I explained in an earlier post what the Writers’ Blog Tour is about. Basically, writers answer the same four questions:
- Why do I write what I do?
- What am I working on?
- How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
- How does my writing process work? (This post.)
I’ve answered first three questions (click each item above), and so, for today, here’s the final one:
How does my writing process work?
Ah, process: that’s what it’s all about, and frankly, the process itself is always in process. Here’s what mine is now:
Researching, I make a basic timeline of events. (For details on my research process, click here.)
Using these facts, and creating events as needed, I work for some time on a scene-by-scene plot, which usually ends up on index cards. I consider this stage the imaginative first draft.
Of late I’ve been a fan of the outlining structure set out in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat: the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need. It’s short and to-the-point.
Then I have a close look at the characters: what is each character’s role in the story? Who is a mentor? Who is a villain? For this analysis I am heavily influenced by Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.
And then, of course, I revise the plot, and then go back to the research, and revise again. Etc. etc. etc.
And then I write the first draft. I set a goal of 1000 or 1500 words a day (less on holidays), clock in with a word count, add the 1000 or 1500, and clock out when that word count is met. At that point I can do whatever I want— revise, research, email—so long as I’ve met my commitment for the day, every day.
This process is very much a crash race to the words, “The End.” Forward momentum is everything. I think of Anne Lamott’s mantra: “I am responsible for quantity; God is responsible for quality.” I’ve found that the scene-by-scene plan is very reassuring, although I often wander off course.
And then it’s revise, revise, revise, which takes years. I like Ariel Gore‘s description of the process as shampoo and rinse, shampoo and rinse. In other words, fatten, then trim. Over and over.
I rarely go back and look at the plot, although I probably should. The story deepens in surprising ways; research, which is on-going, sparks both inspiration and despair (when what is discovered ruins the plot!). At some point, immersion is necessary, I find … in fact, that’s where I am now with the Young Adult novel I’m writing, and hence I’ve been a bit slow to post this last question.
I was invited to join the tour by the wonderful literary writer, teacher, coach and editor Merilyn Simonds.
And now, in turn, I’ve invited Lauren B. Davis (author of Our Daily Bread, The Empty Room, for starters) and Catherine McKenzie (author of Forgotten, Hidden, Spin) to come on board. I’m very much looking forward to reading how these two writers answer the questions.
Each writer tagged to join the Tour posts answers to the same four questions on their blog. They might post answers all at once, or one at a time, whatever suits. They also provide links to the posts of writers who came before.