Ask A Wench: Our Writing Processes

AAWGraphicAnne here, hosting Ask a Wench for this month. The question today is an oldie and comes from Keira Soleore, who wins a book. Would it be possible for you to blog about your writing processes and your daily schedules? …. A few days ago, I finished reading "Write Away" by Elizabeth George. She is a proponent of detailed outlines. In her book, she describes in great depth how her process works for her.

Before the discussion opens, I'd like to clarify a small point — obviously we all plot, otherwise our books would make no sense. So when writers say they don't plot, they mean they don't plan the story in advance, before they start writing it.

Mary Jo says:  Given that Elizabeth George writes mysteries, and particularly
Neverlessthanalady150   intricate ones at that, I can see where a very detailed outline would work for her.  But process is HIGHLY variable, and part of developing into a Real Writer is figuring out what works for oneself.

I'm a moderate by nature, so it's probably not a surprise that I fall in the middle, process wise.  I don't do detailed outlines, and I certainly don't dive in and head mapless into the wild blue yonder.  Instead, I write a synopsis of maybe eight pages that delineates the main characters and the setting and sketches in the basic plot line and conflicts.  It's rather like a skeleton, and as I write I put the flesh on.  The flesh is maybe 90% of the whole—but it's shaped to that original synopsis, which seldom changes much after I send it off to the editor for approval.

I should mention here that I am that most despised of creatures—someone who writes synopses easily.  I may gnaw on an idea for weeks, months, and occasionally years, but when it ripens, I can sit down and write the synopsis in a couple of hours.  And if I can write the synopsis, I know I can write the book.  The actual writing—now there's another challenge!

Cara/Andrea writes: Oh no, this question has me cowering under my desk, making little whimpering noises. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth George and the Inspector Lynley novels, and to have her routine held as example is . . . intimidating, to say the least. Especially as I'm not sure I could draft a detailed plot chart for my books for all the chocolate in Switzerland.


Scoundrelcover2  I am, if you haven't guessed it by now, a complete seat-of-the pantser. I come up with a (I hope) brilliant flash of inspiration for a story, and the beginning is totally clear in my head.  For maybe 20 pages. Then . . .

Well, then is where the characters start to run with the idea.  I know, I know, that sound so lame on my part. I've tried other ways. Each time I start a new book, I vow that I am going to paper my wall with charts and diagrams that will magically lead me from start to finish with nary a stop in between. I feel that I'm a slow writer, and this will, I tell myself, make me faster. More efficient.

Ha! Sheets of paper get covered with squiggles and notes. Arrows bend around corners, point to the heavens . . . and prove absolutely useless. I end up staring at gobbledy-gook.

So how does a book happen? I make up for my lack of advanced preparation by being very disciplines about sitting down each day and writing, even when I'm not quite sure where I'm going. It's a leap of faith, and at this point, I know myself well enough that I don't wake up in a cold sweat over it. As for inspiration, it strikes at the oddest times. 
HarpersGolf  
Case in point — the other day it was cloudless and warm. I had been working all day and decided I needed some fresh and exercise, so went down to the golf course, threw my bag on my back and went out to walk nine holes. It was nearing sunset, and the light over Long Island Sound was ethereal. A flock of gulls landed on a nearby green, brilliant bits of white against the emerald grass. A loon was fishing in the lagoon, and as I followed the narrow dirt path through the pale gold fescue, a pair of curlews were hopping through the broken sea shells, picking up stray bits of chaff. (Where is my golf ball you might ask? Umm, sometimes I forget to watch exactly where it's landed. But that's not the point.)

As I started up the fairway, daydreaming as usual, the line of dialogue that I had been looking for all day suddenly bounced into my head. From there, the whole scene, and the villain's motivation, became clear. And then, all at once, the second half of the book started to jell. When I got home, I sat down and madly wrote up a stream-of-consciousness rush of notes that would only make sense to me. That's my storyboard, and it's become easy to add in the details.


Undoing of a lady -US  
From Nicola:
 I have to write detailed outlines for my HQN books and I do find this very difficult because at that stage in my process I have only the vaguest idea of how my story will develop. The outline is useful for helping me to start to get to know my characters and identify the themes and the central conflict in the book but I know that all the other details will probably change and develop in the course of the writing. I'd be worried if they did not because I can't get the depth I need in an outline or even at a first pass. Fortunately my editor understands this and so doesn't ask any awkward questions when the final book sometimes bears very little resemblance to the original outline! I'm a seat of the pants writer and sometimes I wish I could write in a more planned and organised fashion but the process simply doesn't work like that for me. Similarly some days I can write all day and others I feel as though I am dragging words out of treacle and so I have to stop and go out for a walk with the dog to refresh myself and try to re-find my inspiration. I do try to write a minimum number of words per day, however, so I'm not completely disorganised! One thing I have learned is that there is no right or wrong process. If it works for you then that's fine!"


Secretduke  From Jo: My writing routine is to get to work after breakfast and work through at least until lunch directly on writing. What this means depends on the stage and behavior of the MIP. It might be straight writing — getting it down — or reading through and rewriting. Or, all too often, chucking out and doing that bit again.

My creative flow doesn't usually work well later in the day, though it has been known. I can do some editing, but I'm more likely to use later time for research and noodling with story ideas.

I don't pre-plot. It doesn't work for me. Anyone who wants to know more about that can read a speech I gave long ago

My advice to everyone is a) experiment and see what works best for you, and b) don't let anyone, ever, any time tell you one way is right and another is wrong.


Accweddingsmll  
Anne here, finishing up: I call myself an organic writer. Plotting a book before I start writing it doesn't work for me. Like Mary Jo, I have no trouble writing synopses — I can come up with what looks like a ripping yarn without too much trouble. However if I then try to follow it I get bored, feeling a bit like I'm painting by numbers. It's only when I'm inside the story and in a character's mind that the exciting possibilities start to unfold and for me part of the joy of writing is when unexpected things happen.

I sometimes liken my process to archaeology — it's as if the characters and their story are there, buried in some dim recess of my brain, and I'm unearthing them. Messy but the possibilities are exciting.

I often have an idea of where the book is going, for instance toward a big dramatic scene, but there are lots of different possible routes, and the first one I come up with isn't always the best, but simply the most obvious. 

