Thursday, October 01, 2009


Okay so I think I ticked some people off (cough Eileen cough) by admitting what my process is. For the record the books fall from the sky in snippets and then BAM - I need to write a colonial setting historical about a mute witch. Or a book about a professional woman golfer. Or a Viking book…

Yeah me! I’m so lucky. (This is my sarcastic I’m-sure-my-agent-already-thinks-I’m-nuts voice.)

This is really the first time I’ve admitted to a process. I never really thought I was successful enough to have an official one. A process was for “those” writers who gave “Chat Withs” and workshops at conferences. You know, the crowded ones.

I’m the writer who goes to the “Chat Withs” and workshops.

I know Suzanne Brockman’s process: divide the deadline by the number of pages and write that each day or else you die.

I know Nora’s process: three drafts. First draft story, second draft development of story and character, third draft language. Wash, Rinse, Repeat… Bestseller.

I know Jenny Cruise’s process – which really explained to me why I was the anomaly who didn’t always love her stuff. She only writes the good parts. She writes all the good parts and then puts them together and that’s the book. For me, she can be all over the place and I have a hard time following her story. This would be the result of a book with nothing but good parts.

I now know Eileen’s process and Maureen’s process and I think you are both insane. I would have killed myself a long time ago if I didn’t know how the story ended before I started it. Seriously – I am in awe of both of you and the way your minds must work.

Sinead and Molly and all the rest of the DWT followers – it is now time for you to confess. Some of you have given hints… but I want the dirty details. What is your process?

Because the one thing I learned with all the Chat Withs and workshops and blogs is that they’re all right. It took years before I could accept that. Every writer at every workshop tells you – your process is your process.

Linda Howard can write for forty-eight hours straight. Jessica Anderson percolates ideas until finally the steam valve goes off and it’s time for her to write. (I collect these stories like memorabilia.) Stephen King starts with a thread of an idea and simply follows it. Insanity!

But now I believe it. Process is like voice. Figure it out. Embrace it. Because I’m here to tell you it doesn’t change, it’s never easy and there is no escaping it.


Maureen McGowan said...

To be honest, Stephanie, I don't have a process, either. I keep deciding I do, in my futile attempts to have any kind of control, and then it all blows up in my face.

The last couple of books I've been trying to do more plotting... I used to be more like you, knowing just some key scenes and the ending, and I'm not sure yet whether all this pre-planning is serving me well, or not.

As soon as I finish getting my parents moved into their condo (which is taking 200% of my energy right now) I hope to just fly off into the ether and finish this latest WIP. Unless I find out that my middle grade book is a go (I have a proposal in...). In which case I'll need to switch gears fast and write that one. FAST.

The few times I've managed to do the write-the-first-draft-fast-with-the-door-(mostly)-closed method, (a la Stephen King) I've like it... The only times I opened the door a crack, it was when I was stuck and went for a walk with Molly, or a drink with Sinead, or both, to get past the stuck...

Eileen said...

Oh, Stephanie, there are downsides to your process? Bummer. I suppose nothing's perfect. It sounded like a beautiful dream to me.

Honestly, I often want to bang my head against the wall. Hard. Still, I feel I have LOTS of room for growth. Tons even. So I want to hear about other people's process, too, so maybe I can steal some of their magic ways.

Kimber Chin said...

I have to get a better process. I average about 13 drafts before the book is finally released. If I could reduce that to Nora's three, I could write 4 more books a year.

Hhhhmmm... I'm starting to see how she's able to write so many books.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Eileen - I am so with you. I keep thinking that I'm going to learn something that will change my whole writing life and this process which can be a stone around my neck - will be made fresh and light and fun.

My process is - I plot - huge outlines. Massive detail. Fifteen pages single space and I write 60,000 word books! And then, while writing, I stray from cared out of my flesh outline - and start to write a different story. A better story. But different. So now, I'm writing without a net and editing as I go - which usually means I have a minor edit at the end, but it also means I've done the work of about two books. Dumb process. Dumb.

Hey, I'm in Atlanta right now at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. Husband and I had a great little vacation in savannah - sadly, I can't tell you any of the history of that town - but I can tell you where to eat. Oh! The eating!

Eileen said...

I loved Atlanta! Have a great time. Make sure to stop by Margaret Mitchell's apartment. I got quite a thrill standing in the corner where she wrote Gone with the Wind.

I actually like your process, Molly. If I could plot my way out of a paper bag, it would be easier for me. But I'm neither intuitive enough to fly without a net or logical enough to create a solid net before I start.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm actually hiding out in Atlanta - putting together a new proposal in between conference fun. But Savannah - oh wow. Spanish Moss is about the coolest thing ever.

I'm right now trying very hard to change my process and skip the fifteen page outline - but it honestly feels like I'm trying to break my arm or something. Steph's right - there might not be anyway to change this.

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