How they write


Written on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 by haleigh

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There are probably as many ways to write as there are ways to clean a house. Some people like to vacuum every day, some people iron their sheets, some are lucky if the dust balls don't eat them in their sleep. It's all a matter of comfort, preference, skills, ability, time etc.

Writing is the same way. How you write -- what system works best for you -- depends on your goals, your genre/sub-genre, your time constraints, and your financial constraints (contests bills add up, not to mention the maid and personal chef so I have more time to write. A girl can dream, right?). It also depends on your skills and abilities. The more we write, the better we get at spotting what's not working and knowing how to fix it.

Some people like to edit as they go, some need to vomit out the first draft and fix it later. Some plot, plot, plot, some fly by the seat of their pants. Some try to get it all down in one go, others write in layers.

So a short series this week: how to do they write? Lots of published authors talk about their system for writing and what works for them. So this week, I'll post some great interviews from romance authors.

But for today, how do you write? What's your system?

I'm a plotter, and a fairly fanatical one at that. If I don't know exactly where I'm going with each scene, and what the goals are for that scene, I freeze up. I've tried to pants it -- it always backfires for me.

So my system is to plot, plot, plot. Then I forget all about all of that and just write. I don't re-read it, don't fiddle with it, just write. The next day, I'll start my day by reading over yesterday's work, and fiddling with it then. I compare it to my plot - did I go where I meant to go, or just go off on a tangent. Did I show the necessary characterization? Did I show evocative emotions? I'll layer in more emotions, more plot, or a deeper POV. Then I start fresh on the next scene, forget all the rules and plotting, and just write. Tomorrow, I'll go over the stuff I wrote this morning.

But that's just me. Nicole Jordan, in an interview in April's Romance Writer's Report, said "There’s no point in doing scads of plotting or characterization prep unless it actually helps you write the story better and faster. For some writers, too much prep work is actually detrimental."

So what do you do? Are you a plotter or pantster? Do you write every day, or when inspiration strikes? Do you edit as you go, or come back later? Write in layers, or try to get it all down at once?

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  1. Cindy |

    I plot a little. I'll write down key scenes and tell generally what they're about. Mostly I just add to this as I go.

    I develop my characters a little. I give them a name, a few characteristics and try to get a general feel for what they look like.

    Then I start writing and I don't look back. I don't go back and edit, I just write until I get to the end.

    Once I go back, I'll add in more layers, more description, better attribution in the dialogue. I usually end up with a good 10k plus more words the second round than I ended up with in the first.

  2. haleigh |

    Hi Cindy! So you write all the way through and edit at the end? I love that you add more in later. I have the opposite problem. My first MS, I still need to cut 16k words. Yikes!

  3. Jessica |

    I'm a pantser. Trying to think up scenes ahead of time freezes me.
    That said, many times before I'll write I'll know my goal. Not because I plotted it out but just because it's there...does that make sense?
    I'm trying to fill out some character worksheets though, to help me a bit. It's tough for me.
    I'm looking forward to your series!

  4. haleigh |

    Hi Jessie! I get that -- you know generally where you're headed, but not necessarily each step along the way of how you'll get there. (or at least, that's what I think you're saying!). Makes sense to me :)

  5. peeramid98 |

    I'm a "pantser" I guess. I do a little bit of advance planning before I write, but it's mostly limited to taking a walk and trying to get my ideas straight. Other than that, it's catch as catch can. And, as you might guess, I also compulsively edit as I go along.

  6. Melissa |

    I have to say, I'm out of the loop because, although I can figure out the meaning in context, I hadn't heard of "pantster" until recently! lol Which am I? I definitely get ideas for a story from a single scene and that carries me through a few chapters, but then I have to stop and plot. I can't imagine plotting from scratch so I guess I lean more toward the pantster. I wish I could um, "vomit" out a first draft (ewww!), but I can't totally turn off the internal editor. I'm working at it though. I'm not sure it's a good goal for my "rough draft" to get "rougher," but I am trying to find ways to speed things along. lol Some things I do more of is putting in "place holders" here and there for a note to myself to add more of this or that. Like you've mentioned before about research, but also for just about anything I want more of or is just making me stumble. I do jump around a lot. Skip over the love scene, skip over the tricky plot point that I haven't figured out...skipping my way to the end and fill in the holes. lol It takes a lot of layers before I'm happy with where a scene is going and usually it's a lot of dialogue in the first layer. I have found it somewhat helpful to rework what I've worked on to get back into the writing groove and with plenty of "holes to fill" I'm guaranteed somewhere to land. :)

  7. haleigh |

    Hey Carla! I definitely would have guessed the editing part ;) I love to take walks to straighten things out in my head. We have a quiet cemetery (and no, I didn't mean that as a pun) behind our house, and whenever I get stuck, I take the puppy out there for a walk, and it usually shakes something loose.

  8. haleigh |

    Hey Melissa! It took me a while to figure out "panster" too, but you got it. Those who fly into a new book by the seat of their pants. I'm so impressed with authors who can do that, but I have to have an outline or I get all twitchy :)

    I like using placeholders too. They're handy for getting over sticky scenes :)

  9. Addison Burke |

    Hey Haleigh,
    I have a strange way of writing, i think. I have an outline: Start here (a), create this (b), create conflict here (c) get to here by pg.# (d) climax (e) ending (f). That is about it. Everthing in between i make up as i go.

    A lot of times characters will appear and change things on me, sometimes they stay or i make them leave if they change the course of the story too much.

    I like the freeness of creating/writing-as-I-go and it works for my lifestyle too (with the 2 boys).

    I also do a lot of editing. Before i begin writing for the day, i review what i wrote the previous day and make any adjustments, or add here or there.

    christi (p.s. signed in under alias)

  10. haleigh |

    Hey Christi! So you know where you're headed, but not how you're going to get there. Makes sense to me! (I mean, that would give me heart palpitations, but the concept makes perfect sense *g*)

    I feel like the amount of plotting I do definitely puts me in the minority. But like you, my characters change a lot while I'm writing, new characters appear. I swear I spend half my time going back and changing my original outline to match whatever is I've written. LOL!


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