As for my schedule, I try to write every day, turning up for the work, but I'm not a fast writer. First thing in the morning and late at night are my two best times for working. In the afternoon I'm hopeless, so that's when I take the dog for a walk, and do shopping and things like that. 

When I begin a book I write slowly, and the closer I get to the end the faster I get. I keep a daily word count. A lot of the time I write straight onto the computer, but I'll often write a first draft of a scene by hand, often a scene that's yet to come in the book. On the computer I write chronologically, in the notebooks I jump around from scene to scene and even book to book, as the muse strikes. I keep a notepad and pen by the bed, too, as frequently a scene will come to me during that dreamy half-consciousness between sleeping and waking, and I'll write it down — not simply taking notes, but writing whole pages of dialogue, sometimes. If I don't write it down, I forget it. Here's a link to a scene that's almost unchanged from the way I wrote it in the notebook one dawn, many years ago.

So, as everyone has said, there's no correct way to write. Our brains are all different and our muses sing to different music. Only the result matters.  What about you? How you approach big creative tasks? With a detailed plan? Or do you tend to fly by the seat of your pants? 

75 thoughts on “Ask A Wench: Our Writing Processes”

  1. I get intimidated when I see all these courses about the various methods to plot, and there are tons of courses out there.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that before you write anything, you have to think about it. Some people do their thinking by plotting everything in advance. Others do it by writing words until everything gels. And nothing is written in stone. Lots of things can change as you go along.
    I’m a pantser, too, but I usually start with a few pages of story idea, always subject to change. And when it’s all there, I rewrite everything with better words. Multiple times!
    Now for some numbers. As I write the story, I keep a copy of the file whenever I make substantial changes. For my latest novella, I had 73 saved versions as the story grew, until I submitted version 74.

    Reply
  2. I get intimidated when I see all these courses about the various methods to plot, and there are tons of courses out there.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that before you write anything, you have to think about it. Some people do their thinking by plotting everything in advance. Others do it by writing words until everything gels. And nothing is written in stone. Lots of things can change as you go along.
    I’m a pantser, too, but I usually start with a few pages of story idea, always subject to change. And when it’s all there, I rewrite everything with better words. Multiple times!
    Now for some numbers. As I write the story, I keep a copy of the file whenever I make substantial changes. For my latest novella, I had 73 saved versions as the story grew, until I submitted version 74.

    Reply
  3. I get intimidated when I see all these courses about the various methods to plot, and there are tons of courses out there.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that before you write anything, you have to think about it. Some people do their thinking by plotting everything in advance. Others do it by writing words until everything gels. And nothing is written in stone. Lots of things can change as you go along.
    I’m a pantser, too, but I usually start with a few pages of story idea, always subject to change. And when it’s all there, I rewrite everything with better words. Multiple times!
    Now for some numbers. As I write the story, I keep a copy of the file whenever I make substantial changes. For my latest novella, I had 73 saved versions as the story grew, until I submitted version 74.

    Reply
  4. I get intimidated when I see all these courses about the various methods to plot, and there are tons of courses out there.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that before you write anything, you have to think about it. Some people do their thinking by plotting everything in advance. Others do it by writing words until everything gels. And nothing is written in stone. Lots of things can change as you go along.
    I’m a pantser, too, but I usually start with a few pages of story idea, always subject to change. And when it’s all there, I rewrite everything with better words. Multiple times!
    Now for some numbers. As I write the story, I keep a copy of the file whenever I make substantial changes. For my latest novella, I had 73 saved versions as the story grew, until I submitted version 74.

    Reply
  5. I get intimidated when I see all these courses about the various methods to plot, and there are tons of courses out there.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that before you write anything, you have to think about it. Some people do their thinking by plotting everything in advance. Others do it by writing words until everything gels. And nothing is written in stone. Lots of things can change as you go along.
    I’m a pantser, too, but I usually start with a few pages of story idea, always subject to change. And when it’s all there, I rewrite everything with better words. Multiple times!
    Now for some numbers. As I write the story, I keep a copy of the file whenever I make substantial changes. For my latest novella, I had 73 saved versions as the story grew, until I submitted version 74.

    Reply
  6. Linda, I have many, many versions of my books. I’ve never counted. I always worry I might want to go back or retrieve a cut scene, but it hardly every happens.
    Thanks for pulling this AAW together, Anne.
    Jo

    Reply
  7. Linda, I have many, many versions of my books. I’ve never counted. I always worry I might want to go back or retrieve a cut scene, but it hardly every happens.
    Thanks for pulling this AAW together, Anne.
    Jo

    Reply
  8. Linda, I have many, many versions of my books. I’ve never counted. I always worry I might want to go back or retrieve a cut scene, but it hardly every happens.
    Thanks for pulling this AAW together, Anne.
    Jo

    Reply
  9. Linda, I have many, many versions of my books. I’ve never counted. I always worry I might want to go back or retrieve a cut scene, but it hardly every happens.
    Thanks for pulling this AAW together, Anne.
    Jo

    Reply
  10. Linda, I have many, many versions of my books. I’ve never counted. I always worry I might want to go back or retrieve a cut scene, but it hardly every happens.
    Thanks for pulling this AAW together, Anne.
    Jo

    Reply
  11. Hooray, Anne and all the Wenches, thank you for choosing my question.
    It fascinates me to discover how writers weave the magic they do. It’s also encouraging to discover that there isn’t one right way to do it. Sometimes writing books and classes can get quite didactic. If you do it exactly this way then you’ll have a book. Uhhhh…
    Jo, the advice to experiment is right on the money. I’ve tried: a detailed outlining bore, an out-of-order unplanned scene-by-scene mess, a partial outlining in the beginning and 2-3 scene plotting ahead promising approach, and various other techniques. Nothing that has been an AHA! moment for me yet.
    Anne, that scene from RAKE is hilarious! A couple weeks ago, I went and read it on your site, and then I had to go back and re-read the entire book. I love a book where I can cry and laugh.
    Andrea, sorry, I didn’t mean to bludgeon anyone with Elizabeth George’s writing process. 🙂 I was simply using her as an example of a writer talking about her process. (PS: Since you’re an admirer of George’s books, don’t read my blog about her. 🙂
    Thank you all once again for indulging me with my question.

