How do You Write?

I know, I know…this may seem like a silly question. But, really, it’s a sincere one. I get into conversations with my crit partners all the time about the writing process.  Everything from where we get our ideas and inspiration, to how we actually go about laying out the story. Some of us research and plot, some stew on ideas and write by the seat of our pants.

When colleagues and friends find out that I write, or when I am working on creative writing/reading with teens, I am always asked about my process.

So, I thought I’d share…

My stories typically start as a sudden burst of insight – a spark that is nothing more than a very quiet (usually) voice in the depths of my soul that stirs to life. After the idea is born, I typically research the heck out of it…and stew. For months (no really, months). Then, when the story is ready to be born, scenes will begin to play out in my head. I still don’t write much at this point. But I do start boring my family or crit partners as I talk through the ideas rambling around in my head.

I also begin looking for music that matches the “feelings” I want to evoke in the storyline itself.  As many of you know, I can only write my rough drafts to soundtrack or instrumental music. I particularly LOVE soundtrack music because it is specifically written to evoke the emotions of the images playing out on the screen. This fits written stories perfectly (try listening to a great piece of soundtrack music while reading – the results will amaze you).

Eventually, as I go through this process, I am able to string a scene or two together. And eventually I can feel the MC spring to life. At that point I can write. I’ll lay out a basic structure on an outline…and start to write whatever scene is in my head. 5K into it or so, the story usually takes a life of its own and I am able to do some real plotting.

I deal with the character arc of the protagonist first – whats her goal, what gets in the way of her/him achieving it, what is the result.  Then I do something similar for the antagonist.

By then I have a sense of the story. I then look at the major turning points of the story, the subplots, the climax, the resolution. 

As you guys know, I am a freak about motivation and emotional context – so I usually weave that into the plot elements. I ask myself things like “what would make my MC do this or that?”, or “what would drive him/her to a certain path?” – those kinds of things.

Finally, after all of that I can write – really write the story (cause really, that first 5 – 10K is “practice” for the actual storyline!)

Now, my process was not always this way…it sortof developed over time. And, my process when I write YA contemp. or NF is a bit different – but that is for a different post).  With my first two, shelved stories, I wrote by the seat of my pants. The result, an amazing time writing the rough draft, and a brutal time trying to revise (partially cause I was SO GREEN, and partially because of the process by which I wrote the first draft).

With Lacrimosa, all of that changed. I got the originally idea in November 2008 – a story that dealt with angels and played off the mythology of the Watchers.  Nothing further happened until March 2009, as I was finishing up a story with my crit group. I started researching, looking for music and stewing. A lot.

In July 2009, I wrote the first scenes. And after writing and deleting more than 30K, as well as working closely with my crit group to bounce structure ideas around, I finally had a plot, some sense of characters, the emotional arc and a true starting off point.

I finished the first draft of Lacrimosa at the end of October 2009. Every single word felt like I was pulling teeth…but it was all worth it.  Edits started in mid November and were finished (for now) in Jan. 2010. 

You know, that sure looks like a faster process than it felt like…seriously.

I always get a million ideas while working on one book, so the ideas for my YA contemporary story, Broken Wings, and my YA urban fantasy, Moira’s Daughter were born in Sept and Oct.

I tried to write Broken Wings in Nov – but it wasn’t ready yet.  And Moira’s Daughter – yeah, I am just starting it.

So, that is my long-winded description of my process….what about you guys?  How does it work for you?

5 thoughts on “How do You Write?

  1. Wow, Christine! That’s impressive! I’m afraid my process isn’t nearly that scientific.

    The minute I get a new idea, I create a bare bones plot synopsis, or at least jot down the major ideas and how I want it to end. Then I give it a terrible title (b/c I’m the WORST at titles).🙂

    If it’s something I can’t wait to write, I just dive right in. Usually, like you, I end up with 5k words. And then I sit back and think about where it’s going and who the character is. But mostly, I just write and write and write–and go back and edit while writing, add scenes, delete scenets, etc–and sometimes it works and I keep going, other times I get 20k in and realize it’s not right. If I can’t figure out why it’s not working, I stop and move on to something else.

    Totally unscientific and scattered. Just like me.🙂

  2. What a great process. I usually dive right in, no plans, no plots, without even really knowing my characters. I write until I get stuck and then I stew about what could happen next. I have a general idea of where I want the character to be at the end of the book, but absolutely no freaking clue how to get there.

    Thus, I am not a good writer. But I am an excellent rewriter. And I hate that about myself.

  3. I’m the type of person who waits for my brain to magically come up with an idea. Then I write it out as fast as I can so I don’t forget anything. There’s pros and cons to that. When I’m done, I have a nice skeleton to work with. However, it takes months of revision to really get it polished. I admire someone who can tolerate the process of brainstorming and really being consciously thoughtful about writing. Maybe when I “grow up,” I’ll be able to adapt some of those qualities becuase I think they are incredibly useful.

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