Writers of fiction are creative people. We think outside the box, we create things that seem unimaginable, we escape to foreign places, we have imaginary people speaking inside our heads and we spend all day talking to them back. If we are so creative why would I think we all need to have the same writing process?
When I first started writing, I read numerous books about the writing process, attended conferences, read blogs by other authors. I took detailed notes and then attempted to follow all the “rules” set out for me by these other authors. One of these “rules” was that I would write a complete rough draft of my book without ever looking back and then once it was complete I would allow myself to edit. Most books I read on writing suggested that this was the best way to write. The thinking behind it is that once you have the skeleton of your story down it’s easier to go back and make changes to it. Well, honestly, this didn’t work out so well for me. I ended up shelving two books because once I went back to edit there were so many problems with the manuscript that I found it too daunting. It seemed easier to just start over from scratch then try to break apart my manuscript and piece it back together.
A few years ago I attended a writer‘s conference here in town and Camille Minichino, writer of cozy mysteries, was the speaker. She talked about her writing process and said that she edits while she writes the rough draft. I spoke to her between sessions and told her that I liked her writing process better than what I had been trying.
She said that as a writer I needed to find the process that works best for me, not for someone else. It seemed like such simple advice, yet for me it was so freeing. I spent the next year or so trying to find the writing process that worked for me. I like to call my writing process “doing whatever I need to, to get it done.” And that’s really what it is. I’m not a rigid person. I’m a creative person, and therefore so is my writing process.
We are all individuals. Our books are different, so why shouldn’t our writing processes be?
If you are curious what my writing process looks like read on:
I always start with characters. Often I don’t know what they look like, but I always know their motivation – what drives them. And I usually have a general idea of the story. Then I set out to write the first few chapters. When that is complete, I will do a rough outline – chapter by chapter. I say rough, because it’s only a line or two per chapter and I know it will be changed numerous times before the book is complete. Then I write a couple more chapters. After that, I always jump forward and write the last chapter. I like to know where I’m going…and also, I’m super impatient and it helps to slow me down when I’m not rushing to write that last climactic scene. After that I write whatever I want. I don’t necessarily write in order. I write the scenes I want to write. I can always go back and check for flow, but why write in order if I’d rather write a different chapter? It’s my book. I can do what I want. I think it’s the reason I rarely have writer’s block, because I write what I want when I want.
I do edit as I go, but the bulk of the editing is done afterward (and much of it is done by other people, because the truth is I’m not very good at it).
That’s my writing process in a nutshell. What does yours look like? Feel free to comment about your writing process or share the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten. I’d love to hear from you!