Today on Routines for Writers, Larry Brooks wrote a guest post called The Requisite Mindset Shift That Will Get You Published, discussing the writing process and how to write a publishable novel. I don’t know if I write publishable novels yet but after the second time around, I do feel like I know my writing process better. There are as many ways to write a story as there are writers and I always enjoy hearing others’ penning tales…so here’s mine.
It all starts out with an idea, of course, but I do a lot of filtering before I finally land on one. I let an idea simmer for a year or two before I finally decide I understand the premise enough to start taking it seriously. Of course I don’t mean I sit around for two years waiting to get started. What I mean is while I’m working on one novel, I write down ideas that come to me, adding on to them as they flush themselves out in my subconscious. Once a premise has taken seed, it’s hard not to see connections everywhere.
Once I finally decide on an idea, it’s time to outline. Yes, I’m an plotter. Actually, I’m somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser. I don’t kid myself that I know how the entire story will play out. The characters have a lot to say about that as I get to know them and what’s important to them. I have to lay down the five major milestones, though. Absolutely. And then usually I have a couple handfuls of scenes that have helped me get to know my characters before I even get started. I try to build on that if I can, weaving in some subplots and some character building scenes. Some people frown on subplotting on the first draft but I like to write even my first draft at the pace I’d like to see my final draft unfold.
I’m not sure if it’s because my first novel was the product of National Novel Writing Month, but once I get started writing, it’s on. Some people edit as they go but I can’t. I think it’s more out of fear of what I might find there than any conscious decision to be smart about the whole thing. It isn’t only in November that I approach writing this way, it’s all the time. I’m a very results driven person so getting the first draft done in four months is the only way I can imagine doing it. If it took me twice as long to write because I was editing at the same time, I’d probably lose my motivation altogether and give up. I call this NaNo Syndrome. Thanks for that, Chris Baty.
Also, I have to write at the pace I want it to read and in chronological order. I’ll have to edit, of course, but I can’t just take notes and fill it in later. That’s not how my brain works. It’s the mood and feel of the novel that keeps me consistent and in the right frame of mind.
The Middle Again
It’s right around the halfway point of the novel that I finally start to “get” my story. No matter how much outlining I do beforehand, I never know enough about my characters and their story until I’ve gotten into the thick of it all. It’s right about then that I have to go back to my outline and rethink it. Sometimes it’s as simple as adding and rearranging the scenes to come. Other times, I have to rework everything. With my first novel, this happened twice. With my second novel, I’m happy to say I had a much better grasp of plot structure and was able to keep moving forward with only a few notes of changes to make in the first half. Either way, this is the part that gets exciting to me. This is where my characters become real, well-rounded people and my plot hooks me.
The Beginning Again
The best and worst part of reaching “The End” is it’s just the beginning. Now that I have something to work with, the entire process starts over again. And again. And again. And again. According to Larry Brooks, I’m on the right track but I still have a long way to go. I don’t know my editing process yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
What’s your writing process?