Skip to main content

The Writing Process


Today's post is a little bit different than my usual posts. I wanted to take a minute and talk about the other side of reading, and the other part of my blog, which is writing. I was working on a project of mine last night, and it got me thinking about the writing process. At author events and in interviews, writers get asked all the time whether they're a plotter or a panster or what their writing process is. As I was scrolling through this project, the fourth manuscript I've worked on in the three years since I started writing the book, and I was marveling at how different this writing experience was from every single other book I've written. And then I realized, I don't seem to ever do it the same way twice. Of course, I've picked up some habits and tricks over the year that I incorporate each time, and my goals are always the same, but I find it fascinating how I get to the end. It's also lead me to stop asking really general questions about process. If there's a specific aspect or technique that can add to the understand of the book or help others, I'll ask, but no two people write the same, so it's hard to take a ton of useful stuff away from their comments.
Honestly, as boring and mundane as it sounds, I think the best advice that's come out of any process questions posed to authors is read a ton. When I first started, I was twelveish and before I could start writing, I was obsessed with knowing everything about how people write books and what the methodology was. The truth, though, is that if you've been reading dedicatedly through your whole life, you already know how to write a book. You inherently know the form. You know the structure, even if you don't know it at the front of your brain. It's a second nature. Reading also teaches you the flow of sentences. How they're punctuated. How to drum up subtle emotions and vivid pictures with the same twenty-six letters. Reading won't make you a perfect writer from day one, but it will give you all the hurried tools. Spending time with your own work and developing your unique point of view and voice is key, and having a foundation will help you improve faster if you read critically.
I've always been a huge reader, but I was obsessed with doing it the "right" way. I started one project that I plotted with mood boards and fashion images and character questionnaires. None of those things are the wrong thing to do, but I'd read about it online and thought I had to do that to write a book. I never finished that first one.
The first project I ever finished, I started when I was thirteen. I knew the idea of the story I wanted to tell. But I had no clue what the ending was. I figured I'd write my way there. The ending changed a ton of times, and, by the time I finished the draft, the ending had gone completely away from what I first assumed it would be. It also meant that it would take a lot of revision to fit the beginning of the story to the ending and make it feel cohesive again. It's taken years and many critique partners and mentors to get the story to where it is today. After maybe five extremely intense revisions, I'm making the final tweaks. It's a book I've almost thrown away more than a million times. It's a book that made me swear I'd never write a book without an outline again. I outlined the book over and over and rewrote and reconnected and patchworked it back together until it truly made sense. Before this experience, I always looked at authors in shock when they said that their books started as totally different stories, but now I understand.
That book went from a total mess to a story I'm really proud of. I was lucky I always had readers and mentors who were super supportive and saw what its potential was before I could. They're suggestions and motivation are the reason I've finally finished it. It was writing that book that taught me how to write books. I refined my voice. I learned about structures and characters. It taught me more than any craft website ever did. I'm not saying you shouldn't read websites or books- they're great resources at the right time- what I'm saying is that you shouldn't let the idea of doing it "right" get in the way of just jumping in.
So my second book was a complete pushback to everything I thought I did "wrong" with the first book. I'd submitted the first book to pitch wars, and their number 1 piece of advice is to write something new while I waited. It was August, and I didn't have anything better to do. I told myself that I wanted to write the book in a month before I went back to school. Ideas for the story had been swirling as I worked on more revisions for the first project. I had a conflict and the idea of characters. I wasn't going to start writing, though, until I had a chapter by chapter outline.
After a couple days of sketching it out, I had a complete roadmap (and, in a way, a literal roadmap because a road trip was a major element of the book). Every day, I sat down and worked off my outline, checking off each chapter as I went. It was the cleanest first draft I'd ever written and a complete departure from the first book. Beyond not being able to get satisfied with my opening, the book stayed in the same form all the way through, just improving each scene here or there.
I honestly think it worked so well because the book was very structured. It's the most action forward, plot heavy book I'd ever written which made it easy to say they'll be here and they'll do this thing. Having the detailed outline made it so much easier to just sit down and write every day. It didn't feel like a huge commitment. It just felt like adding the magic to make the plans I'd laid out come to life. I figured I'd never go back.
My third complete manuscript is my most recently finished. I thought I'd just follow the same path I'd used before. It'd be so easy. I had a plan. And I had learned a lot from my first two experiences. This time, my major goal was to not move forward till I had a firm beginning, because that was my biggest problem with my last book. Luckily, the first scene I wrote, before I was even 100% sold on the idea, was the perfect beginning. Once I had that, I started working off my outline, but there were holes in it. This book was much more quiet and emotional. More about two individuals and their relationships to life than a grand adventure. It was hard to set bounds of exactly how the scenes would play out, and, often, I'd come up with something when writing that would derail my outline but take the story to a more interesting place. I drafted it fast, something I knew I preferred doing from the last project. I revised it a couple times through with critique notes to solidify the story and close up a couple gaps I'd left myself. It was a weird mix of pantsing and plotting, but it made me realize that all I need to see a project to the end and find the "right story" for it is an intense connection to its goal.
I'd been in a weird writing funk since finishing that last project. I'd been querying a while and in a mental slump with life. I had a concept for what I wanted to do next, but I had no clue how to get there. A couple scenes kept floating around my head, bugging me. I wanted to refuse to write them until I had a serious chapter by chapter outline. Until it got to that point in the story. I was terrified of going back to that point where I had to piece together a story like a surgeon.
But then I realized I'd stopped writing, which was the worst thing I could do. I was back in that rut where I was waiting for inspiration to sing down from the clouds. Sure, everyone has their flashes of brilliance, but they never happen for me unless I'm actively doing something about my situation. So I told myself to shut up and I just wrote the scenes. They came from all over the book. They were scenes that I didn't see coming, and they made me fall in love with the story. Every time I've almost shelved it, I've gone back to the first scene I wrote when I got the idea. I realized all the other scattered scenes were like tent poles. I couldn't get them out of my head for a reason. As I sat down and forced myself to do my least favorite thing in the world (write a synopsis), it became clear that those scenes were the turning points that moved the story along. Trusting my gut and letting the story happen got me to where I wanted to start.
In the last few days, I've read that first scene over and over again, pulling out the little pieces and secrets that I was setting up for myself. It was like it had clues to what the other scenes the story needed were. At the end of the session, I checked my word count, and I had 20,000 words already in a document I didn't even really think of myself in the "drafting" stage for yet. It was kinda thrilling to think that the bits and pieces I've added over the last month come together to amount to a third of a draft. The project, and the story I'm telling, is making me remember why I love writing, why I'm happier when I'm writing, and why I have to write. Even if I don't know quite what I'm doing yet.
I know this was a super long post, but I thought that maybe some of you could relate. Writing process is ever evolving. You don't have to do every book the same way. You don't have to have special rituals, though it's great if you do. All you have to do is write and keep your eyes open both to the world around you and to yourself.

