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:~: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 :~:

The Process

It varies for every writer. And, I'm discovering, it varies within each writer.

This was the Talk Prompt topic for my local RWA group at the last meeting. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to cover it. I'm hoping some of the girls will pop in and offer their comments here. *nudge*

But it's also something I've been thinking about a lot lately, as I begin a new novel.

Everything with this story is different.

  • I'm allowing myself to write a shitty first draft--something I hadn't been able to do in the past.

  • I'm writing without a clear picture all the way through--it gets murky around the 2/3 point.

  • I'm engaging my CPs (and anyone who is interested) in a writing challenge--I've always wrinkled my nose at any kind of imposed writing goals.

  • I'm making it up as I go along--I'm typically an avid plotter.

  • I'm mixing POVs with third person h/h and secondary characters, but first person villain--I've never even considered writing first person.

And as I see all the differences I'm employing with this book and as I discussed with Elisabeth recently, I've discovered that process changes as we change, as our writing changes, as our goals change.

What changes have you seen in your process over the years? Or do you have a tried and true method that you love--or hate? Share with us how you get from concept to completion.



Blogger Paty Jager said...

I agree. As you become a more skilled writer your process evolves. Now as I write, I am constantly editing myself. I'll be writing along and OOPs, I used that word just moments before so I change it, Oops, can't use that word it has "newbie" written all over it. When I first started I didn't give a hoot about any of that, I just punched that story out on paper. I didn't know a thing about GMC or character development, I just wrote the story in my head.

Now, I think long and hard about my characters, I write a page about them and their history, I find flaws and strengths, I make them real to me.

I also do research about the time and place I plan to set the story and find things that will enhance the story line and cause complications.

Once it is all ingrained in my thoughts and I think of my main characters as friends, I start the story from their eyes, hopes, and dreams. And as I type the editor in me is always there tapping me on the shoulder and wagging a finger.

I start a WIP and write it all the way through in a first draft. Staying in the characters and spitting out the scenes. Then I go back through and add more description, emotions, and some times more complications to make the story stronger. And I make sure the characters stayed true to who they are and where they headed.

That's my process.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

My process changed dramatically when I gave myself permission to write without thought to craft, pacing, story structure and what not. (Now this rule is only for my first draft.) I was finding that I froze up every time I'd write something I know I wouldn't use later.

My fourth novel I said screw it and just wrote. It reminded me of my first novel where I had fun and ended up with over 100k words.

So long story short, my process changed when I realized I was stiffling my own writing with "rules" that are really more like guidelines :)

Hi Joan, it's Melissa Whittle.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


That's a strong process -- one that gives you what you need without bogging you down. I know from experience you can procrastinate until Mexico freezes over if you wanted to--research, character development, conflict--it could take as long as you wanted it to take.

I, too, have found myself self-editing more in the most recent WIPs. With this one I'm not letting myself do that...so I'm going a lot faster.

Of course there will be revisions...but that's a whole other animal.


2:17 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hi Mel,

Thanks for coming by!! :-)

my process changed when I realized I was stiffling my own writing with "rules" that are really more like guidelines

You're way ahead of me, Melissa...I think that's what I'm *just* realizing now.

Will you be coming on the vineyard tour?

2:19 PM  
Blogger Alice Sharpe said...

Hi Joan. Nice web site, you guys. I've visited before thanks to Eli, but I've never commented -- I don't think. Though with a memory like mine, who knows.

Interesting parallel with your blog and with mine today over on Midwillamette Valley RWA blogsite. I agree with you that the process changes with time and even with books. I don't know about you, but if I had to do something the same way every time, I'd get sick of it. We all grow and learn, right?

My current WIP (which is a proposal) is proceeding more or less like the others with a noticeable exception. I am writing the first three chapters and the synopsis simultaneously. This has been interesting in that I write a little story and get a feel for everyone, then catch up with the synopsis and see ways I need to foreshadow character traits or future events and also hone my perception of the characters to make sure their story is told in the most compelling way. So the brash young heroine with nerves of steel needs to be a little less nervy, a little softer so she has room to grow, so that she finds herself and isn't all ready a done deal from the beginning.

