I had a spat with my husband yesterday.
When we just started out, we would blast through the first draft as fast as we could and then do extensive rewrites. Now we have some experience, and a curious thing happens: we both know when the scene doesn’t work. Instead of realizing it later, in rewrites, we catch it as we write it.
Unfortunately, we learned to recognize our own crappy writing but not the reason behind it. This creates a rather painful situation, where both of us are growing increasingly displeased with our narrative. But because we are professionals and because we are behind on the deadline, we keep plowing ahead.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”Stephen King
See? Stephen King says we have to work. So we work, writing slower and slower, with greater effort for less words, until one of us finally says, “I hate this.”
Yesterday it was me. “I hate this. It’s boring.”
To which Gordon replied, “Since we’re going there, “who spat in his cornflakes” is a dumb sentence anyway.”
So then we went to fold laundry and trying to fix the broken scene. Looks like we are going to be losing about 2K because we somehow manage to artificially murder the tension by a long car drive that the book doesn’t need.
While we are on the subject of writing process, I saw this tweet on Delilah Dawson’s feed.
So, I present to you wisdom from the two giants of the modern genre literature.
I believe the first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months…Stephen King
Use the doubt, turn it into a positive. The way I’ve done that is to revise and polish one page–ten times, twenty times, whatever–until I am unable to make it flow more smoothly or invest it with more tension. Only then do I move on to the next page.Dean Koontz
I like to get 10 pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words.Stephen King
On good days, I might wind up with five or six pages of finished work; on bad days, a third of a page.Dean Koontz
How long you let your book rest [after first draft]—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks.Stephen King
Because I don’t do a quick first draft and then revise it, I have plenty of time to let the subconscious work; therefore, I am led to surprise after surprise that enriches story and deepens character.Dean Koontz
The moral of this is simple. Write the way that’s comfortable to you and stop worrying about what other people are doing.
Whatever your process is, we love the results. We love you.
Yvonne A says
Very, very true.
Patricia Schlorke says
Well at least you got laundry folded. Small victories!
Ms. Kim says
Mary Beth says
Amen to that. May the weekend be productive and the words flow.
I hate that deadline pressure is ruining your process. 🙁
I want to say something inspirational, but I got nothin’. Sorry. It’ll probably come to me in an hour. Or never. Also possible.
So how’s that laundry coming?
He he he ?
Cynthia E says
One phrase CRYIN ALL NIGHT IN A BUCKET!!! 10 PAGES A DAY????
Lynn L says
I write reviews so there is a certain amount of expediency necessary. I try to write the review as soon as I finish the book if possible. When I go back to edit near the release date, I am sometimes impressed by my own writing, but at other times shake my head saying what was I thinking?
I’m amazed that anyone writes anything ever. It sounds like torture! As an avid reader I’m endlessly grateful to all the writers out there who work so hard and care so much.
Chris T. says
Ms. Kim says
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
My son has a language processing disorder. It’s difficult for him to put words together in a coherent narrative. Until 7th grade, he couldn’t read at all… then his friend found the Erin Hunter series and, every day at lunch, she’d tell him what she’d read the night before. About 1/2 way thru the school year she got mono and was out for 2 months. He was jonesing for his Cat Warrior fix… bad… so he forced himself to learn how to read. Then he found Jim Butcher. Then Patricia Briggs. Then you. Now, as a senior, he reads with about an 85% comprehension rate… enough to read stories not so good with a science text book, but the more he reads, the better his comprehension rate is and the faster he reads. He loves stories. And that he reads at all is pretty close to miraculous.
In high school English, he has to write a “journal entry” 3 times a week. He made a deal with the teachers (something you can do in a very small school) and instead of writing on things like “what I had for lunch yesterday” (not a real topic but close) he told her he wanted to write about werewolves and fairys and vampires and witches. Instead of writing “stupid stuff” he wants to write stories. The teachers said that, as long as he goes back and polishes, fixes grammar and spelling mistakes, they don’t care what he writes about as long as he writes.
Yesterday in the car he was telling me about how he’d had “writers block” lately. So the teacher suggested he go back and polish what he’s written. He said that reading over what he’s written so far this year showed him where the story went “way wrong” and, altho he has to throw out about 2 months worth of work, he thinks he knows how to fix it.
I just read this blog post to him. He said “Next time I’ll try to figure out the story is wrong without wasting so much time trying to make it work.” So good for you for catching it before you’d gone down the wrong path for months 🙂 And thanks for teaching my kid that even professional writers who make a living doing this stuff make mistakes and need to go back and fix them.
I am loving how he managed to learn how to read but i am curious about how he got through school up to that point. Did someone have to read him his textbooks?
