Friday, April 3, 2009

My Process

All writers have their own process that carries them from idea to finished manuscript. I've read many blogs and sat through conference workshops about plotting or writing on the fly(pantsters) and I think I don't fit into either category. I used to write an outline but found I seldom followed it beyond the first two or three chapters. Now I guess I'm mostly a pantster. I roll the idea for a book around in my head for a while, usually coming up with the conflict and the resolution before I even figure out my characters. Then when I have that figured out, I sit down with my book bible.
My book bible is an inexpensive journal that I buy at a discount store. I usually have a few blank ones on hand. If a book is part of a series or set in the same world as another book, it goes in the same bible as the previous book. That book will have facts about the fantasy world, things like money, climate, politics, religious beliefs and even a map. It can be very important to keep east and west straight as well as keeping perspective on distances and other geographic items.
In the bible, I'll give each of my main characters their own page and jot down physical details as well as some emotional and historical things of interest. Then I'm use another few pages for secondary characters and antagonists. If the world is magic, I might use a page to describe those elements so I don't confuse them with a previous book. The bible stays beside my keyboard whenever I'm working on that book for reference and in case I need to add something.
Now I'm ready to write. I always know where to start and I know the ending. It's a matter of filling in that middle and making sure it doesn't sag anywhere along the way.
I write that first draft as quickly as ideas and time allows, and it IS rough. Often I find I needed to add something to chapter three to set up what happens in chapter ten. Or I decide I don't want to give away a plot point in chapter five so I can create more suspense until more is revealed in chapter fifteen. I jot down notes of changes as I go. So I type the mess up and print it off. Viola, I have a very detailed outline.
My next step may sound like it takes a long time but it goes quicker than that first rough draft. Using that first mess as a guide, I completely retype the book. All the big things, plot holes, loose ends, etc, get the attention they need. It's also the time I can check for all those dang words I tend to overuse as well as find ways to vary my sentence structure. Since I already know what I want to say, I find the words to show the action instead of telling it.
All this may sound time consuming, but it works for me. I can usually do my final draft of a 100,000 word novel in about eight weeks using this method. The first draft is likely to take up to 12 weeks. With each book I polish this way I get a little faster.
The point of this blog is not to convince people to write my way. I only want to explain one way that happens to work for me. I actually started this method after reading something Judith McNaughton had written about her method. Again not comparing my work to hers, LOL. I know many of us get frustrated when doing edits or trying to polish the same book several times. My advice is to experiment with different processes and find the one that is comfortable and works for you. I know some writers who spew out a first draft that is nearly error free. I envy them but I don't try to write like them. This works for me. What works for you? And have you tried different methods?


  1. I hate hate hate the term pantsers. We don't pull people's pants down. We FLY by the seat of our pants, so we're fliers. :)

    And I think you do far too much pre-planning to count yourself in that category. LOL

    I'm always interested to hear people's methods. Mine seems to change with every novel!

  2. Wow! Impressed!

    I'm still working my way through the muddy process. Hopefully I'll get quicker with time!

  3. I can't imagine re-typing the entire manuscript, but I do like the idea of trying different processes and ideas.

  4. Pantsters, cool.

    Your writing process is amazing. I am not too much of a longhand writer in that my hand wears out too fast. (I think I'm a pen-clencher. Is there a word for that?) And never have I written that many pages at one time. I tend to write, reflect, rewrite, write, something like that, much more meandering.

  5. I am loving your blog and your process is so close to mine it's scary!
    I actually was just thinking last night that as soon as I finish my rough draft I will print it and retype the entire thing. I was reflecting on the fact that I've never heard of anyone else doing this, but thought it would work for me. Then I find your blog this morning, and here you are using the same method!
    I love connecting to other people this way!