One page at a time: Trust the writing process

Trust the writing process.

Many writers are asked about their writing process. As with most things that take any amount of effort–working, parenting, creating art, running, marriage–no one seems to go about it in the same way. And while I’m sure there are less-productive ways to do it, there are certainly lots of different ways that work well for some people, and don’t work at all for others. 

Take running, for example. My husband and I started running together back when we were dating. It was something we could do together that was healthy, fun and, even better, free! Since we’ve been married, we have run three marathons and a boatload of other races together. They weren’t all perfect. We sometimes annoy each other or struggle to keep up if one of us is having an off day. But in general it’s something we really like to do. However, agreeing on a route around our neighborhood for training runs? Forget it. He’s happy to include laps around the high school track, repeat the same streets, or hit the steep hills. Me, on the other hand, I’m never one for doubling back where we’ve already been. I think running laps is torture. And I’ll take a long slow hill over a steep one any day. But somehow, we both get our training done. 

When it comes to writing, I’m constantly fascinated by the different habits and methods other writers follow. Some of them I absolutely know wouldn’t work for me. Turning off all social media between Monday morning and Friday afternoon to avoid distraction is one particular one that comes to mind! But I’m sure there are others that I could learn from. In the end, I know the way I write isn’t perfect, but it’s my own particular style and, for now, I’m trusting the process. Here’s a tiny, but honest glance into the way I write.

The Writing Process

Do you write every day?

Definitely not! With a full-time day job, kids, pets, a husband, and a list of things to do that never seems to get any shorter, I don’t write nearly as often as I would like to. When my kids were younger and had a more predictable schedule, I was a little better about fitting it in, but it’s definitely slipped more in recent years. I would very much like to make it more of a priority, because I find it very relaxing and therapeutic. 

Do you have writing goals or timelines? 

I have tried, on occasion, to set word count goals, but I don’t find them to be particularly realistic or motivating. I have to be in the right mood to get productive writing done. Forcing myself to work on something when I’m not in the right headspace ends up being a waste of time. In the end, I just get it done when time allows, one page at a time.  

Where is your favorite place to write?

On my couch with my dog curled up beside me. I sit at a desk all day for work, so I like to put my feet up when I’m writing otherwise it feels too much like a task and not a pleasure. (Gratuitiously cute dog picture, for reference!)

Do you outline a story before writing it?

I have tried very hard to be better about outlining, but I find it just doesn’t work for me. I have written two books and started a third. The first two started as a scene I saw very clearly in my head that I had to write down. From there I built a story around that scene–why were the characters there, what brought them to that moment, what did they do next? 

In the case of the second book, which ended up being the book that eventually sold and is being published, I did a loose outline for where I thought I wanted to take the story. But as I started to write it, the book just didn’t go in that direction and I ended up abandoning the outline. For the book I’m working on now, I started with a type of person in a certain situation that I wanted to write about. I know that there are particular things I want to include in that person’s story. But I don’t think you really get to know your characters until you start to give them some room to breathe. For me, that is what helps determine the arc of the story.  

Where do you get ideas for your writing?

It definitely varies. The most obviously place is from the things or people closest to me, and in a roundabout way that was the inspiration for Eleanora. When my kids were very young I thought a lot about their safety and would worry about something bad happening to them. In the book, Eleanora’s 4-year-old son goes missing from his bed in the middle of the night–really a parent’s worst nightmare. So writing about it was a way to exercise those anxieties in a safe space and say “what if the worst were to happen?” 

In other cases, I’ve been inspired to write about things I like to do, like traveling to different countries. Or in the case of the new book I’m working on, I’m writing about a topic that I find particularly interesting to research. 

What is something you now know about the writing process that you didn’t know before?

That you will read your own book MANY times! Between the writing, drafting, and querying, plus all the rounds of editing, a lot of the time you have to dedicate to writing is actually spent re-reading your own words, over and over. And even then, there are new things you will catch every time!