Thursday, April 15, 2010

writing process (with or without caffeine)

I really like both Jim’s and Robin’s posts. I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the idea phase for me could be something funny my son said, something I heard in a song, a news story I read online, a whole scene that comes to me while walking the dog late at night. Most of the time I keep repeating it to myself over and over till I can dash to my computer and furiously type the idea. If it’s a scene of dialogue or paragraphs of backstory, I do allow myself to just type it all out without worrying about revising along the way, like Jim’s method. If I am going on a road trip of a few hours or more, I do keep a small notebook and pen with me in the passenger seat instead of dragging my laptop up there. And of course “you have a deadline for class, think of something quick!” can force ideas.

I would either write late at night when the house is quiet or follow the way of Robin to the local cafe (but if you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I may be distracted by conversations around me, which just spur more ideas!). Like Robin, I usually have several windows open--the document on which I am working, probably an online dictionary, possibly a rhyming dictionary, and some kind of research for whatever I am working on--the kitchen band picture book? I found lists of various instruments online. The Ghoulsbys? I had a list of “spooky” names I found online. While writing kitchen band, I also had my itunes open to listen to three or four songs that were about playing in the kitchen and made lots of sounds for me to try to find words to convey. I might have a window open so I can look on Amazon and see if there are similar books that have been written recently.

Even for picture books, I usually do some kind of outline first--if following the rule of three, what three obstacles or events is my main character going to face? Any funny phrases or words that I will be working in? With whom will my MC be interacting? What sentences or lines of verse will be repeated? What will be the ultimate resolution of the story? Even if I have those things sketched out, I very well might swerve into something else as I am writing.

Then there is the call to check email, of course. Then I edit and revise and move stuff around. Usually after I go home or wake up the next day, I open it up and find more things to tinker with. At some point, I have to say ok, leave as is and bring to group. Group has wonderful ideas for revision, except how to motivate me to actually do it. So I hang onto the comments they jotted down and their verbal feedback that I jotted down and know that at some point I will take a deep breath and pick one of the stories and hunker down. And hunker again and again and again until I end up submitting? Then if anything ever was picked up, oy, the number of revisions! And on a deadline, no less. In our group I think we all have felt comfortable bringing in really rough first versions of stories or chapters. Besides “writing is hard,” I have been known to say “please don’t be too hard, I just wrote this first draft last night.” (Writing is even harder when you are on a pregnancy-induced exile from caffeine.)


  1. Thank goodness when I had babies (last century) we were allowed caffine!

    I love the part where I get to find all the synonyms for "run" and other research. It feels like writing, but it is easier!

  2. Funny Trager.
    I agree with you about the revisions, but lately I have been tackling them up front. There may be hope for you yet.

  3. need to change doctors...mine were OK with some caffeine.

    It's so great that you take inspiration from the things that go on around you daily. BTW: if you want good news stories, you should go to the Miami Herald. Every time I'm down with my folks, there is the craziest stuff in the paper.

  4. We need to all figure out how to motivate each other to revise more. Why don't we just make Monta revise all our first chapters to start! Trager HUNKER DOWN.

  5. JB...too funny. I have enough to handle with my own first chapter. Any more would put me over the edge.