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your questions: writing process

Here are the answers from the questions in the comments about my writing process…thanks for asking them!  And I promise that if you read the whole thing to the end, the blue hoodie will make sense.  Now if that isn’t tantalizing…I just don’t know what is.

Shelli asked:

so did you know your book was “the one”. Im afraid I think every book of mine is “the one.” Kinda like when you dated a guy and were like “oh yeah, he is the one!” Then you break up and he’s a jerk and you think. “Why did I ever think that?” ;) 

I hope I’m answering this correctly, because I’m not sure which book of mine Shelli had in mind.  The answer is, every book I’m writing I think is “the one.”  As in, “the one I want to be writing right now.”  I can’t write a book unless I’m enjoying doing it.  As far as it being “the one” for anyone else–I never have a clue.  I am completely incapable of being objective about my own work.  Which is why I have readers who critique my stuff, and I make sure I have both readers who will be ultra-positive, and readers (especially Elaine) who will tear it apart in a very meticulous way.

Wendy asked:

How many rejections did you have ? Did you ever get to a point when you said “okay maybe I’m not that good a writer or this book is not as good as I think”  How did you know your work would get published one day?

For my first book, I had a bunch of rejections, and then a revise and resubmit for a small publisher.  I revised and resubmitted twice, and then it was finally accepted.  I didn’t keep track of the number of rejection letters, and I didn’t save them (but there were a lot).  I know people do that, but we were living in a tiny space and I just didn’t even want to devote one file folder to rejections. And I did think, “I’m not that good a writer.”  All the time.  I didn’t know my work would get published.  I just hoped. And worked really, really hard (kept writing, writing, writing).

Brittany asked:

Do you edit/evaluate how strong the writing is as you go, or do you just write it and then edit or evaluate what to keep later on when you have a large section written?

When I’m drafting, I just draft.  I write as fast as I want and I don’t worry about quality.  I have to get the story out and have fun.  I can edit forever (and I mean forever–I tinker with stuff until the last possible minute).  So that first draft is really freeing and fun for me.

Rachel asked:

I am curious about your writing process and would find anything you post about it fascinating. Do you outline? How many drafts do you write? Do you edit as you go along? Or are you like me: just get the first draft over with and then go back and fix everything? These are the things I wonder about. And also, if I am normal for wondering about these things.

I don’t outline.  I outline as I write, but never before I write.  As I start writing, I see where the pieces are going to come together, and I’ll make a very basic outline that I change hundreds of times.  I do dozens of drafts; I’m not even sure how many. I don’t edit as I go along.  I just enjoy that first draft because that is my favorite part.  It’s you and the story and the characters.  And yes, you are totally normal!

And here is some random stuff about my writing process that no one asked but I’m going to tell you anyway:

I drink a lot of water while I’m writing.  I don’t know why it makes me thirsty to write, but it does.  

I wear a blue hoodie (similar to the one in the photo, but older) when I write because I write in a corner of my freezing cold basement.  I am convinced the hoodie has magical powers because no matter what I’m wearing underneath–sweater, t-shirt, sweatshirt–the hoodie magically makes me just the right amount of warm to write.  Warm enough that my fingers aren’t cold, but not so warm that I get dozy. Because I have a baby who has not slept through the night in eighteen months, it is very easy for me to get dozy.

I can’t listen to music when I write.  I can when I’m editing, but not when I’m writing.  I used to think I was alone in this, but when I found out that the brilliant M.T. Anderson can’t do it either, it made me feel better.

I’ve developed some minor carpal tunnel issues that have been alleviated by gel wrist rest for the keyboard and mousepad.  So my desk looks like the desk of a very old person but it is so worth it.

What about everyone else?  What are your writing/creative processes like?  Do tell.

+ comments (16)
  • Rachel Coleman
    January 5, 2010

    I was right: fascinating.

    And I can’t write with music either. It goes back to my inability to multitask. Either I’m listening to the words of the music or I’m writing the story, never both at the same time. Often a song that I’m listening to will inspire a mood or event in my story, but it only stresses me out to listen to anything while I write.

    My writing process is evolving. Right now I am enjoying writing long hand in my bed with my electric blanket turned on. Sometimes I go write in the car to avoid distractions. This may change if I ever get an office, but I am too easily distracted to write in public.

    I have learned to wait until I know the answer to my main question before I start writing. Besides that, the first draft is a free-for-all. If I think of something I want to change, I’ll highlight it and make a note of what needs to change, but I wait until the first draft is done to make those changes. And I add notes at the end with ideas of what might happen next.

    If I could outline I think I could write much faster, but my best ideas come to me when I am busy doing something else or actually writing, never when I am trying to think of a great idea.

  • Sara
    January 5, 2010

    Ooh, I need a magical hoodie… I’m always too cold, or too hot. Sigh. 😉

    Well, you know I’m the weird one who HAS to have great music on to write my best work. Amazing music inspires me to write better for some reason. Admittedly I listen to mostly soundtracks when I write, but I do listen to music with words too sometimes. So I guess I just have a funky brain that can multitask. (Sometimes)

    As for outlining, it varies with each book. Some are so detailed I have to outline or turns into a huge mess, others just flow out. The one I’m working on now isn’t outlined yet, but I probably should – at least a general outline, because I’m not entirely sure where it’s going right now, and that’s stressing me out! 😉

    I didn’t realize #3 still wasn’t sleeping through the night! Bummer. 🙁 I hope he decides to let you get some rest soon!

