Tuesday 5 October 2010

I like it nice and slow.

HA! No, not talking about sex. But I am talking about the next best thing (aside from chocolate and ice-cream). Writing. I've noticed a typical routine I go through when I write. Sometimes I deviate from it, but most of the time I go through the same process. I work slowly. Perfecting each chapter before I move forward. I can't smash out the first draft of the whole WIP without looking back - no way - it's just not me. I know it is recommended, but I'm not comfortable with that. I do what I'm comfortable with, and so far my comfort zone is working well. So I'm sticking with it.
This is what I do:
1. I smash out the erratic, mish-mash first draft for a complete chapter - usually most of the dialogue between characters is spot on and doesn't change much. If I'm in the swing of the mish-masharena, I'll smash out another mish mash chapter. I've never ever gone on to do the masharena a third time. That would send me in a panic, because there would be too much 'bad' writing to deal with when I sit down to write again.
2. If I'm still in the swing of things, and feeling fresh and alert, I read over what I've written filling it in with descriptions, characterisations, movements etc, on the same day. If not, this is the next day's task.
3. Next I read over again and line edit it. I make my words sing. Make it poetic where it should be, make my characters' emotions jump off the page where they should, make it tense when it should, make sure I've used every single sense possible to describe what I want to describe. That's a motto of mine - make sure each sense is used at least once in each chapter. It'll make your writing richer. Believe me.
4. Ahh. *sigh*. Read over the last chapter(s) I've recently written to get back in the mood, without changing anything because that can be done in the second draft stage, and do the masharena again. (OK. I've now got two songs in my head 'Do the Locomotion' and 'Macarena' - OUCH!)

So what's your process? Have you learned what you're comfortable with? Or are you still struggling with how you think you're 'supposed' to do things?
If you're struggling, forget about how others write. Think about what makes writing a pleasant experience for you. And most importantly, have fun with it!


  1. Now I have the Macarena in my head. And I can't write. Hey, mish macarena!


    Sorry, I'm evil. ; )

  2. It's almost always interesting to see how you writers go about your craft.
    I haven't written anything long in quite a few years, I start by sketching a premise with the main events and conclusion, then I fill in the blanks or connect the dots... I usually don't add or change much from my first draft asides from typos, pruning, and reordering... which is probably why I'm slow.

  3. I wish I could Mish mash like you. I tend to go through it methodically and attack each chapter one at a time for everything. Then a read through. Then repeat.

  4. That is VERY similar to my own process, except my inner critic can't handle doing an entire chapter (let along TWO!) without going back to fill in and fix up.

    Like you said, dialogue comes first, it's easiest and fastest - IT just comes out! Then I gotta go back and fill in all the stuff around it...

    Then the next day before beginning to write I'll read over it again to get me in the mood (and adjust a few things again...).


  5. I write my books in parts; I'll write one part, then I'll start writing the next while at the same time I go back and edit. I don't really like writing slow and carefully, but sometimes I find just sitting back and editing can be good for stimulating ideas.

  6. Oh to put silly songs in my head... now I'll be singing it all day long!!!

    My writing process is still a work in progress itself! As far as writing I have no problem getting the First Draft complete, it's the revisions, line editing, rewriting... can you say OVERWHELMED??

  7. I love this:

    Make sure each sense is used at least once in each chapter.

    Words to live by!

  8. My process is similar, except that I start by writing the chapter in my head, usually at night when I'm supposed to be sleeping. Then I furiously type away. Dialogue comes first. If I'm lucky, I remember to use quotation marks (because it takes forever to go back and put them in. Tedium). Then I fill in the scene, beautify the language, and engage the senses.

  9. What great advice! Whatever you're comfortable with, and gets it done, IS probably best. I've only ever written one novel, so I can't really say that I know for sure what my style is, but so far I outlined loosely, pantsed the first draft, revised a couple times and have since realized that an entire re-write is in order. It's going slowly but surely so far ...

  10. Oh, I write in a VERY similar manner. I'm very linear and chronologically inclined. I can't write a scene or chapter out of sequence. If I have ideas for a future chapter/scene I take notes on it but that's it. I edit, refine, polish as I go. I reread what I've written to get back into the mood and bang out the next chapter.

    I'm soooo glad I'm not alone!

  11. Hey macarena! That was an awful song. LOL.

    I've only got short stories to judge my writing process on, but generally I write the first draft and then go back and edit/fine-tune. Not sure I could cope with a novel at the moment!

    Great post.

  12. I like the way you think! I found your blog through Write-Brained and I'm glad I did. Before I had an agent, I was bad about not revising but she keeps me honest. She reads through my first draft and rips it to shreds...and every time she does, it hurts at first but the MS is always better. I think we have to have that outside reader.

  13. This is kind of how I work too. Write something and then go back over it. I like to have something halfway decent before I proceed, because otherwise I won't know where I'm going :)

  14. I have to let the whole work out in a draft. Then I work in sections to add/subtract scenes and work in stronger plot elements.
    Read. Cut. Add. Repeat...then Revise.

  15. I'm learning to outline. It helps me stay on task. Then I try to write a chapter a day (sometimes two) and do edits after that. I'm doing revisions now. It's completely different, but needed. =)

  16. It's so interesting reading other writers' processes. I'm not sure what mine is, but I'm similar to you in that dialogue just comes.

    For my first book, I would write a chapter by hand. Then I would type it and as I typed I would edit and add. Sometimes, if I was really going along I would write 2 or 3 chapters by hand and then type. The most I ever wrote before typing was 5 chapters. After I finished writing, I waited a month, printed it out and went through and edited.

