Monday, October 5, 2015

My Writing Process a.k.a How I Throw Words on a Page and Call It Writing


My Writing Process Banner

Recently Mirriam Neal shared her process for writing, and a couple others of my Pack sisters joined in and did the same, so I couldn’t help but hop into the bandwagon myself. Even though I don’t really have a writing process. *cough, cough* This is more of a conglomeration of writerly things I do to get a book written, but my “process” is basically different with every book I write. So do not expect any great wisdom or organization from this post. My writing process is akin to a mad scientist experimenting with all sorts of different combinations of potions and making a terrible mess along the way (with some evil laughter in between of course).

Step One: Tell my story, writer person!
(a.k.a a character pops in my head and demands I write about them.)

There I am, minding my own business when BOOM! a character sneaks up behind me and insists I write about them. Rude.

Sherlock GIF

For the most part, the first inkling I get of a story is via the main character. Some random character will wander over on my brain, plop down, and tell me stuff happened to their life and I’m supposed to write about it. And usually it’s a LONG story that wants to be a ginormous series I have no time to write. >.> Such happened with my Colors of a Dragon Scale series. I saw a picture of a white haired elf, she clung to my brain, and next thing I knew I had a humongous, 7 book, dragon rider series.

My steampunk, time travel trilogy, The Traveling Library, came about when I imagined a poor girl stuck adventuring in a wedding dress that wasn’t even her own.

Another series sprang to life as I was washing dishes and daydreaming about a girl doing some “Robin Hooding” and stealing from the king for the poor.

Sometimes the characters come with a full story, sometimes I don’t even know what genre their tale will be. But almost always the characters appear first.

Step Two: Pants, Plot, or Both?

Throwing Computer GIF

Okay, so I have a story I want to write. Now what? This is where I decide if I want to just dive in and write or actually be responsible and do some plotting first. I used to be a major pantser, never plotting anything. I’ve been that way for years and still refer to myself as a pantser because of it. Just writing blindly and seeing what comes of it is fascinating and I’ll always love writing that way. But, really, I’m wondering if I’m switching over more to *le gasp* plotter status. Never thought that’d happen.

It started with my first NaNoWriMo in 2010 when I thought it’d be way easier to write if I had everything planned. Turns out, it was. I plotted and outlined to the point where I never had to worry about writer’s block. I always knew exactly what would happen next and I could just WRITE. That made something as crazy as NaNo waaay easier. So, ever since, I always do a super major plotting for each NaNo. Giant character bios, notes on the world, a map, long and detailed chapter by chapter outline of the book, the whole shebang. I found this method extremely helpful. Not only did it thwart any writer’s block, it also helped keep me focused. When I pants, I’m discovering everything along the way and thus follow allll sorts of random rabbit trails that lead to nothing and end up making the book a billion words longer than it needs to be, full of pointless adventures. Sometimes I need something to help me stay focused on the direction I’m taking.

But, I still love to pants. There’s something so magical about seeing a tiny inkling of an idea blossom into a full story with every word you write. The mystery of it keeps me on my toes as even *I* don’t know what will happen next. Some of that magic is lost in plotting.

Basically I enjoy both processes, and have a long list of pros and cons of each. So for every story I do it differently depending on the circumstances. If I just have no idea what the story’s about and it’s only a vague idea but I really want to write it, I’ll probably pants it because I can see the broad scope of a story so much better once I actually start writing. On the other hand, if I have a pretty good idea of the actual plot but a little lost on how it all happens, I might outline it to help figure it out and keep me in the direction of the plot. Such as with Burning Thorns. I already had the novella written, so I knew the plot, I just needed more happenings to turn it into a full novel, thus I decided to plot and outline it to keep focused.

But who said I had to do one or the other? Being a plantser is a thing, too. Both pantser and plotter. Sometimes I just feel like pantsing a novel but not going in completely blind. In this case, I’ll do a little plotting, such as making character bios, plan out some of the world, and maybe make a few notes on some big plot points. Then just pants the overall story without an outline or anything. It’s a good compromise.

Then of course there’s some stories such a Fallen Matter that came about from one single sentence that I wrote down and then just kept writing. Three chapters in and I still didn’t even know what genre I was writing. . . Let’s just say that was the most pantsed pantsing I’ve ever done.

Allllll that to say, sometimes I’m a pantser, sometimes a plotter, sometimes both. To this day I have no clue which of the three I like better.

Step Three: Let’s Procrastinate and Pretend It’s Working

Birds Dancing GIF

This step often happens during the step two stage. So I’ve either started plotting, half plotting, or just decided I’m going to dive into the thing. Either way, I have decided I’m going to write this book. That means I have permission to get myself really pumped for it and can start having fun. And by having fun I mean making mock covers for it, finding actors that could play my characters, putting together a Pinterest board, building a suitable playlist, etc. etc. All for inspiration of course. *nods seriously* Really, anything that isn’t writing. These things do help get me even more excited for the book and gain some good visuals on it. Totally working. Not procrastinating at all. Noooo.