Links of Interest:
Let's Call It a Doomsday: Here
Tweet Cute Review: Here
Changing Tastes: Here
Into YA with Ronni Davis: Here

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon: YA Book Review

Super Fake Love Song  by David Yoon Overview: Sunny Dae is sick of his California neighborhood where everyone pretends to be something they're not to keep up with all the other rich families. He's happy in his own world, LARPing with his friends, even if he gets made fun of for it at school. That is until Cirrus comes into the picture. She's undeniably cool and he's undeniably a loser in everyone's eyes, so he finds a new personality. He borrows a life from the coolest person he used to know, his older brother Gray, who's on his way to becoming a rockstar. Of course, lies like that always fall apart, and the music industry is unforgiving. It's a long fall from the top. Overall: 3  Characters: 3 This is the weirdest book I've ever read, which I'll get into more later. One part of that is the book is basically only told in details. You'd think this would help with characterization, but so many characters are left completely flat. Sunny is unashamed

My Most Anticipated of 2021/2021 ARC TBR

  A few days ago, I put out a list of my favorite books of the year that I couldn't stop talking about all year long. Now I'm here to introduce you to a brand new slate of books that I'm predicting will make my favorites list next year. These are the books I can't wait to get my hands on because they sound absolutely amazing! I've decided to separate the list into an ARC TBR so far for 2021 of ARCs I have and then to make a wishlist section below that with ARCs I hope to get or books that I'll splurge to buy. I'll include preorder links to the books that are already up for preorder so that you can easily grab a couple surprise gifts to show up throughout the year if any of these books look exciting! These will be affiliate bookshop links which means shopping the links support the blog at no cost to you. Also, if you're looking for even more 2021 books, Rachel and Vicky made the most amazing database/spreadsheet/blog to collect all the 2021 debuts togethe

The Best, The Brightest, The Totally Biased List of my Favorite Books of 2020

 Welcome to my big list of 2020 favorites! Usually, I do this award show style and give out different awards in a variety of categories I made up. This year is a little different because it's 2020, and I'm out of brain power to think of categories. These books appear in no particular order, and I selected them purely based on which books are still in my head months after I read them. I didn't read nearly as many books this year as usual, but I think I managed to read more books that I fell head over heels for than ever. Publishing a book this year is a major accomplishment in itself, so these authors all deserve extra rounds of applause for launching their books into an uncertain world, and even if a book from this year doesn't make a list, it's still incredible for existing. Even though I've already talked everyone's ears off about these books all year long, I'm going to do it one more time because they got me through both a hard and hectic year and pro

evermore book tag!

