My Writing Process
Edits upon edits... and more edits.
It might have been because you told me Aaron Sorkin takes six to eight showers a day to beat writer’s block that got me thinking about my process. While I don’t have any ritual or interesting tidbit, I still have a process. Keep in mind, I’m new to writing novels. I’m still taking in as much as I can from those further down this path. I’m still figuring things out as I go.
Here’s what I’ve experienced so far:
The idea: for me it’s usually a character, or maybe a scene, but when I start, I don’t know who they are or what they want. It’s like jumping into a movie you’ve never seen. I have no idea what’s going on, or why. What’s worked for me is just two things: writing and thinking. I write random scenes knowing they may or may not be a part of the story, but they help me figure out what’s going on. Or at least it gets me to the next step. And I think. A lot. It’s daydreams and pondering, letting thoughts drift and wander where they may. I talk to my wife and see how an idea strikes her. I’ll figure it out, bit by bit, but I still don’t know what my story is yet.
Drafts: After I’ve done this enough, I have a first draft. It’s loose. Messy. I have a much better idea of the story, but it’s still going to change. At this stage, the book is like a lump of clay. All the work up to this point has just been piling material onto the table, so I have enough to work with. But it still needs to be shaped. So, I go back to the beginning and rework it, chapter by chapter, line by line. New ideas will strike me, and I’ll add them into the story. Maybe an existing part needs to change. A different character? Someone new? The order of events needs to shift? It’s all fair game.
After I’ve done this round to hone my story, I sent it off to a story editor. He read it with an outsider’s perspective and brings a critical eye. It gets me out of the trees and weeds. And he helped me focus on the characters and their desires. We build a new outline with new ideas and address how to bridge existing gaps. And then it’s right back to page one.
Revisions: I’m back to writing chapter by chapter. I’ll get a batch done and send them off to be critiqued. The suggestions come back, I make the edits, and it’s marked “done”. Only it’s not yet. There’s more work to do.
Which brings me to where I’m at now. I’ll have another round with my editor, but before it goes to him, I want to clean it up the best I can. Hunt pesky adverbs. Tweak weak sentences. Eliminate overused words that bog the whole thing down. I’m running each chapter through an online writing editor to help me identify these issues, and I make the changes as needed. I’m not making sweeping changes to the plot; that’s been sorted earlier. The goal is readability and credibility.
After I’m through, I’ll send it back to my editor for another pass. He will read cover to cover. It might need better transitions between chapters. Does it flow right? Does it feel like a consistent piece of work? My hope is the changes here will be minimal.
Next steps: My last step before publishing will be to find beta readers and gather feedback. I’m still deciding what information I’m trying to gather at this stage. My most burning question will probably be “were you bored by anything?” If I’m getting feedback that a reader wanted to stop at any point, I’ve probably failed somewhere along the line.
There will be covers and formatting and publishing and marketing, but I’m not there yet. I’m working a little bit everyday though, and it’s getting closer.
Back to the edits.