Step Four: Oh look, words.

Writing GIF

All right. So I do actually have to start writing eventually. I know, crazy. Once I find myself sufficiently pumped (and well procrastinated) it’s time to make a new word document, put the title at the top, type “Chapter One”, and *cue scary music* write out that ever elusive first sentence. And so the hard, but most rewarding, part begins. From here on out there are multiple other little substeps (we’re pretending that’s a word) that I do to keep myself writing and actually make it to the end.

Music: I actually put to use some of that procrastinating I did in step three, such as the playlist I made. I have to write with music. It’s essential. (But instrumental music only, lyrics usually distract me.) If I have the right song going it sets the mood of the scene and takes me out of the world around me and into the story. Which means of course I have to have a fitting song for whatever the scene is. I do make a playlist for the novel, but I also have other little playlists for specific scenes. Battle scene going? I’ve got a playlist for that. Sad scene? Got one for that, too. But if it’s just a general scene with nothing too emotional, I go to its main playlist.

Pinterest: I’m a visual person, sometimes I can’t picture things well without actually seeing them. My imagination can be a little restricted when it comes to the look of things. I think my story worlds have become much more interesting ever since I discovered the joys of Pinterest. And yes, I procrastinate there a LOT, but it really is extremely helpful. Looking through hundreds of hundreds of pretty landscape pictures really gets the brain storming. And if I’m feeling unmotivated to write, perusing the story’s Pinterest board brings back that inspiration and love of the story I had at the beginning.

Drink Coffee: Do I really need an explanation for this?

Goals: This is the biggest, most helpful one for me. I feed off goals. Nothing would ever, ever get done without goals. I work with big and little goals. Whether it’s planning on getting 2k words in a week or finishing the whole novel within a certain date. Give me ALL the goals! I kind of get obsessed with goals and feel like I have to make them, no matter what. Which may not always be a good thing, I should probably be a bit more flexible, but at least it makes me finish things. And that’s why NaNoWriMo is one of my favoritest things. It’s actually what taught me how wonderful goals are. Basically, if I’m not working toward a goal I won’t get anything done, but if I do have a goal I’ll stop my life to make it. One day I should figure out a balance. . .

Step Five: Ignore Life and Write Like a Mad Person to “The End”

Dylan O'Brien Pencils GIF

Once I’ve started chapter one, I usually set a vague goal for when I’d like to have the story fully written, then I just write and write, putting in mini goals in between to keep myself going, all the way to the end. This often results in ignoring life in favor of my story. My characters are very demanding. >.>

There are lot of magical people out there who can write their stories out of order. I am not one of those people. Some go ahead and write scenes as they come and then fill in the gaps. I think that’s pretty awesome. Since I do get ideas for scenes later on in the book it’d be good to go ahead and write them while they’re fresh on my mind. But I just can’t. It’s probably my OCD side but I absolutely have to write everything in order. Maybe one day I’ll branch out and try this mysterious out-of-orderness, but for now my brain refuses to write anything beyond whatever current scene I’m on.

I also only ever keep one writing project going at a time. I’ve tried to do multiple but I always end up favoring one and dropping the other. So if I want to finish a book I do not under any circumstances allow myself to start another one until the first one is finished in fear of dropping it for the new, shiny one. This also means if I get a new story idea I don’t go off and make a Pinterest board for it and things because that gets me too excited for it and too tempted to write it. I solely focus on my current project, even as a plague of plot bunnies attack me. Because they do so love to attack in full force when you’re busy with another project, don’t they? Mischievous little bunnies.

Unless it’s NaNoWriMo, it usually takes me a few months to finish a book. Then after a writing break, I excitedly look into whatever plot bunny was attacking me the most while I was trying to write my current one. Back to step one it is, and repeat. Which is a problem itself because I have a computer overflowing with first drafts, practically nothing rewritten and polished. Whoops.

But hey, one step at a time. *grins*

So now you know how my novels come into being. (Probably in waaay more detail than you wanted.) I know, it’s a mess. Maybe someday I’ll find that perfect formula.

But probably not.

What about you, dear writer? Share any of my strange methods? Are you more of a pantser or plotter? What system works for you? Share away, I’m always on the hunt for ideas!

14 comments:

  1. I love reading post like this, and your steps and gifs were awesome.
    Your process must work because I have never written a book in a couple months, usually closer to a year.
    I like that you're a pantser who has tried plotting. I did too and it's awesome, but I always go back to pantsing.
    Pintrest and coffee are essentials.

