Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Typing THE END

I just finished writing the first draft of VEXING THE VISCOUNT, the manuscript that's due to my editor later this summer. I know what you're thinking. "Big Whoop! It's just a first draft." For me, typing THE END is a big deal because of how I write a book.

I'm mostly a linear writer. Once I have a fully developed idea of the plot points and the characters solidly in my head, I start on the first chapter and write the story straight through in order. I sneak back from time to time to do line edits and make sure I've covered all the bases, so by the time I reach the end, my manuscript is really pretty clean. I'll spend a couple weeks tweaking and polishing, but it's essentially done. If I had to, I could turn it in today.

But it takes me several months to write a first draft, which is a little scary since even though I've written a synopsis ahead of time, I've been known to deviate significantly from it. So until I actually reach THE END, I'm not really sure how the story ends.

I know some authors who can pop a first draft out in weeks, or even a weekend! They write in layers and spend months fleshing out the skeleton.

Some plot extensively, down to the individual scenes and POVs, before they write a single word. Then like a drawn bow, they fling their story fully formed onto the page.

Still other authors are "puzzle" writers. Their stories come in chunks, scenes plopped down out of order, rising up from their psyches like some sort of literary magma displacement. Then they go back, reassemble them in order and string together the connecting narrative. This method almost sounds like magic to me.

Then there are pantsers (as in 'writing by the seat of their pants') who sit down to the keyboard and follow their characters around. They tend to write long and may have to shave hundreds of pages off the finished manuscript to conform to their publishers wordcounts.

Some say a writer should know their own type. I think I'm a conglomeration. I do start with a synopsis like a plotter (a very shallow plotter). I begin at the beginning like a linear writer. Once my characters start breathing on their own, I tend to let them lead a bit, like a pantser. Occasionally a future scene will appear in my head way before I set it down on paper, but because I'm linear I can't write it down like a "puzzler" would. I just let it percolate till the right time comes. And as I go back to do edits, I'm adding layers as I write. So what type am I?

I'm a plotting linear pantser who occasionally puzzles and layers. It's messy, but it works. And that's what every writer has to do--find a process that works for them. A novel is a big unwieldy beast that doesn't like to be cornered. How you bag the beast is up to you. There is no one right way to write one.

If you're an aspiring writer, please visit my website and check out the WRITER'S CORNER. I've just added several linked pages of content of interest to writers. While you're there be sure to enter my contest! Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

As romance and fantasy editor, I have worked with all of these types, sometimes when the book wasn't all there helps to keep the processes in mind, for certain, when helping an author along.

Moi, I am that magma-puzzle you mentioned. My writing comes out in short-story sized hunks, which I am then obliged either to assemble or polish to postable length as is.It also means that my output is very spotty! I have doubts about being able to write to a deadline.

Thank goodness for editing, which surrounds me with fine writing daily.

Rowena Cherry said...

I'm a puzzle, too! I thought I was a pantser, but I've often compared the process to a jigsaw.

Color me a puzzle.

EmilyBryan said...

Well, I'm honored to meet a couple of puzzlers. Yours seems to me to be the most intuitive method of writing, the most organic if you will.

How do you manage to have a character growth arc if the scenes in your story come out of order? That's one of the reasons I say puzzling is like magic.