    Reply
  12. Hooray, Anne and all the Wenches, thank you for choosing my question.
    It fascinates me to discover how writers weave the magic they do. It’s also encouraging to discover that there isn’t one right way to do it. Sometimes writing books and classes can get quite didactic. If you do it exactly this way then you’ll have a book. Uhhhh…
    Jo, the advice to experiment is right on the money. I’ve tried: a detailed outlining bore, an out-of-order unplanned scene-by-scene mess, a partial outlining in the beginning and 2-3 scene plotting ahead promising approach, and various other techniques. Nothing that has been an AHA! moment for me yet.
    Anne, that scene from RAKE is hilarious! A couple weeks ago, I went and read it on your site, and then I had to go back and re-read the entire book. I love a book where I can cry and laugh.
    Andrea, sorry, I didn’t mean to bludgeon anyone with Elizabeth George’s writing process. 🙂 I was simply using her as an example of a writer talking about her process. (PS: Since you’re an admirer of George’s books, don’t read my blog about her. 🙂
    Thank you all once again for indulging me with my question.

    Reply
  13. Hooray, Anne and all the Wenches, thank you for choosing my question.
    It fascinates me to discover how writers weave the magic they do. It’s also encouraging to discover that there isn’t one right way to do it. Sometimes writing books and classes can get quite didactic. If you do it exactly this way then you’ll have a book. Uhhhh…
    Jo, the advice to experiment is right on the money. I’ve tried: a detailed outlining bore, an out-of-order unplanned scene-by-scene mess, a partial outlining in the beginning and 2-3 scene plotting ahead promising approach, and various other techniques. Nothing that has been an AHA! moment for me yet.
    Anne, that scene from RAKE is hilarious! A couple weeks ago, I went and read it on your site, and then I had to go back and re-read the entire book. I love a book where I can cry and laugh.
    Andrea, sorry, I didn’t mean to bludgeon anyone with Elizabeth George’s writing process. 🙂 I was simply using her as an example of a writer talking about her process. (PS: Since you’re an admirer of George’s books, don’t read my blog about her. 🙂
    Thank you all once again for indulging me with my question.

    Reply
  14. Hooray, Anne and all the Wenches, thank you for choosing my question.
    It fascinates me to discover how writers weave the magic they do. It’s also encouraging to discover that there isn’t one right way to do it. Sometimes writing books and classes can get quite didactic. If you do it exactly this way then you’ll have a book. Uhhhh…
    Jo, the advice to experiment is right on the money. I’ve tried: a detailed outlining bore, an out-of-order unplanned scene-by-scene mess, a partial outlining in the beginning and 2-3 scene plotting ahead promising approach, and various other techniques. Nothing that has been an AHA! moment for me yet.
    Anne, that scene from RAKE is hilarious! A couple weeks ago, I went and read it on your site, and then I had to go back and re-read the entire book. I love a book where I can cry and laugh.
    Andrea, sorry, I didn’t mean to bludgeon anyone with Elizabeth George’s writing process. 🙂 I was simply using her as an example of a writer talking about her process. (PS: Since you’re an admirer of George’s books, don’t read my blog about her. 🙂
    Thank you all once again for indulging me with my question.

    Reply
  15. Hooray, Anne and all the Wenches, thank you for choosing my question.
    It fascinates me to discover how writers weave the magic they do. It’s also encouraging to discover that there isn’t one right way to do it. Sometimes writing books and classes can get quite didactic. If you do it exactly this way then you’ll have a book. Uhhhh…
    Jo, the advice to experiment is right on the money. I’ve tried: a detailed outlining bore, an out-of-order unplanned scene-by-scene mess, a partial outlining in the beginning and 2-3 scene plotting ahead promising approach, and various other techniques. Nothing that has been an AHA! moment for me yet.
    Anne, that scene from RAKE is hilarious! A couple weeks ago, I went and read it on your site, and then I had to go back and re-read the entire book. I love a book where I can cry and laugh.
    Andrea, sorry, I didn’t mean to bludgeon anyone with Elizabeth George’s writing process. 🙂 I was simply using her as an example of a writer talking about her process. (PS: Since you’re an admirer of George’s books, don’t read my blog about her. 🙂
    Thank you all once again for indulging me with my question.

    Reply
  16. I’ve actually happened across a mystery writer who’s a pantser: Gary Corby, whose mystery series set in Periclean Athens debuts this fall. (And if it’s as entertaining as his blog, it’ll be great!) I’d always imagined you couldn’t write a mystery if you didn’t go in knowing exactly who did it and why so you could plant clues appropriately, but he says he figures out whodunnit alongside his characters.
    I’m not entirely a pantser, but I’m closer to that end of the spectrum than a plotter. I’ve found I need to let an idea for a story percolate in the back of mind for at least a year before I start writing or the story comes out stiff and forced. I don’t write anything down at that point, just think about the idea when the mood strikes and do some research.
    Then, once I’m ready to write, I seem to work best with an outline of no more than a page. This has no real details, just a sense of what the key turning points of the story are. At a recent conference I heard a writer talk about aiming for signposts–he knows a few key moments, but not how he’s going to get there–and that seems like as good a description as any for my process. I wish I could remember that author’s name.

    Reply
  17. I’ve actually happened across a mystery writer who’s a pantser: Gary Corby, whose mystery series set in Periclean Athens debuts this fall. (And if it’s as entertaining as his blog, it’ll be great!) I’d always imagined you couldn’t write a mystery if you didn’t go in knowing exactly who did it and why so you could plant clues appropriately, but he says he figures out whodunnit alongside his characters.
    I’m not entirely a pantser, but I’m closer to that end of the spectrum than a plotter. I’ve found I need to let an idea for a story percolate in the back of mind for at least a year before I start writing or the story comes out stiff and forced. I don’t write anything down at that point, just think about the idea when the mood strikes and do some research.
    Then, once I’m ready to write, I seem to work best with an outline of no more than a page. This has no real details, just a sense of what the key turning points of the story are. At a recent conference I heard a writer talk about aiming for signposts–he knows a few key moments, but not how he’s going to get there–and that seems like as good a description as any for my process. I wish I could remember that author’s name.