I fear that i am coming off as sarcastic but i am genuinely curious.
The people I know with similar issues work around it by strengthening their memory. A friend of mine never bothered with notes; he’d listen to the teacher attentively and ask as many questions as needed to clear up misunderstandings, making sure the information he was memorizing was accurate. I don’t know how other people deal with it, but I tip my hat to them. School was hard enough for me as it was (I’m not strong academically).
As someone who works with kids with language delays, my heart bursts reading this story! I’m always amazed by the determination and strength of kiddos who work as hard as your son. Love his ambition! If only it were contagious and all students would work as hard as he does.
Sara Joy says
And kudos to his little friend who could share her love of a story so effectively!
Special needs mom myself, and I am loving this story hard.
Katherine, he had accommodations and supports. Special ed can be hard to navigate, but it’s a lifesaver for kids like mine.
Patricia Schlorke says
I can relate with the reading comprehension. When I was young, I read at a 6th grade level (when I was in 2nd grade), but my comprehension was a 0. This astounded my teacher and let my parents know about it. My mom would read to me kids books (as well as her textbooks). When my mom and I talked about this when I was older, she told me she automatically assumed I knew what she was reading in the kids books. I looked at her and said “no, I didn’t. I just wanted to be with you.”
What helped? My dad said to read Shakespeare out loud since I like Shakespeare. He told me to pick which play I liked and read it quietly out loud. I said to him that I needed to “see” what I read. My dad re-iterated the reading out loud. My comprehension went up pretty much right away when I started. 🙂
Sara Joy says
That’s fantastic! Thank you for sharing your process, & what a great way to ignite your comprehension!
This is a very cool and inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it.
Introduce him to Andrea Norton. Her books were the first science fiction books I read and she does a brilliant job for young people. Sharon Lee and Stephen Miller Liad series should also appeal. Anne Bishop has a neat twist on werewolfs. ?
Diane D says
Bravo to your son! And I’ll second Joanne re. his friend, too.
Inspirational, thanks for sharing. And thanks to the AL for your hard work and dedication!
You must be so proud of him! Kudos to his friend for sharing her book and sparking his desire to finish the book and starting him down the reading road. Amazing what can be accomplished with motivation. ?
Thank you for the wonderful inspiration! It’s great to hear special needs students push through and overcome their issue. As aids may I recommend Dragon Naturally speaking and Kurtweil 3000 as support tools.
I loved reading this! My brother had significant learning disabilities. How I wish he could have found a way through as your son did. And what a great lesson from the ALs on how to keep moving forward by knowing when to take a step back.
I am big on the change of scene ….try a walk outside to clear the brain…do something fun,write a different chapter…take an odd twist as a fun exercise in writing?
Inspiration as we all know comes in odd places……find a sunset?
Good luck,we your readers look forward to your solution…..verbal hug…..
A walk outside is never wasted.
Writing is a different process for each individual. To do an outline or not, to fix it in first draft or after. You have to do what works for you. Just remember sometimes, as in film making, you can’t fix it in post without starting from the beginning
I would love to know what you are working on. I will read what ever it is, but is it more Hugh, more from the Hidden Legecy series or more from the adventures of Aunt Erra and Julie? Anything it is, I’m drooling waiting for it.
I hope it is Sapphire Flame, since Amazon already has a review for it (and 5 other “reviews” consisting mostly of “How can you review something that’s not written yet?”)
I looked because it was in my recommended list, with a 4 star rating, and I wondered how it got a rating when it was nowhere near its publication date.
FYI, the original “review” was 1 star – “Not my cup of tea”. All 5 of the WTF comments were 5 stars and sounded like the BDH in full cry.
I am still wondering how the first comment was posted. Usually, this far out Amazon notes that “this book has not been released and is not available for comment.” With no live comment button available, how could the first comment be made?
As others have pointed out, the first commenter (Amanda?) has made exactly the same comment hundreds of times concerning books by other authors. A lot of the titles seem to be paranormals, so maybe it’s the genre that’s not her “cup of tea,” rather than the book but she doesn’t say.
Diane D says
She needs to learn to use Goodreads, where she can simply make a “Not my cup of tea” shelf, and stop wasting everybody else’s time with her rating-skewing non-reviews! I have a “Do not read, even if free” GR shelf, for books that sounded good at first, but then I found out something seriously unappealing by reading reviews, etc.
Amazon’s management of the review forum bugs me, though. I’ve seen non-reviews, completely inaccurate reviews, and reviews of the WRONG ITEM, with comments saying so (and saying “I reported this”) going back years, but they’re still there, so I doubt my abuse reports will make any difference. Grrr!
