Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Process

Susan May's Writing World

I’m still in search of my real writing process. I don’t know but I may always be in search of it on some level. My newest step is learning to embrace and appreciate a synopsis. Which I have done, and wish I’d done sooner. I begin a book by making notes about my characters, setting and story line. I use something similar to Deb Dixon’s GMC frame to start. It usually takes a week or so of making notes, thinking and making more notes before I can put something serious on the page. I would like to say I write on a new story every day but I’m more of a spurt person. Pages here and pages there.


I don't do anything without having ingested a giant cup o' Joe. That done, I reread ONLY the new writing I wrote the day before to oil my gears. I polish that up then forge on ahead. Wash, rinse, repeat the next day. After the whole draft is complete, I go through and polish 2-3 more times (I'm not a clean writer) and then I'm finished.

I write from a detailed synopsis I hash out with my critique partner before ever beginning the book. I don't do detailed charts--I'm too impatient to read through them--more of a bullet-point system of necessary plot details. Sometimes I stray from the details, but I'm usually pretty loyal to the plan. When I run into snags, again, my CP is my writing oxygen. She gives me a billion and one options, without ever getting getting too attached to the suggestions she's given me, and lets me pick and choose at will.

I Write in the Dark : Nicki Salcedo

Sometimes I turn off my monitor and write in the dark. When doing a deep revision, I don’t edit. I re-write every word of a chapter so I force myself to lose the extraneous words. It is difficult for me to write about things that I can see, but once I have an image in my memory I can create in on the page. I like to wake up at 3 a.m. and write. Well, I don’t really like this, but when I am awake at 3 a.m. I take advantage of the quiet and write. In this season of my life, I write long hand. I only recently went to this process. I think it reminds me of keeping a diary or journal growing up. I don’t write as fluidly when I type. I write better with pen on paper.

My Writing Process: CiCi Barnes

I started out with pencil and paper, writing anywhere and everywhere, especially when traveling with hubby. I have now graduated to the computer at home and a laptop or AlphaSmart Neo on the road. Pencil and paper creep back on the scene sometimes, but not often.

I have never been one to sort everything out before I start writing the story. I get a nugget of an idea and then start typing. My characters develop and lead me down the road they want me to follow. At some point, around the middle, I start to list bullet points of how I want to proceed to the end. Sometimes my characters agree; sometimes they don’t. I follow their whims, for they are usually right.

My writing day begins by 9:00 am and goes to at least 5:00 pm, if not 6:00 pm (depending on hubby’s empty tummy). I take a break around 12:30 for lunch. I also try to get up every couple of hours for about 15 minutes to do a quick household chore or just stop and breathe in some fresh air. I usually start out reading what I wrote the day before to refresh my memory and then move onto the next scene.

I used to edit as I went, but realized the process bogged down my writing. I fight the urge and leave the revising and editing until after I’ve written The End.

I’m blessed to be able to devote my days to writing without having to deal with a day job or children begging for my time and attention. My hat’s off to those who deal with life’s multiple juggles and writing too.

My writing process has evolved over the years. Some things I did at the beginning, still work, others have fallen by the wayside as I’ve learned, grown and attended more conferences to expand my knowledge. My advice: don’t be a slave to one way of working. Try out different methods and choose the one that fits your personality and lifestyle. Don’t scoff at trying a new way of doing things until you’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.

As in your writing, your methods of turning out the best book need to explore all possibilities.


Sally Kilpatrick said...

Thanks for sharing your processes, ladies. I'm about to head out for my writing day, and I head a lot of similar details.

I do have a question: do any of you plan in terms of scenes? I don't know if I'm just really sensitive to criticism that parts of my WIP aren't working, if that criticism is justified, or if I need to go hole myself up and not listen to anyone for a while. Anyway, just bullet points or does every single scene contain something vitally important to the plot?

Sally Kilpatrick said...

And someone please tell me how in heaven's name I am the one to get the first comment. Me? The self-proclaimed nonmorning person.

Tami Brothers said...

