Friday, July 13, 2007

My Writing Process - Part One

I was thinking it would be interesting to do a series of posts in the next week or so about my writing process. (and the great thing about having MY blog is that if I think it's interesting, I can do it.)

It's fascinating to me to see the differences in the writing process of successful authors. Stephen King locks himself in his office and writes for as many days as it takes to finish the book (usually 2-3). If you've experienced the size and complexity of his novels, this is completely mind-boggling. Of course, I'm sure it's a rough draft and he does a lot of editing and polishing but - still.

Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb approaches her writing like it's her job - she writes from 8-5 Monday-Friday and she does 3 entire drafts of each book. Celeste Bradley lets a book run around in her head for weeks until she can clearly hear her characters and see the story arc and then she writes each scene, later putting them in the order that works for that novel.

I write novels, poetry, and songs and my approach to each is different but there is one key element to all of my writing: an idea or emotion that grabs my attention and blooms into something larger than life.

I don't need much of an idea to get started. A spark of something that speaks to me, inspires me, captivates me, or upsets me is enough. I use that small piece of emotion or that speck of an idea as a springboard to more.

For example, when I write songs, I often start with a single phrase or an isolated emotion and then explore it/experience it with words. I know right away if I can write about it or not. For me, my songs either pour out in less than 20 minutes or they never happen at all. There is no rough draft, starting and stopping etc. Either I am captivated and it all flows, or it dies.

My song lyrics tend to seem extremely personal, sometimes dark, sometimes painfully honest. Sometimes that really is an accurate reflection of me. Often it's only a piece of something in me (or something that was once in me) that I use to translate the original idea/emotion that grabbed me.

Trying to understand me and know me through my collection of lyrics is as useful as trying to see how my life mirrors Alexa's. Some of them are pieces of my soul on paper. Some of them having nothing to do with me beyond the initial spark of emotion.


  1. If I could get away with it I'd write like King. :D (though it would probably take me at least a month to finish a book!)

    Alas, I have a day job (and practically a part-time night job with the kung fu) so I end up doing it more piecemeal.

    I don't need much of anything to get started either. This current project was brought on by a sudden image in the shower (no foolin') on a really hot day when I'd just gotten done running.

    The Chronicles stuff got started with a death scene that never even ended up in the book. *laughs*

    I've gotten better over the years of working off an outline, though it usually starts to disintegrate about 3/4 of the way through!

    Even with an outline I tend to just give the characters free rein and see what happens. It's fun that way.

  2. I'll share more about how I approach novel writing in a later post but I love hearing about yours. Every writer is so different.

    I think the only thing successful writers really have in common is discipline and imagination.

  3. I only wish I could write like that. The only writing that ever happens for me was inspired by you. Thank you for pushing me to comment on yours, then leading me to make one of my own. Writing is a good way for me to say the millions of things in my head that never come out beacuse I'm too quiet to say them.

  4. You're welcome. You have such a variety of interests and such a unique perspective that I think the more you blog, the more others will find you are fascinating too.

  5. How in the world can you craft lyrics like that in just 20 minutes? I would have to spend days. I think. I can't write songs or poetry because it always ends up sounding like something from Dr. Suess.

  6. Mayberry-

    I don't really have an answer to that. Song writing is a discipline, of course, and my songs have GREATLY improved over the years because I always push myself away from cliches and tired imagery and into something that both flows and captures the emotion I want to express.

    As to how they either flow immediately or die, I just don't know. It's just how it works for me. My novel writing doesn't work in the same way at all.

  7. I'm a mix of Celeste Bradley and Stephen King. I let an idea stew in my head for as long as it's needed and then when I figure it out I go on a writing spree. Except I'm not skilled at the whole 2-3 day thing. More like 3-4 hours. But that's still pretty good seeing as how somedays you barely have time to breathe.

    And my ideas come from anywhere and then spark off of each other until I create a character that fits the situation that I've created. My only problem with this form of writing, and something I'm trying to change, is that I tend not to have enough conflict and half way through the story have to scramble to keep it going.

  8. Jage - that's very interesting. I tend to have voices/characters/scenes running around in my head for a while before I can suddenly see the big picture - the high stakes conflict that will draw them together.

    Like KB says, inspiration can strike at the oddest times - usually the time when it's most inconvenient to go write - like on a road trip or in the shower. Lol.


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