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Friday, April 27, 2012

Recipe for Writing

One thing I have learned in my years of honing the craft of a writer is that no two writers write the same way. By that I mean we all have a different method to achieve the outcome. The subject of Plotters vs Pantsers is often discussed on blogs.
I prefer to use the term "organic" writer. I have tried sitting down and plotting a novel in the sure and certain knowledge that it will save me a great deal of time and anguish but as I stared at the pile of cards/large sheet of newsprint or whatever method plotters employ, I realised I was now completely bored with the story and it would never be written. For me the joy in writing is watching the plot and characters unfold like peeling back the layers of an onion.
I will begin with a scenario, a basic cast of characters and a few stopping off points along the way. The great thing about writing romance is you do already know the ending. The hero and heroine will end with the promise of a HEA (Happy Ever After). It's how they get there and what difficulties will they overcome that is the fun part.
I have titled this blog the Recipe for Writing because I view my 'methodology' as pots on a stove top.
My first draft is my equivalent of "plotting". I begin at the beginning and go on until I come to the end, generally without much editing. I throw in the basic ingredients and the result is something vaguely book shaped. It has a beginning a middle (although that may be prone to sagging) and an end. I then need to put it away for a month or two...or in my analogy...put it on the back burner to simmer.
If I am being good, then there will be at least 4 pots on this stove of imagination (see picture below)...all books at various stages of production. By putting my rough draft to the back it means that another story moves forward for its final revision, polish and submission. Dish it up to a publisher and off it goes...
Circle the pots again. The next pot has been revised once but needs a deal more spit and polish. Add some more spice, stir it up and back it goes to the back burner.
Now my rough draft is back again. I look at it with cold, hard eyes and begin the job of adding in those extra ingredients, beating it to a smooth paste, bringing it to the boil and then turning down the heat. It is beginning to look like a book.
And so on through the creative process.

That's just the way I work. If I talk to other writers they couldn't bear the thought of not sticking with the one story from beginning to end and back again until it is absolutely perfect and are faintly aghast at my method. However I think that's the wonderful thing about writers - we are all different.


  1. I get bored with plotting too! It takes all the mystery out of the "relationship" ;)

    I do prefer to edit as I go though. I'll right a bit, edit it, write a bit more, edit it, write a bit more, go back to the very beginning and edit everything and check for inconsistencies etc. I tend to do this in 3 chapter blocks until I've finished the whole book, and then I'll go all the way back to Chapter 1 and edit everything.

  2. I just re-read that. Don't leave comments when you're tired...

    I WRITE a bit... =S

  3. Write with you, sister!

    Goes to show, we are all different and what works for one, won't work for another. We just have to find our own rhythm.

  4. You do quite a bit of Juggling there. :)
    I am a pantser-by-nature, but of late I find that if I know where I am going, the words flow easier. I tend to plot half the book. I work out my conflicts as I struggled with that in my first novel, and then I go for it. By the time I hit the middle, I've added a few chapters in and after a few thousand words I've completely plotted the following chapters up until the end. And it's been the easiest book to write. It's a lot cleaner as I have refined my writing and shorter. Good luck, Alison

  5. One thing I've learned Whitney is that everyone does what works for them and what will work for one person doesn't work for another. While I generally work on one MS at a time, I find by circulating through I find I am dealing with each stage with cold eyes.