Friday, November 19, 2021

The Sacred Process

 I almost misspelled the title of this blog, making it "The Scared Process" rather than "The Sacred Process." Actually, one word is as good as another. There have been a series of posts by my beloved Type M blogmates about their writing process. 

The truth is that writing a book is about like raising kids. Anyone who has had more than one quickly learns that what applies to one child doesn't the next. I thought after I wrote my first novel all subsequent books would be really, really easy. Ha!

There has been one constant, however. When I'm doing my best work it's a quota of five pages a day, five days a week. That's for the first draft, not subsequent drafts. The truth is that when I don't stick to that I deliberately let life interfere. 

Life, of course, just interferes naturally, without one bit of encouragement from me. When my kids were little I got up very early in the morning and hoped by some miracle I would get my writing done before they popped out of bed. That didn't happen often. Consequently, I learned to write anytime, any place, and under horrendous circumstances. 

Now I don't feel like I'm under any kind of pressure and it's not good for my productivity. Because I slithered away into historical novels I jeopardized my slot with mystery novels. Nevertheless, I'm in the middle of a new mystery that I feel very passionately about. I have a good idea (I think) for the following book, if I have the guts to write it. But I cannot summon up my old stern inner strictness. I'm prey to all kinds of ill winds: meetings, and socializing, and lazy lunches, and too much reading, and binge TV. 

Five pages a day--not polished--is a fairly wicked, but not excessive output. I've learned that when I stick to the quota, on the days I really, really don't want to write my work is just as good (or bad) as days when  words come easily and ideas merge. I've noticed that when I settle for fewer pages, I write more self-consciously and piddle around. When I push for the five and am semi-desperate to just get them done better ideas come out of nowhere. 

Again, I talking exclusively about first drafts. My first draft is totally linear. I never write scenes out of sequence. The following drafts are a different process altogether. That's a critical and intellectual undertaking. At one time I was a first draft junkie. Now I like straightening out a manuscript the best. 

Strangely, I've never known two authors who approach writing the same way. 

Talented, best-selling author Sandra Dallas, once said in a keynote speech that she "didn't understand the writing process." She said she just knew that it worked.   

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