Posted in blogging, writing

Personal Writing Process

I’m a firm believer that the writing process is different for every writer. While some of us dive headlong into the story with minimal planning, others take days, weeks and even months to plot, research and develop the story and characters before we ever put a word on the page. And many, many of us fall somewhere in the weird spectrum between plotting and discovering.

Thinking on that made me curious: what does the process look like for each writer? What are some of the ways we all differ from one another and what are the techniques that work best for each of us?

To answer that, I wanted to look at my personal process, from rough draft all the way up to a finished piece.

Normally any story for me ‘starts’ when I get an idea. If I’m in the middle of writing another piece, I tend to jot down a couple of notes on it—maybe a line or a word including with any known Characters, Antagonists, Reasonings, Obstacles, Themes or Titles and possibly the Setting. I’ve been using it for years and it works for me to hold onto a possible idea until I can come back to it.

Starting on the story itself is pretty easy. Recently I’ve moved away from rough drafts and into zero drafts—or, rather, what I typically end up titling as a Story Run. Rather than writing full chapters, I limit myself to ten or fifteen minutes to write a scene. Often because I’m racing to get the words down before the timer rings, I don’t have the option to stop and think, which prevents me from getting stuck. And if I do get stuck on a particular scene, I can simply move ahead to the next scene I know about and come back to it on editing later.

Once I have a complete run I typically move off to another story for a while, letting it sit and stew. Usually I like to give at least a month between each phase of any given story. That lets me work on something else and helps give me a better perspective on what the story needs when I come back to it.

From the zero draft I start expanding, working each chunk of writing up into individual chapters. Sometimes I’ve outlined the expansion, especially when I’m missing scenes. Other times I just add more to each scene, bridging it from one to the next to get a complete rough draft.

When I start on the editing itself, I always start with an outline, as well as a list of characters and their goals. This way I can tighten up any loose scenes or expand on flimsy ones as necessary. Usually my outlines include just a sentence or two about what happens in each chapter. Once I’ve finished the second draft it tends to look a little more like an actual story, but still needs a lot of polish. At this point I can send it to an alpha reader, or if I know there are still some problems I want to fix, I can head into the third draft.

I don’t always need another outline between the second and third draft, but occasionally do. At this point I’m usually working in a side-by-side view with both drafts. Because I tend to draft short, it also means I can keep an eye on my wordcount between the two versions and expand places that need a little more detail.

At this point it’s definitely time to get a beta reader if I don’t already have one lined up. Following beta feedback, I can address any remaining structural issues and start focusing on word choice and sentence flow. Once the next draft is finished, it’s time to rinse and repeat—get more feedback, make more updates. Draft six is usually the earliest I’ll start shopping a piece around, but dependent on what my early readers tell me, there may be more drafts. And if I get critiques while trying to find a home for a piece, I may also put it on hold to do another draft and address any valid feedback.

Writing is an ongoing and oftentimes lengthy process, but that’s only my take on it. I’m curious for my fellow writers: What does your process look like?

Posted in writing

Final Stages of NaNoPrep

Next Friday is the official start of NaNoWriMo. That leaves just under a week for the last bits of NaNoPrep.

For me, now that I have my notes and ideas organized and laid out in one convenient place, that means spending a lot of time doing exploratory exercises. Most of these are aimed at working out characters and character relations. A few of those have spawned new ideas as well.

I’m hoping I get a chance to explore and play with all of the ideas I have for now, but I also know that realistically, thirty days is not a lot of time to write. One of the last things I need to do for NaNoPrep is decide which idea to work on and which ones I’ll have to set aside for now.

On the non-writing side however, NaNoPrep also means getting my space and schedule ready to devote the necessary time to sitting and writing. My desk is cleared off and I’m hoping to prep a couple of light meals for lunches that can be easily reheated during the first week so I can hopefully get a good headstart for when other things inevitably get in the way later this month.

What are your last items for NaNoPrep?

Posted in writing

Editing a Series

Although April is Camp NaNoWriMo, I chose not to ‘officially’ participate this year, even though I’d had the project for this month picked out since the beginning of the year, largely because I’m still a little wary of burn-out and diving back into Hero Stones.

Regardless of that fact, for the last two days I’ve been rereading, making notes and generally figuring how to go about editing an entire series. Initially when I started I thought doing a full outline would work, but I’m discovering that’s not quite the case.  Research hasn’t turned up a lot of fruitful results either.

Having spent the last two days fighting with a massive outline however, I finally hit the solution this morning: even though a series is larger than any singular book, the process hasn’t changed any. Within any novel during my early drafts there’s usually a chapter or two that needs to get taken apart and cannibalized by the others surrounding chapters. I kept looking at the series as individual parts, but they function much like chapters of any other novel I’ve written, albeit multiple times the word count of any other chapter.

With that in mind, I went back to the notes and started marking the individual stories that weren’t working. Knowing where those are now, for right now I’m skipping the outline to redraft based just on the notes.