Friday, April 30, 2010

My Process

So, in conjunction with five other fabulous author bloggers, linked to at the end of the post for your perusal pleasure, I'm writing today on my writing process.

Perhaps you've read about it before, when I gave instructions on How to Write. As exhaustive and sincere as those directions were, here's the thing:

My method is not your method.

Heck, most of the time my method isn't even my method.

With that in mind, read this for the sake of interest only (unless you've already lost interest, in which case go find something shiny to look at. Or a pony. But please no lolcatz, because those really give me the creeps). Don't ask me how to write, because you shouldn't write like I do. And you should probably be glad for that fact.

Here's how it used to work. "Tra la la. My son is napping and I don't know what I'm going to write about. Oh, look, an idea. I'll just write the first scene."

Three sleep-deprived and bordering-on-certifiable weeks later: "LOOK. I HAVE A BOOK."

There was no method other than obsession, living in the story, spinning it out constantly with every spare thought and even some thoughts that weren't so spare and really should have been focusing on the tasks at hand like getting off the correct exit on the freeway. This, of course, left me with quite a bit of fine tuning to do during revision--my revising time on PARANORMALCY was a solid three months, versus the three weeks the first draft took me.

And that was that--a mad-dash-obsessive first draft, after which I read and reread (I usually do between six and ten run-throughs) and analyzed and workshopped and spit polished, but the basic storyline and major scenes remained pretty much entirely intact.

Writing the sequel to PARANORMALCY was very different. A lot more challenging, a lot more wrestling with the story and my motivation, and a lot heavier revision (I added seventeen thousand words. Thousand. Seventeen. It was a long winter...).

Lately, however, my process seems to be this: "The kids are finally in bed and I should write. Look, there's my bed."

Three weeks later: "I should probably write. Look, there's my bed."

Three weeks later: "I should really write. Look, there's my bed."

And that's how it works with me. I have very creative, intense times where I produce a massive amount of work that I can then take my time tinkering with, and I have tired, worn-out times when any creativity is sucked dry in taking care of my day-to-day stuff.

I'm okay with this. I write every day (obviously you know this if you are reading my blog), I always meet concrete deadlines, and if I'm not actively creating, well, I will again soon.


Hey, look! There's my bed.

Other, probably more helpful, posts:

Tawna Fenske (my agency sister and why I did this even though I don't usually agree to do linked posts--yes, it IS nepotism, sorry)
Sean Ferrell (he outcrazies me by about infinite)

What about you? Is there method in your madness, or just madness in your method? Or, like me, a whole lot of madness and really no method to speak of?


Linda G. said...

When my kiddos were small, I was lucky to find enough "brain time" to finish an occasional short story. You're amazing. :)

salarsenッ said...

Hey Kiersten, I'd say there's a lot of madness to my method.

At one point, while reading your post this morning, I saw a mirror image of myself. I'm just getting beyond the stage where a mountain of excited energy hits you and you splat all thoughts on the page. It still happens, but not as often. I'm focusing on more strategic ways to write the first draft so editing isn't so daunting.

Strategy you ask?? Don't. I haven't ironed that out either, but I've definitely grown. And that's really what I got from your post this morning. Growth, perseverance, and bed. Yeah, sleep is so good the older you get, huh?

Rick Daley said...

I'm at a loss. The way I think I should write differs from the way I want to write, and both are unrecognizable when compared to the way I actually write.

I'm a Machiavellian, though, so it doesn't matter. The ends justify the means.

out of the wordwork said...

Hi Kiersten: I think obsession with a story is probably the most important part of the so called 'writing process'. Without it, why would you want to do this insanity?

Kristi Faith said...

I think you and I must be going through the same time warp. LOL I used to write and the lack of sleep was okay because I was just so excited. Nothing brought me down. has interfered and I find my will to stay up and write really super weak. LOL We'll get back there, I'm sure of it!

Cynthia Reese said...

LOL! I had NO idea that other authors would admit to mad cravings for sleep!

My dream come true? That I can one day quit The Dayjob so that I can train myself to write during business hours, and at COB, I turn off my laptop and turn off The Writing Brain.

Ain't gonna happen anytime soon, but The Husband, shielding his eyes as he tries to sleep in the bright light of The Laptop, fervently WISHES it would.

And thanks for the nepotism! Tawna is a GREAT gal, and it is obvious from her stable of authors that Michelle has superb taste. CANNOT WAIT for PARANORMALCY to come out. And I don't even really read YA.

Claire Dawn said...

My method is a lot like Tawna's.

Have an idea, let it fester, then write. My actually first drafting is like yours. Write like a madman for about 19 days. Produce a "first draft" which would honestly be better off being called an outline. lol.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I never approach a new piece the same way I've written in the past. It just works that way.

Love the glimpse into others' worlds.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Hi Kiersten! I'm here by way of Tawna's blog. Thanks so much for contributing to this series. I'm learning so much from all of you!

I'm muddling through my first -- scratch that, my second first draft. I began my WiP while doing NaNoWriMo. Pantsed nineteen chapters in a month. Yikes, it was a mess! I realized after several weeks against a creative wall that I needed some structure. I went back and outlined the story, and things are moving forward again.

You have a wonderful blog! I look forward to reading more from you!

Patty said...

Three. WEEKS?????

You are superhuman.

I've got the obsession part. I constantly refer to my characters like they're living, breathing members of my family. (They're not?)

I nearly bought a purse for heroine the other day because it was big and slouchy, just the way she likes 'em. It was in my hand, credit card out, and then...oh.

She's not real.


I get the obsession... but I think there's more to it.

Great idea and kudos to all of you!

Tawna Fenske said...

