I’ve encountered some interesting questions since I started writing. People want to know about what I do and how I do it. So I thought I’d share a little bit about my writing process. You know, for those interested in that sort of thing. Those of you who are just looking for more “Hot Naked Women” posts probably won’t be interested. You can move along. (But thanks for being the more than 75% of all web traffic that passes through my blog since that post was published. You really class up the place.)
First of all, I should say that I do have a writing process by which I create all my work, but it’s not the most professional model you’ll find. The biggest flaw in my particular process is time. In addition to being a novelist, anyone who has read many of my other posts knows that I’m also a stay-at-home dad with an extremely creative four-year-old. I’d like to dedicate a specific time slot to my writing each day and remain consistent, but I don’t have that luxury. The other day I turned my back for a few seconds to get a drink and the child somehow managed to disassemble the television remote. Therefore, I tend to do most of my writing not at a quiet desk but in bed after everyone is asleep or else at the dining room table where I can observe the play areas of the house. I neither write for a predetermined amount of time nor a specific number of words or pages. I write until I’m tired or until I can no longer concentrate or until I have to stop to tend to my household chores. Or until it appears that the cat may be in mortal danger.
Typically, I tend to compensate for my lack of writing focus by spending more time thinking about my work. I am constantly planning scenes and feeling out characters and constructing new dialog while I go about my daily routine of managing the house chores and rescuing the pets. As far as I’m concerned, daydreaming is just a part of my job. (So to all those teachers who told me to wake up and focus on my work in school, I say suck it!) (I’d also like to point out for the record that I still haven’t found a practical use for any of that trigonometry nonsense, either.)
Every great story begins with nothing more than an idea. But not just any idea will do. After all, I’ve had some pretty bad ideas in my life. (That meat slicer incident comes to mind…) It has to be strong. It has to be packed with potential. It has to be the kind of idea I can build an entire world around. No matter how cool I might think an epic battle between two scantily clad supermodels in a giant tub of chocolate pudding might seem, there is simply no way I can think to build a realistic plot leading up to such an event. Regardless of how many times I try…
When I have an idea that I can build a world from, I write the story. I won’t bore you with a long, drawn-out description of how I go about sitting down and writing it. Mostly because I asked my wife to proof-read this post and she told me you’d probably be bored with those seven pages… I don’t know why that would be. I’m sure you’re just devastated to miss out on hearing all about how I construct a thorough set of notes on plotlines and character development and progression outlines and how I’m very particular about the kind of pen I use and what temperature I like the room to be and… Well, maybe that page about my bathroom breaks might have been a little too much information… Yeah, let’s just leave it at I write the story.
Once the manuscript is finished, I put it aside. I put some distance between it and myself. I start a new story or I edit a previous one. I read a book. I watch some movies. I engage myself in a good video game. I work on that monster I’m building in my basement that my wife says I’ll never bring to life, like she knows anything about reanimation science. It’s just not thunderstorm season yet, that’s all. I get my mind off the story as much as I can. Sometimes weeks or even months go by. By the time I return to the manuscript, it should feel new again. Then the editing process begins.
This is where the most difficult of the work is. I am an obsessive editor. I enter the process with a firm conviction that my work is severely flawed and riddled with embarrassing errors that I will probably never be able to fully eradicate. And I am, for all intensive purposes, absolutely correct. There’s no such thing as a perfect story. There’s always one more word you can change, one more sentence you can improve. And as the writer, I know what I meant to say when I wrote it, making it difficult to see what I actually put on the paper. Just a single incorrect letter in tens of thousands of words can have catastrophic results to a manuscript. Don’t believe me? Consider the difference between the words “message” and “massage” for a moment. The sentence, “Bill received a personal message from his mom,” can become a dramatically different statement by changing only that one letter. With one single keystroke, your young adult novel just became really freaky. I am compelled to read my work over and over and over again. I question every line, every word. I become utterly absorbed in eradicating every possible error. I am obsessed with it. It’s not my best quality, I’ll admit, but it’s useful for the end result. And it’s not like I obsess over everything. Only over my writing. And sometimes pickles, but that’s an entirely different discussion.
As you might imagine, the whole process can be very time consuming. It can take many weeks just to prepare a little short story. But the end result can be extremely rewarding. After all I’ve done, all the hours I poured into it, the endless reading and rereading…after all that…when I received that very first five-star review on Amazon… I can’t describe how satisfying that was. To love what you do is one thing. To know that others love what you do just as much as you… That means an awful lot.
Now back to those supermodels and that pudding…