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad! I was afraid I was just rambling about stuff no one cares about. XD
      Trust me, it used to take me multiple years to get a single thing finished, if I finished it at all. The only reason I can even sort of get something finished these days is because of my obsession with meeting my goals, otherwise I'd NEVER write. And I still don't ever get around to rewriting and such. It's a problem.
      I feel like I'll always fall back into pantser mode myself. But I seem to switch with every book. I just can't decide which works better for me. I guess it depends on the book.
      They're the lungs of a writer! What would we ever do without them?

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  2. I love this post! So awesome getting to hear about all the different steps in your process! :) (And super hilariously written, too. XD)

    That Sherlock gif is PERFECT. <3 *is full of AAALL of the Sherlock feels because watched His Last Vow last night* Seriously, that is so like all the charries, being rude. :P

    Your pantsing/plotting discussion is fascinating. I'm usually a plotter but I totally see both sides to it too! *flails* Anyways, awesome thoughts! :)

    Mock covers and music and pinterest and faces are tooootally inspirational and not procrastinating... *cough cough*

    ...Wait. We actually have to WRITE? :O Ohhhhhh, so THAT's what I've been getting wrong all these years...

    (Pencil gif. XD) I can't decide if writing out of order or in order is better! Because writing out of order makes me confused and stresses me out because HOLES IN THE STORY. But at the same time, it's cool to get the scenes down while I'm thinking of them, and kind of cool to be able to just write where you're inspired and not have to trek through chronologically... But I don't even know. It's so confusing! There's pros and cons to both and... yeah. It's like the pantser/plotter conversational all over again!
    I tell ya. Writing is CONFUSING. -_-

    Also I'm so in awe of you for finishing books in a few months. You're amazing. And I should totally do that thing where you only focus on one at a time but... SO MANY SHINY PLOT BUNNIES. And yes, they like to attack right when you need to be working on something else. (Like Tare and my NaNo these days... >.> *COUGHCOUGH*)

    Anyways, awesome post! Thanks for shaaaaring!! ^_^ All these details of my Lauri's writing process are so cool to read about! :D

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    1. Thank you!!! Teehee. It was fun to write.

      Sherlock feeeeels! *hugs you* I know what that's like.
      Yes, it doesn't matter what I'm doing, if they want attention they force me to notice them. Sheesh.

      I probably should just someday make a post about my personal pros and cons for pantsing and plotting (although I practically did in this post). I think my pros and cons are so equal I can't decide which is better for me. So confusing.

      Yep, definitely. Yes. Ahem.

      LOLZY!!! I know! That step is so easy to forget. Seriously.

      That totally makes sense! I always see the appeal of writing scenes while you're inspired, but I think my poor brain would get confused if it's not chronological. Writing is SO confusing! *collapses* I think the problem is there IS no perfect way of doing it. We're all different and every story is different. There's no perfect formula. Which is kind of a distressing thought...

      Amazing? Nooo. Obsessive? Maybe. XD Still, I should probably stick to a book until it's actually polished instead of tossing it out as quickly (and messily) as possible and then jumping on the next one. But yes, ALL THE SHINY PLOT BUNNIES. They are so very distracting. >.>

      I'm so glad you liked it! ^_^

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    2. Actually, it's good to take a break between first drafts and polishing, so it's actually good you work on other things, I think! :D

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    3. I agree, you should definitely take a break between drafts. The problem is, after my break I get distracted by something new instead of rewriting. Heh. But I'm determined to polish Burning Thorns! It's gonna happen this time. It is!

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  3. Aw this post was so much fun! I loved reading it.

    I'm not precisely a panster or a plotter...you could say I dabble in both. I always plot the beginning as detailed as can be. And I always plot the end. But I leave some freedom with the middle, and I try to let it evolve as I write because when I plot it out I always need to change it. If it is a fantasy, I'll spend a lot of time plotting the world; I plot the characters but leave room for character development. I wish I could plot more, but I'm always so eager to start writing that I don't take the time; I tell myself that I can alway do the plotting later.

    I think you made a great point about writing in order. My only difficulty is that all the scenes I want to happen later decompose in my mind, and sometimes I just want to write them out!

    And I can relate far too well to everything about procrastination...but that's part of the fun of the writing right? No shame.

    Thanks so much for writing this!

    ~~
    Emma
    www.creativexplorations.weebly.com/ramblings-blog

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    1. D'awww, thanks! That makes me happy. ^_^

      I definitely dabble in both myself. Though, like I said, I have completely plotted and completely pantsed. I've tried it all! XD And yet still can't figure out what works best for me. Such a problem.
      Oooh, I like your system, having the beginning and ending plotted but leaving room for the imagination with the rest. That might help me a lot because beginnings are the hardest for me, but once I start writing it gets easier. So maybe if I at least plotted my beginnings it'd get me going. Yes...I like this idea! And I'm with you, sometimes I'm too impatient to start writing to take the time to plot!

