A lot has changed in my last year of writing. I look at the pre-writing process, the actual writing, and the revision differently than I did a year ago. Last August, I had just finished the first draft of my Indian-inspired fantasy, a standard quest adventure with magic and mayhem abound. I did not plot that story. I did little more than brainstorm before I dove headfirst into writing. When I first started, I wrote maybe 2000 words a week. With school, I didn’t really have time to do more. I wrote without regard to quality. When I graduated, I had a lot more time. I wrote 2000 words a day. 3000 words a day. Even 6000 words a day. Still not concerned with quality. So when I finished, revision was a daunting task. I went through several revision drafts. My beta readers responded with meh to good feedback. Undaunted, I started querying. No responses. Not a one. So I started revising again. And again. I reworked the plot. I changed the entire story. I rewrote the first half… and quit. I spent too long working on that novel. Fourteen months! When I started my steampunk project, I knew I wanted to do it differently.
And I did. I plotted heavily. I developed my characters. I brainstormed every free minute of the day. Then, I wrote. I revised as I went, starting out writing less than 1000 words a day, but ended the novel writing 3500 words a day. I was very concerned with quality. And all that extra legwork in the beginning, the plotting, the character sketches, the über-brainstorming, it paid off. My beta-readers so far have loved the story. I continue to get excellent feedback from all of them. When I’ve gotten the last of their responses, I’ll do one pass of my manuscript. One major revision. And then, I’ll be done. No eight revisions. No rewrite. No burning out on the story. I will have completed the novel, revisions and all, in six months (not fourteen). I’d say that my new method worked a lot better.
Now I’m starting a new story. I’m in the brainstorming stage. I filled out character sketches for the main characters (for the character worksheet I use, visit here), and while doing that, scenes started popping into my head. I built the characters so that certain traits conflict with one another, things to create tension between them. Now that the characters are alive in my mind, lines of dialogue, plot points, visual scenes, and character exchanges appear to me, nearly fully formed. I haven’t written anything down yet. I’ve learned that good ideas stay with me. The bad ones, I forget. Some of the ideas will burrow into my subconscious, only to be remembered while I’m writing or plotting. That’s fine with me. This stage of the pre-writing process was the most important while writing my steampunk novel. I waited and listened, and the story told itself. I hope to have the same thing happen with this fantasy novel. Already it has changed from a light-hearted, childish fairytale to a more serious, grown-up fairytale, full of political intrigue, deception, and less-than-ideal romances. I’m extremely excited to start writing, but I still have a long way to go before I can write Once upon a time…
So, I’ve gone from full-on panster to heavy plotter in the last year. I’ve learned how to characterize effectively. I’ve learned how to craft effective scenes, full of conflict and change. I’ve learned that all that plotting and organization up front saves me a lot of time after the novel’s finished. I’ve also learned to be confident in my writing. Before, I was always unsure, never certain that what I had written was any good. Now I know. I write confidently. I believe in my own ability, and it only makes my writing stronger.
What have you learned writing-wise in the past year? How has your process changed between projects?