I don’t often talk about my writing process. There are a couple of reasons why. The main one is that while my process may shift and change slightly, I have a pretty solid process. I just finished novel #34 and will start #35 tomorrow.
The other reason is that I’m a fairly intuitive writer. It’s difficult for me to articulate what I do. I just do it. I may be able to tease apart what I just did afterward, but not before.
This morning was one of those times when I confronted my process and my writing straight forward, so I figured I would share what went on, in the hopes that my story will help other artists with their process.
The book I’m about to start is the third book in this trilogy, though it’s the sixth book in the series. The first trilogy was The Seattle Trolls. The second is The Troll Wars. (There will be a third trilogy, yet to be named.)
The first book was Troll Versus Demon. The second is Troll Versus Human. The third is Troll Versus Troll.
These books are darker than the first trilogy. But they still contain a lot of elements of humor and lightness. Plus, the characters are so voicey. It’s a joy to write.
The last few days I’ve been reading through books 1 and 2 of this trilogy in order to remind myself of what I wrote. I took notes as I went along, listing off the “points of interest” that I want to make sure I visit in book #3.
I really like book #1, Troll vs. Demon. To me, it feels like a well-constructed story, with lots of moving parts that all come together neatly in the end. It follows a pretty strong three act structure, basically boiled down to Hero-Villain-Victory.
Before I started re-reading book #2, I had thought that I wouldn’t like it as much. I remember it being difficult to write, which I then had assumed meant it wouldn’t be as good.
No. That’s not the case. Book #2 might actually be better than #1.
The reason why book #2 was difficult to write was because I gave the reader all the feelings. That book made me cry re-reading it. It’s powerful. And emotional. And that was why it was difficult. Not because it wasn’t a good book.
So this morning, faced with a blank page, the first thing I had to deal with was fear. Yes, even though this is my 35th novel. Yes, even though I knew the characters and the setting and pretty much the ending of this book already.
Because I had spent the time re-reading books 1 & 2, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to write book #3 as well. I felt as though I’d set high expectations in my readers and I didn’t want to disappoint them.
Book #3 had become IMPORTANT. That, in turn, paralyzed me and made it impossible to start writing. Instead of getting behind the keyboard and jumping off the cliff and trusting that my wings would form, I had to have a PLAN. And these books are horribly resistant to outlining. (Most of my work is.)
Fortunately, I’ve dealt with this before. Just acknowledging the fear helped diffuse a lot of the anxiety.
However, the point remained that I actually did need a little bit more of a clue as to what was going on in the novel before I could start writing. But I had to get rid of the stupid fear in order to find that.
I ended up going through all of the major POV characters and thinking about their arc and resolution. Did I know where they were all going? Yes, mostly.
I finally realized that what I really needed was the starting point of one of the main characters. Once I figured that out, the entire novel slotted itself together in my head. (Seriously. It’s the weirdest feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it. But everything just clicks together. It’s almost loud enough that I can hear the sound the pieces make as they assemble.)
I’m not writing today, not much more than this blog post. Too many other things going on. I feel confident, however, that tomorrow I’ll be able to just get up and write. Kind excited about it, actually.
So I guess the moral of this story is: Deal with your fears, then plot what you need to. Nothing more.