Doing Things Differently (A Word about Process)

September 29, 2011

Today is my first day of doing things differently. Before today, my writing process looked something like this:

  • A hero or heroine appears in my head. We “talk.” I understand what he or she wants and needs, and without much thought the perfect mate appears.
  • I open a Word document and start a fresh character worksheet (from Karen Docter’s plotting workshop). I create one document for Heroine and another document for Hero.
  • I open a Word document and write the Heroine’s W-plot. I open another document and write the Hero’s W-plot. I open another document and write the Romance’s W-plot.
  • I combine the three W-plots into a fresh Word document that now holds the outline of my entire story.

At this point, I feel pretty good about things. I usually read over all the documents a few more times before I start writing, and my thoughts are very positive.

  • I start writing. I write the story as I remember it from the plotting documents, but I don’t refer back to them. I write as much as I can for as long as I can. The only way I can explain this is to call it a “pouring” of words or writing “trance.”
  • Around 40,000 words I become conscious about what I’ve written.
  • I realize the story has veered from the original plot.

At this point, I panic, because while I like what I’m writing, I like the plotted storyline better.

  • I stop writing.
  • I read the original plotting documents again.
  • I try to alter things in the manuscript to reflect the original storyline.
  • I decide it’s too much work to do make these changes. (It would be easier to start all over again.)
  • I mope, because I really want to write the story I plotted, but I don’t want to do all the work.
  • I start writing again, but not the story I plotted. I just keep going with what I’ve written so far.
  • I finish the first draft.

At this point, I usually have a new idea breathing down my neck, and I’m anxious to get plotting again, to start over and do better this time.

  • I send the first chapter of the finished manuscript to my critique partner.
  • I make edits according to her feedback, and I send her the next chapter…and on and on.
  • When the editing process is complete, I set the story aside while I plot a new story.
  • At the completion of plotting, I pull out the finished manuscript and read it in one sitting (preferably). I change anything that needs changing.
  • I submit the finished manuscript.
  • I start writing the new manuscript.
  • I receive a rejection for the finished manuscript.
  • I agree with the editors who rejected the finished manuscript, because it wasn’t the story I wanted to write in the first place (the stronger story).

At this point, I wonder why I’m writing at all if I can’t write what I want to write.

  • I think about rewriting/revising the finished manuscript to reflect the original plot.
  • Instead, I put the finished manuscript away and decide it’s not worth the effort and it’s not worthy of publication anyway.
  • I go back to writing the new idea.
  • And the process goes on and on.

Not anymore. This time I’m going to write the story I set out to write in the first place. I have the plot. It’s broken down into twenty-four plot points, the perfect number of chapters for a single-title contemporary
(give or take a few). My new process is going to include writing one chapter at a time, reading one plot point before I sit down to write that chapter, and writing each chapter in its very own word document. In my mind, this seems like a sensible way to stay organized and on track. We’ll see.

How about you? Is your process firmly in place, or are you struggling to find the best way (for you) too?

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4 Responses to “Doing Things Differently (A Word about Process)”

  1. taristhread Says:

    I’ve talked about this a little, but the truth is, when I write non-fiction I outline and make notes before I write, with fiction I do no advance work. I might make a note of something that pops into my head and I don’t want to forget, but often I feel like the story is happening in my head, or I’m “channeling” the characters and it just comes out onto the paper. I often say my pen bleeds the story.

    It’s a very odd thing for me because in all areas of my life, I’m a planner and organizer, but in this one way….and only with fiction…..it’s not my plan….it just happens……

    Let us know how your new process works, I like the idea, gives you the freedom of telling the story, but with some organization to it.


    • It’s funny, because I wrote four manuscripts by the seat of my pants but I didn’t feel like I they were tight enough from a story standpoint (lots of self-indulgent rambling). Plotting give me direction and lets me see that I have all the important parts, but I still have a tendency to veer off. I just need to find something that works and stick with it. 🙂

  2. LD Says:

    Uh-oh….felt out of breath reading your writing process….(lol). And here I was thinking I was the only one exasperated with mine. I’m liking your new process way better and I’ll have to borrow this tip from you. All the best with the writing.

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