Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Evolution of my Writing Process

Yesterday, when I was supposed to be writing but was wasting time on Facebook instead, I happened upon THIS BLOG POST by Emmie Mears. (Language warning for those who are sensitive to cursing.) Go on. Read it. I'll wait...



Done? Good.

Great post, right? It really spoke to me, too, and I realized, "Hey, I've struggled with this very thing!" For me, Emmie's post freed me. It showed me that I'm not the only one who struggles to keep writing or with understanding HOW to write. I always see other authors talking about plotting and character GMCs and beat sheets and series bibles and I'm over here like....


Is there something wrong with me? How come I can't do all that stuff? Is my way the wrong way? Are my books bad because I don't have all that fancy plannin' and stuff early on?

Am I a fraud?

I'm totally a fraud, right? I mean, all the great authors plot, don't they?

In many ways, writing my very first book was the easiest. I wrote for the simple joy of writing. And then I wrote some more. And then more. And then I learned stuff, and well, writing became harder. There's a common misconception that the more books you write, the easier it is; and I suppose on certain levels, it is. But at the same time, it's not.

So, I figured it might be fun to show the evolution of my writing process, and maybe it would help some of you like Emmie's post helped me.

2011 - Word Vomit Master 
JANUARY --  I decided to write my first book. A contemporary romance. Turns out it's considered New Adult. That wasn't a thing way back then, so I called it an adult romance. The characters are in college. But I digress...

This book was 76,364 words of glorious word vomit! Yep. That's right. It was pure word vomit. The words poured out of me within a short 4 weeks. No, that's not a typo. This baby came out hard and fast. There was a prologue, 54 chapters, and an epilogue. I was rockin' the whole writing thing!

I had no idea what plotting even was or how to do it. I mean, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to happen within the story, but it was very weak and loose. I literally wrote whatever came to my mind. It was 90% dialogue. I had, wait, SIX different POVs, sometimes all within the same chapter. It. Was. Bad.

But you know what? I had FUN writing it!

MARCH-- I wasn't anywhere close to being done yet. I dove straight in to the sequel. This one was even better, y'all. I banged out another prologue, 89 chapters, and an epilogue for a total of 163,550 words in a matter of 6 weeks.

MAY -- I started reading craft books. I also joined a critique group. I very quickly learned everything I was doing wrong -- which was a LOT -- but I also learned how to fix those things and write a tighter, more believable story with characters who were more like real people. I still wasn't a plotter though!

JUNE / JULY -- I began work on a new book, which I still refused to plot. But I could see the improvement in myself.

2012 -- The More the Merrier
The best part of my critique group was that I could submit my work to the group. They would read it and then give me advice on how to make it better. I. Was. Addicted! I craved the feedback, and I overused it, too. I began to implement every single change they suggested until my work was no longer mine but a joint effort by everyone who read it. Even though the quality of my writing had increased exponentially, I wasn't really having any fun anymore.

So, I wrote a couple (four to be exact) short novellas. All by myself. Without any feedback from my critique group. And you know what?

THEY WERE PUBLISHED!!! Not just one, but several.

I was reinvigorated.

I wrote another book. This one a young adult romance.

2013 -- Hardcore Pantser
I started on another book. And then another. And another. Again, no plotting or outlining, but my end product was much better than anything I'd written up to this point. I was learning, growing, becoming an even better writer. Everything I had written was ALWAYS written in a linear fashion -- I started with chapter one and progressed through the story chapter-by-chapter, in order. But I noticed something: I was having a really hard time writing anything else. I'd start a lot of things but never finish them. I didn't complete a single book or novella during this year.

2014 -- Parading as a Plotter
I ventured into the co-authoring arena, not once but twice, with two different authors. Because of the nature of writing with someone else, I HAD to plot. There was no way around it. I needed to make sure I was on the same page with my co-authors at all times. The plotting we did was very loose though. It was basically:

Chapter 1: All this stuff happens.
Chapter 2: Then all this stuff happens.

It wasn't intricate or groundbreaking, but it served the purpose. And I realized something: The words and the writing came easier to me. I knew what was coming and therefore, I didn't have any trouble writing it.

I'd found a new process! With my two co-authors, I worked on and finished two full-length books in 2014. I was going to take this new writing process and run with it!

2015 -- IDK WTF I'm Doing Anymore
I completely outlined a brand new adult romance. I wrote almost 25K and then I hit a road block. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't finish it. After some serious soul searching I realized it was because I had outlined. I knew exactly what was going to happen and so I wasn't excited to write it. I felt like the story had already been told.

Then something strange happened... I had a dream. A very vivid dream about a girl who kissed a boy; a boy who didn't kiss her back. All sorts of questions raced through my mind as I tried to figure out the why, who, what, when of the scenario. I sat down later that morning and just started writing that scene I'd dreamed about. I knew it wouldn't be the start of the story, but that was okay.

I wrote the entire middle section of the book.

Then I wrote the big black moment and the resulting fallout.

After all that, I went back and wrote the beginning; and then I filled in any remaining holes.

For the first time in more than year, I had finished a book ALL ON MY OWN!

2016 -- Faking It Until I Make It
Do I still feel like a fraud? You betcha! Almost daily.

I still can't, don't, and won't plot. Writing out of order and then filling in the gaps still seems to be working for me. And so that's what I'm going to stick with until it no longer works. What will I do then? Who knows. But I'll adapt and find something new that works. In the meantime, I'm close to finishing my first full-length novel of the year, and I have plans to write a second one by October -- actually, I'm contractually obligated, so....

But at the end of the day, there's no one correct way to write a book. Everyone has their own process and methods. And that's okay! As Emmie so eloquently put it in her post: YOU DO YOU! Who cares how everyone else does it? You're not them. You're you. Go be you!