I have often been asked about my writing process. Having struggled from being an ‘aspiring’ (read clueless about how to get that damn draft done) author to someone with multiple books, I have realized the value that following a process brings in. The journey of putting down ~100,000 words does not happen riding on inspiration alone. This is my attempt to document the steps I take now to get my first drafts done.
Jotting the idea
It is important to put the idea on to paper as soon as it visits your brain. (If you delay, it gets angry and leaves!…Well kidding…or am I?). We get new story ideas from many sources. The act of jotting it down helps us identify the key protagonist, her purpose and her journey – the whole snake and ladder game that her destiny makes her play. On answer these simple questions
- Who is your key protagonist?
- What does she want?
- Who or what stands in her way? (The whole story would obviously be about how she overcomes 3 to achieve 2)
I prefer doing it on paper than on a machine as the whole striking off what is bad, adding new elements and everything else is visible and there for us to revisit anytime. Same can’t be said about typing in on your laptop.
Refining these elements helps the writer firm up the idea and proceed to the next step that is plotting.
When I started out my journey, I indulged in this much forbidden act of ‘pantstering’. Well, there are many writers who have churned out master pieces. But given that this took me short of four years to complete my first novel, I stay away from pantstering. The age old task of plotting the entire novel is a lot less of a burden on my right brain.
Once the crucial questions have been answered, I proceed to jot down the key events that define the protagonist’s journey. The dangers that threaten her or those dear to her, discoveries that she makes while running away or fighting back, her course of action, her pit falls and everything leading to the final conflict. (Sorry for making this seem too action or fantasy, but believe me, the process works just as well for a cosy romance too)
I follow a two level plotting process. A process that has now seen me through four full length novels (and is helping me through my fifth and sixth too). This ensures a focused workout to the creative muscle, avoiding needless loops which could prove fatal to our motivation (which is as such a precious scarce resource).
Sprint, sprint and sprint productively
The initial spurt of enthusiasm should be made use of to cover the early miles and that is like an investment that generates returns all through your journey. It all boils down to showing up regularly and adding a few hundred words (push it to the four digit) to the manuscript. It all boils down to doing this every day. Every. Single. Day. Till you reach the end. That’s how you make your writing sessions productive. Life always comes in the way, coercing you to put away writing for a better day. But that better day is today. It is lost if you ignore it. (Read this post on how I managed to type my 100,000 words within seven months of becoming a mother.)
As the earlier phase of plotting zeroes down on blind spots, we need not write the story linearly and first fill up those chapters where we have clarity. Do not wait for that one hundred percent clarity before you start writing. While travelling on a misty day, you need to advance a mile ahead to know what lies on the next. Writing is just that. Adventurous, uncertain and an immensely fulfilling activity. Only if we can adopt the ‘Process’.
This post is a part of the A-Z blog posts on A-Z writing Series that I am participating along with my writer friends. Visit back in a week to find links to all their P posts.