To Everything Turn Turn Turn

This is very important. Lean closely darling. Let me whisper in your conch like ear.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE A BOOK.

No, seriously. Anyone who tells you there is only one way to do it is selling you something, and the least pernicious thing they could be selling you is their method for doing it. Usually they are selling you their moral superiority, which is worse.

What am I talking about? Do I mean that every book is perfect, just as written ™? No. While Ric Locke maintained that all but the least comprehensible of efforts would find buyers in this brave new world, in my case I believe there are good books and bad books. Well, at least there are books I want to read and books you couldn’t pay me enough to.

But there is no right process and wrong process. The process is not the result.

I can’t – though Amanda probably can – remember who in one of the first talks I gave at the Bedford Library Meet the authors night described this romance writer’s process which involved “I get up early in the morning. I do my yoga. I dress in my sexy robe. I light my scented candles. Then I sit in my desk at an east-facing window, and as the sun comes up, I let inspiration fill me, and—“ Whoever this gal was, her process was like mine “I visualize a writer like that and beating the living cr*p out of her, and then I’m inspired.”

Does that mean that romance writer’s process is wrong? No. It just means it makes me want to gag then beat my head against the desk because it feels so good when I stop.

I’m not a joiner, and I’m notoriously suspicious of this sort of airy fairy thing. I don’t do yoga, I iron clothes. (It induces the same sort of blank mind state, after a while.) I don’t light scented candles because they make me sneeze. And writing is my job, not my slightly porno-y obsession, so a sexy nighty is right out. In fact, if I tried to do any of this I’d probably be grumpier than a bear with two heads.

But then I bet you what I write is not what that romance writer writes. NOT EVEN if we were both given the same general story.

Your personality determines what works for you in terms of writing process and – here’s the thing – you need to be ready to change.

But Sarah, you say, why do I need to be ready to change when a process is working for me?

Because writing is this confluence of you as you are at that moment and the book you’re trying to write RIGHT THEN.
What does this mean? It means that sometimes the book you’re trying to write won’t work with the process the last eight books worked with. (And sometimes it will have to be shelved because it won’t work with who you are at the moment. One of the reasons I HATE working from outline sold years ago, is that I’m not that gal anymore. Fortunately that seems to be a thing of the past for me.)

For years my writing process involved an outline so detailed that you could have added dialogue and description and have had a novel. Nowadays… well, #1 son shocked me by saying I was a consummate pantser, and he was sure I knew my plotting very well, since I still have plots.

Am I a consummate pantser? I don’t know. The last two books I wrote only let me see about a chapter ahead, and yet they seem to have worked pretty well plotwise. On the other hand, the current book I’m plotting five scenes ahead at a time, or I can’t write. This is possibly because this is a rewrite, my having finished Noah’s Boy a month ago and realized it wasn’t functional. (And that was a first for me too. I’ve discarded/added as much as 1/3 of a book, but never have had to break it apart completely and insert a plot and withdraw one, and change tow main characters completely and… You get my point. I guess it’s reassuring to be able to see ahead in this case?)

What I do know is that my process has changed completely several times, from careful plotting to almost-pantsing. And at this point I wouldn’t tell anyone that one way is right and one is wrong, because I’ve written books in practically every possible way: character out; plot in; setting out; problem…

So the only thing I can tell you is that whatever you think you know about writing will change. And change again. And the best thing for a long career is to hang loose and go with the flow.

The art might be immutable, but you and the book aren’t. You’re both organic, growing entities. Writing a book is more like parenting a child than a 9-5 job. (Yes, I’m gagging, and yes, I still try to work 9-5.) Grow with it.

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