  • Sandy Shin
    January 5, 2010

    Thank you for sharing your writing process with us! It’s always terribly fascinating to read about other writers’ writing routines. :>

    I used to be a pantser — writing the first draft as I go without an outline in mind. That resulted in a lot of unnecessary scenes and running into dead-ends. Now, for the current WiP, I am trying to create an rough outline and changing it as I write so that I know where I’m going. Hopefully, I will be able to finish the WiP this way.

  • Carolyn V
    January 5, 2010

    I eat a lot of tiny snacks. Yup, I’m a snack-a-holic. I’ve tried to change from chocolate to wheat thins, but I still like to chew while I write. Plus I’ve found if I’m working at the table and not the comfy couch, I get more writing done.

    Loved your answers! So awesome!

  • Erin Summerill
    January 5, 2010

    I love your advice. I write in sweats and no bra. It makes me feel ‘free’. ha ha, snort. But really, thanks for the advice.

  • Shelli
    January 5, 2010

    I totally get that! Thanks. 🙂

  • Julie D.
    January 5, 2010

    I can’t listen to music while I write either. I tried it for awhile, and it just made me write scenes that had no business being in my book, but were prompted by the songs I was listening to. It made me crazy.

    I find that I write best under pressure. If I have just an hour of freedom granted, I pound stuff out. If I have a long afternoon with nothing else to do, I tinker until I realize I’ve accomplished nothing. Or until I fall asleep. (My 19-month-old does not come anywhere close to sleeping through the night either!)

    Thanks for sharing! It’s fun to read about how other people write. Now if I could just find a magic hoodie…

  • Natalie Hatch
    January 6, 2010

    I have written with twin two year olds sitting on my lap; at 2am when I’ve had to get up to settle night terrors; during Dora the Explorer dancing again on our television with my children laughing their heads off. I write whenever and where ever I can.
    But when I edit I can’t have distractions. I think I’m the opposite of you. I plot out a fair bit then speed through a rough draft of 70k in about 8 days. Then spend weeks/months editing.

  • Heather Moore
    January 6, 2010

    I write in my freezing cold basement as well so I dress very warm. I’ve written to music, sometimes, it depends on the music and what I’m writing. It’s good for drowning out barking dogs though. I found the most perfect song for my latest book, it was like the lyrics were written about the character, so I literally listened to it at least 100 times.

    I don’t snack much when I write. But editing kills me, so I definitely snack and listen to music to try and keep alert.

    Outlining is usually done as I go. I just need to know the main character’s arc, then I’m off and everyone else pops up along the way. The only book I officially outlined, I ended up completely changing the last 200 pages. So it didn’t do me much good.

  • Leeann
    January 6, 2010

    I write naked. No, not really, but it sounds exciting. (I had to one up the “no bra-er”)

    I like moving around to various locations as I think really helps my creativity. I like the library, B&N, home office, closet, and toilet. They all give me a new perspective. I try not to write when the kids are home from school or before they go to bed. But if a sudden idea strikes, I dash into the closet where the clothes act as insulation and camouflage.

    I’m with you – no music until editing unless I want to inadvertently start typing the words to the song. And, Cheetos help me focus. A lot.

  • Brittany
    January 6, 2010

    Thanks for the comments!

    Have you tried an ergonomic keyboard? My wrists used to hurt nonstop (I type all day for work). Then I switched to an ergonomic keyboard and the pain went away. It was fabulous–definitely worth the investment.

  • ally
    January 10, 2010

    This was so fun to read about everyone’s different processes…Leeann, you totally made me laugh. And Brittany, I will have to check out that ergonomic keyboard. Maybe I should get an ergonomic chair, too. Then I would feel so awesome. Like I’m writing from the future, or something…those things always look so high-tech.

  • Micheal Ronaldfon
    February 25, 2010

    check me blog:

  • D,B,nJ
    March 5, 2010

    For whatever reason (and I am, I promise, not typically a rebellious person) I cannot have ANY restraints when I write. I cannot be told to write something and have an end result that I am proud of. I cannot focus or think creatively if I feel tied down. Obviously causes some problems, but what do ya do?! I love to just be able to grab my netbook (thanks hubby!) and go at it when inspiration strikes. I cannot feel like the hubs is reading over my shoulder, either. EEK! He’s an English teacher and my biggest fan, but I just cannot believe that my grammar or plot or characters aren’t just making him cringe inside. Can you imagine?
    So I love just diving in with both feet when the mood strikes and never any other time. And the surest way to kill ‘the mood’ is to have a family member ask, “So, have you been writing?” in that not-so-subtle way that suggests they don’t believe I am dedicated enough (and no, I am not paranoid, as much as I wish it was my own delusions sending this message, I have been told- flat out- that I waste my time if I am not writing and nothing, not even motherhood is a valuable way to spend my time. ACK!
    So, to sum it all up:
    Delve in when the mood strikes
    Avoid meddling family members
    Turn the screen away from the hubby or write while he is working

  • Justin Campbell
    August 12, 2010

    i like to use ergonomic chairs at home because it supports longer working hours”.`

  • Zachary Graham
    October 1, 2010

    i love ergonomic chairs because you can sit on them all day long without hurting your back`””

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