    Reply
  18. I’ve actually happened across a mystery writer who’s a pantser: Gary Corby, whose mystery series set in Periclean Athens debuts this fall. (And if it’s as entertaining as his blog, it’ll be great!) I’d always imagined you couldn’t write a mystery if you didn’t go in knowing exactly who did it and why so you could plant clues appropriately, but he says he figures out whodunnit alongside his characters.
    I’m not entirely a pantser, but I’m closer to that end of the spectrum than a plotter. I’ve found I need to let an idea for a story percolate in the back of mind for at least a year before I start writing or the story comes out stiff and forced. I don’t write anything down at that point, just think about the idea when the mood strikes and do some research.
    Then, once I’m ready to write, I seem to work best with an outline of no more than a page. This has no real details, just a sense of what the key turning points of the story are. At a recent conference I heard a writer talk about aiming for signposts–he knows a few key moments, but not how he’s going to get there–and that seems like as good a description as any for my process. I wish I could remember that author’s name.

    Reply
  19. I’ve actually happened across a mystery writer who’s a pantser: Gary Corby, whose mystery series set in Periclean Athens debuts this fall. (And if it’s as entertaining as his blog, it’ll be great!) I’d always imagined you couldn’t write a mystery if you didn’t go in knowing exactly who did it and why so you could plant clues appropriately, but he says he figures out whodunnit alongside his characters.
    I’m not entirely a pantser, but I’m closer to that end of the spectrum than a plotter. I’ve found I need to let an idea for a story percolate in the back of mind for at least a year before I start writing or the story comes out stiff and forced. I don’t write anything down at that point, just think about the idea when the mood strikes and do some research.
    Then, once I’m ready to write, I seem to work best with an outline of no more than a page. This has no real details, just a sense of what the key turning points of the story are. At a recent conference I heard a writer talk about aiming for signposts–he knows a few key moments, but not how he’s going to get there–and that seems like as good a description as any for my process. I wish I could remember that author’s name.

    Reply
  20. I’ve actually happened across a mystery writer who’s a pantser: Gary Corby, whose mystery series set in Periclean Athens debuts this fall. (And if it’s as entertaining as his blog, it’ll be great!) I’d always imagined you couldn’t write a mystery if you didn’t go in knowing exactly who did it and why so you could plant clues appropriately, but he says he figures out whodunnit alongside his characters.
    I’m not entirely a pantser, but I’m closer to that end of the spectrum than a plotter. I’ve found I need to let an idea for a story percolate in the back of mind for at least a year before I start writing or the story comes out stiff and forced. I don’t write anything down at that point, just think about the idea when the mood strikes and do some research.
    Then, once I’m ready to write, I seem to work best with an outline of no more than a page. This has no real details, just a sense of what the key turning points of the story are. At a recent conference I heard a writer talk about aiming for signposts–he knows a few key moments, but not how he’s going to get there–and that seems like as good a description as any for my process. I wish I could remember that author’s name.

    Reply
  21. Many thanks Anne for putting this together. I always find it fascinating to see how each of us works in unique ways (and feel a little better that I’m in good company is not having a totally clear picture of where the story is going until the journey gets underway.
    And Keira, a very interesting post on Elizabeth George. I was horrified at Helen’s death, then read George’s explanation of it and changed my mind. This current book, I wasn’t at all happy with Lynley’s behavior or choices . . . but I think I sort-of see what she’s doing with his character. The book’s plot was profoundly disturbing, but very well woven together. Whether you like her characters or not, I think she’s a fascinating writer.

    Reply
  22. Many thanks Anne for putting this together. I always find it fascinating to see how each of us works in unique ways (and feel a little better that I’m in good company is not having a totally clear picture of where the story is going until the journey gets underway.
    And Keira, a very interesting post on Elizabeth George. I was horrified at Helen’s death, then read George’s explanation of it and changed my mind. This current book, I wasn’t at all happy with Lynley’s behavior or choices . . . but I think I sort-of see what she’s doing with his character. The book’s plot was profoundly disturbing, but very well woven together. Whether you like her characters or not, I think she’s a fascinating writer.

    Reply
  23. Many thanks Anne for putting this together. I always find it fascinating to see how each of us works in unique ways (and feel a little better that I’m in good company is not having a totally clear picture of where the story is going until the journey gets underway.
    And Keira, a very interesting post on Elizabeth George. I was horrified at Helen’s death, then read George’s explanation of it and changed my mind. This current book, I wasn’t at all happy with Lynley’s behavior or choices . . . but I think I sort-of see what she’s doing with his character. The book’s plot was profoundly disturbing, but very well woven together. Whether you like her characters or not, I think she’s a fascinating writer.

    Reply
  24. Many thanks Anne for putting this together. I always find it fascinating to see how each of us works in unique ways (and feel a little better that I’m in good company is not having a totally clear picture of where the story is going until the journey gets underway.
    And Keira, a very interesting post on Elizabeth George. I was horrified at Helen’s death, then read George’s explanation of it and changed my mind. This current book, I wasn’t at all happy with Lynley’s behavior or choices . . . but I think I sort-of see what she’s doing with his character. The book’s plot was profoundly disturbing, but very well woven together. Whether you like her characters or not, I think she’s a fascinating writer.

    Reply
  25. Many thanks Anne for putting this together. I always find it fascinating to see how each of us works in unique ways (and feel a little better that I’m in good company is not having a totally clear picture of where the story is going until the journey gets underway.
    And Keira, a very interesting post on Elizabeth George. I was horrified at Helen’s death, then read George’s explanation of it and changed my mind. This current book, I wasn’t at all happy with Lynley’s behavior or choices . . . but I think I sort-of see what she’s doing with his character. The book’s plot was profoundly disturbing, but very well woven together. Whether you like her characters or not, I think she’s a fascinating writer.

    Reply
  26. Linda I’m stunned — 74 versions! I’ve never counted how many I have — I revise in micro versions — scenes first, then the whole book. Usually I work on a scene in a separate file, then paste it into a new consecutive whole book file. And I keep a file of out-takes or possibilities or old versions. I never use them, though.
    I do have to think about each scene quite a lot. I might know exactly what has to happen, plot or action wise, but I still need to think about the angle I’m taking in the scene, the significance of what’s happening before I know what I’m doing. Though sometimes I write a scene and it’s almost like downloading it from my head — it just pours out. Would be nice if that happened more often.

