QUESTION: How do you write?
As I meet with book clubs, library groups, school groups, doing presentations and just talking about my writing, I really enjoy hearing and responding to the questions that everyone asks. I thought I would start sharing a few of those now and then. I’ll start putting them here in our blog along with a link on our FB page.
I’ll kick this off here with a question I get a lot…“How do you write your stories? Do you have everything outlined before you begin?”
I think the best way to answer this is to show where things are with DISBELIEF!, the third Emily Graham book coming this Spring.
I’ve attached the image of what I scribbled down that I knew as I started writing. It’s just lists of “maybe this, maybe that”, based on a few characters that “may or may not” appear in the story. So, the short answer is No, I don’t have it fully outlined. I’ve tried that approach and, for good or bad, it just takes all of the fun out of it for me.
Note: the image is intentionally blurry…hey, you don’t want to see too much already do you? Besides, there is nothing on the page that is certain to end up in the story anyway. This is just “brain juice” to get the fermentation starting in my mind.
When I begin a story like the Emily Graham books I have a very loose idea of a “problem” that may exist that Emily will have to deal with. Who is behind it, what is the actual problem and where will it be? I’ll have to wait and see as things unfold.
My writing works like this:
1) I find the general idea of the problem Emily may have to deal with. How do I find it? I just think about all of the craziness going on today and wait for the one that keeps haunting me the most.
2) I spend a few days or so reading everything I can find about that “problem”, just to fill my mind with a bunch of “stuff”. I call this step “research”.
3) I sleep a while, letting my brain ferment all of the “stuff”, and decide how that problem might first appear. I don’t spend any time at all consciously thinking about the story. None. I let my warped mind do that work.
4) I sit down and write the first chapter, just writing down what my mind is seeing after all that fermentation.
5) I re-read that first chapter like I am reading a news report.
6) From here on, what I wrote is not the first chapter of a fiction story. It is news. I stop thinking about “writing” or “creating” a story, and see myself “reporting” this “thing” that is unfolding in front of me. I report the actions that happen, the characters that appear, the conversations they have…all of it. I do everything I can to get myself out of the way and just tell the story.
I write and learn as things unfold. I end the story when the end happens. That is up to Emily and the others, not me.
7) Once the story is “out”, I go back and start the editing process. If I did a good job of staying out of the way and just telling the story, most of the editing is just those constant grammar things. The story is usually there.
That’s about it. It is what works for me.
Do I think this is the best way to write? No. It’s the best for me. Is this the secret to writing good stories? No. The secret to writing good stories is to find what approach works best for you and then write. Then write some more. Then repeat.
If you have questions about any of my books, or about writing…feel free to send them along.
And now if you will excuse me, I need to get back to my manuscript for DISBELIEF! and find out what Emily is up to today.