Jeanne: Processing My Process

idea-2123972_640Last week I finished plotting out The Demon Wore Stilettos, the third book in my Touched by a Demon series.  In case you haven’t been following my progress with bated breath, I set this book aside in January after discovering I’d written myself into a corner.

(Note: when you create characters who cannot lie, be very careful about the situations you put them in. Being unable to tell a convenient fib may work well in Heaven, but it’s a major handicap on this messed-up planet.)

So I set it aside and started work on Book 4, The Demon Goes Hungry, and then set that aside to finish up Girl’s Best Friend, my contemporary that had been sitting in a virtual drawer for a couple of years.

Last week, after sending Girl’s Best Friend off to my editor, I reread what I had done on The Demon Wore Stilettos (approximately 150 pages) and realized it wasn’t terrible. I backed up to the point where I was no longer walled into a cul-de-sac, rewrote a couple of scenes, and I was good to go.

Then I spent the rest of the week thinking. My goal was to lay out the rest of the book, ensuring the events fit together with causal links, and to make sure I had things in the right order. I went for long walks in the crisp autumn air, taking notes on my phone as I solved various issues or had ideas about things that needed to happen. It all went splendidly, with ideas exploding in my head like so many Guy Fawkes firecrackers. 

My question is: why couldn’t I do this ten months ago?

When I set this book aside last winter, I already knew the characters and most of the events that needed to happen. All that was missing were the ligaments to hold the skeleton of my story together. Now that I’ve identified those ligaments, they seem intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

So why wasn’t that true in January?

I have a laundry list of reasons–failed pet adoption, SADD, sister with life-threatening illness, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened. To be rigorously honest, it’s the fourth time.

That’s right. For the last four books I’ve written—basically every book I’ve worked on since completing McDaniel’s romance writing program—I’ve gotten one-fourth to one-third of a book written and then hit a wall and set it aside.

On the plus side, while I’m on hiatus from a book I go off and either finish or start another book. Which I also set aside after the first act, returning to whatever story was in process when I hit the previous wall.

As a recipe for quickly turning out books for waiting fans, it’s not a winner. But as Eight Lady Jilly sagely remarked when I explained what I’d discovered, “Your process is your process.”

Very true.

If I can fall into a rhythm with it, it should still allow me to write a book a year—in half-book increments.

How about you? Is there anything about your writing process that drives you bonkers?


7 thoughts on “Jeanne: Processing My Process

  1. EVERYTHING about my process bugs me! I am especially irritated by how long it takes me to see a problem and then fix it. Unlike you, though, if I quit working on a project for any length of time, I’d never go back to it, so I just keep plugging along. Whatever works, right?

    • Given that I can use the time productively on other books, having a simmer cycle where problems essentially solve themselves while I get other things done isn’t the worst possible process.

      It makes me glad I decided to self-publish. I suspect a traditional publisher would find it completely unacceptable.

      • Well, Jenny has a pretty long process, and her publisher lives with it okay. But she’s long-established and best-selling. I imagine those less established would not benefit from publisher patience!

  2. LOL, this is very comforting!

    Like Kay, everything about my process drives me crazy except when I’m writing in that first flush of discovery. I am so glad you’ve identified a pattern . . . it may not be the most efficient way to write books, but efficiency is kind of overrated for fiction.

    Keep going!

  3. A day or so after we chatted about this I went to Gollanczfest, a one-day writers’ con hosted by the eponymous sci-fi and fantasy publishing imprint. Some of their authors spoke about process, and I was very tickled to learn that Joanne Harris (Chocolat, and many other excellent novels) has a process very similar to yours. She said she always hits the wall in the same place (I think she said around page 150). She starts the next book, and maybe even the one after that, until she figures out how to finish the first one. She said if that’s your process you learn to work with it–as long as you write something else in the meantime, and as long as you eventually go back and finish the part-written books, it all turns out okay in the end.

    What drives me bonkers? I wish I could outline (I keep trying, it never works), and most of all I wish I could write faster. I get there in the end, but I’m so…damn…slow. Another reason for self-publishing!

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