Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I'm Curious About

by Dave White

I'm often curious about other writer's process. As a writer, I always wanted to know what each and every writer did at each step of their own writing process. When I was in college I used to scour the internet for interviews with my favorite writers. I used to hope they'd talk--in specifics--about their process.

They never did.

Of course, that's because most casual readers aren't interested in the process. They don't want to know how the book is put together, just that it is together and what it's about. Often, however, the writers in the interviews would leave enough process nuggets (giggle) that you could figure out some of their writing process.

Did they outline? Yes.

Did they know the ending in advance? Yes.

How did they revise? I don't revise. Or, I revise as I'm going along. Or, I writer 487 drafts.

All very interesting.

But there is one moment that I'm still not sure about. Especially for the non-outliners.

When a writer starts a new book. That first day of writing, when they sit down at the computer, what do they do?

Do they immediately start with the first line of the book and go from there? Do they write the moment they have in their head and go back and forth depending? Or do they just jot notes down and don't start writing for a few days?

Writers very rarely talk about it.

Me? I usually just start right in. Sometimes what I write first gets cut or shuffled around, but when I sit down to start a new book, the scene I write is usually what I envision as the first scene in the book. And I try to go from there.

What about you guys?


Chris said...

Not that you should give a tiny crap about MY process, but these last two books, I haven't outlined, and I started at the first line and wrote on through. I find if I jump around, I lose the flow, and I tend to only write the scenes that interest me, instead of finding ways to make EVERY scene interest me.

Only now that I think about it, that's not entirely true. For my last WIP, there was a B-story that took place 50-odd years in the past. I actually wrote the A-story clean through, then the B-story, and then integrated them in the second draft. But that's the exception that proves the rule, since I did it to maintain flow and continuity for each storyline.

John McFetridge said...

It's not always the same. Some books the first thing I've written has turned out to be the opening scene but not always.

Whenever I start something new, and usually I've been thinking about it for quite a while before I actually start, I jump right into a scene. I don't write a character description, I write the character doing something.

Sometimes that scene makes it into the book and sometimes it doesn't.

I'm not very envirommentally-minded, I throw out a lot of stuff. I do try and recycle it, but people are starting to notice when it's just the same character with a different name...

chad rohrbacher said...

I have used both the "outline" and "the muse" processes, but I don't think it's an either or situation. Generally I have an idea of the beginning and the end. That's it.

My longer pieces I have some major pivots planned out, or specific characters I know will show up, but there is a ton of flexibility on where, how, and what they will do in the story.

Of course, I'm an obsessive re-writer. My friend Steve has been helping me break that awful habit. While I still revise, the idea of getting it on the page, revising once or twice then moving on has done wonders for my creative muscles and my enjoyment of writing -- Call it process reborn

Eric Beetner said...

I start at the beginning and go right through but, while I have a very simple outline, I like to think about a story for a long time before I write. I use it as a litmus test. If I can't stop thinking about the story, adding to it, hearing the characters speak, then I know I'm on to something. Only trouble with that is some of my best lines and bits of dialogue get lost to the ether because I thought of it while lying in bed or during my commute.

Bryon Quertermous said...

I love starting a new book, which would seem a bit frightening since when I start a new book I know NOTHING about what's going to happen. I usually have an opening scene in mind (which oddly enough almost always ends up getting cut in revisions)and then when that scene's done I figure out what should happen next and go from there. I love the messy creation of the first draft. throwing shit in just to see if it works, taking the story in random directions. All of it, great fantastic fun. Until I get to the end and have to wrap it all up. Then I'd rather go out and start a brand new book.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I'm like John. When I start a book, it is something I've been noodling over in my brain for a while. I typically have several different storylines going on - the main mystery, the secondary mystery, a couple of family/relationship issues that I need to keep track of...I tend to keep those jotted down along with some plot points under each that I want to hit. Then I jump in and start writing.

Mike Dennis said...

I can't make up stories. No matter how hard I try, I just can't.

Usually, I start with no more than an opening line, and sometimes not even that. Maybe it's just a hazy shot of a character doing something. Anyway, once I get a decent line or two on the screen, then plot developments begin to suggest themselves, and the characters take over. And me? I'm just Calvin, hanging on for dear life as I ride on Hobbes' back, and hoping I make it all the way through without puking my guts up.

mybillcrider said...

Tim Hallinan's blog has an on-going discussion about this topic. I've contributed a guest blog, along with four or five others, so far. Check it out.

Barbara Martin said...

I never start at the beginning, but at a point that has appeared in my mind. My first WIP was not outlined until after the first draft had been tweaked several times. For my second WIP I prepared a brief outline, leaving wide gaps to fill in ideas as they come along. Otherwise I tend to become bored with the writing if I know too much ahead of time where the story is going. I like my characters to surprise as most often they do.