Love seeing your process, Kiersten! I'm in the same boat where my first book or two came to me in a mad, screaming, speedy rush. After that, I slowed down just a little when I began second-guessing things and actually (gasp) trying to make sure all the plot details came together.

Thanks so much for being a part of this. It's so fun to see how different we all are!


MissV said...

I clicked over from Nicole Ducleroir's site simply because my daughter's name is Kiersten, too. Glad I did!

I love your writing process. I have to force myself to write after the kids are in bed. I've not had more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep in weeks. And yet, my word count seems to be stagnating...MUST quit editing before I'm done!

Kristan said...

Fun fun! I love seeing different writers' processes, even though at this point I've learned there's no secret recipe to success. It's like Mac & Cheese: everyone's got their own favorite types of cheese to put in, and different ways to cook. Gouda, Cheddar, Swiss, whateva! Microwave, oven bake, who knows?

Me, I'm not allowed in the kitchen b/c Andy thinks I'm dangerous.

Oh wait, I lost the metaphor.

For writing, I work slow and steady to win the race. I'd RATHER work fast and steady to win the race, but some of us were born tortoises, and some of us were born hares. {shrug}

Harley May said...

It is good to hear that you seem to go through lulls. I do with the novel writing and my short stories/satire things keep me writing. Or distract me. I can't figure it out. Your book looks great. Thanks

Heather Kelly said...

I have a similar process, although I wish I could revise in three weeks. I get obsessed with a character and story, and have to just write until I get to the end. I wish I were able to delve into my revision with the same fervor. I have to force myself to write when I'm revising. But, it's still good. I'm glad to know that others forget to come up for air, and that others are pantsers too!! I have to come by more often--you ALWAYS make me laugh!!

Stephanie McGee said...

No method here. I just write when I can. I try to write every day but sometimes it just doesn't happen. And that's okay for the phase of my career that I'm in at the present moment. But I think I'm getting faster at first drafting. I think. We'll see.

Now, go get a non-coffee frappuccino from Starbucks and get writing! (My fave is strawberries and cream with a scoop of vanilla bean powder in it. And lots of whipped cream. Always whipped cream.)

Lisa said...

Madness, indeed. I talk a little about this on my blog:

I talk about my Brain Storm Draft, which is this large, messy thing.

Nice post! Thanks for sharing! And, yep, day-to-day definitely gets in the way.

L. T. Host said...

Your process is very similar to mine, which makes me feel better (to know I'm not alone). I do the crazy-obsessed-first-draft and then revise-revise-revise thing, too.

As a result, I also have long periods where I don't write anything. And right now my process is going completely out the window because I have two projects I can't stop thinking about and a wedding to plan... so guess who doesn't get to write very much, either.

It will come together though; I squeeze time in when I can.

My bed does still look tempting though, but it's always been that way.

Jayne said...

Hello! I came here via Nicole above, who pointed the way to Tawna, and then did a sort of blog hop-scotch and made it here. Yeay!

Love this. I spend a lot of time writing sitting on my bed, due to an unfortunate 'big desktop computer has to go on bedside table why didn't I get a laptop' incident. So I cannot use the excuse of looking for my bed, as it calls to me all the time. I try to ignore it, but sometimes its voice is loud!

Elisabeth Black said...

You are awesome. I, too, have big big love for my bed.

Marsha Sigman said...

We have similiar methods only add another 2 or 3 weeks to that first draft and substitute bed with couch. 'Cuase I have the most comfortable couch in the world. Its oversized and squishy and calls to me for naps in a sly, convincing whisper.

It may be evil.

Dara said...

Just madness. I've tried to establish a method and it just doesn't work :P

Although I am in one of those hardcore writing phases, working my butt off (probably could stand to do more) especially after a very reputable agent from a very reputable agency saw summaries of my projects on my blog and requested a sample the moment I was done. If that wasn't motivation...

MBW aka Olleymae said...

OOO...I'm so glad someone else has those dry spells where you wonder if you were ever a truly creative person since your life now revolves around getting through the day and napping whenever possible.

Thank God I'm not in one of those spell now. But I was. A while ago.

I'm learning to be more disciplined and work through the dull, uninspiring, sleepy times.

Valerie Sloan said...

Wow, I definitely sympathize with you. Seventeen thousand words added, oww. My latest revision needed some heavy changes where I had to rewrite about 20k words into it. It's been a long few months on that. -wince-

But for the most part, my writing is a lot like yours. A lot of madness and hopefully someday I'll find a method.

Amanda J. said...

Haha, yea, I don't have much of a process. Mine's more like, I should really be doing homework... Hey, I could just write instead! Or when I finally have time to write, Hey, there's my bed!... (We do have some things in common. :P )

Speaking of bed... *yawn*

Crystal said...

"There's my bed."

LOL Love it!

Liz Czukas said...

Thanks for giving in to nepotism. I love reading how other writers work. Seems like we're all a little nutty in the beginning.

I'm glad that your daily writing shows up in your blog. I always look forward to it.

- Liz

laughingwolf said...

great advice all round, k... :)

i'm kinda sorta like you, with rush times of long hours, then periods of too tired to see straight...

it's 10 am and i'm yawning now! :O lol

Amy Sorrells said...

Thanks so muchfor this post and the links to tyhe other authors. I don't feel near as insane as I did before reading them all. I do believe I'm a mix between you and a "pantser," with a glass of merlot thrown in there, too. It's nice knowing I'm not alone, AND that I'm in such good company. Writing mercies to you all!

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

>>>Three sleep-deprived and bordering-on-certifiable weeks later: "LOOK. I HAVE A BOOK."

lol. love it!