Ah, the elusive writing process. I’ve got to say, mine isn’t exactly (if at all) like I’d imagined it was going to be.
Let’s begin with the setting.
I had aspirations as a child to recline on a chaise longue dressed in floral loungewear dictating to my bespectacled assistant who noisy thumped each character into one of those massive old typewriters.
As a student, I fancied a private study massive white desk, clutter-free except for a few tasteful copper stationery holders. I would write well into the night, typing into my MacBook Pro, whilst (for reasons I cannot fathom) holding a pencil between my teeth.
There would be an enormous built-in bookcase, with all the books arranged by colour.
Let’s be honest, I’m still after this EXCEPT the writing into the night bit. I like to be done by 9pm. Because I’m old.
The actual process
I always kind of felt like a failure because a story has never jumped, fully formed into my head.
I blame JK Rowling for this because she always says that Harry Potter just strolled into her brain one day, on the train from London to Edinburgh or similar. That has NEVER happened to me. I’ve had flashes of inspiration sure, but never a fully formed character.
I suspect that Harry has probably evolved whilst she was writing and that the stroke of brilliance she had on that train was a very vague idea, but it made me feel a bit like I was pretending.
Apparently, that’s not the case.
Here’s what I thought the writing process would be
1 – Think of a fab idea for a bestseller in the shower.
2 – Write down the plot
3 – Think of some characters
4 – Research…something. Obvs depends on the book.
5 – Write book
6 – Hate it. Somehow I’ve always been aware that first drafts are horrifying, for I’m eternally grateful.
7 – Write second draft.
8 – Drink prosecco and toast to my amazingness.
9 – Google Agents
10 – Email Agents
11 – Millionaire.
I mean, come on! Eleven steps is a lot! Eight would have been more than plenty!
BUT SHOCK HORROR
it turns out it’s not even that easy. Jesus Christ.
For a start, I like to have two good ideas at once. I’ll love each one equally, but I can only use one of them (and have the story make sense).
Instead of dealing with it like a normal person, I like to just stop writing for a good few months and sulk.
I’m not a natural planner but I know I need to, otherwise, I just write drivel 🙂
Then I write down the numbers 1 – 20 vertically on a piece of paper and outline 20 plot points. These will make up my chapters.
Easy peasy, right?
I try to write 3500 words about each plot point (a number I picked so long ago, I can’t remember why. It may well be arbitrary).
HERE’S THE THING THOUGH
The first, say, three points I can write 3500 words on, no problem. But then it becomes clear that I’ve not really thought things through, because the points become either too specific and I can’t really expand on it OR it’s way too vague and I end up accidentally pantsing.
It’s part of my process, guys.
I FORCE myself to stick to that shitty plan, and type out 70,000 words of shite. This becomes my first draft. I hate it.
HOWEVER, it enables me to get to know my characters, my world and a few things I like and hate about the plot.
When I’ve dragged my poor laptop through the murky depths of that first draft, I whip out the notebook again and write down the numbers 1 – 20 (again). And we go round again.
It was at this stage of the book I’m currently writing that I found a blog post somewhere (I’ll link it if/when I can find it) about places the blogger wishes stories could be set. One of them was a salt pan which really piqued my interest. And that, dear reader, was when my unprofessional ass finally did some fucking research. There’s nothing this girl doesn’t know about salt.
So, I re-outlined my plot, I’m happy with it (well, I’m happy with it today, tomorrow I’ll probs hate it #writerlife.
Which brings us to now. I’m 100 pages in (30,000 words-ish, but it’s handwritten, so could be anywhere between 15,00 and 30,000, which I’ve made my peace with).
I’m hoping at some point to migrate to that white desk (or the chaise longue tbh) but currently, that’s my dressing table so it’s always covered in makeup and hair (TMI, I’m sorry), so I’m happy writing at the dining by the light of the fish tank.
Am I weird*? Am I not? Let me know about your writing process 🙂
*Obvs I’m weird, but I meant, is my writing process weird?