Friday, April 30, 2010
How I bang my head against my fist and a book comes out
When my CP Tawna Fenske asked if I wanted to blog about my writing “process,” I first thought, People really want to know how I bang my head against my fist?
Then it occurred to me that what she actually meant is my map for how to go from the blank page with that taunting cursor to The End.
How I do it is probably not like anybody else does it. Tawna’s way is different. Nelsa Roberto, my CP as well, has another way. Several phenomenally talented authors agreed to share theirs. When you’re done with me, be sure to visit Tawna and Nelsa, along with Sean Ferrell, Linda Grimes, and Kiersten White to learn what works for them.
I am a control freak. I plot everything. That’s not saying the final MS turns out anything like what I originally plotted. That’s just saying I can’t go to the grocery store without plugging it into my GPS. I gotta know where I’m headed.
The Idea Stage: (Nano-second) I hear a song, an anecdote, a news item or experience some random act of life and think, Hmmm, what if …? Since I’m usually knee-deep in another story, I promptly go to my Word document of story ideas and write it down.
The Rolling It Around In My Head Stage: (anywhere from days to years) I figure out a few things, like characters and conflict.
The Movie Synopsis Stage: (An hour max) I write down a short synopsis of what happens. I write it like I’m telling a friend about a movie. Yes, I’m a freak who writes a synop before I write the MS.
The Mall-Map-of-Life Synopsis Stage: (An hour max and proof that I really am a freak) I write another synop, concentrating on the character arc. My heroine starts out HERE (maybe without a backbone), and she ends up OVER YONDER (backbone firmly in place.) I pull out specific plot points to illustrate her growth.
The Write-the-1st-3-Chapters: (a week to a month) This is where I really let the characters breathe and realize, Hey, my heroine has a dog.
The Plot-it-Within-an-Inch-of-its-Life Stage: (an afternoon) I calculate total pages, divide them into chapters, and plot out each chapter in a sentence. And now I can write!
Yes. I am a mutant.
On a good day, I can churn out a chapter a day, which is about 12 pages. I send that to any willing CP who’s not neck deep in a deadline, and I start a new chapter.
Tawna will say, “OK, this is good, but what does your hero look like? Is he hawt? Cuz this is supposed to be, yanno, a romance.”
I remind her that I’m trying to write an inspirational romance, which only marginally shuts her up.
Nelsa will say, “OK, this is good, but what’s your character’s motivation? What makes her want to grow a backbone?” Nelsa is probably the inventor of the old saw about how many shrinks it takes to change a light bulb.*
I go back and rethink my hero's looks and my heroine's motivation, and send my CPs my next chapter.
I revise at the end, unless they tell me I’ve really gone off the rails. The chapter-by-chapter critique helps me stay focused and know when something’s not working. That’s when I scrap the whole thing and say, “Hello, Square One.”
While it’s heavy on plotting, it works for me. I’ve tried pantsering, and I just get lost. And it’s not pretty when I’m lost. Just ask The Husband.
But my way is not the only way. My way may drive you up the wall. Tell me how you do it, and then visit these fine folks!
Tawna Fenske (romantic comedy)
Sean Ferrell (literary fiction)
Linda Grimes (light paranormal mystery)
Nelsa Roberto (young adult)
Kiersten White (young adult)
*The answer to the joke: it depends. Does the light bulb want to change?