The Process as a Process

There is a lot of focus on the process of writing as being the important element of writing. That when you’re creating, it’s all about the process, not the product that’s there at the end. You have to enjoy it while you’re in the middle of it, as a writer, otherwise: What’s the point.

Professional writers must get tired of the constant questioning: What’s your typical day like? How many pages do you write a day? Do you outline or free-pants it? Do you revise as you go along? By the end of the day, the professional writer, who has figured out how they like to write and go along, must be really frustrated by this endless repetition of the same bunch of questions.

The beginning/mid-level writers who are asking these questions are really trying to figure out, not what the pro-writer’s process is, but how to refine their own process.

The question of process is really a question of trial and error. One author will love outlining because it gives structure and a road map. Another will hate that kind of ‘restriction’.

Currently, I am attempting a new piece to my process. Through the writing of my last two books I have had mini-outlines that get me a few chapters/scenes ahead, so that I know the purpose of the scene. I’ve also waited until the end, finishing the big, hunking rough draft before going back to revise. This process, for me, feels a bit unwieldy.

The other major issue that I’ve come up against is the issue of leaving things out. So then I have to go back and insert pieces after I’m so tired from writing the whole big monster that I pretty much just want to throw the whole thing away.

The result of these two issues: I’m revising my process.

Here’s what I’m going to try out this time. (See? This is why it really takes a few novels under the bed before anything gets published–it takes that long to figure out what the hell you’re doing…even when you think you know what you’re doing.)

I’m going to put everything into it. I’m going to follow King’s advice (who else?) and just put lots of stuff in. Words and words and words. I’m thinking about 120K. Then I can cut, and refine things, rather than having to write them all from scratch again. Though I am sure there will still be some from-scratch writing going into the revising process–which brings me to my second point:

Big problems recognized early enough will be rewritten and edited at time of recognition. No just plowing through, because all that’ll happen is me having to write more from scratch again. I’d rather write all of my first draftish stuff in the first draft.

After I’ve finished the rewriting of the problematic things, and I have a complete and less-rough rough draft, then I’ll sit on it for a little while. After the waiting period, I’ll go at it again with fresh eyes. And probably cry because there’ll be more stuff to work out than I thought.

How’s about you guys? While you’re writing, to revise your process? What big changes have you had to make because you realized what you were doing wasn’t working for you?

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jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I like to do a rough draft and revise in chunks as I go along and as I get the critques. I don't like to get more than a third of the way through before revising according to what critiques I want to use. If I need to change the story, I want to do it before I get very far

  2. It feels like my process has changed (refined?) with each book. I've found that I can't submit the rough as I go along.

    As far as planning/seatsing it, it seems to depend on the story. Most start with a really loosey goosey outline that can change as I go.

    Don't know if there'll ever be A Process. I think it will always depend on the circumstances at the time.

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