At least in this book with this heroine. If her major fear is making waves and by the end of the book she is creating a tsunami then that's personal growth!

I've never mixed first and third person POV within one story and will be interested in finding out how that works for you. I think it has the potential to be very interesting. And I like a villain's POV to give a chill or two. In the first book of this two book proposal, I have three possible bad guys. I'm giving the bad guy his own POV but not revealing who he is. It's a challenge.

Hope you "visit" us again!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Yes I'll make it come hell or high water. I need to get out of my house, not think about school or work, and talk about what I really love to do. And what the hey I might get a book out of it. :)

5:51 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Oh and about changing POVs in stories have you ever read Harlan Coben? A few months ago I read his book THE INNOCENT and loved it. He goes from 2nd POV to 3rd POV. Surprisinly, it works.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hi Alice,

Thanks for visiting.

I am writing the first three chapters and the synopsis simultaneously.

Now that has intriguing possibilities!!

I love seeing all the different ways there is to do something -- always great to try fresh ideas or a new perspective.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


So glad you're going to make it!!!! And even if you don't get a book out of it, you'll take home something cool for a character or a plot twist or a setting possibility or something. That's what I love about writing...you can use absolutely EVERYTHING in life.

I've heard of 2nd POV, but never seen it done -- I've heard it's hard to pull off, but then, what's not?

6:09 PM  
Blogger Alice Sharpe said...

Remind me. What is second POV? Please give an example. Thanks.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hi Alice,

Here's some info on 2nd person pov:

A small number of novels have been written in the second person, frequently paired with the present tense. A relatively prominent example is Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, where the central character is clearly modeled on himself, and he seems to have decided that second-person point of view would create even more intimacy than first-person, creating the feeling that the reader is blind, in a sense, and the plot is leading him or her along. It is almost universally agreed that second-person narration is hard to manage, especially in a serious work.

Other examples of second-person narrative are the Choose Your Own Adventure children's books, in which the reader actually makes decisions and jumps around the book accordingly; most interactive fiction; different chapters from many novels written by Chuck Palahniuk; several chapters of Karin Lowachee's Warchild, and the first chapter of A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh.

Role-playing games could also be considered second person fiction. The second person format has been used in at least a few popular novels, most notably Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler and Tom Robbins' Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas as well as many short stories. When done well, the readers imagine themselves within the action, which can be used to place them in different situations, for example in Iain Banks' novel Complicity, where the chapters that deal with the actions of a murderer are in the second person. Most stories written in second person are probably closer to first-person with "you" replacing "I".

An even rarer, but stylish version of second person narration takes the form of a series of imperative statements with the implied subject "you", as in this example from Lorrie Moore's How to Become a Writer:

"Decide that you like college life. In your dorm you meet many nice people. Some are smarter than you. And some, you notice, are dumber than you. You will continue, unfortunately, to view the world in exactly these terms for the rest of your life."

1:43 AM  
Blogger Alice Sharpe said...

Thanks, Joan.

I understand it now. My kids were hooked on the Choose Your Own Adventure books, so I'm now up to speed.

7:13 AM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

My process evolves as I go. Each book changes the whole thing slightly, and now I can't even remember the process I used for the first book.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

My process is learning not the fight the process that works for me. I'm slowly learning that I always hit a pause (block?) at the 3/4 point and that if I let it go and don't push it, it'll all work itself out.

Some books are gimmees. They basically write themselves. Some are not. The ones that require more effort on our part (angst and worry and eyelash pulling) are the ones that force us to be better writers and change and adapt our processes.

9:13 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

It's difficult to say, because my process varies slightly with each new story.

I have noticed that less confident I feel, the more I outline and prep. And the more I outline and prep, the worse the writing goes.

You'd think I'd learn!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


I was just thinking the other day...how did I used to DO this? I can't remember either.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...


I find the same trouble spot in the same location...funny.

But I've never had a gimmee book. Never. No character has ever lead me by the hand, no plot has unfolded before my eyes. Never has a story been a process of translation via some internal muse.

I think the people that happens to are gifted...maybe they have supercharged kharma or a direct link to the writing goddess or something.

I'm not one of them.

1:29 PM  

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