nothing too far along.

Currently the plan is a) finished edits on "Angel" on time, b) pound one mystery novel into some sort of shape then take a break to c) give sequel to "Angel" a good edit, then d) back to mystery novel... repeat

I don't outline but start with a very rough draft then rework that until I have a polished piece. Mysteries tend to take longer because they are highly interconnected with clues and such. I research as I go but if I have an idea, I'll draft out the scene before I lose it, then go find the research and change the scene as needed. Even if my original idea is completely wrong, I can usually find something to use it for.

One thing I do encourage when working with multiple works is to chose 1 as the main focus that you want to complete. Otherwise, you can be bouncing around with too many works that never hit completion. (sometimes this is part of a "fear of submitting" syndrome.) In your case, I'd pick the Regency as primary focus because there are always interested publishers and it's easier to sell a standalone as a first novel than it is to sell a series. So the series would be a second priority. The others I'd move down to a low priority until I had at least one work complete and ready for submissions. Because if you don't have something ready to go out, you can't move up to the published stage.
Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 1:24 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 103

I also have multiple projects on the go, but they're at completely different stages. I always have at least one in outline stage, one in first draft stage, and at least one in revision. But I never work on all of them in the same day. That's just too much to keep track of.

I think the key to the writing process is time management - getting in the writing, the reading, and the learning each day.
Posted: Monday, October 10, 2011 9:14 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

My method varies dependent on the story I'm working on. That said, I have many projects in various stages of completion, but I always only have one project slated for immediate work. I hop back to an 'abandoned' project when I really, really need to clear my head on the major project. i find doing this lets me keep my focus on getting done one project. Then I pick the next project to be completed and go from there.

Edits are hard for me, because I have the tendency to want to get them done as quickly as possible. I like my method because I do get to gradually work on an 'abandoned' project while I apply myself to the important books. I'll eventually finish all of these abandoned projects, but this way, I get stuff _finished_. That is really important to me.

In a nutshell, I do whatever it takes to get projects finished, even if it means squishing a great idea for a book and shelving it for a year in order to ensure that the main book does get done. If you can juggle four, great!!

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