By Sarah Raplee and Judith Ashley
One of the first things writers should figure out is the writing process that works best for them.
We aren’t saying don’t take workshops or read books on what works for others, only that it is important to assess whether what works for that author works for you.
An example: Judith attended Cherry Adair’s plotting workshop at the first Emerald City Writer’s Conference she ever attended. Cherry has a fantastic plotting process involving note cards, color-coordinated by character, etc. She pins these cards up on a wall in her office starting with Chapter One. In this way, she can visually see the story progress. Where her characters are in each scene, setting, etc? Cherry is a best-selling author and this process works for her – and it works for many other writers.
However, Judith’s office has two walls of windows and two walls with doors. She doesn’t have a wall to lay out her plot in the same way. In fact, Judith isn’t a plotter. She isn’t even someone who edits what she wrote the day before at the beginning of her next writing session although she did try that early on. (It took her six years to write the first book in her The Sacred Women’s Circle series because it took her that long to figure out what her writing process was!)
Judith is what we call an ‘organic’ writer. She has a beginning and an end in mind and maybe a couple of scenes along the way when she starts out. The story just seems to flow from beginning to end. If she comes to a place where something needs research or doesn’t flow, she highlights the place, makes a note to herself on the manuscript and keeps going. Instead of six years to finish a first draft, it takes her no more than six weeks.
Sarah writes her First Draft in Four Act structure, a storytelling technique that uses specific turning points to track the story line and character arc. A writer using this approach will be more focused in her plotting than an organic writer.
It wasn’t until she was halfway through her second book that Sarah finally realized she has such a strong Internal Editor that she can’t edit AT ALL until she has written the crappy First Draft straight through. Otherwise she’ll never finish the book! Like Judith, Sarah makes notes to herself when she needs to do research, needs to add description or emotion or needs to rework something for no reason she can put her finger on later. These notes keep her Internal Editor leashed.
Part of Sarah’s writing process is that she can write anywhere. She wrote the first draft of her first novel in longhand in a hospital cafeteria while waiting for her husband to pick her up after work. Whether she is at home, in a coffee shop or motel room, or on an airplane, if Sarah has her laptop or paper and pen, the stories keep on coming!
There are as many processes as there are writers. Processes evolve as you try different things and discover what works for you. However, before you publish, you need to have enough self-knowledge to make a reasonable guess as to how long it takes you to write a book—because readers, agents and editors need to know when the next story will be available.
Trust us, you don't want to disappoint them!
Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul. Hunter, the fifth book in the series, will be published in August, 2015.
You can learn more about her books at http://judithashleyromance.com.
Judith blogs about relationships at http://judithashley.blogspot every Monday and fills the first Friday of the month spot at http://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com
Sarah Raplee is the author of half a dozen short stories and the soon-to-be-released paranormal romance Blindsight.
Learn more about Sarah at http://www.sarahraplee.com/ .
Sarah blogs the fourth Tuesday of the month at http://romancingthegenres.blogspot.com/ .