The wonderful Cairn Rodrigues tagged me in this Writing Process blog post meme that’s going around like the Spanish Influenza of 1918.
Fasten your seatbelts.
My Writing Process
I begin by pretending. “Duh,” I hear you say? Be nice.
I begin by pretending I’m going to be organized. I have a prompt or a theme or a nagging idea or a pushy character or an intriguing situation/setting/storyline. Whichever that is, I start with that. I spend a lot of time sitting around looking like I’m not doing anything, but I’m actually like playing seventeen Grand Master level games of chess all at once in my head.
At some point, I need to put something on paper. Usually on paper, seldom on computer. I love computers; would hate to do without ’em; but the drawback with a computer is that you can only view what will fit on your screen. With paper, you can spread everything out and look at lots of stuff at once.
The nicely typed one in front is a page of character information. It’s just the items, not the answers. The answers can run to ten pages or more, not all of which I stick with, and almost none of which I actually state, but all of which shapes the character in my imagination so he or she is unique and three-dimensional.
The one with the rectangles/squares is a sheet of debate paper; debate judges use these to keep track of arguments, rebuttals, and so on; I draw lines across the columns to make squares (or close approximations), and each square is a chapter. I can begin by writing generic stuff like “first plot point,” “midpoint,” “dramatic reversal,” “sudden but inevitable betrayal,” or what-have-you.
Somewhere in here, I start writing; if the story doesn’t make me want to ditch prep and start writing, usually before I’ve finished my outline or all my character sheets, it won’t get written at all.
So it goes back and forth between planning and spitballing.
At some point, I realize I’ve lost track of details, like who’s in what scene. It sucks when you realize you have a mouthy character in a scene and she or he has just been standing there listening and observing when she or he would have been totally popping off and messing up my nice, neat, efficient conversation. So those scribbley pages are from FORCE OF HABIT, where I had to note who was in the scene, where it took place, when it took place relative to other scenes with other characters, and what happened. It may not be clear in the picture, but there are whole scenes crossed out and other ones adhesive-taped on as things got shuffled around.
I don’t organize as much as I re-organize.
Do I ever just sit down and write until I’m finished? I do, when I’m writing short. Even then, I’m as likely as not to come up with a throughline fairly early in the process: When Lonnie is convinced a stray dog is a hellhound he accidentally conjured, his friend Tiny comes up with a plan to comfort Lonnie and save the dog. “Lonnie, Me and the Hound of Hell“.
If you want to call that a “writing process,” there’s mine.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a throughline for a book or story you’ve read. Write one for a story you’ve written. Write one for a story you haven’t written yet. Write the story.