Saturday, February 11, 2012

Embrace Your Process!

Over the course of the last fourteen years - yep, that's how long it took me to achieve my dream/goal of publication - I've written five100k+ single title novels and seven shorter length straight romances. You think in that time, I'd have perfected SOME kind of process, but I think I'm only just finally coming to grips with how I write. Finally coming to accept that if my rambling airy-fairy way of planning and then writing from start to finish without too much stressing about content works for me, then I should embrace it, instead of read about the processes of other writers and strive to achieve what THEY do.

I have high ambitions of keeping a bible for each book. But my notebooks generally become a massive mess, holding snatches of conversation that come to me before their time/place in the book and little scene/chapter notes that I write as I go along. I don't keep them, they are THAT bad by the time I'm finished with them. Occasionally I choose celebrity pictures of my hero and heroine, but just as often I rely on my own imagination. I only do an outline/synopsis beforehand if I'm entering the wip in a contest (not really happening at that stage anymore now I'm published). Otherwise I start with a tiny seed of an idea - in the case of JILTED (Mira, June 2012), it was a runaway bride coming back to a small, close-knit town ten years after leaving their golden boy. From that seed, characters and conflicts grew and a few key scenes/turning points dawned on me along the way. I don't even worry TOO much about the whole GMC - if I've got a tincy idea, I just let it flow.

And then I start at page one. Actually, I usually like to come up with a good working title before this - for some reason, my writing never kicks off until I've got the right one! And then, I sit down at my trusty lap top and start tapping away.

I'm a HUGE word count watcher. I need to know constantly how far I've come and how far I have to go - this constant watching probably slows me down a bit, but I've learnt that's just what I do.

Each day when I sit down to write, I MUST reread the previous day's work. And, throughout the course of my writing, I often have to go back and reread the previous few paragraphs before writing another sentence/paragraph. Sometimes (shock-horror), possibly once or twice a wip, I have to go back and read from the start. I've found this ensures that I keep the same tone/voice throughout - helps remind me who the characters were that I've started with. And of course, emotionally they have to change, but other things need to be consistent - their likes/dislikes, mannerisms, dialogue, etc.

I've also found that writing everyday DOES help me get into the habit of writing even when my muse is taking an extended holiday. This means that some days what I write isn't as mind-blowingly brilliant as what I wrote the day before, but I figure at least I've got something to work with.

Although I read back each day before writing, I don't edit each chapter as such as I go on. I prefer to get the first draft down quite quickly and then let it sit for a week or so (depending on deadlines) before going back and cleaning/livening it up.

So, that's my process and it works for me.

So, I hereby solemnly promise that when I read blog posts about other writers' processes in the future, I won't sit there and jealously wish their process was mine.

We all write in strange and wonderful ways... which is why we end up with such a diversity of great fiction on our shelves.


Leah Ashton said...

What a great post, Rach! I think you're absolutely right to embrace your process, it's obviously working brilliantly for you :)

I'm SO like you with the word count thing, and the re-reading. I absolutely have to re-read the previous day's words.

Rachael Johns said...

Yay Leah - I LOVE your work, so am stoked we have a similar process :)

Jackie Ashenden said...

Cool post, Rach! My process has changed actually. I used to do NO planning whatsoever, just sit down and write hell for leather. I'd push myself to just get the words down any way I could. That of course meant 50 million rewrites. Nowadays I think a LOT about the conflict and characters before I start. And I think I should probably incorporate reading the previous day's writing too - I don't at present because I'm always afraid I'll get so wound up in how crap it is, I won't finish the book at all!
But I've now got to the point where if the previous day's writing isn't right, then I can't continue so...

Joanne Dannon said...

Good post Rach!!! I love how you're now embracing your process :)

I too keep an eye on the word count and re-read the previous pages before I can start writing. I find this gets me into the character's POV.

Helen Lacey said...

Great post Rach! I think you're right, it's important to embrace your process. I think all to often we try to compare the way we do things to others, and if that's not our natural style, get stuck and then frustrated that it's not working. I'm a panster, but I do tend to plot my books in my head for months before I actually start to write. Whenever I talk to writers who worry about their process I always suggest they trust their instincts. I'm not one to really plot any part of my life - I don't write shopping lists, I don't agonize over menu's for dinner parties, I don't have to iron all the shirts in my robe before I plan to wear them. So, I live the rest of my life as a panster, it makes sense I write that way too.
Great post :)

Coleen Kwan said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has good intentions of creating a book bible, only to fall by the wayside. I don't collect pictures or soundtracks either or use tools like Scrivener. Hopeless, I know!

Catherine Coles said...

Oh definitely embrace what works for you :-) And I'm also a massive word count watcher. When I can see the bars moving in the right direction, I seem to go faster and faster!

In *real* life I am a terrible planner, I just throw everything up in the air and hope it falls down in the right place. But when it comes to writing, I *have* to plan everything--conflicts, motivations, scenes. Of course, if often changes as I write but I have to have a framework before I can even begin writing. Pantsing scares the life out of me!!

Rachael Johns said...

Jackie - the amount of rewrites you do, always makes me feel really slack. I really hope your hard work pays off soon - you SO deserve it!

Joanne - thanks! I really think learning to accept your process is very important :)

Helen - I totally relate to your comment. I'm not a plotter in any of those other areas either!

Coleen - maybe there's quite a few of us out there...

Catherine - sounds like you've worked out your process and are embracing it as well! Yay :)

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