Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Writing Process

I finished my third book last week! Don't get me wrong: it's the most problematic of all my books, largely because I tried this new process for it (a sort of hey-I-like-Roald-Dahl-and-Maniac-Magee-maybe-I'll-try-to-write-like-them-even-though-they're-crazy-different-and-I-don't-have-a-plot kind of process), and...well, it didn't work very well. But at least my draft is done (and I have a killer concept for my fourth book!).

Anyway. This got me thinking about process, and all the ways writers can write. Some writers love making soundtracks for their books, others (me!) can't listen to music while writing at all. Some writers are meticulous planners, and others wing it all the way (I think I'm a mixture of both, although I'm still figuring that one out). Some writes can include a deft political agenda (like Barbara Kingsolver) while others (me again) need to focus solely on character and story or their book turns out problematic (see my third book, above). So here are some facts, because they're interesting, about various famous writers and their quirks:

E.B. White couldn't listen to music while writing, although he could listen to ordinary family noise.

Joan Didion would write, then go over her pages that evening with a drink. The next day she'd edit what she did the day before based on her evening notes.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in the morning.

Kurt Vonnegut also wrote in the morning, did teaching work in the afternoon, and slipped push ups, sit ups, and a swim into his daily routine.

Rick Riordan claims in this interview with Jonathan Stroud that he has a loose outline when he starts writing, that he spends a couple months researching the start of each book, and that he spends four to five hours daily with broken-up writing.

Jonathan Stroud also spends time planning out scenes before he starts a first draft. He aims for about 25 pages a week (even if he claims he often misses that mark).

Maya Angelou would write in the morning and early afternoon, then edit what she'd written in the later afternoon. Oh, and I love how she said "Easy reading is damn hard writing," because it is true.

Barbara Kingsolver became a mother and a writer on the same day. She says that it takes her hundreds of pages to find her first page.

I want to find more, but my sister is now on my phone. Let me know if you have any favorite writerly processes (yours or famous writers'), and have a lovely Tuesday!

Books! That are produced by writers with processes! I love writers...


  1. I LOVE that. 'Easy reading is damn hard writing.' So true.

    AND CONGRATULATIONS ON FINISHING YOUR THIRD BOOK!!! Good for you to fiddle around with the writing process - hope it helped stretch the creative muscles at least a little. I can't wait until I get to read it :0)

    In answer to your question, I always want to wing it, but when I do it ends up rambling and repetitive and involving more things than is needed. However, if I plan every detail, the writing is too stiff - and things still manage to sneak in. I like to work with a broad overview, kind of like a synopsis that I write first, and I like to loosely plan my next scene so I know where I'm going next. And, strangely enough, I tend to need to read the same kind of books that have the same style, i.e. frothy and funny, as mine. Otherwise it ends up with another kind of flavour - it must be subconscious or something! :0)

    1. Oooh...I like the "synopsis that you write first" idea. And I can totally see why you read what you're writing--it doesn't work as a starting point for me, but always has worked as inspiration once I know what I'm doing! I owe you an email about querying, by the way. I swear I'll be good and send it soon! :)