Books don’t just appear out of the author’s mind on paper. There has to be some way it goes from idea to published story. But it’s different for every author. What works for some, doesn’t work for others.
Question 33: Can you briefly describe your writing process?
Not sure I have a process as such. I will say that I never feel like I have enough time to write, which is probably how we all feel. We have 4 kids, I have a demanding job (with a 2-hour commute), and I would like to exercise for at least an hour every day. Fortunately, I only sleep about 6 hours a night, so I can generally squeeze in a few hours of writing time between 10 and midnight, and on weekends between 6 and when the kids wakeup around 8.
I do think about my writing during my daily commute, so when I find time to write I can usually get started instantly.
And after the writing comes the editing…probably 80% of my “writing” time is editing. Though my grammar is usually solid, most of the editing time is cleaning up flow (clarity, echoes, rhythm, sentence structure that does not vary enough, etc.). I spend time obsessing about specific words and how they show my characters and their emotions. This, I think, is the key to creating unique characters.
So not sure I have a process so much as just squeezing in all the time I can find.
It’s a bit like a connect the dots picture. My writing process is fairly uncomplicated. While I’m not faced with deadlines and due dates other than what I’ve scheduled myself for on my blog, I’m free to sit and write a story when I have time, which isn’t very often these days. My process starts with an idea and while I usually know how I’d like the story to end, I’m not usually sure how it will start until I start typing it. I gather some ideas that I’d like to incorporate into the story. Then, as I’m typing I create the story, connecting the dots until I’ve reached the conclusion. Also, most of my short stories were created by writing some names and objects on slips of paper, randomly choosing one of each and creating a story with them. I did win an online short story contest that way.
Gregory S. Close
1) Get an idea! Setting, character, plot device, snippet of dialogue, or any combination of the above. The Idea typically comes when there is no easy way to write it down: at work, scuba diving, driving etc. Murphy and his Law, y’know.
2) Don’t Forget the idea! I repeat said idea in my head over and over again until I can jot it down in my phone (so the note saves to the Cloud, which is very important – the Cloud is my friend).
3) Outline. Not a hard outline that creates walls to hem in the writing so much as to create a general geography for me to place the details.
4) Mull. Mulling the idea may take an hour, a week, or in some rare cases ten years or so. Mulling involves having lots of conversations in my head between fictional people, and can essentially be a repeat of Steps 1 & 2 several times over.
5) Write/Edit/Write again. I write what I can write for one day, and then edit that writing the next time I sit down to write, and continue writing. It’s exciting to see the ideas take shape, and sometimes frustrating because they take shape slower typing than thinking.
Then there’s the post-writing phase, of course, which is also important – sending it off to the Editor, Layering, and a Final Read Through. But that’s another post for another time!
I start with an idea. Work out a basic, but brief, paragraph of the main idea. Then I flesh out my characters. I go back to my paragraph and make a lengthy flow chart and plot out the major events (some of this will just be background and occurs off scene). I pick a starting point and start writing. When I finish, I go back reread it and decide if I like where the story begins or if I need to chunk some of it or add more scenes. Then I edit until I can’t see straight.
D. T. Nova
It’s a lot easier when I can block out my perfectionism and just let the words flow. Revising later is a lot easier than being good to begin with, but I’ve got some instinct that doesn’t always understand that.
I write character profiles and information about technology to help ensure I don’t contradict myself on that, but I don’t make true written outlines. I plan things out in my head but I don’t always stick to my own plans.
I start with brainstorming, in a loose sense of the word. I get the basic premise and main characters down, and most of that takes place in my head. Then I write out a rough outline of each chapter. Once I get to writing that outline is more of a guideline for me than a rule: I’ll write what I want to write, let the story go in the direction it wants to, and I’ll refer to the outline if I get lost. With Jasper I made a few edits after the rough draft was done, then made a new outline adding in scenes and chapters I felt were missing. Then I started the process over again. More rounds of editing later, here I am.
H. Anthe Davis
I sit in front of my computer and type! Then when I’m not in front of my computer, I carry scratch-paper around so I can note down any ideas/edits that crop up. Then when I’m back at the computer, I put those notes into my various informational and outline files (depending on what the ideas were for), and get back to typing! And then I edit!
