Friday, March 10, 2017

My Writing Process

I'm always totally fascinated by other people's writing processes. Are they slow to finish a project or do they pull an all-nighter and complete like seven novels at once? Do they edit as they go or allow themselves to all but faceplant into their keyboard to finish a first draft? Do they fuel themselves with tea or coffee? These are the real questions.

Since none of you asked for this unsolicited, detailed post I'm sure you're all anxiously waiting to hear what my process is, I thought I'd tell you in a list, because everybody loves lists (or maybe that's just me).

How I write:

1. Get five-thousand different ideas when I'm already in the middle of seventeen.
2. Start writing like a madman with the writing utensil closest to me.
3. Get stuck three pages in.
4. Go back to the work I was supposed to be finishing in the first place.
5. Realize everything that's been written there is utter nonsense.
6. Cry.
7. Eat some chocolate.
8. Procrastinate by watching reruns of “Doctor Who” and “Supernatural” or pretending I'm being productive by pinning writing prompts to my board on Pinterest.
9. Go back to my computer.
10. Write some more. Rinse and repeat.

Honestly, "It's Hard to Be the Bard" is so relateable as a writer.

I'm just kidding (mostly).

What I really do is something more along the lines of this:

1. Get an idea.

This is seemingly, but deceptively, easy. I could get half a dozen different ideas from Pinterest alone, and then there's overheard conversations, new takes on fairytales, fan-fiction that took on a life of its own, etc. etc. etc.

The trick is finding an idea that interests me enough to stick with it. I've saved sooo many different writing prompts that I thought might be good to try out, but when I go back to them months later, my reaction is, "Hmm, cool, but I know I'm going to get bored with this six pages in." If I'm going to dedicate tons of time to an idea, it better be a good one.

2. Start writing down random ideas that eventually turn into a vague outline.

Sometimes once I get an idea, I know the first few lines or even scenes that go with it. Anything even remotely related to the idea (lines, plot points, side characters, a song that fits the theme of the story), I jot down in a notebook or a Word document. I like to let it all stew in my brain for a while before I do anything serious with it.

Once I'm pretty sure I've come up with everything I could for the time being, I'll start creating an outline. I can't believe I haven't always done this. It doesn't work for everybody, but I looove having an outline to keep me on track. So many of my abandoned novels could have been saved if I knew at least vaguely where the story was going to go from beginning to end.

My outlines usually include a clear beginning and a clear end, with some scenes in the middle that might just say, "Maybe these three characters go to the movie or something and one of them gets mugged on the way back? IDK, we just need some action here." As long as I have a plan I can follow for the most part, I'm good. I can always be flexible if I need something to change.

3. Write a first draft.

The fun (and painful) part! Because with first drafts comes both streaks of inspiration and days of writer's block, which is by far the most frustrating part of writing.

Finishing a draft can take anywhere from a few months to a couple years. No joke. My 2013 NaNoWriMo novel is still the longest one I've written to date, and I wrote it in two and a half months. But it took a year and a half to finish an incredibly short draft of what I now think is my best novel. The time doesn't matter as much as the content, but it does feel good when a draft goes fast.

4. Set it aside for at least a month.

If I go through the draft immediately after writing it, chances are I'll still think it's freaking fantastic. Which is good, I mean, I should think something is good if I'm going to attempt to do something with it. But I need to wait a little while before picking it up again so I can be horrified when I realize how many adverbs I used. *shudders*

This is the very basic outline of how I approach each project. No two stories are the same, which means every time I sit down to work on a new one, I'm going to do it a little differently. There are other things I like to do when I write, too.