    Reply
  27. Linda I’m stunned — 74 versions! I’ve never counted how many I have — I revise in micro versions — scenes first, then the whole book. Usually I work on a scene in a separate file, then paste it into a new consecutive whole book file. And I keep a file of out-takes or possibilities or old versions. I never use them, though.
    I do have to think about each scene quite a lot. I might know exactly what has to happen, plot or action wise, but I still need to think about the angle I’m taking in the scene, the significance of what’s happening before I know what I’m doing. Though sometimes I write a scene and it’s almost like downloading it from my head — it just pours out. Would be nice if that happened more often.

    Reply
  28. Linda I’m stunned — 74 versions! I’ve never counted how many I have — I revise in micro versions — scenes first, then the whole book. Usually I work on a scene in a separate file, then paste it into a new consecutive whole book file. And I keep a file of out-takes or possibilities or old versions. I never use them, though.
    I do have to think about each scene quite a lot. I might know exactly what has to happen, plot or action wise, but I still need to think about the angle I’m taking in the scene, the significance of what’s happening before I know what I’m doing. Though sometimes I write a scene and it’s almost like downloading it from my head — it just pours out. Would be nice if that happened more often.

    Reply
  29. Linda I’m stunned — 74 versions! I’ve never counted how many I have — I revise in micro versions — scenes first, then the whole book. Usually I work on a scene in a separate file, then paste it into a new consecutive whole book file. And I keep a file of out-takes or possibilities or old versions. I never use them, though.
    I do have to think about each scene quite a lot. I might know exactly what has to happen, plot or action wise, but I still need to think about the angle I’m taking in the scene, the significance of what’s happening before I know what I’m doing. Though sometimes I write a scene and it’s almost like downloading it from my head — it just pours out. Would be nice if that happened more often.

    Reply
  30. Linda I’m stunned — 74 versions! I’ve never counted how many I have — I revise in micro versions — scenes first, then the whole book. Usually I work on a scene in a separate file, then paste it into a new consecutive whole book file. And I keep a file of out-takes or possibilities or old versions. I never use them, though.
    I do have to think about each scene quite a lot. I might know exactly what has to happen, plot or action wise, but I still need to think about the angle I’m taking in the scene, the significance of what’s happening before I know what I’m doing. Though sometimes I write a scene and it’s almost like downloading it from my head — it just pours out. Would be nice if that happened more often.

    Reply
  31. Keira, if you followed all those book-writing formulae you would probably have a book, but whether you’d be happy with it is another matter. But in a way, I don’t think that matters, because it’s just a draft. And you learn so much by writing a full draft, even if the book never sees the light of day.
    The important thing is to forge on until you have a whole story down — then you start shaping it. Think of the first story draft as your raw material, like a potter collecting clay or a sculptor finding the stone or piece of wood and then working to shape it.

    Reply
  32. Keira, if you followed all those book-writing formulae you would probably have a book, but whether you’d be happy with it is another matter. But in a way, I don’t think that matters, because it’s just a draft. And you learn so much by writing a full draft, even if the book never sees the light of day.
    The important thing is to forge on until you have a whole story down — then you start shaping it. Think of the first story draft as your raw material, like a potter collecting clay or a sculptor finding the stone or piece of wood and then working to shape it.

    Reply
  33. Keira, if you followed all those book-writing formulae you would probably have a book, but whether you’d be happy with it is another matter. But in a way, I don’t think that matters, because it’s just a draft. And you learn so much by writing a full draft, even if the book never sees the light of day.
    The important thing is to forge on until you have a whole story down — then you start shaping it. Think of the first story draft as your raw material, like a potter collecting clay or a sculptor finding the stone or piece of wood and then working to shape it.

    Reply
  34. Keira, if you followed all those book-writing formulae you would probably have a book, but whether you’d be happy with it is another matter. But in a way, I don’t think that matters, because it’s just a draft. And you learn so much by writing a full draft, even if the book never sees the light of day.
    The important thing is to forge on until you have a whole story down — then you start shaping it. Think of the first story draft as your raw material, like a potter collecting clay or a sculptor finding the stone or piece of wood and then working to shape it.

    Reply
  35. Keira, if you followed all those book-writing formulae you would probably have a book, but whether you’d be happy with it is another matter. But in a way, I don’t think that matters, because it’s just a draft. And you learn so much by writing a full draft, even if the book never sees the light of day.
    The important thing is to forge on until you have a whole story down — then you start shaping it. Think of the first story draft as your raw material, like a potter collecting clay or a sculptor finding the stone or piece of wood and then working to shape it.

    Reply
  36. Susanna that’s interesting. I always assumed a crime or mystery novel would have to be pre-plotted, too.
    Cara/Andrea, I was amazed to discover how similarly we word wenches all seem to work. I do know others who pre-plan beforehand. A hugely popular and bestselling friend of mine writes very long and detailed “synopses” – 35 pages or so— before writing her novels. The story and some details might change somewhat along the way in the writing, but she regards it as her roadmap.

    Reply
  37. Susanna that’s interesting. I always assumed a crime or mystery novel would have to be pre-plotted, too.
    Cara/Andrea, I was amazed to discover how similarly we word wenches all seem to work. I do know others who pre-plan beforehand. A hugely popular and bestselling friend of mine writes very long and detailed “synopses” – 35 pages or so— before writing her novels. The story and some details might change somewhat along the way in the writing, but she regards it as her roadmap.

    Reply
  38. Susanna that’s interesting. I always assumed a crime or mystery novel would have to be pre-plotted, too.
    Cara/Andrea, I was amazed to discover how similarly we word wenches all seem to work. I do know others who pre-plan beforehand. A hugely popular and bestselling friend of mine writes very long and detailed “synopses” – 35 pages or so— before writing her novels. The story and some details might change somewhat along the way in the writing, but she regards it as her roadmap.