Hi Susan! I can totally see you hashing out a story in your head and taking notes. You are a definite planner. As much as you do in life, I can see how this works well for you. I can’t wait to read more of your stories!

Hey JP! Now you surprised me. I figured you for a total pantser. I see you as a person who takes life by the balls and hangs on for the ride. This is a really neat look into the “real” JP and a good reminder that I shouldn’t make assumptions about people. I would love to read some of your stories.

Hi Nicki! I’m always afraid to turn off my monitor because I’ve been known to type something as I was reading it from a book (homework type stuff) and then look up and see that I had somehow highlighted the whole document and erased it. But I will admit to loving my AlphaSmart for this exact purpose. It doesn’t show the red/green error/grammar lines and that is pretty close to free writing, I think. I do keep a handwritten journal (almost daily), but I honestly never think to write my stories like that unless I’m just jotting down ideas. I’ll have to try it. And I can’t wait to read more of your stories, too!

Hey Cici! Like JP, you surprise me. I had pegged you as a plotter (Ms. Math Teacher…grin…). I am definitely looking forward to those days when I can write all day. Except I have to admit that I have had those opportunities and I was disciplined. I didn’t do it and I regret that now. I applaud you and send my very best wishes because I can feel that you are almost there. I love your writing and I can’t wait to see you in print!!!

Sandy Elzie said...

Dear Sally,
Those of us who are morning people held ourselves back and allowed you to have your day in the sun. (grin)

Ladies, Great input. CiCi, I think I write the most like you. I'm too anxious to start my story to spend more than a tiny amount of time planning. I want to get the idea down. THEN part-way through I bullet major things that must happen to get the story to the end.

Thanks for sharing. (Good to "see" you, CiCi)


Marilyn Baron said...

I enjoyed hearing about your writing processes.

When I start a story, I'm more like CiCi, jumping right in without a plan, just getting the words on "paper" but I admit I do edit as I go along and I'm always trying to perfect the story (even when it's done).

Nicki, that's interesting, writing in the dark. I also like pen and paper because I like tangible things but now I'm pretty dependent on the computer. I don't find that it restrains creativity.


Cyrano said...

I like that you've embraced the synopsis. I'm still hurling insults at the dern thing!
Maybe I can learn to accept it too one day.
Have a happy day,

Cyrano said...

As always, you cute little, brunette, fire cracker, I laugh at your post. Well I laugh with you, not at you per say.
I write very much like you. Need that re-read to grease my wheels too. It works for me.
Oh, and by the way,

Have a productive day woman!

Cyrano said...

Like Cici says later in this post,
I started out writing with pen and paper too. I have about three thousand legal pads(sounds like an exageration but its not far off) up in my attic that had been scrawled on and scribbled on for years. I always say I have eight unfinished manuscripts and pne completed, but if I took into consideration those legal pad novels...geesh, I might have fifteen, sixteen unfinished works.
What I liked about pen and paper is that it was hard to go back and erase. Editing wasn't something I did. I just wrote and got a lot down because of that.
But I have never tried gto turn the monitor off. Wow, babe, your my hero. I need to try that strategy at least once.
Keep writing woman, because the world needs to read your owe it to them.
Have a happy day,

Cyrano said...

like you, I'm blessed to be able to stay home and write without much interuption. Well, at least until my teenagers get home at 3.
The problem is, I haven't gotten the hang of using that time wisely yet. But I'm working hard on that.
If I want to get published, I simply need to write.
I loved what you said, "My advice: don’t be a slave to one way of working. Try out different methods and choose the one that fits your personality and lifestyle. Don’t scoff at trying a new way of doing things until you’ve tried it and it doesn’t work."
That's a very good bit of wisdom. And I'll definately put it to use.
Have a wonderful morning,

Dianna Love said...

I love that you all have such different writing processes - and each one is wonderful because the process works for you. You know how much I believe in finding "your" process and going with it.

