Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: In a nutshell, what is your writing process?
Jamie Lee Wallace: For articles and blog posts, it goes something like this: brainstorm for ideas, feel like I have no good ideas and never will again, suddenly – at an odd moment, like when I’m in the checkout line at the grocery – come up with half a dozen fabulous ideas, fly into a panic to capture them all before they fly out of my head forever, agonize over which idea to pick, finally choose one. From there, I usually create a mind map as my outline, and then I just start writing. I write and read out loud, write and read out loud, write and read out loud. If I’ve been responsible and have begun writing more than a few hours before my deadline, I will let the piece breathe (preferably at least overnight). Then I go in and edit – which involves reading it top to bottom, straight through and making mental notes of glitchy spots before going in to fix said glitchy spots. One more read through (with feeling this time) and I call it a done deal.
Lisa J. Jackson: In a nutshell, huh? Think about the topic, either write out a skeleton or type one up or sleep on it. Start writing. Write whatever comes out until the brain runs dry. Edit the piece to the appropriate word count. Step away from it for a few hours, or best, put it away until the next day. Re-read it at least twice, fix typos, edit for length, read it out loud to see if it sounds like I think it does. (Reading out loud is such a great way to find extraneous words, lengthy sentences, and stuff that just shouldn’t be there.) Send it off.
I’m a firm believer in writing more than necessary, as it’s easier to edit out words than to come up with more content for a piece. As I’m used to writing, it’s somewhat easy for me not to pour out 3,000 words when all I need is 600, but sometimes I do let the 3,000 words out because that gives me material I can use elsewhere. I don’t like words going to waste. 🙂
Wendy Thomas: Focus time. For my articles I look through my notes (including the interview) and I highlight what stands out and what important facts need to be included. Once I’ve done that I usually have a good idea how I’m going to start the article and what great tidbit I’ll be ending it on. The rest I just logically fill in to get my reader from the start to the finish.
For my other writing, I usually start with my butt in the seat as soon as the last child gets on the school bus. I figure out how many assignments I need to do and I allocate the time (about an hour an article or story). For my memoir writing, I go to a local college library in the evening (I have no access to the internet there other than what I get on my phone) and I sit and write until about 12:00. (I can only do that 2 or 3 times a week because the intrusion on my sleep schedule eventually catches up.)
Part of my writing process involves constantly taking notes (mostly because I can’t trust myself to remember all the good ideas) and thinking about topics when I get the chance (for example waiting for the soccer practices to end.)
I wish I could say that I write from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon but I’m still in the position where I have to be able to pick kids up from school or run errands during the day. Not matter how focused I am, it could be cut short if someone calls. Such is the life of a mom writer.
When writing fiction I tend to write “islands”, typically a scene with two or more characters interacting, but sometimes I’ll blow out a couple of pages of character background information. When I have a large enough conglomeration of information, I’ll sift through it and massage it into some kind of cohesive structure. Then I go back and fill in the holes. Once the draft is done, I let it rest and then come back to it for revision and editing.
Julie Hennrikus: For blog posts or articles I pay attention to what strikes me, and then I think about it until I have a sentence or two formed in my head. Then I write and write. And then I edit, revise, edit, revise.
For fiction, it is a little different. I write mysteries, so I think about characters, plot points and what I need to hit. I think about the victim and the hero. I do a dramatic structure draft (two plot points, denouement, conclusion) and a basic outline with a few key scenes. Then I write. And write. And write till the first draft is done. I don’t stop and edit. I will adjust the outline for changes going forward. And I make notes in the manuscript where I need to visit it again. If I change POV, I make a note where it changed and will go back and “fix” it in the second or third draft. If I need to edit an earlier scene, I wait and go back. I just write. And then I step away for a bit, and revise. And revise. And edit. And revise.