Evolution Of A Process

I’ve been writing with the goal of publication since August 2008, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everybody has a different process. Pantsers vs. Planners, Sticky Notes vs. Notebooks, Chronological vs. Random. Everybody’s got a different method of getting a book out of their head and onto the page.

My process has evolved quite a bit since 2008. And to be honest, I kinda feel like I’ve finally found what works for me. I’m always fascinated by hearing how other people do things, so I thought I’d share my process for PULL, which is also the process I’m using now for CREEPY FACES BOOK.

It starts with an idea, of course. I write the first chapter on a whim, getting things on paper before either A) I forget them or B) they make me a crazy person. If I’m on a roll, I might go ahead and write Chapter 2, and maybe Chapter 3.

Generally, I don’t get past the first 3 chapters before I need to stop, take a breath, and do a little thinking. The “thinking” usually requires a long walk in which I consider all the paths I could take with the story. By the end of the walk, I have a pretty good idea where I want to go.

Now, please don’t think I’ve worked out all the details in ONE WALK. That is crazy talk, people. You know I’m not that organized and/or logical.

Once I’ve got a half-developed idea of the storyline, I buy a notebook with a cover that reminds me of the story somehow.

This is the notebook I chose for PULL. It has the title of the book on the front, and the months I worked on it. (April–October 2011.)

And this is the notebook I just bought today for CREEPY FACES BOOK. I have not written the title on the front because, as much as I know this will SHOCK you, “Creepy Faces Book” is probably not the title I’ll go with.

Both notebooks came from Target. They have lots of super cute ones.ย 

Anyway, once I’ve got my fancy-schmancy notebook, I use one page per chapter to jot down important notes. Each page always starts with “Chapter X” followed by the day the chapter takes place so I don’t get lost in the space-time continuum and end up eliminating or overlapping days.

And then I write down major plot points, important character stuff, whatever I think I need to keep track of.

Below the notes, I write the word “Revisions” and leave blank space. Because in the UNLIKELY EVENT that I will have to actually change something about the book (like that ever happens), I need space to keep track of everything.

I don’t know if y’all have noticed, but there’s not much space for that kind of stuff inside mah head.

This new process seems to be working. I’m not really outlining ahead of time, mind you. Just sort of writing down what I’m doing as I go.

OH, and another thing I’m doing differently: Taking more time with the first draft. I’m only writing about a thousand words a day, and that’s on a good day. So a chapter in CREEPY FACES BOOK takes about two days to write, plus a third day to tweak, and then I send it to crit partners. Once they send it back, I go through their edits, fix what needs fixing, and don’t touch it again.

It’s slow going, but this first daft is muuuuuch cleaner than the first drafts I’ve written in the past, and I’m hoping I won’t want to punch myself in the face quite so much once it’s time for the Revision Rodeo Roundup.

How about you? How long have you been writing, and what have you changed about your process?

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12 thoughts on “Evolution Of A Process

  1. Aimee L. Salter says:

    I’ve been writing with the goal of publication since May 2009 and my process has small differences for each book (I’ve drafted 4 and partialled 2). But I sum it up like this:

    Concept, ending, chapter 1 (or maybe 2 & 3) outline, write. Re-outline. Write. Re-outline. Write…. You see where I’m going with this.

    I have oodles of notebooks and usually spread a book across 2-3. But once a draft is done, I do a read-through an all the revision notes go in one notebook with tabs for different chapters / revision themes.

    I love hearing about other people’s processes. I’m praying Creepy Faces Book will be FAB for you ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Dang Aimee, that is a lot! I can’t believe you can go out of order like that. Probably a sign that you’re a genius. And thank you!

  2. Crystal says:

    I’ve started doing something very similar to what you do with my current WIP. I’ve noticed things are MUCH easier going this way and I think if I would’ve started off this way, the book I was working on last year probably would be finished.

    BTW – I’ll be sending you an email tomorrow!

  3. Alexandra Shostak says:

    I’ve been writing with the goal of publication in mind since I THINK (not actually sure, would have to dig out old files to get the exact date) November of 2008. My drafting process has always been hectic. I go into crazy hermit mode and I write like 3-5k words a day until the draft is done. I have never been able to take my time. The way I manage to make cleaner drafts (hahahahahahahahahaaaaa) is to do a lot of world building and (I know some people will think this is yucky and kills the creative process) plotting before hand. I know how the world works, I know how the plot works, and I know why they work together and are necessary to each other. So instead of completely deleting and rewriting world stuff, I can add to it, or tweak it, without collapsing everything else in the world.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      I think that is SO smart. Otherwise you end up deleting a whole heck of a lot instead of just tweaking.

  4. Vera Soroka says:

    I started writing in 2007 and it was in 2008 or 2009 that I decided to try for publication. I’ve learned alot about writing and I’m still learning but I’m slowly learning what is working for me. I’m a bit slow in getting that first draft done because I revise as I go. I’m trying to get away from that but it is hard. I’m a panster and always start with a prologue. To me that is the soul of the book. From there we start the story. I’m also learning to get things critiqued and I can see a lot of value in that. They see things that you don’t. I love notebooks too!I not only put ideas down but I journal in them as well. I write about my frustrations with the writing and things I should be doing. It makes me feel better.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Yes, journaling is awesome! And critiquing–I can’t live without it. Seriously. People have such different viewpoints than the author. It’s great.

  5. Dean from Australia says:

    I start with a skeleton outline of the story I want to write, highlight plot goals and points and then begin brainstorming ideas around each of the plot points. That brainstorming tends to include development of characters. Once I begin to write the story, I let the story develop organically and try not to dictate to it too much because, I often make discoveries along the way that shape the final product. The majority of these come by way of my characters and I get excited when a particular character will lead me in a direction that I
    may not have previously considered.

    Having the skeleton also allows me a way of overcoming blocks. By jumping forward in the story

    and constructing the latter parts of the tome, I often
    find myself able to ret-con the earlier stages and it’s gotten me out of trouble quite a number of times.

    It’s not a perfect beast…but it’s my beast.

  6. Elle Strauss says:

    I can’t read my own messy handwriting, so notebooks are out, but I have become more methodical over the years.

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