Whether you’re a writer, blogger or a businessperson, it’s important to define the writing process that works for you so you can be faster and more effective at it.
- Are you someone who likes to gather tons of research and then write from there?
- Are you a “big picture” person who likes to understand end goal as well as the facts?
- Do you prefer to free-write until you find the point, and then gather facts to support it?
No matter what kind of writing you do, understanding your process is the key to being successful at it. At least, it’s worked that way for me.
What got me going on this topic?
Jane’s super special in a million ways, and she’s a hell of a travel writer. But you know what I will always smile about when I think of Jane? She’s the first person who ever looked at my name tag at a conference and lit up like a Christmas tree. She’s the first person who ever grabbed me and hugged me and told me she loved my blog. You never forget your first. 🙂
When I said yes to Jane, I didn’t know what questions would be asked. I’m happy to say, they’re fascinating! I’m actually going to list them before I answer so you can start asking them of yourself. This is a valuable exercise, whether you choose to “hop” or not.
- What am I working on?
- How does my work differ from others of its genre?
- Why do I write what I do?
- How does my writing process work?
Four tiny little questions and I’ll bet many of you have never sat down to think about them.
What am I working on?
Being me, I’m moving between three different projects. Not only does this keep me fresh and in a forward-moving mode, they’re all very different and special to me.
I’m 80-90% done with the first draft of a contemporary women’s fiction novel focused on the relationship between two sisters. The logline:
Desperate to reconnect with her estranged, mortally-ill sister, a faith-challenged nun agrees to fill in as a nurse at her sister’s business: a porn clinic.
I’m also writing short pieces about my mother, who died in 2004. My mom’s four grandkids will never meet her, so I’m trying to transmit the magic of her through stories. Any of you who have read about The Almost X-Rated Garage Sale will see what I mean.
Last of all, I want to finish a memoir on high-worry pregnancy. Today, there are more women than ever who experience pregnancies where the outcome is unsure. I was one of those women, and the road is rocky and very, very lonely. As the survivor of 50+ blood clots and a high-risk pregnancy, I have a lot to say to these women.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Since there’s only like six plot ideas in the universe, the thing that makes every piece of writing stand out is the writer’s voice. This is just my opinion.
It doesn’t matter if someone has already written a book like yours, you’ll tell it your way. If your writing is good, your structure sound, and your characters are engaging, the reader is gonna be happy to take the journey with you.
The one place where I have some very unique experience is on the pregnancy front. Let’s go by the numbers:
- 1% – the percentage of people who survive the kind of blood clots I had
- 6% – my chances of conceiving a baby
- 30% – my chance of carrying the baby to term & surviving the pregnancy (w/o meds)
- 50 – number of weeks I injected meds in my stomach to prevent a blood clot
I’m very grateful to even be alive and have my daughter, but there are also some tools I learned along the way that could help women like me, and others who are not as lucky.
Why do I write what I do?
I have a curious mind and I’m interested by people and their relationships. I was a shoo-in for women’s fiction with romantic elements. I write the stories down to find out more about the people in my head. I’m learning not to mind that the first draft of a long piece of work is a gigantic ball of suckitude.
The other stuff? I’ve always written poetry and short stories that (thankfully) come into my head fully formed.
How does my writing process work?
Warning: All you organized types are about to run screaming from the blog.
Here’s how writing book-length fiction works for me:
- I lay out some character sketches – often in the form of short stories.
- My critique group helps me hash out the basic 3-act structure and turning points.
- I scribble up a list of all the scenes I know (sometimes this takes a few sessions).
- I write those scenes as they come to me, with an approximate idea of what comes before and after each one.
- I stitch it all together later.
Diana Gabaldon and Lorna Landvik write like this too, which makes me feel better since I love their books.
Writing like my linear pantser friends gave me nothing but frustration and bad self-esteem.
Using other peoples’ processes ensured that somewhere between page sixty and one hundred, I’d start moaning to the Writing Gods about what a failure I was. My old ways guaranteed that I’d grow bored with my books because I never progressed past the beginning of the second act.
My way lets me see pages pile up and allows me to participate in challenges like ROW80. Plus, now that I’ve figured out “my system,” I’ve got about 9 books to finish. Sweet!
Defining your writing process comes to this:
You must write your stories in a way that allows you to finish them. Period.
It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by linear, plotting writers. If YOU aren’t linear in your process, nothing — not rivers of chocolate or jiggy dancing tunes — is going to lure you to The End of that book.
No magic potion will help you zoom straight through to the end using “someone else’s methods” because you can’t. Your brain doesn’t work that way. It works your way.
Learn good craft, but above all learn your own process! Part of why I’m unpublished is it took me so damn long to figure out I’m a scene writer. I don’t write straight through a book. I simply can’t do it.
What I can do is build a basic structure to work in, even though I write my scenes out of order.
(Okay, all you organized linear peeps can shake off the heebie-jeebies and come back now.)
Tag, you’re it. Seriously, if you’d like to define these for yourself, link back here so WE can read about it. 🙂
Have you ever asked yourself these sorts of questions? What has surprised you the most about your writing process? Which part of it drives other people insane? What would you love to change about your process? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!