For me, I have to feel like I know my characters first even when I have a good idea what the plot is going to focus on. I call myself a hybrid-plotter because I do need the story plotted to free me to write at will on the scenes and characters, but I often start by writing a chapter once I see the opening in my mind. From the first book I wrote, I can't recall having changed the opening of a story yet (not that I wouldn't if I felt a different opening would be stronger), because the story doesn't take off for me until I'm anchored in that first scene visually and emotionally. I'll write anywhere from 20-35 pages then stop and start plotting once I have a feel for my characters "on scene", a feel for the setting and a feel for that emotional hook that puts everything into motion.

As soon as I have key twist points, motivation and stakes evolved from beginning to end, I'm raring to type.

But...I'm a lifetime member of the "hate synopsis" club. Evil things. ;)

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hey ladies,
What a fun, quick peek into your processes! Thanks for sharing.

Ana Aragón said...

Wow! What a great idea. It was neat reading into the different processes each of you use to get out the story. I have to mentally know the story and characters before I even begin. But I'm a pantser once I've got the story in my head. Don't know that it's efficient, but it works for me!

See ya'll tomorrow...

Susan May said...

Thanks for all the nice comments.

Sally, so your head doesn't too big I actually checked the site this morning before there were any comments. I let it go because I was my day. I was surprise no one was up that early also. I am working on using some scene forms I've come up with. They just remind me of what needs to go into each scene and outline the scene. I put a number of things together to get something that I thought would help me. I'd be glad to show you if you are interested.

It is neat to see how we all go about doing the same thing.

A synopsis makes a good outline therefore faster writing for me. I so want to write faster.

Maxine Davis said...

Ladies of the mystical and magical power of writing:

I'm late, but have been gone all day. Friend in hospital, etc. I, too, count my blessings daily that I am now home and not working the grind every day. Now if I could just get past "where did all my time go?"

In writing, I, too, like to get that thought down while it is demanding to be written and then start plotting from there.

It was so much fun to 'hear' how everyone works. Some were expected and some were surprises, but I can't wait to read what each of you talented women write.

Linsey Lanier said...

Susan, I'm always tweaking my writing process, too. It's never exactly the same from book to book, because I always want to try it a new way. I'm trying to work on writing a synopsis, too. I may blog about it soon.

J Perry, I admire you for following your detailed synopsis (I was surprised to hear that, too). I can't get that detailed before dialog starts coming out, so I write and capture that. Summarize later. :)

Nicki, you are deliciously exotic. Rewriting the whole thing to lose the extraneous words? That's a technique to try.

Sounds like you're a pantser, CiCi (I would have pegged you as a plotter, too). I admire people who can write like that. And I agree about trying different things. You just never know until you've tried something whether it will work or not.

But everyone should follow her instincts and not some rule about what will work or won't. It was so refreshing and liberating to hear Dianna say that in her workshop last year.

Here's to seeing us all in print soon!


Nicki Salcedo said...

Been traveling so I'm late to the party. Sorry. Missed some cool blogs this week!

Sally, scene should reveal something about plot, character, or theme. Yay mornings. I'm sleepy at night.

Tami, AlphaSmart is great for cranking out pages without being about to edit much. Love mine.

Sandy, 8:07am? You were late too. We are going to steal your writing energy and take a lesson from your wonderful dedication to writing.

Tamara, maybe at the next write-in we both try it long hand? It sounds like a proposition, but it's purely business I promise. Depending on your shoes. :)

Nicki Salcedo said...

Dianna, "hybrid-plotter" sounds like a good strategy that many of us should consider. Get going, but don't forget the structure.

Ana, do what works.

Debbie, thank you, thank you.

Susan, I like your organization.

Linsey, try it. The complete re-write might work for you.

Maxine, I'm counting my blessings too. We always need reminders.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Susan, I need help with my synopsis and it looks like you are volunteering to help. :)

JP, you are another synopsis guru. Only, you guys need to have an intervention with me. I'm avoiding the synopsis like the plague.

Cici, "Try out different methods and choose the one that fits your personality and lifestyle." Triple amen to that.

Nicki, do you sleep with the lights on if you write in the dark? Just wondering.