      I have the same problem! I always so look forward to certain scenes, but by the time I get to them I hardly even remember what I wanted to happen. So I probably should just go ahead and write them, but for some reason I can't seem to.

      Haha! True enough. What would us writers be without our procrastination. ;D

      Thank YOU for reading and commenting! Totally made me smile.

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  4. Goodness, I LOVED this!!! I always look forward to Mondays because I can read your posts ^_^

    This must be a charrie thing because mine do it all the time. They just pop in my head and start commanding me to write their stories, like, right NOW. So thoughtless of them...

    I can't really tell if I'm a pantser or a plotter. I am one of those people that writes out of order (terrible, terrible, I know), but I've started plotting out my stories now so they're a bit more organized. I feel like I don't get anything done if I don't plan ahead, but I also need to keep exercising my writing skills. So I compromise and do a little bit of both. (We writers are a strange lot, aren't we?)

    Procrastinating? Me? Pssh, Pinterest is research, people ;)

    The plot bunnies are TERRIBLE! They come out of nowhere and just attack relentlessly. It's so tempting to acquiesce to them, but I have (mostly) remained devoted to my WIP.

    Gah, you seriously make the most beautimous posts! It's really interesting to find out what other authors do. One thing I've started doing recently is keeping a journal for my characters. I basically get inside their heads and write down their thoughts like they're writing the journal. It helps give me more insight into what makes my little charries tick. (Disclaimer: some charries may be more averse to this than others. I've had some who aren't too keen on the idea of looking inside their minds. But, you know, I have an excuse because they were the ones who demanded I write their story in the first place. It's called doing more writerly research ;)


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    1. Oh my goodness, you have no idea how much that made me smile! So sweet!!!

      You too? What is up with these characters? So very rude! Sheesh.

      Oh no! I don't think writing out of order is bad at all. The point of writing is to get the book actually, ya know, WRITTEN. And I think it doesn't matter how one does it, as long as it gets done. I find all the different ways people write books fascinating! It's amazing to me how so many stories come about in so many different ways. And yes, we're extremely strange! But that's what makes it awesome. :D

      Research. Yep. Definitely. *nods seriously*

      I knoooow! And they seem to attack the most when I'm right in the middle of something. But when I don't have a writing project going, they skitter away and ignore me. I mean, what even, bunnies? Horrid.

      Aaaahhh, thank yooouuu!!! I'm so glad people enjoy them. Sometimes I feel like I'm just rambling endlessly about things no one even cares about, so getting comments like these really encourage me. <3

      I've heard of people doing that and I think it's a fantastic idea! It sounds like a blast AND helps one get to know their character better. Win-win! (Hahaha! I can think of a lot of my own charries who would not be thrilled at all with such a thing. I totally get ya. XD)

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  5. Yay another plantster! I too used to pants solely, but it takes pressure off me too when I plan. I'm also OCD like that. XD It's hard for me to write scenes out of order. It's really nice to see into your writing process. ^ ^ Post like these have been going around a lot and it's neat.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Wow! It sounds like we've been through the same process with writing--used to pants, feel less pressure with some plotting, OCD. Yes! Writing twins! :D

      Yeah, I really enjoy seeing how other people write. It never ceases to amaze me how so many books come about in entirely different ways. It's just really neat to think about.

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  6. LOVED THIS POST. It's so fun getting a glimpse into your writing process. Like peeking into the magical room of a wizard or fairy...

    Perfect gif usage, by the way! *high five* That one with the guy chucking the computer--I sat and watched it play through a few times and just laughed. XD

    Oh, it's so good to hear that I'm not the only one who hasn't nailed down whether they're a plotter or a pantser! It changes with every. Single. Project. o.o With my fantasy series, I MUST plot or else I'd have a dead-end mess of rabbit trails and loopholes bigger than a dragon. But with my Sleeping Beauty retelling I pantsed much of it. (Hence the ginormous word count!) I have a lot of fun either way, so maybe it's perfectly all right to be flexible. :)

    Yay for music and goals! I don't think my writing would be the same without them.

    Great post, Christine! I loved reading it. :D

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    1. Awwww, thank you!!!! Oh my goodness gracious, TRACEY. I can't even handle your adorably nice analogies! If that's the case then that wizard or fairy just totally blundered a spell and is making a huge mess. Because that's what I feel like every time I write a story.

      I'll admit, finding gifs is always my favorite part. I can peruse the internet for funny gifs and genuinely call it working. ;D (And there may have been much time wasted watching that one over and over again on my part as well...)

      We are so brain twins! That is so me. Down to having to plot for my ginormous fantasy series and pantsing with a bunch of other things. It's so inconsistent. But, as you said, it's so much fun both ways it might not matter how we do it. As long as we enjoy writing!

      Oh, me neither! Music and goals are such huge keys to my writing.

      Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. ^_^

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