A bit about writing processes
Posted Jul 30 2014, 9:30 am
When I was an aspiring author, wondering if I would ever sell a book (this was in the days before Indie Publishing had become such a viable option for authors to reach readers), I never missed an opportunity to learn about a successful author’s writing process.
Surely, I thought, if I could JUST figure out what worked for these other authors, I would stumble upon the exact perfect formula for me. I listened to talks by Pantsers and Plotters and Plotsers, I pored over spreadsheets and index-card systems and project plans. I learned about “listening to your muse” and “honoring the process” and memorized acronyms like BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard) and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
And I wrote a book, then finished it. Wrote another book, and finished it. Wrote a third book, and finally sent it out. And a fourth. And a fifth. I generally followed the same process for each—loosely plotting the thing out, then writing it, then rewriting and rewriting and rewriting it.
With the very first book I sold, a YA historical called Maid of Secrets (published under the name Jennifer McGowan), I actually wrote the book—scrapped it, and then rewrote it again, this time with several very fast rounds of revision. That second version sold, and I thought “ah ha! I now know how to write a book successfully!”
Only when I wrote the second book in the series, Maid of Deception—I was on deadline. I didn’t have time to revise several times, and so I had to learn a new process. But it went very well and I thought “ah ha! Now THIS is the way to write a book successfully!”
And then I sold Rock It, the first book in my Rule Breakers series, on proposal. That means I’d written the first three chapters and a synopsis. . . but nothing else. So I had to write the rest of the book. . . in six weeks. And then draft the second book—and the third—in quick succession. So I had to learn a new process. “Ah . . . ha?” I wondered. “Is this how to do it?”
Just as I got a handle on that series of books, however, my next YA historical was due, and. . . you get the idea. 🙂
So now, with three books and one novella published in just over a year, and two more on the way yet this year, and at least two more on the way next year, here’s what I’ve learned about the writing process!
1. It will evolve because your life will evolve.
That first book may have taken you five years to write—but the next one may require you to write it in five months. Or, heaven forfend, five weeks. Be adaptable and open to new ways of doing things, so that your process grows with you.
2. What works for Nora Roberts works because she makes it work. Ditto with your process.
Even if you stumble across the Holy Grail of writing processes, don’t be fooled: it’s still work. You still have to put in the time, show up at the computer, and put words on a page. The best writing process in the world won’t be effective if you never fire up your laptop. Even when—especially when—you don’t feel like it.
3. No process? No problem. You’re a professional. . . and that’s what counts.
If, like me, you study authors far and wide and still aren’t sure what the perfect plan is for you, that’s okay! Just show up anyway and put words on the page. It may not be elegant, it may not even be efficient, but no readers will ever read your spreadsheet . . . they will only read your finished book. So however you can finish that manuscript, finish it! And send it out to be edited and prepared for publication. That’s the only writing process that matters in the end.
This blog was originally posted as part of the Fake It blog tour. Special thanks to Books for Company for hosting me!