    Reply
  39. Susanna that’s interesting. I always assumed a crime or mystery novel would have to be pre-plotted, too.
    Cara/Andrea, I was amazed to discover how similarly we word wenches all seem to work. I do know others who pre-plan beforehand. A hugely popular and bestselling friend of mine writes very long and detailed “synopses” – 35 pages or so— before writing her novels. The story and some details might change somewhat along the way in the writing, but she regards it as her roadmap.

    Reply
  40. Susanna that’s interesting. I always assumed a crime or mystery novel would have to be pre-plotted, too.
    Cara/Andrea, I was amazed to discover how similarly we word wenches all seem to work. I do know others who pre-plan beforehand. A hugely popular and bestselling friend of mine writes very long and detailed “synopses” – 35 pages or so— before writing her novels. The story and some details might change somewhat along the way in the writing, but she regards it as her roadmap.

    Reply
  41. Actually, I’m very heartened to hear of a mystery writer being somewhat of a pantser. I’m in the middle of my first foray into the genre, and am doing my usual feeling out the detials as I go along. I wish I could do it otherwise, but that is how my brain works.
    Anne, yes, I was also struck by the similarities the Wenches have in creating their books. There is an old adage: Great minds think alike.
    But seriously, I hope what everyone takes away from this is that there are no right and wrong ways to write a book.You must follow your own instincts. Discipline and daily structure can be imposed, but the way your mind works is, IMO, something that you have to go with.

    Reply
  42. Actually, I’m very heartened to hear of a mystery writer being somewhat of a pantser. I’m in the middle of my first foray into the genre, and am doing my usual feeling out the detials as I go along. I wish I could do it otherwise, but that is how my brain works.
    Anne, yes, I was also struck by the similarities the Wenches have in creating their books. There is an old adage: Great minds think alike.
    But seriously, I hope what everyone takes away from this is that there are no right and wrong ways to write a book.You must follow your own instincts. Discipline and daily structure can be imposed, but the way your mind works is, IMO, something that you have to go with.

    Reply
  43. Actually, I’m very heartened to hear of a mystery writer being somewhat of a pantser. I’m in the middle of my first foray into the genre, and am doing my usual feeling out the detials as I go along. I wish I could do it otherwise, but that is how my brain works.
    Anne, yes, I was also struck by the similarities the Wenches have in creating their books. There is an old adage: Great minds think alike.
    But seriously, I hope what everyone takes away from this is that there are no right and wrong ways to write a book.You must follow your own instincts. Discipline and daily structure can be imposed, but the way your mind works is, IMO, something that you have to go with.

    Reply
  44. Actually, I’m very heartened to hear of a mystery writer being somewhat of a pantser. I’m in the middle of my first foray into the genre, and am doing my usual feeling out the detials as I go along. I wish I could do it otherwise, but that is how my brain works.
    Anne, yes, I was also struck by the similarities the Wenches have in creating their books. There is an old adage: Great minds think alike.
    But seriously, I hope what everyone takes away from this is that there are no right and wrong ways to write a book.You must follow your own instincts. Discipline and daily structure can be imposed, but the way your mind works is, IMO, something that you have to go with.

    Reply
  45. Actually, I’m very heartened to hear of a mystery writer being somewhat of a pantser. I’m in the middle of my first foray into the genre, and am doing my usual feeling out the detials as I go along. I wish I could do it otherwise, but that is how my brain works.
    Anne, yes, I was also struck by the similarities the Wenches have in creating their books. There is an old adage: Great minds think alike.
    But seriously, I hope what everyone takes away from this is that there are no right and wrong ways to write a book.You must follow your own instincts. Discipline and daily structure can be imposed, but the way your mind works is, IMO, something that you have to go with.

    Reply
  46. The diversity is fascinating. And encouraging to me, because I haven’t exactly hit on a method yet.
    I know I’m not a detailed outliner, but I’d like more skills in that direction than I have as of now. I do like to hold a broad shape in my mind, under rather abstract rubrics like “away from home,” “lost,” “trust restored,” etc, and I generally know if I’m on or off track in my writing if what I’ve written today strays from that very big abstract mindshape.
    How can something so difficult and painful to do yield such moments of pure pleasure, times when one least expects it?

    Reply
  47. The diversity is fascinating. And encouraging to me, because I haven’t exactly hit on a method yet.
    I know I’m not a detailed outliner, but I’d like more skills in that direction than I have as of now. I do like to hold a broad shape in my mind, under rather abstract rubrics like “away from home,” “lost,” “trust restored,” etc, and I generally know if I’m on or off track in my writing if what I’ve written today strays from that very big abstract mindshape.
    How can something so difficult and painful to do yield such moments of pure pleasure, times when one least expects it?

    Reply
  48. The diversity is fascinating. And encouraging to me, because I haven’t exactly hit on a method yet.
    I know I’m not a detailed outliner, but I’d like more skills in that direction than I have as of now. I do like to hold a broad shape in my mind, under rather abstract rubrics like “away from home,” “lost,” “trust restored,” etc, and I generally know if I’m on or off track in my writing if what I’ve written today strays from that very big abstract mindshape.
    How can something so difficult and painful to do yield such moments of pure pleasure, times when one least expects it?

    Reply
  49. The diversity is fascinating. And encouraging to me, because I haven’t exactly hit on a method yet.
    I know I’m not a detailed outliner, but I’d like more skills in that direction than I have as of now. I do like to hold a broad shape in my mind, under rather abstract rubrics like “away from home,” “lost,” “trust restored,” etc, and I generally know if I’m on or off track in my writing if what I’ve written today strays from that very big abstract mindshape.
    How can something so difficult and painful to do yield such moments of pure pleasure, times when one least expects it?

    Reply
  50. The diversity is fascinating. And encouraging to me, because I haven’t exactly hit on a method yet.
    I know I’m not a detailed outliner, but I’d like more skills in that direction than I have as of now. I do like to hold a broad shape in my mind, under rather abstract rubrics like “away from home,” “lost,” “trust restored,” etc, and I generally know if I’m on or off track in my writing if what I’ve written today strays from that very big abstract mindshape.
    How can something so difficult and painful to do yield such moments of pure pleasure, times when one least expects it?

