Monday, May 19, 2014

Trusting the Process

by Shannon Baker

There are as many ways to write as there are writers. More, in fact, because what works for one writer for one book might not work for the next book. For now, I’ve discovered a method that seems to work for me.

I charge through the first draft without pausing to look back. I set a challenging daily word count and begin at page one and write through until the last chapter. I start off with a fairly clear idea of the plot. I try to use the four part method and have reversals and twists at the appropriate spots. But even with all the planning, the whole boat inevitably sails off the edge of the world. It takes longer to set up scenes than I anticipated or I get a better idea along the way. Sometimes, my initial plot only has a place marker that says something like, she must be betrayed by him and end up at the ranch.

I used to get bent when I didn’t know all the details at the outset. Or if I had a better idea, I’d feel as if I needed to fix the previous pages before I moved on. But I’m teaching myself to trust the process and to forge ahead without any more editing than making notes about what needs to be included or changed. I know that those changes might change again and again before the end of the book so working on them now only slows the process.

What this means is that I can gallop very quickly through a first draft. But when it’s done, I’ve got a terrible mess. It’s the kind of disaster that pops me wide awake at 2 A.M. wondering how it will ever come together. But I soothe myself with the knowledge that it usually does gel at some point and nothing is done that can’t be undone.

Yesterday I finished my draft and today I’m staring at a pile of pages that I know are mostly crap. To be honest, I can’t remember some of the scenes or the clues I placed. I’m terrified to read the drivel I slapped down. Many of those words were grudgingly written with one eye to the word count, bargaining with myself that as soon as I finished the daily goal I could ride my bike or have a cookie. I am not above bribery. Also, I’m not entirely adult.

Hopefully I’ll find something salvageable in the dross. I know the pacing is off because I didn’t hit my stride until about half way through. So I will need to move chunks of exposition from the beginning, punching up the pace, adding clues.

But this first draft is the frame. What I’ll begin with on this second go is adding the rooms and giving it the structure. From there, I’ll put up the drywall by making sure it flows in a cohesive whole. Finally, there will be painting and bringing in the furniture and artwork that will finish it off.

I’ve got a long way to go before this puppy is housebroken. (How many metaphors can I come up with for one manuscript?) But I’ve got one stage down and am feeling hopeful.

What is your process and have you learned to trust it?

1 comment:

Patricia Stoltey said...

That's kind of the way I do it too, Shannon. I tried to hard to write in an organized way with outlines, and it just doesn't work for me. I call myself a binge writer, because I like to take blocks of time and charge full speed ahead.

I was going to do that this long weekend, but have to cheat on Sunday and watch the Indy 500. :D