-I'll create a book soundtrack, imagined as a movie. If I need inspiration, I'll listen to it while I write. Right now I have a pretty lengthy soundtrack for More Than Words, which always puts me in a good mood:

"Intertwined" - Dodie
"Neptune" - Sleeping At Last
"She's so High" - Tal Bachman
"Kiss Me" - Sixpence None the Richer
"There She Goes" - Sixpence None the Richer
"The Great Escape" - P!nk
"More Than Words" - Extreme
"Doctor Who Theme" - BBC National Orchestra Of Wales
"Whataya Want from Me" - Adam Lambert
"Yesterday" - The Beatles
"Listen To Your Heart" - Roxette
"Broken Wings" - Mr. Mister
"Animal" - Neon Trees
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" - Rex Harrison
"I Could Have Danced All Night" - Julie Andrews
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" - The Police
"Alone" - Glee Cast
"People Will Say We're In Love" - Gordon Macrae and Shirley Jones
"I Won't Say (I'm In Love)" - Susan Egan and The Muses

-I'll light my Sherlock candle, which smells awesome. I especially like to use it when I'm doing edits for Ms. Holmes.

-I get a snack (like popcorn or Cheez-Its) or a drink (usually some form of tea).

-I like to write in fourteen-point font, single-spaced, but edit in twelve-point font, double spaced. For whatever reason, that's how I'm most productive.

-I write out of order because inspiration for different scenes hits me at different times. This makes it easy to e-mail myself snippets of scenes while I'm out, because I'm not confined to writing in order. Having an outline helps with this, because I know where the scene can fit in later.

-I cast actors and actresses for the fake movie on my Pinterest board. The one I made for Beneath the Moon and Stars is still my favorite casting job. I'd flip my lid if I got to see a movie with these actors.

-I mirror my characters' expressions as I write them, but only if I'm by myself at my desk, because it looks freaking weird. If I'm trying to figure out how my character looks when they're mad, I'll act like them and figure out what my face is doing. It helps with descriptions, but would probably make others question my sanity.

-As much as it's hard, I have to resist the urge to fix my story as I go. Instead, I took a page out of Stephanie Morrill's book and write “GIRAFFE” in all caps by whatever needs fixing. That way it's really easy to find with a CTRL + F search later when it's time to edit. Usually "GIRAFFE" is paired with a snarky comment I've left myself, like, “You call that dialogue?”

So that's me.

What about you? What does your writing process look like? Leave a comment!


Boquinha said...

I loooooove lists. I was made fun of as a child (like a lot) by my family for loving lists and I'm still not sure why that would be something to mock, but yeah, lists are awesome.

Love this: "But I need to wait a little while before picking it up again so I can be horrified when I realize how many adverbs I used. *shudders*" :P

14-point font for writing and 12-point font for editing is oddly specific but I love that so much. Also, I had fun guessing stuff about your soundtrack.

I totally do the facial expression thing, too. I think I even do it in coffeehouses. Stacy: entertaining people in public since 1974.

Fun post!! I love learning this kind of thing!! It's interesting to me to see the evolution of your approach, too. I swear you were a pantser at one point.

The Magic Violinist said...


Yeah, lists are awesome. It's way more fun to read something in list form and it's great for organization.

LOL, I went through my NaNo book from 2015 and it really is horrifying how many I used.

I started doing that while ago and haven't changed it. It works for productivity and tricking my brain into thinking I'm making more progress than I actually am. ;)

Ha, I don't usually do it in public, but sometimes I wonder if I do it subconsciously. xD

Thanks! I was for a while, but then I realized I abandoned most of my projects because I got way too off track. Plotting (loosely) works better for me now.

Unknown said...

I rarely plan ahead. Also, my characters do not come to me full-blown. Both my plot and my characters reveal themselves to me as the story unfolds, sort of as a dream unfolds. I am amazed each time a character emerges that he/she is just what the story needed. Some time back I tried to write using the Snowflake method. It looked like a very good way to create a story, but it just didn't fit for the way my mind works (it doesn't, really; rather it just plays.) My first effort ran out of steam, though I still think it was a good idea. My second went on for ten thousand words before I got to the story, then I ended up scratching out that whole beginning, one of the hardest things I have had to do.

