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Another question

Thanks everyone who answered the question about works-in-progress and the various definitions of what WIP means. After reading all the responses, one in particular seemed to finally allow me to figure out what it was I think these things might have in common.

matociquala said, in response to a question I'd asked, I generally have a number of works in progress, because I find it counterproductive to work straight through on a single project. Generally, I write a few thousand words (between three and ten) of a book, and then stick it aside to ripen while I work on other things. I'm not actually *writing* on multiple books at one time (usually only two, and one of them will take over at some point and push the other one out for a while) but I have a lot of books cooking.

coffeeandink said I also have things I consider in queue but not in progress, because I haven't written any of them, although I may have a sentence or a paragraph in my head. But generally they're unwritten and still accumulating the necessary critical mass.

After thinking about this for a bit, I have a comment, and then a slightly different question.

I need about a year's lead time before I start to break words on a novel. I need it to be sitting in the back of my head, carving out subconscious space in places I haven't begun to consciously think about. I need to think about the things that I can think about, but I realize that I can never completely predict anything with accuracy. I need to let these things settle and sink roots.

But I don't need to do that during writing time. The writing of the novel is a different process; the two aren't the same.

If, however, I start something without the lead-time, I find it much, much harder going. In fact, hard enough that I generally probably acquire a year's worth of lead time in the cracks between the stalling and pauses. I've tried this; it's why I know this about the way I work. My editor knows this and understands it, so between us, we always know which book I'll be writing after I've finished the one that's due.

Keeping this in mind, how many of you can sit down at start writing something right away? How many of you who have many different projects on the go, and who shift between them when one stalls, started those projects without the subconscious lead-in that I have to take? I'm sort of curious because I'm wondering if you're essentially taking that time between multiple projects -- if you're sitting back to let the subconscious work on whichever project has stalled, while moving onto one that has had that backburner time.

Montreal, next post.


Nov. 17th, 2004 07:23 am (UTC)
My process is . . . a bit different, I think. I take 4 months to "build" my plots from a 3 sentence paragraph gradually up to a full rough draft. I sort of developed it when writing from word the first to word the last failed and failed again and failed yet again. (why it took 3 or 4 tries for me to realize it was the process and not the story idea that wasn't working, i have no idea - slow on the uptake I suppose). The full blown process goes something like this:

» 3 sentence paragraph - very basic, resolution not needed
» 5 sentence paragraph - resolution included
» fill out a plotting form with the main plot, any side plots, the character plots, character interactions, and where the characters end up
» plotting outline using the plotting form
» synopsis narrative that turns outline into a present tense synopsis
» expanded narrative that takes synopsis and expands it and turns it into whatever tense i'm using for the book
» notes draft expands again and turns it into a mix of notes and scenes to help fill out the details
» a building draft expands on the notes draft and sketches the scenes out even more
» the rough draft where I actually write the story and remove any remaining notes

Now that I have a handle on my process, I have to admit that I'm working out which steps I absolutely must have, so steps are getting dropped and picked back up as I try to figure out what I need to get to the end. So far, the last 2 drafts before the rough draft have been combined.

I know it sounds like a long process, but it's not really. I can have a completed rough draft in 4 - 6 months doing this (versus the 14 years it took my first book!), and it makes the rough draft incredibly easy. It's the revising that's been slowing me down, but I think a lot of that has to do what I'm reaching for with the particular novels I've been working on. Other projects I have in mind won't be nearly as brain burning for me.

I must sound nuts. :-/
Nov. 17th, 2004 09:34 am (UTC)
Not nuts. Just very knowledgable about your own process.

Nov. 17th, 2004 09:43 am (UTC)
I just wish I'd known I couldn't write linear-intuitive 14 years ago.

Then, again, the novels would probably be way different too - I have a much better handle on writing overall now than I did then.
Nov. 17th, 2004 09:46 am (UTC)
Btw, I should add that this isn't the same for short stories. Because they are short, I can get them down in one sitting, then I spend about a year on revisions, but only because I'm taking a lot of breaks between drafts while I work on the novels. ;)