Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My "Process"

The truth about my writing process is that it is constantly changing. What worked for Julia's Kitchen (detailed outlining) didn't work for Jemma Hartman. And what worked for Jemma Hartman (starting with a setting and a climax) isn't working for my current work-in-progress.

Someone wise once told me that each book has something new to teach you. Just because you've written one novel doesn't mean you know what you're doing. And I am pretty sure I don't know what I'm doing.

Yet I persist. It's the journey that I love anyway, so here I am, learning again how to write a novel.

This novel started with a character and a voice. The pages flew out of me. I wrote in vignettes, not thinking about plot or structure or anything. I wrote because I had to understand this character. I wrote thinking I would never be brave enough to try to publish this novel. It was too edgy. Too hard to believe. Too close to reality. So I wrote with utter freedom.

Then I started to show some of the pages to my critique group. And they loved it. Still, I didn't think I would ever really finish this story or attempt to publish it. I was just playing around. I went to a workshop where more people told me they loved my main character's voice. And Richard Peck himself told me I would finish this book and that it would open new doors for me.

So that's when I got serious. I decided I needed more than a character and a situation. I needed an actual plot. So I wrote a one-page synopsis. And I froze up. For months I procrastinated and found other projects to work on.

But I'm feeling braver now. And I've been back at work on this novel for the last week or so. I started over. Kind of. I've got about 40 pages written, and the story is surprising me. I'm determined to finish a first draft before I show any more pages to my critique group. In my dream writing life, I whip out a first draft in a couple of weeks. But I know myself. I'm slow. I will write a few pages every day. I can't give myself a deadline. I've got to just keep taking baby steps until I get to the end.

So what am I learning about this process? That I need to be free. I need to let the voice shine through. I need to write as if I am only writing for myself.

Here I go.


Jenny Meyerhoff said...

It's so interesting how each book starts with not only a different inspiration, but a different type of inspiration. One with setting, another with character...but they all need to have everything by the time it's finished.

Can't wait to see where your baby steps take you!

Brenda Ferber said...

So true.

And I'm just wishing for the time when I wake up from a dream with the entire book fully formed. Doesn't that happen for some writers??? Or is that urban legend?