Thread: Writing Process
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Old May 18 2009, 01:23 PM   #5
D. M. Domini
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Default Re: Writing Process

Addressing the actual writing process, since the others have illustrated various ways they keep it backed up (I do most of what everyone else does, with the addition of uploading copies to my webhost; I know a few other authors will use Google Docs)...

I write like a gardener.

I don't start with an outline--the story, when I start it, is sort of like a star nursery...lots of dust and motes and ideas and none of it really SOLID or coherant. No brightly shining stars yet, much less planetary systems with worlds and moons and civilizations. To use an astronomy comparison.

To go back to gardening...the story just grows organically. I start writing, and as I write, ideas come up. I write them in. I write and write and write, and as I write, things start to solidify in my mind.

I would compare this to an artist's sketch...scribbly, in weird colors like red or green or whatever thing you picked up, done on a napkin. You have the character's arm drawn three times, in three different positions so he or she looks like a hindu deity. It's messy and unrefined, and you're finding all sorts of issues.

I find once I'm about 10,000 or 20,000 in, I've started to identify which ideas, which branches are the ones that look like good prospects, and which should stay. So I go back and do another rough, cutting out the things that aren't working (I put them into a seperate file that I can "mine" for ideas later), and getting things more story-shaped. I keep doing like 1.5, 1.6, 1.7 "roughs" that I all consider the first draft, because none of them have a start, middle, and end yet.

It's sort of like a gardener taking pruning clippers to a bush, to make it shaped like a dolphin or a frog or a turtle. The bush grows on its own, the gardener clips away the parts that aren't growing in the right direction. It's still organic, but in the end it should be prettier and more refined.

I keep doing this. When I first started writing, I tended to line-edit a lot, but as I've "grown" as a writer, I've stopped doing this...I realize I'll go through a lot of changes before it's worth my time to polish on a spelling/grammar/flow level...I'd only be polishing things I'm going to clip away later if I try to attack those things at this stage.

Eventually I end up with a "finished" rough, in that it has a start, a middle, and an ending, and a plot line. I tend to have weird patchy holes where I abandoned scenes mid-word because I'd jumped on ahead to something else. The scenes are technically done, they just don't have the ending caps on them.

My next task is to do the second draft. This is where I look for consistency mistakes, for overall flow and story architecture problems (ie, does it read too fast? Too slow? Does the internal logic work?). I make sure I don't have gaping plot holes. And I finish off those dangling scenes. I'm not yet working on spelling and grammar mistakes, since in this phase there's the possibility I will massively re-write scenes, insert new scenes, get rid of some scenes that I had hoped hoped hoped would work and which ultimately did not. So there's still no point in polishing what might end up being turds.

If all is going well, and the story is coming together the way I want it, I go into the final draft. THIS is where I start to really attack the sentence-level stuff...spelling (I tend to have weird typos where the word was technically correct spelling-wise...but the wrong word, so spellcheck didn't catch it before.), puncuation, grammar. Word frequency...am I using something too much? Do I have a writer's tic? Do I need to get out my thesaurus? Smoothness...do the words flow together? When I used to polish my work too early, people told me I was really good at making things flow, so I try to get some of that going again with the final draft, since it seems to be a talent of mine.

I try to word-smith here...if something needs to be astonishing, or eloquent, or SOMETHING I try to pull out the stops and make it shine. I want the story to be a pleasure to read no matter what paragraph you're reading. I don't want to slack off because I'm mid-chapter and I don't strictly HAVE to be as witty as I am at the start of a scene or chapter. So I work on these things.

I try to get a beta in after the first and second roughs...the type of reader who can see large-scale issues, who can tell me if they get lost, or don't feel the love for something. (I save the line-level mistakes for after my final draft).

Then, if I'm lucky, I should have a story I can query an agent or publisher with.

#

For fanfic, I don't go past the first draft in most cases. (Although in The Skyboom I started over because I had massive character-portrayal issues. Robinton wasn't Robinton. I felt it reflected very poorly on me.)

But, in fanfic, most of the hard work is done--the world is there, the characters are there, I just need to give it a plot and some wordsmithing. It's fun and doesn't take too much brainwork.

In fanfic, I tend to write a few scenes, edit them for obvious mistakes, and post them as a chapter. Chapters are highly arbitrary.

Someday I intend to go back and do a final edit of them when they're done, but it's a low priority.
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Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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