by Patty Jansen
Great. Another how-to post. The internet is full of them. Judging by the popularity of books like Novel-writing for Dummies and 12 Things Not To Include in Your Novel’s First Chapter, people seem to love being told what to do. As if writing a book is a paint-by-numbers thing that guarantees success once you’ve ticked all the boxes.
Let me describe my novel-writing process.
Stage 1: I write random crap into a file. Anything goes. It doesn’t have to follow the previous scene. I can be a rewrite of the previous scene. As soon as I hit a block, I press control-enter and start a new page. I set myself an arbitrary goal, usually 1000 words a day that I must add to the novel. Usually, I write a lot more than that, but I find that higher limits actually discourage production.
Stage 2: I sort out all these scenes and half-scenes into storyline order. This would be the stage at which I’d write a synopsis, if I needed one. I may end up having several goes and versions of the storyline, but in the end, I’ll have a file that has the scenes more or less in order, albeit sometimes written in the wrong POV character or in the wrong setting.
Stage 3: polish, polish, polish.
It’s chaotic, and in the middle I may not see the wood for the trees. Now, what is so unusual about this method?
Nothing. It’s chaotic. I has a let’s-throw-wet-spaghetti-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks element about it. It’s not particularly efficient, but it’s mine. It cannot be found in any how-to books, but it is how my process has developed in the course of writing many novels, and it works. I’m a pantser at heart, and rigid outlines written prior to the storytelling bore to death. I also recognise that at some stage, you need to bring structure into a novel, and adhere to it, or the novel will forever meander between directions you could possibly take with it. Say after me: there are a thousand different things I could still do with my novel, but does that mean I have to do them? View full article »