Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The process of writing

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I've developed a process to my writing.

It is not that I use a formula, but now, there are some things I do. I don't do them all the time. Some ideas may cause me to use a different way, but usually, here's what I do.

I spend a long time thinking, listing the main things I hope will occur in the story, the twist or idea I'm working on. I know that, as I write, things will change, but I have found you have to have something to write about. If I don't have an idea where I'm going, I start writing words just to fill the page.

Then I write, sometimes certain sections first, and then from the first chapter to the last. This is fun because things happen that I don't expect. Some things come out better than I'd hoped, and some things have to be thrown away or done over.

When I'm about half way through (which is where I am on the book I'm writing now), I go back and work through the first half to put in things which later writing suggests were needed in earlier chapters. I also clean up some of my grammatical and other errors. As I've gotten older I make mistakes I wouldn't have dreamed of as a younger person. Sometimes I use the wrong "to, two, too," for example, though I know the difference.

The kinds of mistakes I make now show me that I need to keep writing. Writing is a way of working the mind and not letting it deteriorate any faster than its normal processes dictate.

This first-half reworking refreshes the story in my mind and gets me ready for the second half.

So now I write the second half, usually quickly unless I get lazy.

After I finish the first draft of the book, I go back and rewrite, usually adding words. I don't write many words. My books are almost always too short to begin with. When I go back I find things which I wrote in a sort of shorthand, I assumed the reader knew what I already know in my mind. Those need to be expanded. Also, I add in detail, sounds, little natural actions.

Most of my books are just over 60,000 words. Those are the kinds of books I most like to read, quick, lean stories. I read all kinds. I'm reading a Batya Gur now. She certainly is not a quick, lean read. But I love her writing.

Then I go back and work on such things as form and style. Have I always used or not used capitals when I write things like Sunrise State Hospital? Am I overusing a word (like "then" in this writing). Thank God for the search feature on the computer.

Does all this make my writing better? Maybe yes, but in another way, maybe no. What makes the writing work for me, and what makes it fun, is for it to have real and interesting characters, events I didn't plan. They just came along because of the nature of the story. These events give the story life.

The approach I use just helps me have a plan and get at it in the first place. It may make my writing a little more professional.

The process doesn't guarantee anything. It's just the way I do it.

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