Monday, July 2, 2007

Three Million Words For Process

Last week, I was chatting with Megan Hart about process and writing and how authors spoke about writing. Some authors talk about it in that "one true way" sense, like their process is "THE" process. Others are more of the "this is what works for me" school and still more find it hard to put what they do into a frame of reference. Me? I tend to be in the "I don't know if it makes sense but this is what works for me, try your own thing though because your mileage may vary."

Talking about writing is an odd thing because it's like a unique language for every writer. How many words are there for writing or process as they're seen through the lens of different authors? They're just words and they hold meaning to me with regard to process but not so much to other people. I don't think about writing in technical terms at all. I just write.

I have notebooks in stacks in and on my desk. Each notebook is for a different book or story idea. Some of them have detailed notes about characters, snippets of dialog or other text, research notations, and others have the story kernel - the whatever it was that tickled my fancy to give me the idea - just a line, a picture from a magazine, etc.

I'm working on being more organized with this, we'll see if that happens or not. Right now, I'm writing on a deadline. Reading Between the Lines is due by August 1 and I'm pretty sure, given my current pace, I'll be finished with the first draft by this time next week. This gives me plenty of time then, to leave it for a few days and then to come back and edit, revise and turn in.

This is my process when I work on timelines. I used to just plow through, draft, edit, revise and turn in but now I like to have a bit to let the book sit when I finish so when I come back to it later. For me, I can see it through more objective eyes with a little bit of distance.

Inevitably, when I'm working on a book, more book ideas come to me. Right now I've got two other books in progress but I forced myself to stop working on them until I finish with RBTL. Sometimes though, I have to get stuff down so I treat myself like I do my kids, I set a goal (pages or words) before I can stop and work on anything else. (I don't normally do page or word counts unless I'm hard on deadline or something like this happens)

Anyway, a little illustration of how that works for me:

Last night I'm on the exercise bike (where I read and sometimes plot, etc) and I'm listening to The Prodigy. Suddenly, an image comes to me and as I'm pedaling away, sweating, more of the scene begins to unfold. And the line of dialog, just one.

Bang. My new story unfolds just like that. I finish my 45 minutes and jump off, write that line of dialog down and after I shower and get my goal met for the day, I wrote it. I now have to figure out the rest, the length, the meat of the story, etc, but essentially, that's how this works for me. An image, a lyric, a smell, a sound, someone's voice - little triggers and a bizarre movie begins in my head and a book is born.



Anonymous said...

Right now I've got two other books in progress but I forced myself to stop working on them until I finish with RBTL.

Your willpower amazes me. I'm so easily distracted that I'm halfway through three WIPs and not finished with anything.


And I have two more stories niggling in the back of my head, demanding attention. So far, I've kept those to scribblings in my notebook.

Jaynie R said...

Are you sure that idea wasn't just an excuse to get off the exercise bike? *g*

Lauren Dane said...

LOL, I did my 45 minutes! I swear. At least plotting takes my brain off the monotony and pain in my thighs.

Ann - if I didn't force myself to do it, I wouldn't meet deadlines. Sigh. Lesser of two evils and Angie would track me down and kick my ass if I was late turning a book in. But that's why I have my rules - if I meet my daily goal then I can play with new ideas.

N.J.Walters said...

It's fascinating to see how the writing process works for other writers. I'm of the school--whatever works.

I only have one WIP at a time. I can edit books, but I can only seem to create one at a time.

Like you, a song snippet, or an image or smell can trigger a story idea. Sometime it seems to come from nowhere. Those are sometimes the best ideas.