I usually read through what I've written, only changing egregious spelling or grammar errors, but hold off making structural changes until I've gotten through the first draft. Like you have found for your own writing, it is only after I've let the story sit for a time,that I go back and read through it critically. It's sort of like I imagine it to be for a mother, after carrying that extra weight, and comparing my former slim figure to the elephantine misshape I've become, then gone through hours of labor pains and finally pushing that elephant through an impossibly small opening, I might be unable to honestly appraise the product, either finding every aspect of it perfect, or wishing to to be rid of it.

The writing process, for me, is like baking a pie or cake. The first several times through, a recipe is important, but for the hundredth time, a quarter teaspoon becomes a dash or a pinch, lest the outcome becomes just a repeat instead of Mamma's pumpkin pie. A certain amount of planning is involved, but one can't learn to bake a pumpkin pie simply by watching Mamma or by getting her recipe. One develops skill through endless repetition. Of course, a lot of the approval process depends on the audience; my mamma's pie will always remain better than your mamma's.

Unknown said...

Your ten-point list before you got to your "real" list is pretty much my process. :-P Also, I LOVE writing first drafts, but editing/revising/rewriting is a bear. Even though I love the end product after it's been revised and edited, I just hate doing it. It feel too much like work, I guess. :-P

The Magic Violinist said...

@Jesse Porter

That's exactly how I used to write. In some ways, it was a lot more magical that way, because you felt like you were both writing a book and reading a completely new book. I've tried all kinds of different methods, but usually end up doing what I'm doing now. Still, it's fun to play around. :) Scrapping that much story always stings at first, even if it's for the better.

Grammar or spelling I don't have a problem fixing, either. It drives me crazy to miss that stuff when I read through, so any time I do see it, I take care of it right away. Space is necessary in order to look at the draft and really decide what needs to be changed.

That's a good analogy! Practice makes perfect.


Ba ha ha, I think it holds some truth for everyone. xD Same here! I wish I could just write the story and skip to the end where it's all polished up.

Jimmy said...

I'm not a writer, but in college I always felt like I needed more time. I'm not good at timed essays because it feels more about spitting the information out there, but it takes time to put it all together nicely. So I like it when I can walk away from my writing, divert my attention to something else temporarily, and then get back to it with maybe some new inspiration in what I want to say and how I want to say it.

Also I'm a pacer. When I'm into writing, I pace all over the place and get back to my keyboard.

The Magic Violinist said...


I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. I love them because it means I'll actually get something done, even if it's horrible at first, but I hate them because whatever I write is usually horrible at first. Time is really nice for debating over every sentence and every word to make it absolutely perfect. I'm a big fan of breaks, too. Staring at the computer screen endlessly will make you crazy.

Ha, I should start pacing just to give myself more breaks from sitting at the keyboard. Movement is great for creativity!

Ivyclad Ideas said...

My writing process at the moment involves sobbing over a hot keyboard and eating too much chocolate.

Okay, it's more like I write a bit, procrastinate for a bit, write a bit more. I'm often surprised by how much I can get done doing that.

...I'm a perfectionist though, so it's really difficult for me to JUST KEEP GOING when I know that THAT WASN'T THE RIGHT WORD. :')

The Magic Violinist said...


Oh, I can definitely relate to those days . . .

Sometimes the breaks seem to help, but other times the procrastinating really hurts the flow? It's so weird. I feel like each day it goes a little differently.

Same here. xD I'll spend ten minutes searching through synonyms to get the sentence just right when I could've been cranking out paragraphs.

Lara Liz said...

I am SERIOUSLY in love with your writing playlist there, Kate. I mean ... Glee? JUDY GARLAND? Excuse me as the theatre nerd inside me has a squealing session. There's a lot I don't know as well, though, so you might have just introduced me to a few new favourites - especially since I've heard so much about Dodie's album online lately that I'm going to have to give it a listen at some point.

Mirroring characters' expressions, though, seems like a fun technique. I'm definitely going to have to try it at some point ... with the door firmly shut, of course. I would also be down for watching any movie with those actors in it - especially one you'd written.

Thanks for a great post, my friend.

Emma said...

