Friday, July 3, 2015

My Conjumbled and Ever-Changing Writing Process

I've blogged a little about bits and pieces of my writing process - timelines, sticky notes, and character development - but I've never really given an overview. So. That is what I shall do today.
Every writer's process is different, and mine is continually changing. But, as things stand now, this is how I roll:

First, the idea! I spot something on Pinterest, see a quote, or otherwise am struck by inspiration. If the idea really grabs me and sticks around in my brain, I'll start generating things like world, genre, protagonist, conflict, and anything else essential that was left out of the initial brainwave. Once I've got a decent picture of what this story would look like, I decide I'll go ahead and plan it. This is when things take off.
Next: making deadlines. Typically I choose a NaNo event to start on the first draft, so however much time is in between me and either April, July, or November - that's how much time I give myself to get my planning done. I've never had too little time, but if it was only a week from the next NaNo event I'd probably postpone the draft writing until the next one. Ha . . .ha . . . planning an entire novel in that amount of time would be . . . nuts. Right? (I'm slightly scared that I'm even considering the idea.)
With my goal in mind, I start with solidifying my beginning and ending. Where do the characters start and where do they end up? What has changed? Maybe I'll jot down a few notes and options about climaxes, but nothing is set in stone yet - I just need a general idea of the plot.
Next I go about developing my main characters, because stories are all about the characters in them, right? I do this by examining first the role the character will have to play in the story, and then adding in flaws and good qualities that will work well with that role. I basically write down (in a character sheet) whatever comes into my head about them and if they change later, well, they've changed. It happens every time but I need something to work from. (For more details on developing characters, check out this post.) At this time, I'm so excited about this new project that I'm bouncing on the couch.
By this point, all the character development will have given me ideas for scenes and plot points. I start by writing a summary of my plot as I know it, then start an outline and write a chapter-by-chapter outline. I make scenes up as I go to fill in blanks. There will be no subplots or complicated little diversions from the main conflict at this point - it's all still very bare-bones. After the draft is written I always look back and think, "how simplistic . . . bleagh."
Once I've gotten my first full plot down, I start playing with structure. I follow the three-act structure as outlined by K. M. Weiland in her books and on her blog, Helping Writers Become Authors. Using that structure, I start shifting my outline around in order to structure my plot, nailing down the inciting event, the first plot point, the midpoint, and the third plot point. Also, at this point I'll commonly revise what will happen in the climax  and shift where I start the novel. I make all these changes to my outline as I go. Here is where I also planned out the entire character arc of Mara when I wrote Shadows and Light - I never did such a thing with Taken, but I wish I had. It was confusing, difficult, made me cry, and took way too long, but the story is so much better for it, even as a rough draft.
Often, new minor characters pop up during that stage, so sometimes I'll draw up quick character sheets for those. Also, through all of this, I'll have been on my Pinterest procrastinating brainstorming - building a main storyboard, boards for the main characters, and setting boards. These really help solidify characters and setting, as well as the tone of the book, in my head.
After all that is when I finally feel confident enough to start writing the first draft. If I have time, I may make a timeline before starting, but it isn't necessary. As I said above, I like to write my first draft during a NaNo event - that way I have plenty of motivation to keep pounding it out and I can't stop to fiddle with things as I write. But I'm at the beginning of the event, and I'm finally going to write the first words of the story.
Most writers know how NaNoWriMo goes: you're attached to your laptop, forget to eat, try to block out distractions like the television and cats and school (hahaha right that doesn't work), and beat yourself up internally for not meeting the daily word goal or pausing to go back and change that one word. With Taken I finished half of my first draft during NaNo and spent months dragging through the rest of it. With Shadows and Light I wrote about 25000 words more than I aimed for and finished the draft in one month. Either way, I got a lot done. I'm feeling accomplished.
After a (hopefully short) break, I then read through the first draft and feel like this:
I realize that I'm nowhere near done and that now I am going to have to engage in edits. Bleagh bleagh bleagh. Also, I wonder why I started in the first place because SO MANY PROBLEMS. 
After eating a case of chocolate to console myself and giving myself multiple motivational speeches, I start working on draft two - for which, I apparently have no process.
With Taken, I made lists of changes I had to make and positively crawled through those edits. I made no major changes to plot or characters. With Shadows and Light, I've gone into a whole second time of plotting and planning, with revised character arcs and plot points, altered world building, and an added narrator and team of minor characters. I'm basically redoing the entire thing (and writing this radically changed second draft during this month). Whatever happens after draft #1, I guess all depends on how interested in it I am, and what specifically is wrong with it.
I haven't ventured past the opening of the draft #2 stage, so after that is . . .
Or at least, where no Annika has gone before.
What does your writing process look like? How far have you gotten into it? Do I do way too much pre-draft work? 


  1. Ooh, your writing process is mildly fabulous. IT IS. xD My process is...weird. I don't even know how I get my ideas. Mostly I decide what I want and I just think about it till it comes. Like I really really wanted to write an epic fantasy?? Then I started pulling ideas from some books I was listening to, some weird pins I saw, then the fact that I had an infatuation with Russia, and also paintings and heists and OMG IT JUST ALL ENDED UP IN ONE SNOWY MOUNTAIN OF MESS AND I LVOED IT. *pants quietly* Writing it though? Ha. That's another matter entirely. XD

    Edits. Omg, you've just reminded me I need to get started on my edits and stop procrastinating. *crawls back into darkness*

    1. Haha, sounds like the process of insane genius. :D
      Edits. :P

    Also you have inspired me to actually write a blog post about my writing process. :)

    1. OH GOODNESS ALRIGHT WELL THAT IS OKAY. Congratulations, I look forward to seeing it after that exclamation. XD