I was recently asked to take part in an exercise for detailing my own writing process. Reluctantly, I agreed.
I say reluctantly because one of the first things I’ve learned about my writing process is that I don’t function well with assigned topics. Or, under pressure. Or, with deadlines.
The second thing I learned was that these traits are not great to have in the craft of writing, whether as a hobby or career; a craft that oft times demands all three.
That being said, one of the few things I don’t like any better than pressure or deadlines is letting down a friend after I’ve promised to do something. Especially when that friend happens to be someone you’re collaborating with on a separate writing project…one with its own pressures, assignments and deadlines. (As always, self-imposed.)
So…what is my “process”?
Well, it goes kind of like this…
(And, at least for me, what follows is how I tend to write anything; whether it’s a 500-word blog post, or 80,000-word manuscript. So, when I use the term “piece”, it could mean either thing.)
Most often, I find that the piece forms in my head, usually from end to beginning; meaning I tend to know where I want to go before I know how I’m going to get there. And, what I want to say is most often, or maybe I should say most effective, when it’s as a reaction to something. Again, this could be for a blog post, or as a novel-length piece. Something strikes me that I feel a need to comment on, and I start there.
Honestly, anger and frustration are great for inspiration. My recent post on the John MacArthur brouhaha is an example. Usually I don’t like weighing in on controversial topics. To me, it’s a lot like stepping in dog crap; you know it’s you, everybody knows it’s you, and nobody likes it…it just causes a big stink.
But, sometimes, you just can’t help but step in it!
The process of discovery and learning is another great source of inspiration. My latest Drifter novel “The Price of Indifference” is a good example of that side. I did a lot of research, both on the effects and realities of autism and the day-to-day “life” of a prison inmate, and was fascinated by what I discovered.
Once the topic is known and the end goal is in mind, I tend to write from front to back, meaning I’ll write it in order, in sequence, which is no big thing in 500 to 1000 words but tends to get interesting when writing 300+ pages worth of “stuff”. Overall though, this writing style is just easier for me.
One of the most fun things I’ve discovered about writing is that, when I have the end goal in mind, and a general idea of how I’m going to get there, I can let things flow “stream of consciousness”-style in connecting the dots. I’ve written many “scenes” of my novels this way, and what I’ve found is that within this process, I cease becoming a writer and turn into more of a secretary taking dictation and it’s often a struggle trying to keep up with what my characters are saying, what they’re doing, or in the case of a blog post, what my mind wants to spew forth onto the page. It can turn into a gigantic brain dump and I struggle to type fast enough to get it all down. At the end, I’m left breathless and filled with adrenaline, with several thousand words on a previously empty page.
This is fun for me because most times where I end up could well be an entirely different direction from where I started out wanting to go. But more often than not, I end up in an even better place! And, for my preferred topics—Christian suspense novels, or blogs on faith, doubt, belief, questioning, etc.—I think you’ll know who I end up crediting with this unfettered inspiration.
Two last things I’ll point up:
This process—writing front-to-back—can also be a great source of frustration. An example would be in the difficulty I’m having with writing the fourth book in the Drifter Series. This thing does not want to be written in order! I’ve got “scenes” penned for throughout the book but, for the life of me, can’t seem to string them together in any meaningful order.
And it’s my own fault.
I usually write a general outline for my longer length pieces, 2-300 words that I can then lay out and expand into 60-80,000 words over time. I didn’t do that this time. I became so enamored with the “stream of consciousness” thing that I figured, “Oh, heck! I know where I want to go! It’ll just come to me on the fly on how I’m going to get there.”
Ha! Fat chance!
So…back to the drawing board I go.
Which is my last point: I literally have a “drawing board”. I do!
Actually, it’s a program on my trusty laptop called “Inspiration”.
I got the idea for using this program from another writer I admired (Christopher Moore, the author of “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal”, among others). It’s a program that, in reality, is used mostly by students and other academia for laying out presentations and so on. It allows you to put ideas or thought-points into “bubbles”, then diagram them out linking them together with drawn arrows. You can drag the bubbles around, rearranging the order. You can link as many points (or, in my case “scenes”) together as you want. You can color them to show who’s involved, or whether or not the “scene” has been written. Overall, it’s a great program for putting an outline onto a visual medium, then manipulating it however you feel moved. And I’m a very visually-oriented person.
For longer manuscripts, I recommend it highly.
So there you go. My writing process, such as it is.
My thanks to Nate over at Finding Truth for giving me this “assignment”, and I hope you all got a little better feel for the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of my thought process on what goes into whatever written projects I’ve undertaken.
Who knows, a year from now I could have an entirely new process and I can write an entirely new post on it as well. Or, I could be back in retail and have an entirely different set of “stuff” to write on.
Either way, you’ll probably know about it.
Thanks for stopping by and have a great rest of the week!