Friday, October 29, 2010


What is my writing process? I thought that might make a good blog topic but then I wondered, do I actually have a writing process? So I sat down and thought about it.

Sometimes I start with a character. Other times I might start with a situation, a "what if." Either way, I need a fairly solid handle on the main characters before I can get very far. After much flailing around I finally created a character worksheet. It's based on different ones I found in different sources, plus a few things of my own I felt it pertinent to know about a character. It's a four page table made in a Word doc and it includes all kinds of stuff you might or might not need to know about a character. One of the things I added was a section called "soundtrack." I need to know what kind of music suits a character best, what songs in particular, in order to really get to know them. That section will usually evolve and expand over the course of writing.

I like to at least get my plot started before having to delve into a lot of research, but sometimes that varies. Depending on what I'm writing, some form of research will be an ongoing activity during the process. Maybe I'll need to clarify something, maybe I'll need to go looking for more ideas. Internet access has made research very easy for writers now. Just be savvy about your sources. You'll want to make sure you're using a creature out of some real mythology and not something dreamed up for World of Warcraft.

Because I'm still more of a pantser than a plotter, I write myself into a corner with disturbing frequency. When that happens I have to step away from the keyboard and figure out how to get out of that corner. This is about the only time pen and paper come into my process anymore. I have a few small spiral notebooks that I use. One is dedicated to my Mojo series. Here's an example of some of what's scribbled in there on the page it's open to, if I can make out my own handwriting:
Go back to chapter 2 and start over. Blake needs to work for her trust. Why is he back? He wants Roxie but there's more to it. Has he been stealing for Paralda? Someone else? Why? Somebody have something on him? What does he want? 

Story questions that I need to answer. I don't always write the answers in the notebook - the answers get put in the manuscript. But having a place to write these questions down, and break them down with as much specificity as possible, has been an invaluable aid in getting out of those corners.

After the first draft is done, I try to let it sit a while, go work on something else if I can. When I'm ready  to start revisions I use track changes and go to town. Frequently while writing the first draft I'll make a lot of changes and fixes, as details and ideas shift. I usually do so much of that to start with that the revisions process only deals with major issues. Every writer handles that differently, though. Some writers might change a name halfway through the first draft but not go back and change the early mentions of that character until they do revisions. Me, I use find and replace as soon as I decide to change the name.

I get to a point where I cannot keep rereading on my own. I either need a critique partner or beta reader to give me feedback, or I need to consign the work to the Trunk folder, or I need to get it ready to submit. I freely admit that I cover a lot of the same themes in my work, but I can't keep rewriting the same novel over and over. There are too many voices, I mean characters, in my head for that.

This may not seem like much of a process, but then, I am pretty much a pantser. If you'd like a copy of my character worksheet I uploaded it to Google Docs at this link. You can take a look at it and if you go to File and Download As, you should be able to download it as a Word document. If that doesn't work but you do want a copy, shoot me an email at and I'll send it to you.And if you have any suggestions about what could be added, feel free to share them in the  comments.


Nerine Dorman said...

And, although I started out as a pantser, I'm very much a plotter. I can't write unless I know where the story is headed.

My stories start with 16-20-word summaries which litter My Documents. I generally have an idea of which one I'll work on next.

I then expand, using a rough Snowflake Method, which helps immensely with my pacing.

After this I sit with about five to ten pages of overview, which I then label by chapter and, hey presto! Start writing.

But sometimes little plot bunnies do peep round the corner, so I revise my overview as I go along, sometimes working backward to add new elements.

Sondrae Bennett said...

I always loving hearing how other people write. I'm very similar in that I start with characters (although I don't have a worksheet and plan on checking yours out) and am a bit of a pantser myself. I usually am about 1k-5k ahead of myself at any one time but that's the extent of my planning.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could be as organized as you, Nerine.

Sondrae, usually about the extent of my plotting ahead is maybe a chapter or two, like your 1 to 5 thousand words. Though I usually know how a story ends, figuring out the steps on the way to the ending can be difficult for me.