Since starting this blog, I have talked very little about the way that I write or the tools that I use.
I’d like to take a minute to get personal and share how I make the magic happen (if you can call love/hate outbursts and tears shed over commas magic).
First, there’s the idea, this little wisp that happens upon me when I least expect it. I could be pumping gas, washing dishes, hiking, showering, anything that busies my body and frees my mind. The idea usually begins with a flash of a character or a small, curious action. A pretty girl with dark hair and dark eyes, but a troubled expression. Why is she sad? Or a down-on-his-luck guy stealing a phone off of a restaurant table, just to know what it would be like to own the newest model available.
I usually sit on the idea for months, allowing it to come and go freely. Occasionally, I will ask questions, discover new things about the pretty girl or the thief. At this point, I write little to nothing down.
I have several ideas each week and I let them play in my head for as long as they like. I never start writing or drafting until I know an idea is worth the investment.
Then, it happens. I have a new perspective on what has been simmering in my mind for the past few weeks. This brilliant flash of information and inspiration hits me and I think oh, I need to write that down! When this happens, I know that I’m ready to start brainstorming and getting to know the story laid at my feet.
I’m a little backwards. I like to start without a clue about my characters, the setting, etc. I will write the first page or the first scene. I will write just for fun, playing with POV and tone, until I realize I’m not prepared enough to write yet. Then, I back up and start brainstorming.
My favorite part of brainstorming is creating characters. My character sketches are lengthy and very detailed, so I do get bored with it after a few characters, but seeing this imaginary friend of mine take shape and gain personality is always a great reminder that I am a writer at heart. I also have a soft spot for creating pets for my characters. Dogs, turtles, squirrels, you name it.
Once I’ve brainstormed, I start writing again. I may go through several Chapter 1 drafts before I stick with something I love enough to keep. I usually will not trash any other chapter when I’m writing. Chapter 1 must be top-notch, but the rest may be as bad as they like. I need a good foundation, so I will stress over the first chapter for days if not weeks.
As soon as I have the first chapter, it is usually smooth sailing from there. I let my characters stumble through the world I’ve created for them, watch them fall into my set traps, feel a little like a psychopath, and remind myself that they need to be moving steadily toward the climax and, from there, they should be winding down to the end. Sometimes its hard to keep them on the right path (I like to think that’s because I have strong characters, but maybe I just hesitate to put them through the trials I put before them). It helps if I keep my outline on a pegboard above my desk at all times.
Once I finish my novel, I usually don’t touch it for a long time. I mean, of course I touch it when I lift the 3″ binder into my arms and do my its-finally-finished-praise-God dance (but, don’t we all do that?). Then, I spread it around. I let my Mom read it and my friends. I ask my professors to look at pieces of it. I get feedback. I get my feelings hurt. Sometimes, I even get a little full of myself.
And then I procrastinate the editing process. I hate editing my own work. Its not that I think my writing doesn’t need it. Its that once I get started, its hard for me to stop. I over-analyze every little piece and make myself crazy. I have shed tears over commas. I have argued over the death of supporting characters for days at a time. Sometimes, I wish I could just stick the entire manuscript into a box and shove it into a lake someplace. Then, I get over it and put it aside and decide, finally, that its ready.
Then . . . I don’t know. Because that is as far as I’ve gotten. I’m in the process of querying now, so I don’t have much to say other than I need to stop procrastinating and get it done.
So, how do you write?