Category Archives: Writing Process

Favorite and Least Fav of Writing

I got a question (thanks!) asking about my favorite and disliked parts of writing. That topic is a great idea for an actual post, so here it is.

Let’s start with what I don’t like.

I don’t like outlining. I do it. Sort of. More than I used to. I’m learning! I’ve always outlined, in my own opinion, but my “outlines” don’t look anything like those of actual Plotters. They look more like scribbled notes in a margin, a little bit for each chapter. Or maybe marking the plot beats. Some combination? I was so proud of myself for actually working out a sentence for every chapter when I got to book 3, with beats & POV all worked out beforehand.

I don’t like writer’s block. Who does? It stinks. Enough said!

I don’t like being wrong. Yeah, that exposes a much bigger topic than just writing. It’s also a little misleading. Let me explain. I don’t actually mind being wrong or making mistakes. (Good thing, since I make a LOT of mistakes.) I don’t mind being corrected, either (politely). I just don’t like finding out I’m wrong when I’ve worked really hard on something and think I’ve finally, finally got it right. Then I find out it’s still broken, and that’s sad. 🙁

You might be thinking I don’t like editing, especially after what I just said. You’d mostly be wrong, though. I don’t mind editing my own stuff, as long as I can figure out how to fix things. If I can’t figure out how to fix the problems, well, see my earlier rant. As for editing someone else’s stuff, it depends on how much frustration I have to wade through. If the grammar is so bad I have to struggle through the sentences, then I’ll probably start growling. The occasional typo or misuse, eh, whatever.

Now, what DO I like?

I like dialogue. It’s fun to think of what different people will say in different situations. I’ve been told I’m good at it. It might be, possibly, because I’ve always spent so much time writing conversations in my head. I used to rewrite real conversations, which I choose to think is imaginative rather than crazy. Now I write fictional ones, which is much easier to explain to people.

I like language. I like words in general. I like big words (although I try not to inflict them on people without cause). I like fun words. I like putting words together in interesting, enlightening, surprising, moving, and just plain fun ways. I like finding the right word to say exactly what I want to say. Even better, I like making my words the right ones to hijack your brain and make you think what I want you to think. 😀 Yes, writing is a subtle form of mind-control. Mwahahaha! Don’t worry–I have absolutely no desire to control your mind in real life.

I like finally figuring out how to fix the problems in my writing. The eureka moment for an amazing scene is so very sweet. I don’t even mind if somebody else gives me the bright idea and leaves the dirty work for me to do. When the scene is perfect (or close enough), it’s worth the struggle. (You should remind me of that the next time I complain about something being broken.)

I love my characters. They are just so much FUN. They are so different, but all delightful. Some are serious, some funny. I have easy-going ones and *cough* difficult ones. They play in my head in idle moments, and sometimes when I’m supposed to be paying attention to something else. Bad me. I love thinking up amazing scenes with them. I know what you’re thinking: I’m biased. You might be right. Then again, maybe you aren’t. You could read about my characters and find out. 😉

And after thinking about this for a long time, my very mostest (that should be a word, right?) favorite part of writing is creating something new. New world, new characters, new scenes, new story. And it’s ALL MINE! Mwahahahaha! But I’ll share with you, if you like. 🙂

Now, what are YOUR favorite/not parts of writing or reading?

Writing Process, Book 1 (Part 2)

Last time, I described how I started writing my first book, up until the point where I split the chapters for point-of-view (POV) and thought I had fixed that problem.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, it turns out there are at least two more levels of POV to consider. One is consistency. Three years later, I think my revisions might have caught all the times I accidentally slipped POV for a sentence or two. I hope. Sigh. It is harder than you think.

The final(?) level of POV is also called “character voice.” This is what makes it easy for the reader to identify when character A is speaking/thinking instead of character B, even without the author saying so. Of course, the author should still say so, but if one character speaks like a cowboy and thinks like a cowboy and moves like a cowboy, while another character speaks, thinks, and moves like a scientist, the story will be more realistic and authentic as well as easier to read. I’m still working on this level.

Okay, back to the story.

I now had 33 chapters of “POV-corrected” story. I’m ready to go, right? This is about the time that I heard about plot beats and story structure. I thought a story was structured however it was made, wasn’t it? And I had beats. Look, I could prove it.

So I took several different story structuring methods that mostly made sense to my warped brain and smooshed them together into my own little chart. Then I reverse-outlined every chapter of my book and marked every beat. I also marked whose POV was in each chapter.

Yep, that led to a round of revisions, too.