    With my second book, I couldn't write by hand ... the words just wouldn't come. I just wrote on the computer straight through from beginning to end -- making sure I was happy with one chapter before moving on to the next. It's been a month since I've finished, I just reread the whole thing (not making any edits) to check for flow and the story. I'll be starting my edits soon.

  17. I'm like you in that I can't pump out a whole draft without looking back, although I do try not to make any edits (at least not major edits) during the first draft.

    I have a notebook that I write the first draft in, and at the end of each day/week, I'll type up whatever I've written. While I'm typing it up, I'll make comments on things that need editing or more research later. Just little notes to remind me what I was thinking about when I get into the revision stage.

    I also agree with your comment about forgetting about what other writers do. The process is different for everyone.

  18. I'm in the write fast and then edit world.

    But I will say one of the most beautiful novels I ever read is The Outlander by Gil Adamson (NOT the British time-travel tale) -- and she WROTE her book over ten years. Chapter by whittled chapter, getting each chapter just right before moving on. Ten years! Even her publisher said it was the cleanest ms they'd ever received.


  19. My process is like yours, Jessica, except I skip right to Step 3. I'm not good with the mish-mash, so I line edit as I go. At the end of the chapter, I'll do one last pass before moving onto the next one.

    After that, I don't touch the preceding chapters until the entire first draft is done. (I used to, but that was why I never made any forward progress. Instead, now I just have 35 pages' worth of notes tacked onto the end of my manuscript.)

    And now I have to try that 5 senses per chapter thing, too. Thanks for the suggestion!

  20. My process is very similar to yours. I'm often working on two different series, each with very different protagonists. The re-reading of the most recent chapters is critical to get me back in the characters' head space.

  21. I admire your thoughtfulness! I kind of blitz my pieces. Like... write in huge junks and then not touch it for a long time and then edit massive bits. Probably not the best approach, but it works for me... I guess it's mostly about what works best for you.

  22. I love the way you do it. I am a bit more structured, but not always. Sometimes I surprise myself. There are some great words of wisdom here, Jessica. Thanks! :-)

  23. A most enjoyable post, a plaesure to read though on looking at the title I did think you were writing about sex......lol


  24. I'm still trying to figure out my rewrite process. Going a few chapters at a time seems to help, but I feel like I'm floundering in the water not swimming like I need to be. I've tried it three different ways now and none have quite fit. I'm still figuring it out. I think I need to just write a better first draft, a perfect draft so that I don't have to go through this. ;-) I do love pulling it apart and meatying (yes, not a word but I like it!) it up. I just wish I could find more of a streamlined process.

    Great post!

  25. Up until now, with this crazy novel-writing adventure, I've tried to heed the advice of many and write the whole first draft, ignoring the wails of my inner editor. I've come to realize, as you know firsthand, this is not the process for me. If I were to describe my process, I'd copy and paste your steps above here.

    So glad things are moving along so well with B.L.O.P.!!

  26. The editing stops me up too long so I have trouble getting writing again. The Cozy I am currently editing I had to polish and sparkle my first 50 pages for the audition (no point writing the rest until I knew, eh?) and then waited, and I had a fair bit of trouble getting going again.

    When I wrote the rest, I did it in one (about 6 weeks)--it was too short, but it turns out that is okay, as with a mystery, there are clue patterns to weave in--I had a few great ideas after the fact, so the EDITING has been a fair amount of work, but I think is really improving it. I'm learning a ton about plotting, and i think I really LIKE having the skeleton down first before filling in some of the muscle and flesh.

    I write by making a TIMELINE, starting, adding to the timeline, then beginning a notebook of details for later as they occur to me--about 3 chapters in, I have to start using an 'outline' for the next few chapters at a time.

  27. I just sit down and write.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  28. I think I'm still learning my process. For a while I got stuck in the "write by rules." It came out horribly wrong. So now I'm going with my gut.

  29. I can write pretty fast if I want, unless I talk about it with others, so . . . mums the word!

  30. I write the whole thing and then go back and attack from the beginning, making many passes through the manuscript.

  31. I pound out a chapter, then the next day before I pound out the next chapter I look back over the previous days work and do some rough editing. I do this everytime I write. It works for me...or maybe I should say I'm happy with that process. Whether it works or not is still to be determined. :)

  32. I have to get it out of my head before I start perfecting.

  33. My process is similar to yours, but not really. Each day (if all is going well), I write. The next day, I look at the previous day's writing and fix the obvious mistakes and see if I've grounded the scene enough or if the poor people are floating in midair. If they're floating, I fix that.

    When the WIP is done, then I make it pretty.

    I love writing, sex, and caramel, not necessarily in that order.

  34. Love the question posed at the end: 'are you still struggling with how you think you're supposed to do things?'
    The answer is yes, but relating to designing, not writing. I think it takes a long time to work out a process that suits you.
    The fact that my design work is assessed for uni makes things trickier too - you have to make sure that your thought processes are clearly represented, so you're not just working with an entirely personal shorthand. It has to make some kind of sense to other people as well. This changes both the process and the outcome to some degree.
    It's a bit like stuff at a quantum level - observation changes the outcome!

  35. I really have to work on #3 - about the senses. This is a great writing routine.


  36. I've yet to find a method that I'm totally comfortable with. All the academic writing that I do means that I'm fairly meticulous and I tend to edit as I write. Doing NaNoWriMo this year will help me to just wing it and write without stopping. Bring on the Masharena!


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris