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A Professional Writers Process...
by taramonk (taramonk)
at July 13th, 2006 (08:16 pm)
current location: Computer Desk
Soundtrack: Everlong -- Foo Fighters

...which leads to a writing ramble:

Found this short interview with Nora Roberts on my Borders newsletter, and this Q/A caught my attention:

Q: I wanted to ask you about your writing process, because your writing comes across as fluid and effortless, and it seems as though you're "channeling the muse." Is this really the case? What is your writing and revision process like?

NR: Well, first: There ain't no muse. If you sit around and wait to channel the muse, you can sit around and wait a long time. It's not effortless. If only. Well, if it was, then everyone would do it, and where would we be then? So I work really hard to make it as fluid as possible, as readable and entertaining as possible.

I'll vomit out the first draft: bare-bones, get-the-story-down. I don't edit and fiddle as I go, because I don't know what's going to happen next. Once I get the discovery draft down, then I'll go back to page one, chapter one, and then I start worrying about how it sounds, where I've made mistakes, where I've gone right, what else I have to add, where's the texture, where's the emotion. I start fixing. And then, after I've done that all the way through again, I'll go back one more time, and that's when I'm really going to worry about the language. And the rhythm, and making sure that I haven't made a mistake, that I've tied up all the loose ends reasonably. It doesn't necessarily mean everything ties up for every reader, because some want it one way and some want it another, and you just have to be true to the story, so it's all plausible at the end of the day.

Do any of you follow a similar writing process? This way makes sense to me, and I think I may try it and see where it leads. I was also surprised by the lack of mention of an outline. Of course, when you've written a million books, who needs an outline anymore?

Ms. Roberts also mentions she writes popular fiction because that's what she likes to read. Of course, she's more often labeled as a romance writer. I usually enjoy her books, though there have been a few that I couldn't even finish. (Well, I finished by skipping to the end, thus avoiding all the crap and confirming the predictable happy-ever-after.)  

Which got me thinking about what I like to read. And, well -- I like to read romance novels. And I admit it. On my recent vacation, I was talking to someone I had just met, and when she asked me what I like to read, I replied that I mostly read fluffy stuff that doesn't require too much brain work. She thought I meant chick-lit, and was looking down her nose. When I mentioned I read a Nora Roberts on the plane -- and liked it -- she was horrified!

Are romance novels a guilty pleasure, or do you freely admit to being a fan? Or, do you think they're crap? And do I have to write a romance novel, 'cuz that's what I read? I suck at the love stuff.

Any thoughts on writing processes, or romance novels?


Posted by: Ginger Snap (earthwhatwere)
Posted at: July 14th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)

When I'm writing original fic I write the story. I get it down and forge onward. I don't go back and fiddle with the story, I don't worry too much about whether something makes sense or contradicts something later in the story. I get the bones down and then I go back and put the flesh on the story. This could mean rewriting entire chapters, changing or fixing a plot line that went somewhere I didn't expect. The most I'll do during the first draft is mark a section with highlights or bolds to remind me to fix it on the first edit.

Also, with original fic, I never bleed off chapter by chapter what I'm writing to first readers. They get the entire thing when I'm finished. I do this because they all have comments about what I've written and where it's going and most of the time where I'm going with it is so not where they think it will go. It has the power to compromise my confidence in the story as well as my confidence in my ability to write the story I want to write. I firmly believe that as a writer I own the story and should write the story I want to tell. I don't allow people to influence me unless I'm stuck and I ask for help.

With fanfic, you guys get the story with a chapter or two lag. Fanfic, for me, is about as close to my first draft as it gets. I mean, I'll write the chapter and I'll go back and flesh some things out--description and dialogue, or maybe I'll smooth out some sentences when I realize they all have the same rhythm to them or they don't flow well. I just know that if I mess with it too much I'll never finish the story and it will slow down all my other work. It gets edited and I hold on to at least two chapters at a time before I post.

When it comes to reading, I read just about everything: Sci-fi, fantasy, romance, chick-lit, literature, classics, mysteries, horror, whatever strikes my fancy. I believe this strongly: you cannot be a good writer unless you read a lot. You need to see how writers, especially those writers you admire, put together words and map out stories--everything from how they develop their characters to how the story flows, how they write description, dialogue, the way they turn a phrase, or even the small details that make the story full and rich and real.

And if this wasn't already long, I'm just going to end it by saying that what you read isn't ever something to be ashamed of or thought on as a reflection of your taste or intelligence. You learn from what you read. You can enjoy it or groan through it, but reading is always going to be a lesson to writers--whether it's teaching you how to be a better writer, a great writer, or even what not to do with your own writing. Read it all and be richer for the experience.

Posted by: taramonk (taramonk)
Posted at: July 14th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)

I like the long answer! Makes me feel better about posting a long rambly sorta question. :)

Not to mention being all full of wisdom and stuff.

I agree that learning how words can be -- and are -- used is an imperative step in the writing process. I'm trying to broaden my reading horizons. And as soon as I have more time in my life, I'm gonna do better. (Next summer, perhaps?) Unfortunately, I pick my books the way I pick my movies -- what's gonna take me on a ride, without making me think/hurt/sad?

I really admire you knowing your creative self so well. I think a huge part of the struggle for many blocked writers is due to not knowing who they are creatively yet. *raises hand* Something more to ponder.

Thanks for your encouraging words. You always give the advice that makes me think. Doesn't necesarily mean it gets put into practice, (cuz I'm a spazz about my own writing) but at least it's there!

Posted by: Ginger Snap (earthwhatwere)
Posted at: July 14th, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)

Sometimes I don't know my creative self too well. ;) Otherwise I wouldn't be trying to write in so many genres. I'm trying to get this romance finished so I can start sending it out to editors. I'd love for someone to buy it so I can make a living at this.

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