About five years ago I thought my book was done. It was the first draft, and being a cocky sort of amateur writer, I was sure it was ready for a quick final proof and an agent (followed quickly by a 10-figure book deal and millions of screaming fans, of course).
And then…oh, yes…the pain began. The realization that I had so much to learn and edit hit like Thor’s hammer. I tossed the book out on its backside, tried another story idea, killed it, and just stopped writing in general. Then my parents kindly told me they would disown me if I didn’t go to a writers’ conference.
At first I rolled my eyes at the suggestion. How could the problem be me? I was just fine doing things the way I always had (remember: cocky). My process from age 5 to age 23 was consistent and very simple:
- A brilliant idea springs to life in my brain!
- All the characters! All the problems!
- Oh, my gosh. I am so good at this. I rock! I'm the best!
Now my writing process is a bit more involved:
- I see a piece of a scene in my head.
- I work backward from that scene and figure out how a person could get there.
- 3/4 of the cast is born.
- 10,000+ words manifest with no road signs, outlines, or planning.
- The other 1/4 of the cast appears and reminds me that I should write with them in mind.
- Hark! A plot, a plan, an outline, and motivations for everybody.
- I go back to the beginning and send chunks to my critique group until the whole thing is done.
- Edit, edit, edit. Oh, and cut. There is lots of cutting involved.
My writing process parallels my approach to any creative project, be it knitting or building a chandelier out of felt. I practice a little, get my feet wet, and experiment with ideas before I go gung-ho and dive fully into a project. I rely on my critique group and beta readers like some people rely on black coffee every Monday. And who knows? In a year or two I might invent a totally different method.
What about you? How do you approach your creative projects?
Michelle's childhood novels involved a lot of dolphins, many wolves, and more than a few white tigers. She has the folder of stapled papers to prove it.