Authors are routinely asked about their writing process. Everyone wants to know how books are written, how thoughts and ideas move from inside the writer’s head to characters on a computer screen. I’ve read that Junot Diaz goes into the bathroom and writes perched on the edge of his tub. Anne Rice has a preferred font size. My pal J.H. Trumble is a clutter-hater and spends a lot of time cleaning to get in the mood. So, what is my writing process? Or, better yet, do I even have one? This blog post approaches the subject similarly to me by basically asking, “what the heck is a writing process?” Here’s my stab at it…
When writing Straightville, U.S.A., I started out very structured. I bought a corkboard and index cards and meticulously mapped out the events of each chapter. I made a card for each character so I could sketch out their bio. I even drew them – and I am NOT an artist. Since my protagonist is a high schooler, I even wrote out his class schedule and named all his teachers. The system worked well for awhile, then I realized I progressed more smoothly without worrying about keeping my notecards in order and my corkboard neatly arranged.
So I went back to my poetry writing roots and turned to a simple composition notebook and pen for sketching out chapters, writing bios and fleshing out plot points. It’s essentially the same process, I guess, but a different execution. I like being able to sketch out what I think my characters look like, draw arrows from one point to another, or doodle in the margins when I need a little distraction. You can’t really do all those things on a laptop screen or a corkboard. Oh, I even had the cards color-coded, too. It was a sight to behold.
Meanwhile, I don’t have a location preference like Junot. I’ll be damned if you ever see me perched on the edge of my tub! My office desk or the living room sofa are my usual spots. And, okay, I’ll confess: I’m a simple Times New Roman, 12-point kinda guy.
I’m not a stickler for self-imposed deadlines. Too easy to break. (Straightville took me three years just to finish the first draft.) But I am trying harder to improve. I do start with a loose word-count goal and an idea of plot points and chapter numbers, but that’s about it in terms of structure.
I suppose if I do have one process quirk, it’s this: I turn to music to get my engines fired up. When writing a scene and trying to get to the core of the emotion needed, I’ll find a song that elicits the same response. In fact, there’s a Straightville playlist on my iPhone that will take you from the beginning to the end of the story. But that’s a blog post for another day.
Mind you, all this is how Novel #1 was written – before the days of actual editors and agents and deadlines. (Oh my!) I’m trying something completely different with Book #2. Find out what that is in my next post.