As you probably know, I absolutely adore Taylor Swift, and I recently did a folklore book tag, so I figured I should make a version of evermore as well! If you want to read that post, you can find it here . And if you want all my thoughts on folklore, you can watch my original folklore reaction on my YouTube channel here.   I'm so happy to have found an evermore book tag I loved created by  Star Is All Booked Up ! That post is linked (I really enjoyed it!), and those are the prompts I'm using here.  In this tag, I just talked about books for the prompts and didn't get into the songs. If you want more of my evermore thoughts specifically, check out my blog post of favorite lyrics here and my new reaction to evermore here . You can also scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the video as well. If you want to know more about any of the books I mention, all of their titles are linked to my review.  I hope you love the post, and let me know your favorite evermore songs in the

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant: YA Book Review

  Happily Ever Afters  by Elise Bryant  Overview: Tessa gets the writing opportunity of her dreams, but her words run out at the same time. While she can't wait to take a novel writing class at her new school, the idea of sharing her work with anyone but her best friend, Caroline, makes her unable to keep writing, even for herself. Caroline devises a plan to get her to fall in love so that she can jumpstart her creative juices for the romances Tessa writes herself into. Real life inspiration is clearly not the answer, and Tessa is left even further from the answer to all of her problems. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 While I knew this book was going to have a kind of forced dating situation as Tessa tried to get this boy to fall for her, I didn't predict the love triangle till I started reading. I'm not going to fault Bryant for using a love triangle because everyone does it, but I do have to note that these characters fall into the unfortunate side effect of most love triangles

Positions Book Tag

Today, I'm sharing a new book tag created by Cielo over at Bellerose Reads who tagged me in her new Positions book tag. I love working on book tags inspired by pop music, so I was thrilled to get the tag. If I'm being totally honest, I wasn't super into Positions, Ariana Grande's latest album. I'm much more of a Thank U Next fan because that album was far more lyrically focused. Positions reminds me a lot of Sweetener. I do like "POV", the closing track of the album. Still, I'm super excited to share the tag because these are some of the best tag questions I've ever seen. Cielo did a wonderful job coming up with really cool prompts. I had a blast thinking of books that fit them. As always, just click the book title to read my review of any of the books I mentioned. And don't forget to read the original tag here .    shut up – a book you couldn’t shut up about  There are way too many. Honestly, a ton of them are already sprinkled through this po

This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry: YA Book Review

  This Will Be Funny Someday  by Katie Henry Overview: Izzy is sick of being 16. She's sick of being the "easy kid" who never causes a problem for the family or demands attention. Her mom is always busy working at her law firm, and her dad just isn't super invested. School is awful, and her controlling boyfriend makes her question what it means to be in love. And then she stumbles into a bar on comedy night, and suddenly, she finds a world so different from her own- one that's better. Though it requires maintaining more than a few lies, this new life with her college friends is too good to give up. That is, until it all comes crashing down. About growing up, being your authentic self, and navigating intense relationships for the first time, this book is incredibly relatable and quite unique in the way it approaches common YA questions. Overall: 5 Characters: 5 I relate to Izzy on a deep, deep level. From the second I read the synopsis, I knew the book was going to

Wrapping Up 2020: How'd My Reading/Blogging Go This Year

 It feels weird writing a year end post, which is probably why we're almost a week into the new year and I still haven't posted one yet. 2020 was such a hard year for the world and a weird one for me personally, and it still feels far from over. From a reading perspective, there were parts of the year that were super strong and others where I hardly picked up a book. I started the year working at a bookstore which, contrary to popular belief, made me read less than usual. I had a good run during lockdown and through the summer (though that certainly had ups and downs too), and then I started my first semester of college. That created a serious reading slump, though it wasn't like I stopped reading! In one class alone, I had 1,000 pages of reading saved in my class notebook. All the academic reading replaced my fun books, and there were moments where I honestly thought I hated reading. I wondered what was wrong with me and if I was just done with that part of my life. Over b