A Complicated Post About Process
I say complicated because I’ve been musing, and taking in several opinions on the subject and really…nodding along with most of them. I say complicated because everyone is different, and every writing process is somewhat different. And, if you’re like me, every book is different.
Here are some things I believe about process: We all have a natural process. For some of us, this process works swimmingly. Some of us have a process that doesn’t work well. If that’s the case, you can change is, but it may not be easy.
There is always a debate between Plotter v Pantser. And then there’s the general distrust and stank eye directed at ‘fast’ writers.
All of the above is, IMO, short-sighted at best. Plotting works best if you’re a plotter. Pantsting works best if you’re a pantser. If pantsing doesn’t work for you? Well then, I’m sorry to say you probably DO need to learn to plot. On the flipside, if you’re getting a lot of editorial feedback about characters being wooden and stock, maybe YOU need to ditch the character sheets and approach character in an organic manner. (I use that as an example because I had a Presents ‘set aside’ at partial stage a loooong while back and it was the one time I used character sheets, and I think it failed me there.)
YES. No matter what approach you take to writing naturally, you could learn another way. We’re adaptable like that. It’s pretty awesome. But if pantsing works for you? Then there’s no need. If that makes sense.
I’m essentially a pantser. One who tends to know their characters and character arcs and internal conflicts from the get go. But in terms of the story? Yeah, I don’t so much plot that. And even the character stuff I don’t chart or anything. And it’s something that’s served me well for 23 books. Maybe it will change someday. Maybe my process won’t work for me forever. But I can’t worry about that now, and if someday I come to that bridge, I’ll have to learn to cross it. It won’t do me any good to say BUT I’M A PANTSER, because ultimately the method doesn’t matter as long as the result is solid. So I can’t be too married to a process, nor can I make it my ‘ideal’ way to write a book.
The ideal way to write a book is the way that gets it DONE and done well.
So now we come to speed. Yes, indeed. Here are some things I believe about speed: You can probably write faster than you think. (I say probably, girl, I don’t know your life. Remember that.) Fast writers aren’t always just vomiting garbage onto a page. Some fast writers are and they’re editing it later. Whatever speed you write at has to be sustainable. It has to enable you to meet your deadlines, and it has to not make you crazy insane.
My speed has increased since I first started writing. I think it’s because when I started structure and craft were a struggle, and now structure and craft are becoming, for lack of a better way of putting it, more second nature. Now, some books are faster and some are slower. But then, I also plot some books more than others.
For me, the faster I write, the better a book is going. The more solid it is in my head. The fastest Presents I wrote had some of the most minimal revisions, but for me, that was because everything had aligned perfectly. My slowest Presents was my last total rewrite. For me, a faster speed has never spoken to a lower a quality. But that’s how it’s been for me.
I also wrote a novella at a fairly breakneck pace and sent it off to my agent. That novella is, I believe, responsible for the sale of my Silver Creek series to Berkley.
But the important thing is that I enjoy the pace I’m working at. It enables me to meet deadlines and, yes, I do have a social life. It plays to my strengths.
I think ultimately, that’s the key. Finding the process that plays to your strengths. You might have to play with a few different ideas or methods. You might be able to work up to higher daily word counts and find it’s completely possible for you, and that you enjoy writing more in a day. You might find that a messy first draft is something that really works for you. You might find that you’re one who HAS to edit as you go so you don’t build off of a foundation that isn’t solid.
I have done all these things and found they worked for different books. Another reason it’s good to be flexible. Sometimes different books require a different method.
The bottom line of this is, no process is sacred. Not even yours. Not even mine. And I think we all possess the power to change it if we NEED to. Or not if we don’t.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask! (or just comments…comments are welcome too!)