Thursday, September 2, 2010

How I write

We're writing about process this week. And I guess you can tell by now, everyone's process is different. For me, each book has been a little different.

The first book I wrote, WILD GOOSE CHASE had a long genesis. I worked on it for five years. Teaching myself to write, taking all the classes I could and learning how to critique took time. And then there was the six months or so that I dithered, too afraid to send the book out.

Once I did send it out, I began work on OLD MAID's PUZZLE, knowing that I wanted to write a series. I had several ideas of what I wanted to talk about in that book and researched cons and con men. Before I was finished with that, I had two contracts for four more books to be delivered in two years.

No more meandering. I had to write more quickly. I used the book Thirty Days to A First Draft and used the author's wonderful charts. I outlined, I used index cards and notebooks. I printed out my pages and delivered to my critique group.Each book demanded a different method of coping. Of all those things, sending out pages to my critique group is the most effective deadline for me. They read as I write and they brainstorm new ideas with me.

Two friends reported hearing Elizabeth George speak recently. The advice that they each remembered from her talk was the same advice I'd taken away from a talk of hers years ago. She makes a journal entry each day that she works on her novel. She chronicles the progress of her book, and the way she feels on that given day. She does this, she says, so that she will remember while writing the next book that she had the same misgivings, the same doubts, the same angst while working on the finished book. That is really good advice. I did this with my first book and am thinking it's a good time to start up a new journal.

Writing is rarely a neat, linear process for me. But somehow it all works itself out in the end.


Linda O. Johnston said...

I'd never thought about writing a journal of a novel's progress, Terri. I suppose, though, that my notecards do that since I date them--but I seldom get around to organizing them!

Betty Hechtman said...

Ever since I read The Artist's Way, I started doing morning pages, which is really a journal. There's some other junk in it, too, but I do write about what I'm writing. Often I end up writing stuff to be added to the manuscript.

It is good to remember those misgiivings. At least now I remember that I always feel a little panicky when I'm writing.

Terri Thayer said...

Yes, it's nice to remember that writing is often a struggle. Nice to know that even famous authors like Elizabeth George has her moments of panic.

I admire you for sticking with your morning pages. I did them for a while but never kept it up. Maybe I should back to them. Do you do them by hand?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I've read the Elizabeth George book. Did you know she's also a scrapbooker?

I like the idea of writing down one's worries, but I hate to do anything other than get words on paper when I'm working. Do any of you feel the same? I mean, it's like any other writing is wasteful writing.

Monica Ferris said...

I know what you mean, Joanna. Even writing this comment makes me feel a little guilty -- I should be working on Threadbare!