Hello, darlings. I know some of you may be curious as to my writing process. So I’ve decided to give you a glimpse behind the curtain. Chris’ post yesterday on pantsing versus plotting also gave me some ideas of what to include in today’s post. So hang on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
How do I get my ideas? Oh gosh, from anywhere and everywhere. Anything could trigger a story idea in my mind. Normally I write them down in a notebook or on the closest piece of paper…I’ve even written ideas on paper towels and scrap paper. Pictures often give me great fodder for a story if I’m stuck for an idea, and I often like to do writing sprints with short prompts.
The writing sprints. These have been my savior when it comes to reaching a daily word count deadline. I will find seventeen things to do other than write if I’m left to my own devices. So this is where I enlist my fellow writers to push me. I’m quite fortunate I have a great network of writers, both here at the Sarcastic Muse and other authors from my publisher, who are always more than willing to write with me on Skype. Yes, Skype. We link up a video call, set the timer, and write. The goal is to write as much as we can on our project in fifteen or twenty minute intervals. We don’t compete, but we do encourage and motivate. These sessions have become one my writing staples. I find I’m more productive when I have someone to write with. We push each other to reach and surpass our goals.
Now for the big question, do I plot or do I fly by the seat of my pants? I don’t think I’m either to be honest.
Here’s my process when I start a new story.
1. Idea. Prompt or photo. Whatever sparks a story. Check.
2. Writing sprint. Get something down on paper to hear what the characters sound like and what they want. If they’re talkative, I run with it. I won’t stop to do any plotting at this point because I’m still uncovering the characters. This can go on for up to five thousand words. At that point, I realize I need to get some organization.
Now at this point I do two things, I outline and interview the characters.
3. Character interviews. I have two interview sheets I use for each character to get a sharper image of the hero/heroine/villain/etc. Most of the questions are unnecessary and the details won’t make it into the story, but it allows me to have a conversation with the character in my head. This can sometimes be a huge pain in the ass, depending on which character it is.
4. Outline. I like to have a general direction for the story. So I will do a basic outline. First, I ask myself two questions. What is the conflict? And what are the characters’ motivations? Once I have these, then I can start filling in the gaps in the storyline. Most of the time my outline has a rough sketch of chapters and scenes listed. For each scene I will put who is in that scene, what needs to happen in that scene, and whose Point of View it’s from. I do this for the whole book to keep myself on track.
This is what I was talking about when I said I’m not a true plotter or panster. I give myself enough detail to give a direction for the story, for the conflict, the plot and subplot, what needs to happen…the rest, I wing. If I reach a scene and the character takes me in a new direction, I listen. I’m not bound to it by blood. If I ignore the characters, the story will suck. That is a guarantee, at least in my case. It’s their story, so I listen to them. In my mind, writing is a partnership between the author and the characters. They talk, I listen. Simple as that.
5. Finish the damn thing. Self explanatory, don’t you think? *giggles*
6. Shove it in a file and ignore it for three months at least. I do this because at this point, I’m too close to the story. I won’t be able to see any of the major adjustments I’ll need to make to improve it. So I set it aside for as long as I can and then come back to it. Also at this stage, I may send it to a few trusted writer friends and get their honest feedback on the rough draft. I do this to get a basic idea of how much I need to shift and the amount of editing the story will need. They know not to worry about grammar, syntax, etc. Their only focus should be on: is the story cohesive? are the characters three dimensional? what is it missing? inconsistencies? major issues?
7. Edit. I’ll save this for another post…my editing process. Ugh, that’s a whole other mess.
I’m not saying my way is the right way, but it’s the one that works for me. 🙂 So, now that I’ve given you a glimpse into my writing process. What are your thoughts? Any questions? Comments?
I LOVE hearing about people’s writing processes. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m curious, about how long does it take you to write your first draft? (I’m including your character-interviewing time in there).
Thanks, Marcy. 🙂 I normally do a few weeks of sprinting, brainstorming, interviewing, etc. before I dive into the story. My first two novels I wrote for NaNo, so each of them took a month to write. I’ve never completed a novel NOT for NaNo. So I’m not sure of that timeline. LOL. It’s like I need the deadline in order to keep me motivated.
wow, a full novel in one month. I’m impressed. 🙂
I like your Skype idea. For NaNoWriMo, this could be a great way to do a virtual write in with some writing friends I made during CampNaNo…
As for character interviews, I only seem to have to do then if, while writing, the character starts to waffle around about what they are trying to accomplish.
It’s fun to read about other author’s writing processes! Thanks for sharing yours.
Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂
I’m curious to know about the interview sheets you use for your characters? This sort of thing always helps me when writing.
I’ll see if I can find them online and I’ll share the links. 🙂
I couldn’t find my specific ones, but I did find an awesome post that may give you some ideas 🙂 http://theathleticnerd.com/screenwriting/getting-to-know-your-characters
Ah, thank you 🙂
My process involves staring at a blank screen until the early hours of the morning, giving up through exhaustion and getting into bed…then staying awake all night thinking about the ideas I got the instant I switched my computer off.
Skype is a great tool but you do pull the strangest faces when you write…just saying.
Ohh. This cruel process sounds quite familiar to me . . .
You have me at a disadvantage there, since I’ve never seen the stupid faces you make when you write. 😉