My Writing Process in 30ish Steps
I like that the topic of this post assumes that there’s an actual process as opposed to the chaos that is my existence.
My writing process, such as it is, goes a lot like this:
Step 1: Get a snippet of dialogue in my head.
Step 2: Figure out who’s saying it to whom and why.
Step 3: Imagine the rest of the scene.
Step 4: Write that shit down.
Step 5: Think about the characters in the scene and who else is part of their lives.
Step 6: Figure out what the main characters’ problem/issue/need/want/childhood trauma is.
Step 7: Get some more sort of vague, story-shaped ideas that might be incorporated at some point.
Step 8: Yell for the nearest family member to take notes for me because I’m probably in the shower when I thought of them.
Step 9: Think about what needed to happen prior to that first bit of dialogue that first popped into my head in order for that dialogue to occur in the first place.
Step 10: From there, come up with a reasonable starting place for the story and begin.
Step 11: Restart story at least two or three more times.
Step 12: Second guess myself and have some salt and vinegar chips.
Step 13: Write until I reach the spots I have notes for.
Step 14: Quick research anything that needs researching. If I don’t have internet, leave notes in the story that say things like: Internet this and find out if it’s a thing. If it’s not a thing, think of something else. (Actual note from first draft of upcoming Halloween story.)
Step 15: Flesh out the bits that are in note form and incorporate them into the story.
Step 16: Second guess myself some more and maybe make a smoothie. Or a cup of tea.
Step 17: Reach the halfway to three-quarter point, freak out because I don’t know what happens next, phone a friend and allow self to be talked off the ledge.
Step 18: Consider taking up tribal belly dancing or some other pursuit that will require hours of practice in order to avoid writing.
Step 19: Take a shower instead. Get more great shower ideas. Yell for help in note taking.
Step 20: Husband buys me a pile of waterproof notepads.
Step 21: Use the waterproof notepads. Giggle at the various notes the children have left in said waterproof note pads.
Step 22: Write and write and write, incorporating said shower ideas with random breaks for crippling self-doubt, tears and recriminations. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary.
Step 23: Finish the fucking book.
Step 24: Stare blankly at the computer. Save furiously and repeatedly. Wonder if I’m really actually finished.
Step 25: Walk away from it for a while once it’s complete.
Step 26: Imagine there are glaring plot holes.
Step 27: Try not to think about them.
Step 28: Read and self-edit.
Step 29: Experience moments of pleasant surprise because I didn’t remember writing x, y, or z, and hey, that’s actually pretty good.
Step 30: Experience moments of “what the actual merciless fuck” because I didn’t remember writing that, either.
Step 31: Finish edit and freak out, because I’m convinced everyone will hate the book.
Step 32: Send to my editor. Freak out, because I’m convinced she’ll hate the book.
Step 33: Get edit back from editor, do edits, and discover editor usually loves book.
Step 34: Start the whole process all over again.
So…that’s usually the way it goes down more or less. I’m always in awe of (and a little afraid of) the people who have color coded notecards pinned to their walls and know every scene of their from beginning to end. I’m more of a discover it as I go kind of girl. I sometimes know a few major plot points/shower ideas, and I’m often delightedly surprised at the things that crop up between those bits.
I know my process is not for everyone. I wish I could actually plot like a normal person. My friend, Alex, texted me a picture a few weeks ago of note cards that she was moving around in an effort to reorder her plot. My response was, “So *that’s* what plotting looks like.”
And I admit, sometimes I need to play Literary Jenga and move bits and pieces of a scene or scenes around, but never before the book is done. And honestly? Never on paper. Always in the manuscript using Track Changes.
But pretty much…this is as organized as I get.
Not sure if I’ll have company from the other bloggers this week, but if so, you’ll be able to click on their links below.