Whenever I speak on writing, I’m almost always asked about my writing process. I have no idea why this is so fascinating to aspiring writers. Maybe because they think I have the magic secret that will help the words flow effortlessly from brain to keyboard, or maybe they’re trying to validate their own methods by finding someone who has the same peculiar rituals they do. Either way, learning about my process probably won’t be helpful, but here it is, for better or worse.
I’m an engineer by degree and training, so it’s probably no surprise that I’m a plotter. Unfortunately, the first part of the process is the hardest for me—I have to let the story gel, which is mostly mental. I think about the story endlessly and find a blob of something that sounds intriguing, then grab another little bit that I finagle to see if it will stick to the first blob, then play with ideas until I have enough amorphous puzzle pieces stuck together to make something resembling a story.
To force this sloppy construct into some sort of coherent shape, I write a synopsis. Yes, I know many people hate writing the things, but I find they help me ensure I have all the character and plot development laid out in a logical manner and that the story actually flows and makes some kind of sense. Once the synopsis is approved by my editor, I use a plotting board with colored sticky notes to note what is going to happen in each scene. Since I’m not totally anal, there are usually some gaps after the first few chapters where I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen. It gives my right brain something to play with and by the time I get there, it’s usually obvious what has to happen next. Because, you see, I have that next plot point to work up to.
Now that I have the skeleton of my story, you’d think I could start writing. Not so much. Now, I have to sit down in bed the night before with a pen and paper (graph paper is best), and write out a quick version of the scene longhand, with all the main points I need to hit. I think that, because my subconscious has a chance to play with the scene overnight, the writing flows much smoother the next morning. I have no idea why I have to use pen and paper in bed, though (probably some Freudian thing I don’t care to have explained).
Since I work full-time, I only write on the weekends, and my best time to write first draft is in the morning. Mind you, I’m not a morning person, but because I’m not, my left brain is disengaged and allows my right brain to come out and play. Once I sit down at the keyboard, my goal isn’t to write X number of words, or a certain amount of pages; I write the entire scene (about ten pages). Sometimes it takes a couple of hours, sometimes it takes five or six (especially if I was lazy and skipped the pre-writing the night before), but I don’t allow myself to quit writing for the day until I finish the scene. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment to complete something, to check that box done. Engineer, remember?
So, that’s my messy first draft process. Illuminating? Not really, but it works for me. The takeaway here is that, if you’re a writer in search of a process, don’t let anyone tell you there’s one right way to do it (this certainly isn’t it!). Experiment with tried-and-true methods touted by other authors and even try some oddball rituals until you find something that really works for you.
So, if you’re a writer who already has a working process, do you have any unusual rituals or methods you’d like to share with the group? Please, tell me I’m not alone in my weirdness.
And if you’re not a writer, I hope you’re not thinking we’re all loonies in search of a bin….
Parker Blue writes snarky YA urban fantasy, with the occasional paranormal romance story on the side. Her werewolf paranormal romance novella, “Wolf Rising”, is available now in the Magick Rising anthology, and the fifth book in the Demon Underground urban fantasy series, Dare Me, comes out this month.