I know there are tons of blogs on writing and process. I also know people are probably sick to death of blogs about writing. You can guess that today’s post is about writing process, can’t you? *grin* It helps me focus and analyze what I’m doing. I try to learn something from every new experience as I go along this writing journey.
I started thinking about my process and how I construct things. Every book is different. Some are easier to write than others. Some write themselves. Some are born and then nag you until you have to write the story. Some are so difficult it takes shear perseverance to get to the end.
I’ve tried plotting. I used storyboards. I used character sheets. I used outlines. I answered lengthy questionnaires. Did that work for me? No. Every single time I force myself to plot anything I get stuck. It’s like all the creative juices shut down and the muse takes off on vacation. She’s a fickle thing. Especially when I want her to do something she doesn’t want to do.
I have resigned myself to being a Pantser with a side of Plot. I usually start with a character. This is not always the case but it is 99% of the time (ONE KNIGHT ONLY started with a jousting tournament). If I know who my character(s) is then that will usually dictate the story to me. Once I know that, in order for me to write and finish a novel, I next have to know the high points of the book. Not necessarily the climax or the black moment or any of that. But maybe just a scene or two that I want to include. Maybe a conflict. Maybe just an idea.
For example, in ONE KNIGHT ONLY, I wanted to write about a jousting tournament. I wanted my heroine to be put into a position that she would have to joust. This just didn’t make sense as an historical, which is how it started. I had too many critiquers shred that idea right off the bat. So I went back to the drawing board and fiddled with the character who turned out to be a woman from present day who befriends a Fae princess. The story went from historical to paranormal. There is a lot of history in the book but for the most part it is a paranormal. It has magic and time travel. A jousting heroine. A sexy hero who has a gambling problem.
The second book in the series, ONLY FOR A KNIGHT, was easier. I knew I wanted to write Elyne and Derron’s story which I set up in the first book. I knew a lot about what I wanted the story to be as I wrote it which made it so much easier. So that book started with character. Once I had a good foundation for the story and where I was going, I stopped and wrote up character sheets and a quick two-page synopsis. Did I follow it? Not exactly. But for the most part the entire story as I imagined is there.
Book three, A KNIGHT TO REMEMBER, also started with character. It is a continuation of book two but features the queen as the main character. I didn’t always know where the story was going and there were days I wanted to toss the book in the trash. But I kept going. I put placeholders for the things I didn’t know and moved past to the part I did know. I allowed the story to unfold organically. I trusted my characters to tell the story the way they wanted. And then I got stuck. I have found that when I get stuck like that, stopping to write a 1-2 page synopsis helps me push past that barrier and get back to the meat of the story. I figured out the ending. Did I stick to the synopsis? Not exactly.
Stephen King says, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” I believe this. I didn’t really understand it until I’d read On Writing. Nor did I understand it until I started putting it to practice. There is a story truth to your books as much as there is real truth in your life. You have to allow the characters to tell the story as truthfully as possible. If feels wrong, it probably is. Go back and dump however many words you need to make it right. It may kill you to cut those pages and words. You can always save them to a separate document in case you want them later.
When I realized this was how I constructed a story, it was very freeing to me. It allowed me to write the story as I needed. Not as someone told me I should be doing it. Don’t let anyone say your process is wrong. It’s not wrong. It’s just yours. Trust your writing. Trust your characters. And trust the unexpected. That’s what makes this the best job in the world.