Sunday, September 17, 2006

How Do We Do What We Do?

I love talking about 'process.' Plotter, Pantser, Synopsis, Outline, Character Interviews, Music, No Music, Candles, Goat sacrifice...that one might just be me? How writers get words on paper and day by day get the work done - fascinates me.

And mine has undergone two major changes since I started writing.

I used to be a total write by the seat of my pants kind of writer. No outline, no synopsis, no real idea past happily ever after how things were going to end. I would just write all week and then on Sunday I would head down to whatever bagel shop was close to where ever I was living at the time and I'd edit. With, like most beginning writers, no clue how I was doing everything wrong.

Ah...to be so ignorant and happy with my writing. Those were the days.

During this time I also had a serious Free Cell addiction so I would allow myself one game before getting to work. I'd write most of the day on those days that I could - liberal amounts of Free Cell mixed in - my story blown this way and that by whatever whim took me that day.

Then I sold a book and everything changed. The first book that sold was the first in a series of three books. I had written most of the second by the time the first sold so I finished it and sent that in. Unbelievably my editor called and asked me for a synopsis of the third book so she could put together a two book contract.

A syn-what??
I overhauled my process and turned from a pantser to a devote plotter.
After that my process included a long synopsis - usually 10 -15 pages and then I'd write three chapters and revise the synopsis and then, of course, revise the first three chapters.

I edited as I went - getting to the point that I would have been through a second rewrite before I'd send scenes on to my critique group. I would begin each day of writing going over what I'd written the day before and doing some fairly extensive changes and then I'd do the same thing at the end of the day. I had a lot of time to write in those days.

Then I had a baby. And that changed EVERYTHING.
Now, I can't sit down to the computer without knowing exactly what I'm going to write. I can't go back and reread anything because it takes too much time. I work on a computer not hooked up to the internet and I've stopped listening to music.

So every day I sit down to the computer and vomit onto the screen and never every look back. I have no clue what I'm writing - if any of it is holding together or making sense. I'm told this is how a first draft usually goes by those that write this way (Sinead).

Am I liking this? Not yet. I certainly see the pluses - things are going FAST and the story feels incredibly immediate. But I feel so unplugged from my work and I look forward to reading it for myself.

So - tell me how you guys do what you do? Keep the goat's a secret if you want to.

7 comments:

Wylie Kinson said...

Yeah,I switched to chickens when the local farmers started complaining about the missing goats.
And I played so much Free Cell that I forced myself to delete it from my computer. But alas,... I found a new addiction in POPWORD - on the internet! I promise myself one game and before I know it, it's 2am.

Jordanne Ford said...

Molly, One game of Freecell? Wow, I have to quit half a dozen games before I can actually win one. And that usually involves getting up numerous times to 'come back and look at it with new eyes'. I sometimes find I have to do that with writing a scene, as well. My first ms, I wrote purely by panster, and before I ever joined TRW. I had so many things to fix. You know, little things like GMC and personal growth. I'm still trying to pull that one together, in fact. I've turned to loosely plotting things out now, so I've got a rough sketch to follow. I do light candles, I do have on soft music and I have been known to ask Brigit, Goddess of inspiration to come and play with me while I write. No goats for me either, though, I found the blood too hard to get out of the carpet.

Maureen McGowan said...

I'm evolving all the time... I don't have the patience to plot very well... So I think my latest process is to plot, write a few chapters, plot again, rince and repeat.

Each time when stuff happens in the writing I hadn't expected, or I change my mind about something big... at some point I'll get bogged down and confused and I need to step back and plot again before I move forward.

I'm also a big fan of the write the first draft quickly and bravely camp. But I need a concentrated time period to do this without a lot of other distractions and this is hard to pull off... even for me who's jobless and childless. I don't know how some people (Molly & sinead) do it. I'm in awe.

Christine said...

I'm slowly changing from a seat of the pants writer to a bit of a plotter. Not much of one mind you, but I actually find myself working on a loose synopsis once I get my first three chapters written. Mostly because my time is limited, and this helps keep the pace fast and furious. I used to get up and write at 5am, but that's changed since my move. I now find I try and write on my lunch hour and before I go to bed. As much as I can until I get the first draft done. Then I can go back and edit. My problem is the "little" edits I sqeeze in during that first draft. I have to slap my write and trust that I'll fix my errors later. :)

Sinead M said...

aaach... my process keeps changing. I try and plot the book, but then the plot keeps changing.
I think I just have to accept that some books will go easily and not much will change from the first draft to the last, and some books will be hard... and I'l re-write everything...

And complain as I do it:)

Josette deBrouwer said...

Down here in southern Ont., I am majorly pressed for time. So I try the ABC method -- apply butt to chair. And I make sure I am clear about my characters. During the planning stage, I slip in little "scenes", things that I think the protagonist may or may not do. I also slip in stuff that I have run across in real life. And my planning stage goes on for quite a while. It's like I need everything laid out before I make the dress.

Molly O'Keefe said...

things spend a lot of time perculating for me too! I like that phase best - when I can't stop thinking about the characters and plot and am slowly whittling everything down to something that maybe...might...work.

of course then it all changes during this stage - my least favortie - the actual writing.

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