Then I learned about chapter goals for characters (I already knew about chapter goals for authors) and chapter twists/questions/cliffhangers/pageturners (whatever you want to call them). So I added those to my little reverse-outline chart, too.

That was a sad day. That was the point that it became very, very obvious why my story slowed down in the middle. I had four– FOUR!– chapters that had the same– boring!– chapter goal. Oh, sure, there was good stuff in the chapters. There was important stuff. There was funny stuff. There was… too much stuff without enough actually happening. Sadness.

It took me a week or three to go through those four chapters and slice them into little bits. This part stays, and all these parts go, and this part stays… It might have been around here that my “deleted scenes” file became my best friend. I told myself, “It’s okay to cut it because it’s going in the deleted scenes. If I end up needing it back, it’s a simple cut-and-paste.” In the process, the book dropped to thirty chapters.

Then, of course, I had to redo my reverse-outline.

I’d been taking my half-chapters to critique group all this time, and I’d gotten a few beta readers, too, but now seemed like a good time to get some more. So I did, which is a story all by itself, but I’ll spare you.

Early feedback complained about certain chapters having no conflict, no interest. “Boring!” So I took a deep breath and started revising. Again. Some of them ended up with (relatively) minor revisions, some with major facelifts and all-new scenes.

I was reading through a chapter myself and noticed that I actually said, “and over the next week they became friends.” Yes, just like that. Um… their friendship is actually a plot point for a character’s motivation. Did I really just brush over it like that? Face palm. Talk about unbelievable! What kind of author am I, anyway? (Don’t answer that.)

So I gutted the chapter and wrote an all-new middle where they actually had reasons to become friends. Just to make the rewrite more painful, this is a chapter I had ALREADY completely rewritten three times, in three different POVs, trying to get it right.

And on that painful note, I’ll end this segment. See you next time!

Writing Process, Book 1 (Part 1)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my writing process has changed. If I record the development of my writing, maybe it will help someone else the way it helps me to read about other writers. Here we go!

I didn’t grow up convinced I was an author. Sure, I dabbled in stories and poetry, but they were either for school assignments or my own personal pleasure.

Then I had kids. Children change your life in so many ways. My middle child changed my writing life when she found some old paragraphs from a non-existent story and asked for the rest of it. I had to tell her that’s all there was.

That was purely unacceptable, so she quizzed me for at least an hour about my characters, world, and possible plot. When she thought I had enough for a story, she ordered me to write it. I protested I didn’t remember all my answers. She wrote them all down. Nope, no excuses.

So I “plotted” all six chapters of the short story I had in mind, and I started writing. From the beginning. One very slow paragraph at a time, starting in July 2013. Most of the time, I wrote strictly in order, following the simple notes I called a plot. On rare occasions, I’d skip around a bit to avoid difficult parts, then circle back to fill in the blanks.

At this point in my writing life, I had no intention of EVER going professional. In fact, I didn’t even tell my friends I was writing. This story was for my daughter, that’s all. Okay, fine, my husband and other children could read it, too.

As I wrote, I had to keep bumping plot notes from one chapter to the next as the middle of the story expanded. Pretty soon, I had eight chapters, and I wasn’t even finished. Then twelve, fifteen, twenty! It was now March of 2015, and I had myself a complete novel clocking in at 104,000 words.

Somewhere in the middle of 2014, I finally told a few select friends about my book. Then in late 2015, months after I finished, I decided that I ought to join a writer’s group and get some real critique. Just to make the book as good as possible for my daughter, you understand. I still wasn’t going pro.

So I found a group and shared my first half-chapter (word count limits), feeling like I was baring my soul. Sharing a creative baby is scary! It didn’t help that the guy who was critiqued right before me was told to kill his chapter and go back to the drawing board…

I shared anyway, shaking in my chair, and sure, I got LOTS of comments to fix things, but the readers also said they liked the story. I took their suggestions home and revised almost every day until the next meeting. Then I took in the next half-chapter, with similar results.

After several months, I started noticing trends in the comments. One frequent comment was “head-hopping.” It seemed I didn’t really understand point of view (POV). Oh. Okay. Hello, library, let’s do research. (I love the library.)

After a lot of reading and discussing and thinking, I decided I needed to split my chapters and stick firmly to only one POV per chapter, with the POV character named first.

One very long and tiring revision later (read “weeks”), I had thirty-three chapters that I thought were now single-POV. So now the big revision was over, and I could just work on the minor edits. Right?

I bet you experienced writers out there are now shaking your heads…

I’ll stop there and pick up next time.