Anne here again, this time with our regular feature, Ask a Wench, and today we're considering a question asked by Donna Ann Kenney who wins a book for it: "Which part of the writing cycle (from idea blooming/proposal to putting the book on "paper" to edits/proof to release day) is your least & most favorite part & why?"
Pat says: Personally, I think each part of the process has its painful moments. And its wondrous joy. Having a new idea pop up is reason for caution, but freewheeling brainstorming the idea to see if it goes anywhere is one of the true delights of writing. The ideas that pour forth when I'm just flinging foolishness around reminds me of why I got into this business.
Putting those wild ideas into a formal proposal, unfortunately, points out all the flaws of the creative process. That part stinks. I detest proposals. They poop all over my incandescent creativity. (What, the hero can't become an earl just because I WANT him to be? Bah humbug.)
Once the proposal is approved (O frabjous day!), I can again release the flood of creativity and let the characters loose upon the page. Watching them gallop about, never knowing what they'll be doing from one day to the next, that's pure fun, almost as good as reading a good book. But then comes the day–you may notice a pattern here–when I have to contain the romp and force the confines of logic upon it. Revisions, bah humbug again. And so it goes…
Mary Jo says: My Least Favorite Time on a book is just after the beginning. Usually I know the opening scene and get through it fairly quickly. Then I contemplate the vasty, echoing tracts of emptiness that I must cross before I reach the end. I know from experience that eventually I will cross the Dale of Despair of Pain, but that doesn't make it look any easier!
I have two Most Favorite Times on a book. The first is when I'm thinking it up, and it's a shiny, glittering image in my mind that I know will write itself and be wonderful. This occurs when I'm slogging my way through the current book and wondering if I'll ever reach the end, but I just know the next book will go better. (We call this the "Hope Springs Eternal Fallacy." <G>) The second Favorite Time is when the book is done (YAY!!!), I'm reading the page proofs and thinking, "You know, this isn't half bad. Maybe my career isn't over yet."
Jo Beverley says:
I love beginnings, because the concept is exciting and sparkling and new. I'm discovering or learning more about interesting people. I also like the very end and the editing. The worst part is in the middle, when every single time I'm sure this book isn't going to work. My husband calls it "the time of the book."
I'm a “magpie” writer-I see all these bright, shiny ideas lying around in all sorts of places, and get very excited about gathering them all up and carrying them back to my nest. So that's my favorite part of the creative process, that moment when the first glimmer of a story catches my fancy.
The hardest part? It's probably a toss-up. Typing “Chapter One,” and then staring at a blank page is always a little daunting for me. Yes, the idea is there, and yes, I pretty much know the opening scene, but the end seems sooooo far away. And then there's the dreaded middle, when niggly questions seem to lurk among the letters of the keyboard. Are characters are fighting me? Is the plot making sense? Is the writing smooth?
Somehow it all seems to get sorted out. I usually lay a manuscript aside for a week once I'm finished, and then re-read it. Most of the time, I'm relieved to discover it's actually coherent enough to turn in (and the things that are wrong can be fixed without too much angst.)
From Nicola: My least favourite part of writing a book is right where I am now, in the soggy middle, wading my way through what feels like treacle and thinking it will never shape up let alone transform into something readable. By some strange magic the words usually do come together but it can be a painful process, especially under deadline.
I have several favourite parts of writing the book. The first is when I begin and I am filled with excitement at all the possibilities. The next favourite bit is when I revise. I love revisions, taking that soggy middle and tightening it up, polishing it until I have something a little bit shiny. I also enjoy the feeling six or twelve months after the book is published when I finally feel able to look at it again and find I quite like it!
Anne here again, and once more I am amazed at how similar we wenches are in our processes. As for me, my favorite part of writing is at the extreme beginning, where I haven't even put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, and the story idea is shining and luminescent in my head, characters are springing to life and it all looks wonderful.
Scenes will start to come to me — often last thing at night just before I'm dropping off to sleep, or first thing in the morning, when I wake with a scene rolling in my head like a movie, or a conversation between two characters, and I'll dash them down in a notebook, full of excitement at the possibilities. Sometimes those scenes will make it into the book — in several cases, almost unchanged from that initial scribbling down, sometimes they won't.
Then I start writing and the difficulty is in trying to nail the shining, fluid thing with mere words and I struggle to recreate the vision I had for it. In every book, about half to three-quarters of the way through, I come to a point where I think I can't make it work, where I'm sure the book is the worst book in the world. My friends say, "Anne, you always think this" and it's true, but that doesn't make it any less real. I suspect having that meltdown forces me to think more deeply about the story and push it to another level.
I used to think that writing would get easier the more books I wrote. It doesn't. But all of the angst is forgotten when the finished book, with its lovely shiny cover, arrives on my doorstep.
Besides, by then I'm grappling with the next story.
So what about you? Do you find any of this surprising? And if you're a creative person, what's your favorite part of the process?