Seriously though, I don’t do anything very complex until I get to the editing phase. I do at least one complete rewrite, which I call the Parallel Rewrite because it involves retyping the entire book from the original document to a clean one, tweaking and trimming it along the way. For my third book, I also did a Thread Rewrite, where I separated the three intertwined stories into their own documents and went through them individually to make sure they were internally consistent, before braiding them back together again. But really it’s all just sitting here and typing.
My writing process consists of going out my daily life until an idea smacks me upside the head. As soon as I sit down at my computer, it then spews out onto the keyboard and I am obsessed with writing until either the story concludes or I run into a dead end. The dead ends go into a file to be tinkered with later. The completed stories get edited and submitted. It’s the same process for both novels and short stories. Either I’m manically writing or editing, or I’m in a lull where I’m contemplating the issues with those unfinished stories and waiting for that next trigger thought to hit me.
Linda G. Hill
Many times I start with a “what if” but I always always start with a character. Once I have someone to write about and a scenario for him or her to deal with, the story is out of my hands. Everyone deals with different situations differently. That’s life. Therefore, what I would do has nothing to do with it… that’s how I see the process. That is, for me, how it works.
Paul B. Spence
No. LOL. I think all the time about my writing. When I sit down to write, I put some good music on, then I usually write 500 to 5000 words at a time. I rewrite as I go along. I constantly read over my chapters to make sure I keep on target. I don’t outline, but I have a goal in mind. Getting there is the fun part.
Tracey Lynn Tobin
My writing process is really less a process and more a complete mess that would make many professional authors cry themselves to sleep at night. First, I usually come up with ideas as a result of my nerdy habits; I’ll be watching a movie or playing a video game and something will strike me and I’ll be suddenly overcome with a desire to write. Second, depending on whether or not my laptop is available, I’ll either start a new Scrivener file, or grab a blank notebook. And I’ll just start writing. Mostly I tend to start from the beginning and force myself through the story, but sometimes – if, say, the main idea in my head is for a scene that’s near the end – I’ll write scenes out of order as well.
While writing I rarely commit myself because I have a full-time day job and a family to be doing with, so sometimes I’ll write thousands of words in a few days, and sometimes it’ll take a month or more for me to slug my way through half a chapter.
Eventually I’ll manage to come up with something that is more or less complete, and then I’ll start the revisions and editing. I know many writers say you shouldn’t do both at once, but it’s what works for me. I’ll basically open a second new Scrivener file and re-type the entire thing, making the changes as I go. It seems like an enormous waste of time when I could just copy and paste the good bits, but for some reason it’s what works for me; retyping forces me to reread, which helps me get into the story enough to see where the issues are.
When that’s done I send it off to my beta reader, make a quick final round of revisions and edits based on her input, and then (theoretically), it’s done! Mind you, I’ve only gotten to this step once so far, so we can only assume that it’s how it’ll happen in the future as well.
S. R. Carrillo
It goes a little bit like:
bhfjkhsdjkfhsfgsdl fdshjks’ faFSFGSSffffffff**!!@~1oen
breathe breathe breathebreathebreathe wander breathe okay
Let’s at least brush this into a neat little pile now good
fjdjjjjjjjjjjjjj what about this makes sense NOTHINOMG
Ah stroke of genius!!!!!!!!!!!!e==* Guess I should outline now#####
Voila, work of art is born. Do it again on something else.
Hey can you tell me if this story full of disturbing shit moves you?
Jay Dee Archer
I don’t think my process is very consistent at the moment. I come up with an idea in many different ways. Ariadne started out as a map. My future solar system short story series started out as an idea to explore the solar system somehow.
Beyond that, I then go on to expanding the idea. I establish the main character and generally what’s going to happen. I tend to write notes about the story, usually noting down the main plot points, then expand from there. I do a rough outline, but I don’t do a very detailed one. While I’m writing, the story often develops further. It sometimes goes in directions I didn’t anticipate. At different points of my writing, I do a little editing, mainly to keep the story consistent, and also to work a bit on my dialogue. The part I’m at in Journey to Ariadne is being rewritten, because I’m completely unsatisfied with the way that part was going. All through this, I have my story critiqued.
After writing, and I haven’t gotten to this point yet, I’d like to have an alpha reader go through it, then I’ll do some seemingly endless editing. Then when I think I’m ready for publication, have beta readers read it.
And that’s about it. I’ll be going the self-publishing route, and I’ll have to get someone to edit. That’s something to think about in the future.
How about you?
Are you an author? What’s your writing process like?