    Reply
  51. Pam lovely to see you here. It is often painful, the process of writing, and I, too, would like to be able to pre-plan a bit more than I do.
    NZ author, Fiona Brand once said something like “condense your story into one sentence, and use it as a compass, and I do try for that, though I don’t always know what my story is *really* about until I’m half-way through — and then I usually have to go back and rewrite.
    But though the struggle is sometimes frustrating, when it all comes together and works it’s soooo satisfying.

    Reply
  52. Pam lovely to see you here. It is often painful, the process of writing, and I, too, would like to be able to pre-plan a bit more than I do.
    NZ author, Fiona Brand once said something like “condense your story into one sentence, and use it as a compass, and I do try for that, though I don’t always know what my story is *really* about until I’m half-way through — and then I usually have to go back and rewrite.
    But though the struggle is sometimes frustrating, when it all comes together and works it’s soooo satisfying.

    Reply
  53. Pam lovely to see you here. It is often painful, the process of writing, and I, too, would like to be able to pre-plan a bit more than I do.
    NZ author, Fiona Brand once said something like “condense your story into one sentence, and use it as a compass, and I do try for that, though I don’t always know what my story is *really* about until I’m half-way through — and then I usually have to go back and rewrite.
    But though the struggle is sometimes frustrating, when it all comes together and works it’s soooo satisfying.

    Reply
  54. Pam lovely to see you here. It is often painful, the process of writing, and I, too, would like to be able to pre-plan a bit more than I do.
    NZ author, Fiona Brand once said something like “condense your story into one sentence, and use it as a compass, and I do try for that, though I don’t always know what my story is *really* about until I’m half-way through — and then I usually have to go back and rewrite.
    But though the struggle is sometimes frustrating, when it all comes together and works it’s soooo satisfying.

    Reply
  55. Pam lovely to see you here. It is often painful, the process of writing, and I, too, would like to be able to pre-plan a bit more than I do.
    NZ author, Fiona Brand once said something like “condense your story into one sentence, and use it as a compass, and I do try for that, though I don’t always know what my story is *really* about until I’m half-way through — and then I usually have to go back and rewrite.
    But though the struggle is sometimes frustrating, when it all comes together and works it’s soooo satisfying.

    Reply
  56. A little of both. I plan. I usually start with an overview outline of what is to be done. I then break it down into parts. I work things like a puzzle. Ideas and projects are on cards. I’ll plan each day or session of an event by lining up the cards. It is easy to switch around what I’ll do. I’ll do a master schedule with everything on it. I’ll then go back and make detailed “lesson plans” for all activities, putting everything in a notebook. I’ll change things last minute if it looks like things will work better another way or if something comes up we can use.

    Reply
  57. A little of both. I plan. I usually start with an overview outline of what is to be done. I then break it down into parts. I work things like a puzzle. Ideas and projects are on cards. I’ll plan each day or session of an event by lining up the cards. It is easy to switch around what I’ll do. I’ll do a master schedule with everything on it. I’ll then go back and make detailed “lesson plans” for all activities, putting everything in a notebook. I’ll change things last minute if it looks like things will work better another way or if something comes up we can use.

    Reply
  58. A little of both. I plan. I usually start with an overview outline of what is to be done. I then break it down into parts. I work things like a puzzle. Ideas and projects are on cards. I’ll plan each day or session of an event by lining up the cards. It is easy to switch around what I’ll do. I’ll do a master schedule with everything on it. I’ll then go back and make detailed “lesson plans” for all activities, putting everything in a notebook. I’ll change things last minute if it looks like things will work better another way or if something comes up we can use.

    Reply
  59. A little of both. I plan. I usually start with an overview outline of what is to be done. I then break it down into parts. I work things like a puzzle. Ideas and projects are on cards. I’ll plan each day or session of an event by lining up the cards. It is easy to switch around what I’ll do. I’ll do a master schedule with everything on it. I’ll then go back and make detailed “lesson plans” for all activities, putting everything in a notebook. I’ll change things last minute if it looks like things will work better another way or if something comes up we can use.

    Reply
  60. A little of both. I plan. I usually start with an overview outline of what is to be done. I then break it down into parts. I work things like a puzzle. Ideas and projects are on cards. I’ll plan each day or session of an event by lining up the cards. It is easy to switch around what I’ll do. I’ll do a master schedule with everything on it. I’ll then go back and make detailed “lesson plans” for all activities, putting everything in a notebook. I’ll change things last minute if it looks like things will work better another way or if something comes up we can use.

    Reply
  61. I know, Anne, that you must get so tired of me saying it, but I think that’s my all time favorite scene. And it’s the one that made me fall in love with Gideon. I’m so glad it barely changed.
    I can’t work with any kind of outline. I know the beginning, the end and maybe one or two scenes in the middle and work from there letting the characters tell me their story (though I do admit, we sometimes disagree ;o) ) but working from any kind of outline makes me feel as if I’ve already written the story and then I no longer want to work on it anymore. So pantsing is best for me.
    As to the editing process, I need to write the book first and edit after. I’m still trying to teach myself that. I end up micro-editing now and I find I get so stuck in a scene it sometimes takes me days to move forward, which isn’t conducive to telling a story…

    Reply
  62. I know, Anne, that you must get so tired of me saying it, but I think that’s my all time favorite scene. And it’s the one that made me fall in love with Gideon. I’m so glad it barely changed.
    I can’t work with any kind of outline. I know the beginning, the end and maybe one or two scenes in the middle and work from there letting the characters tell me their story (though I do admit, we sometimes disagree ;o) ) but working from any kind of outline makes me feel as if I’ve already written the story and then I no longer want to work on it anymore. So pantsing is best for me.
    As to the editing process, I need to write the book first and edit after. I’m still trying to teach myself that. I end up micro-editing now and I find I get so stuck in a scene it sometimes takes me days to move forward, which isn’t conducive to telling a story…

    Reply
  63. I know, Anne, that you must get so tired of me saying it, but I think that’s my all time favorite scene. And it’s the one that made me fall in love with Gideon. I’m so glad it barely changed.
    I can’t work with any kind of outline. I know the beginning, the end and maybe one or two scenes in the middle and work from there letting the characters tell me their story (though I do admit, we sometimes disagree ;o) ) but working from any kind of outline makes me feel as if I’ve already written the story and then I no longer want to work on it anymore. So pantsing is best for me.
    As to the editing process, I need to write the book first and edit after. I’m still trying to teach myself that. I end up micro-editing now and I find I get so stuck in a scene it sometimes takes me days to move forward, which isn’t conducive to telling a story…