Okay, the first writing process is totally my writing process... oops?? And you're right about Pinterest - every time I add a new pin to one of my boards, I can take hours scrolling through the recommended pins after it, thinking up new worlds and stories. Narrowing it down can be so difficult!

Your More than Words soundtrack is awesome! (Also the title "Ms. Holmes" already has me excited... I love Sherlock Holmes retellings.)

The GIRAFFE idea is so clever... I may have to steal that sometime, hehe!

The Magic Violinist said...

@Lara Liz

Ha ha, I had a feeling you'd like it! Slowly my writing playlists have started to fill with more and more Broadway. Which makes it difficult to concentrate sometimes since they're so distracting to hum along to. xD Oops. YES, definitely check out her album. I also recommend looking at some of her covers on YouTube as well as her original song "She."

Yeah, it's a technique you want to try out in private, for sure. Aww, thanks!

Good to see you online again! :)


LOL, I think we can all relate a little. Pinterest is such a black hole of productivity, and yet it's so inspiring!

Thank you! I'm a big fan of anything Sherlock, too. :) That title was so simple to come up with, but it's still one of my favorites.

You can thank Go Teen Writers for that. It's been sooo helpful.

Sabre said...

I stumbled upon your blog completely by accident and this post had me gawking. I thought: I've found a double - up until number eight of your 'mostly' list XD I watch any crime series I can get my hands on and reread personal favorites.

I honestly thought I was the only one that went about mirroring characters. I have to remind myself constantly that I'm not the only one in the room (my family has gotten used to it by now though). I think the main reason I do it is because I picture the scenes and characters I write about and end up sort of 'playing it out' to capture it better. Most of the time, whatever I write is playing in my head like a movie. Rping may also be a major reason XD

You can't have a movie without soundtracks and theme songs, right? Here we're similar again. I always use epic instrumentals though or else I'd never get anything done =_= The only problem with that is that I have to find exactly the right song or else what's supposed to be a sweet scene turns into a bloodbath. (I'm listening to it right now actually. Research... right. I got lost doing research. Happens a lot..)

Sometimes I'm swamped by so many ideas that I just don't know what to do with (they're currently scribbled all over the place).
I'll pick one and run with it. Then in the middle of toying with that one, I'll have another. And you can see where it's going. Eventually I'll have several huge projects, each suffering because of the other(and also because my writing time is so short as it is).

Right now I'm trying to be very disciplined and actually follow one idea through or at least try to incorporate the others into it somehow. (But it's soo hard ;_;) Lol

I'm also trying not to be a pantser.. That's also soo hard. But I will push on.

Anyway I really liked this post!! Thanks for sharing :) I will most probably be back XD

The Magic Violinist said...


Ha, I'm glad you stumbled upon it, then! There's a bookish and writerly twin out there for everyone.

So it's not just me, yay! I definitely think it helps in terms of grounding your characters. I totally view my books as movies when I'm writing them (which makes action scenes so much harder, because it'd be easier to just watch somebody fight than to write about their movements. The struggle is real).

Exactly! I've mostly been able to get away with music that has lyrics. It distracts me at first, but after a while it becomes background noise to my story. Usually.

Yep, I get that. Anytime I finish a project, there are twelve more projects going, "What about us??? It's been four years and we're still not finished!"

Play around with different strategies! Eventually you'll find something that works for you.

Thank you! :) I hope you drop by again!

Sabre said...

@The Magic Violinist

So I've been told. Now I've started believing it XD

My reaction was the same, lol. Yeah, I totally agree. Well, the visualization actually helps me with action scenes. I picture where everyone is at the time, and as it plays out in my head I write what I see. It helps if you have watched fights before or have some practical experience. A good exercise would be to do just that, and try to describe the movements - it can be a bit daunting at first, but that's how I started. Of course you would have to figure out what style your fighters use and work accordingly for a logical piece XD Would suck to have a Muay Thai fighter using Karate stances..

Haha, you're incredible then. I will not dare to attempt that again - 'The Queen of Procrastination has been my title for far too long -__-

XD Yup, you know how it is!

Thanks ^^ Hopefully I will...Soon!