What is your writing process? WTF! I’m a writer, creative type, don’t ya know? I don’t need a process.
Okay, yes. Writing is a creative process, but writing novels–or anything–requires some type of production process. Maybe you start with an idea and brainstorm it until you feel like you’ve got your brain wrapped around your novel, and then you write. That’s a process. Maybe you start with an idea, outline the heck out of it, and then start writing. That’s a process. I’ve personally created some excruciatingly detailed outlines, but still ended up throwing the incompleted drafts in the trash. I’ve done that a few times. It was my process, and it didn’t work. I became frustrated and realized I was spinning my wheels. The main reason my process didn’t work was that it was not structured: I had no clue what I was doing while I was doing it.
Process Is Our Friend Just because writing is a creative endeavor doesn’t mean we can’t have a process to follow, but if we choose, to deviate from it when necessity demands. Some sort of process is in place among all writers, whether we fess up or not. We’re just not cognizant of it on the surface, when we’re writing. We take it for granted that we’re doing something that works for us, and that’s perfectly fine. I, for example, used to drive myself to distraction trying to follow Joe Campbell’s multi-phased writing process: the hero’s journey. I whipped my stories into those heroic acts and, actually, I wrote a fairly decent novel–but it’s not seen the light of day, nor will it.
I’ve also gone to numerous workshops, brought home and tried other writers’ suggestions. How do they write? What do they do? The ideas are exhaustive, limitless. Some of them worked; some didn’t. Figuring that out has taken a lot of time and money.
My Recent Discoveries I’ve recently been stirring up trouble in online writing forums, where members can get pretty testy, by asking what process writers use to actually write their novels. I’ve heard and responded to some fairly mean-spirited rants, but I’ve also found that many, like myself, are really seeking a more disciplined approach to our fiction writing. We want a way to write that works the same way each time, every time. The reason? We’re not wanting to reinvent the wheel every time we write a novel, a daunting process even for the best writers among us. Time is money, and we want to cut down on futile wheel invention work.
My Philosophy As manager of multiple teams of technical writers, I’ve managed document production schedules, and I’ve never missed a deadline, while producing award winning documentation. When I decided to write fiction, I began testing whether the same processes that worked for producing multiple documents at once, while meeting compressed turnaround schedules, would also work for fiction writing. It’s taken me and my CP a year to test this theory. We’re presently documenting it, but one thing I know: it works. The production process for fiction writing can be managed the same as the one for producing technical documentation.
What Is the Process? We’re still documenting what we’ve tested, and I’m going to be posting from this blog as I apply each phase in the process to the five novels I’m writing this year. The first phase is developing the novel’s premise. Everyone starts with the novel’s premise, it’s main idea, so that’s the starting point we’ve chosen. The question we asked was this: if we can develop one premise, why can’t we simultaneously develop two, or three, or four, or even more? This is tricky because it calls for shaping multiple ideas at once, but isn’t that what writers do best? The key is to identify the specific process we use to write our premise and then keep using that process for every premise we develop. Doing so adds momentum to our writing process.
As some of the members in the online forums I’ve visited have emphasized, each of us writes differently. Some don’t want to talk about where and, especially, how they come up with their novel’s ideas. But what if there was a basic process in place, one we could adapt to our own writing style? There is. I’m testing phase one, writing the premise, this week and next, and afterward I’ll post the procedure.
What’s Your Premise Writing Procedure? If you have a procedure for writing your novel’s premise, I’d love to hear it. Please try to break it down into a few steps.