    Reply
  64. I know, Anne, that you must get so tired of me saying it, but I think that’s my all time favorite scene. And it’s the one that made me fall in love with Gideon. I’m so glad it barely changed.
    I can’t work with any kind of outline. I know the beginning, the end and maybe one or two scenes in the middle and work from there letting the characters tell me their story (though I do admit, we sometimes disagree ;o) ) but working from any kind of outline makes me feel as if I’ve already written the story and then I no longer want to work on it anymore. So pantsing is best for me.
    As to the editing process, I need to write the book first and edit after. I’m still trying to teach myself that. I end up micro-editing now and I find I get so stuck in a scene it sometimes takes me days to move forward, which isn’t conducive to telling a story…

    Reply
  65. I know, Anne, that you must get so tired of me saying it, but I think that’s my all time favorite scene. And it’s the one that made me fall in love with Gideon. I’m so glad it barely changed.
    I can’t work with any kind of outline. I know the beginning, the end and maybe one or two scenes in the middle and work from there letting the characters tell me their story (though I do admit, we sometimes disagree ;o) ) but working from any kind of outline makes me feel as if I’ve already written the story and then I no longer want to work on it anymore. So pantsing is best for me.
    As to the editing process, I need to write the book first and edit after. I’m still trying to teach myself that. I end up micro-editing now and I find I get so stuck in a scene it sometimes takes me days to move forward, which isn’t conducive to telling a story…

    Reply
  66. Pam, you are so right about the pain/pleasure part! This is such a crazy passion to have—at times you question why you subject yourself to the frustration and difficulty. Then, as Anne points out, there a moments of sheer magical pleasure, when everything seems to align just perfectly. It’s that experience which makes you know it’s all worth it.

    Reply
  67. Pam, you are so right about the pain/pleasure part! This is such a crazy passion to have—at times you question why you subject yourself to the frustration and difficulty. Then, as Anne points out, there a moments of sheer magical pleasure, when everything seems to align just perfectly. It’s that experience which makes you know it’s all worth it.

    Reply
  68. Pam, you are so right about the pain/pleasure part! This is such a crazy passion to have—at times you question why you subject yourself to the frustration and difficulty. Then, as Anne points out, there a moments of sheer magical pleasure, when everything seems to align just perfectly. It’s that experience which makes you know it’s all worth it.

    Reply
  69. Pam, you are so right about the pain/pleasure part! This is such a crazy passion to have—at times you question why you subject yourself to the frustration and difficulty. Then, as Anne points out, there a moments of sheer magical pleasure, when everything seems to align just perfectly. It’s that experience which makes you know it’s all worth it.

    Reply
  70. Pam, you are so right about the pain/pleasure part! This is such a crazy passion to have—at times you question why you subject yourself to the frustration and difficulty. Then, as Anne points out, there a moments of sheer magical pleasure, when everything seems to align just perfectly. It’s that experience which makes you know it’s all worth it.

    Reply
  71. Theo, laughing here — how could I ever get tired of you saying that? Never!
    I actually enjoy the editing process, especially when I have the time to do it properly (which isn’t always the case.) For me, editing after the full rough draft is done is when I get the chance to shape the story as a whole, as well as micro-edit, to see the flow and rise and fall of tension, etc. Sculpting with words.
    But don’t beat yourself up about micro-editing along the way — I think that’s inevitable to a degree. I try not to do it a lot, though, mainly because if, when it comes to editing the whole book, it’s more difficult to see a scene I need to toss out if I’ve already polished and honed it.

    Reply
  72. Theo, laughing here — how could I ever get tired of you saying that? Never!
    I actually enjoy the editing process, especially when I have the time to do it properly (which isn’t always the case.) For me, editing after the full rough draft is done is when I get the chance to shape the story as a whole, as well as micro-edit, to see the flow and rise and fall of tension, etc. Sculpting with words.
    But don’t beat yourself up about micro-editing along the way — I think that’s inevitable to a degree. I try not to do it a lot, though, mainly because if, when it comes to editing the whole book, it’s more difficult to see a scene I need to toss out if I’ve already polished and honed it.

    Reply
  73. Theo, laughing here — how could I ever get tired of you saying that? Never!
    I actually enjoy the editing process, especially when I have the time to do it properly (which isn’t always the case.) For me, editing after the full rough draft is done is when I get the chance to shape the story as a whole, as well as micro-edit, to see the flow and rise and fall of tension, etc. Sculpting with words.
    But don’t beat yourself up about micro-editing along the way — I think that’s inevitable to a degree. I try not to do it a lot, though, mainly because if, when it comes to editing the whole book, it’s more difficult to see a scene I need to toss out if I’ve already polished and honed it.

    Reply
  74. Theo, laughing here — how could I ever get tired of you saying that? Never!
    I actually enjoy the editing process, especially when I have the time to do it properly (which isn’t always the case.) For me, editing after the full rough draft is done is when I get the chance to shape the story as a whole, as well as micro-edit, to see the flow and rise and fall of tension, etc. Sculpting with words.
    But don’t beat yourself up about micro-editing along the way — I think that’s inevitable to a degree. I try not to do it a lot, though, mainly because if, when it comes to editing the whole book, it’s more difficult to see a scene I need to toss out if I’ve already polished and honed it.

    Reply
  75. Theo, laughing here — how could I ever get tired of you saying that? Never!
    I actually enjoy the editing process, especially when I have the time to do it properly (which isn’t always the case.) For me, editing after the full rough draft is done is when I get the chance to shape the story as a whole, as well as micro-edit, to see the flow and rise and fall of tension, etc. Sculpting with words.
    But don’t beat yourself up about micro-editing along the way — I think that’s inevitable to a degree. I try not to do it a lot, though, mainly because if, when it comes to editing the whole book, it’s more difficult to see a scene I need to toss out if I’ve already polished and honed it.

    Reply

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