Friday, March 2, 2012

Refueling Before Revisions: My Writing Process

I've discovered a lot about my writing process since I began this journey. I believe I am Crapper Pantser Plotter Fixer Upper Layerer writer.

In other words: MESSY but as many critique partners have attested, I "clean up well." Here's how it usually rolls for me.

1) I get an idea about a story. Usually it's spurred by a show or a news item or some weird bizarre trip of the wire in my brain. I have more ideas than I know what to do with and some of them are kind of not going to work with the current line I'm targeting. But I always keep them and I have files everywhere, notebooks everywhere, you name it.

2) The characters. I have a distinct scene in my head where the hero/heroine meet. How they meet. What's in their heads. What I don't have is their profession, their looks, their names. I just have a scene with dialogue and thought and bodies moving around a vacuous space. Sometimes there is more. But usually they're just talking and I see them moving around, little nuances and gestures and tones of voice are often revealed.

3) The idea grows into a blurb which I mold into a logline--the logline/tagline may not be pretty, but it's mine and I own it.

4) I brainstorm with friends, critique partners, myself to flesh out the characters' reason for being together, who they are and what they look like, what the story will be about and the basic turning points I know I have to reach. I lay down my tent poles/get the bones of the story ready.

5) I write a synopsis based on the first four steps. Truthfully, I just did for the first time BEFORE I had the story written in discovery phase with the current WIP. I got the idea straight from CJ Redwine and it works. The trick is to let go of what you originally thought was going to happen and revamp it as you go along. The current synopsis does not match the original synopsis, but it's been easy to fix the original. Way easier than writing one AFTER the manuscript is "done."

6) I write a quick discovery draft, flesh out the bones a bit,

7) I really work on the first three chapters and polish them because they are part of the partial/proposal I need to query.

8) I retool the story based on critique, suggestions, my characters telling me I'm going in the wrong direction.

9) I go in to add meat, and to take away some of the original flesh of the rest of the story based on what I'm discovering about the characters and about their love story. I do this fast, but as grammatically correct as possible (don't ask me about the commas). By this point I've cut a lot and I've added a lot.

10) I let the first revision sit for a few days while I listen to craft tapes, read other books in my genre, mull my ideas and my story, catch up on the business side of the writing world (my least favorite part but it has to be done), query, print out my book and let it sit around the office (or the tornado shelter), catch up on household mundaneness and with friends who wondered where I was for a few weeks.

11) I begin revising in batches. I send the revised batches, usually 3 chapters at a time, to CPs and continue revising forward. I don't utilize the critique till I am ready for another round of revisions.

12) I export everything to Word and work with the complete document, formatting and cleaning up Scrivener "burps." I'm not that technical so I tend to have a lot of driver error in this export stuff. But I think it just forces me to look at the book in a new way which is a good thing.

13) I continue polishing and shining up the story. I layer in more visceral elements and look for things like sensory items I can add to the story. But I don't overwork it. I would drive myself insane if I did that so I begin working on the next book. Pre-writing.

14) I start entering contests with the newest manuscript. I move forward on the next book. I query. I go through it all over again.

My goal is to get faster at this gig. I must generate 3-4 category series romances per year to be a successful career writer and build readership. I'm glad I have a "future list" ready to go out the door, but I want to write more. 3-4 48,000-50,000 word (180-190 page count) books means getting one done every 3-4 months for the editor.

For me this currently meant getting faster at revising during the MEAT phase. I already had the 1st three chapters polished and critiqued and much of the leg work done. The ending always echoes the beginning for me and I can usually visualize the scenes very clearly. I know the black moment and how they will resolve it to a point. I just keep layering in new stuff and getting rid of stuff that doesn't work. But I don't have beautiful prose until at least the 3rd time through. And I still have work to do. This isn't easy for me. I work hard. Really hard. And with this current WIP, I want to deliver on the first three chapters' promise. So I am determined to write it fast, write it smart, and be focused during this month despite the fact that I have a lot of travel interrupting my time.

This means I CUT a lot of words. But I like cutting. I like revising. I am the Queen of Revision. I know of no other way to allow the actual story to unfold than be getting rid of beloved words and scenes and people. Oh, I keep them all in another file, but the story demands I make changes. This is a good mindset to get into as I have had a Revise and Resubmit letter from editors at a publishing house. Basically, I had to cut 30 thousand words and start all over again to take the story in a new direction with the same characters. They even asked me to change THE PREMISE. So I did. We'll see how the new premise  flies.

Right now I am in Stage 10 and getting ready for Stage 11. I am printing out my batches today. Fritzing around with business of writing stuff, and giving my wee brain a break.

What's your process? I know mine continues to evolve. How has your process evolved?


Naima Simone said...

A Crapper Pantser Plotter Fix...ROFL!! I love that! And your process is amazing. I mean I feel like a slug just reading it, but it's amazing simply because it works so well for you. Reading yours, it makes me want to sit down and write out and refine a process for myself. I know I'm a Plotter Layerer WT* Was I Thinking Fixer Upperer, but I want a process to go by too! I'm jealous, can you tell? Snicker. Awesome post as usual Christine!!

Christine said...

Hi Naima: You make me laugh so much. I love it. Well, like I said, my process is pretty messy and then I slowly clean it all up. I'm just trying to find a name for the crapper pantser fixer upper revise till you're told to revise again and revise more process. It is what it is--today my process is to print out pages and wait out the storms and basically do NOTHING with my writing LOL.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Love your process! I'm a plotter. I usually have an outline that runs from 3,000-10,000 words before I start rough draft. First draft is quick and dirty, then I do one or two "layering" passes, depending on what kind of deadline I'm working against.

Christine said...

Hi Suzanne: I am in awe of your outline!! Mine is not that strong. I know the turning points, or what I'm supposed to drive to, but the connecting scenes are vague at best. I am also in awe of your layering passes. Wow. I hope to get faster at that process, but it's a brain muscle memory thing. I think the more we produce and revise, the better that muscle gets tho' I agree with Lexi George that it does become harder to write each book because we know more about writing LOL.

Hope you had a safe Friday!!