Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A valuable lesson about my own process

After completing 4 novels, I thought I knew a lot about my own writing process.

--I am a partial plotter, needing to know the beginning, the end and a few major waypoints in order to write a novel. As much as I would like to do something completely by the seat of my pants, my nature is not that spontaneous. I have been able to experiment with letting the story spin without any preplanning in the short story form, though it's still difficult for me.

--I am not a fast first draft writer. The thought of racing through something like NaNoWriMo fills me with dread. Letting it go and fixing it in the second draft is just not me. What does work for me is light editing of previous writing while working on pushing the story forward. Writing is a recursive process and as I write, I get to know the characters more fully which changes the writing I've already done. I know this doesn't work for a lot of writers and a lot of 'common wisdom' is that letting yourself edit as you write is a sure way to never finishing anything. That's just not been my experience. With one big caveat. . .

--I can't share what I'm writing other than in generalities. With my latest project "The Between"--a YA urban fantasy, I made the mistake of bringing the first few chapters to my critique group. It utterly derailed me from the story. While I'm writing/planning, I have to maintain that complete love affair with the new work. That's staying in my creative head. Even the light edits I do, don't take me away from the creative mindset. When I turn the work over to someone else, something in me shifts to editing mindset. That's an analytical, critical place that is at odds with the creative mindset. Bringing an unfinished story to a critique group is a bad move for me. It's taken me 3 months to find the necessary distance from my internal editor in order to return to creating story. Based on past experience, I *can* share the writing when I'm about 2/3 through the story. That seems to give me enough momentum that I won't lose the creative thread.

I'm sure I will continue to learn lessons about process as I continue to grow as a writer.

What are some of your lessons learned?


  1. So with you Lisa on the waiting to show. When I first have the new idea, it has to stay shiny in my brain, especially a short story. If I share it too soon, it loses that spark and I can't write it anymore.

    As for outlines, it depends on the story. Most of my novels have been written using the fog horn method. Go as far as I can see, and sound the fog horn to figure out where its right to go next. The new novel, however, or as I affectionately call it the Symphony of DysUtopia, is requiring extensive pre-writing. Some background, but most of it ramblings about plot arcs and plot types and how to mingle all the different directions this story is going to make a whole story for the reader. Lots of work, but I'm loving really picking it apart.

    Good luck with "In Between"!!

  2. Heya stranger! I've been missing your stories. How's things???

  3. hanging in there, just starting to really get back up on the writing wagon. Would love to trade a few chapters with you once I get further on with the story. How I have missed you and the other dreamers!