Disclaimer thingy: THERE IS NO ONE TRUE WAY with writing. Don’t let anyone tell you that. There is only what works for me and what works for you. So read the following with that understanding. we all do this differently.
I was thinking about process earlier today and about how my writing process had changed over the years. It used to be that I wrote, tinkered, wrote, tinkered. I edited a lot as I wrote. It worked for me because in the beginning I didn’t have deadlines and I subbed with fulls so it wasn’t a problem.
Over time though, I began to write on deadlines and sell on partials, which meant my time had to be managed differently to meet my obligations. I frequently had different projects at different stages going at once (so I’d be writing a book and then I’d get a revision note on something else or first or second round edits on yet something else, etc). So in January of this year I decided I’d stop going back in process and editing as I went. I decided I’d force myself to power through and deal with edits in my second draft stage. Anything longer than a novella and I’ll make notes as I go but I won’t let myself adjust over and over unless it’s totally necessary to the story arc or pacing.
I gotta say, despite some painful, headdesk moments with first drafts, it’s worked exceptionally well for me. When I wrote Relentless I had several really agonizing writerly moments of doubt. But I made myself keep writing and when I finished and began the second draft stage, I realized the book was better for me powering through. The story was better than I’d imagined as I had my “ohmigod this book is the biggest piece of suck to ever hit sucktown” moments. I had my notes and my edits for the second draft so that when I smoothed and sent the third draft to crit, I was able to streamline the process and apply the crit and create a final draft I was totally proud of. And in the end, I think Relentless is the best thing I’ve written in a really long time.
I’ve come to realize, for me anyway, the heart of any book and the writing of it is all about the epiphany moment. You can’t rush it, tinkering and going back won’t bring it sooner (and sometimes it delays it). Writing a book is technical, yes. You have a framework of any story. Pacing, the heart of who your characters are and why they do the things they do. But it’s sort of shadowy and like pulling teeth in certain places until you reach the stage where you suddenly *get* your characters. You understand why they are who they are and things loosen and the writing is different. Easier in many ways because you’ve connected with the story in a way you hadn’t before. You will inevitably get stuck here and there and feel you suck, but once you have that “AHA!” moment and the book is in technicolor, you’ve hit your stride and it makes sense in a way it didn’t before.
Once I have the “OH!” moment I can easily adjust what I wrote before when I do my second draft but no amount of going back and tinkering will bring that moment any faster. I’m convinced it happens when it’s supposed to happen in each story. Sometimes early, sometimes later.
It sounds mystical and I suppose to a certain extent is is magic in the way that the writing process is magical on some level. But writing is work. You have to sit your butt in the chair and do it even through the hard parts, the dark parts when you don’t know what the hell is going on or how to make the book better. Sometimes you write and in the second draft you might just delete the whole thing. But going back for more than a little touch interrupts the flow and it encourages you to dither around in the first half when you need to just write the book and THEN you can go back.
Who knows what I might try next year! Whole chapter outlines? Um, probably not, LOL.