Susan B says
I love your ideas for Goodreads shelves. I have one for “did-not finish” where I park things that I doubt I’ll ever get back to. That way I don’t feel obligated to review them.
I actually also reported her to Amazon for having an irregular pattern of reviewing … That cup of tea person. Ugh.
Your posts on the craft of writing are like “how it’s made, witer’s edition.” I love reading them, even if i’m perfectly happy never using them.
Patricia Schlorke says
It’s okay to write crap. You never know what you find in the crap writing. You may find something…you may find nothing. That’s ok. Whatever you write, it’s fine with me. 🙂
Sara Joy says
Side bar, we the BDH already overruled your designation of what you considered crap when you shared with us your trunk stories 😉 or did you call them your vault stories? Thanks too for sharing your & other writers process for “garbage” days.
I think the two writing styles are cases of global vs. linear thinking or field-sensitive vs. field-independent learning styles. It’s good to be versatile and admirable to stretch your limits, but when push comes to shove, you’ve got to play to your strengths.
You two set a great example for aspiring writers. And it’s very interesting for those of us who don’t aspire to more than reading what you write.
barbie doll says
After reading your writing blogs I am so grateful that anyone writes and that it is not me. I have an extremely fertile imagination but sharing it is beyond me. Thank you that you are willing and able to write well and that you share it with us. Just reread Diamond Fire and as always found something new. I always wonder if all the little things are on purpose or if I just interpret them that way. Whichever. Thank you for the enjoyment I get when I read your work.
People who can write well and quickly amaze me! You can give my daughter a paper assignment and she kind of looks at the keyboard, then bam! It’s done! Me…I work and work for that first paragraph. Once I’ve found it, I can usually go on, but sometimes it takes hours and many rabbit holes of research! I’d love to get my terminal degree, but I look at the papers (and dissertation!) required, and cringe! Not sure I have that many hours left! ?
You guys are such GOOD writers. The story, grammer (yes, sadly I notice), visual images, everything! Whatever it takes…even laundry…the BDH is so glad you write!
Usually your dissertation is usually built out of papers you’ve already written, at least in my part of the woods. (I’m told that in engineering, they don’t even have to be related – clearly I should have gone that route sooner! Or longer. Or something.)
…and then there’s my father’s 37 page dissertation. Clearly an artifact from another time.
Patricia Schlorke says
My dissertation had two main requirements: 1) it had to be biostatistics based; and 2) it had to do with public health (since my doctorate is public health with a concentration in biostatistics). Otherwise, the dissertation could be on anything and not on past papers. My dissertation was on women and coronary heart disease divided into two separate but related papers. It made it a lot easier to write than one huge paper.
The last words, those by Dean Koontz, “… stop worrying about what other people are doing.” That seems the best way to write. Page or time goals are not how our thought processes function. Yeah, we have deadlines, I understand that, but that’s where midnight oil comes in. If you have to use that grease all the time, something is wrong. Fix it.
Folding laundry is a productive way to take a break and clear your minds. It sounds like you’ve found an approach that works for you. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with to fix your scene. I’m sure it will be fun to read!
I’m curious, and I’m only asking because it was the lead-in to this whole post, what was the spat about? It sounds from the rest of this post as if the two of you saw the scene wasn’t working and went to fold laundry and rewrite. I didn’t read any argument. Not even any disagreement.
That was the spat. I told him the scene was boring, he told me my line was stupid, and then I said, “Fine!” and he said, “I’m going to fold laundry,” and then we went to fold laundry and bitched at each other until we both agreed on the best way to fix the scene.
Aha. The “we already know how to have this conversation, might as well hang up laundry” spat. My husband and I do that about once a week. Fortunately, we do laundry more often than that.
Wow, I wish my husband would tell me he was going to fold laundry after a discussion. I’m tempted to place a basket of “to be folded laundry” on the couch next to my husband and start up a discussion on something.
Practical Administrator: Write at your own pace, using the process that works for you. Revise as needed. Don’t let the expectation of others have power over your creativity.
Rabid Fan: Write More, and Write Faster!
Patricia Schlorke says
The second part is the BDH. 😀
Most of us have read the stuff you scrapped for one reason or another. Most of us liked it. I like your ‘rejects’ more than most of what I am trying to, to read right now. It’s a shame you can’t just go outside, get in the pool, lay back, watch the stars, and let all your troubles float away. We will be here when you get back.
Sara Joy says
Tim McCanna says
So, I take it that you don’t blame the other? ? That would be the simplest approach but arguably not the best approach. The only time I ever got the 2000 plus words in a day I was in a full blown manic episode. Lots of words and nearly as many plot holes!
I love the work you two create and hope you keep doing it. My oldest brother is now through all of your books since I got him hooked on you in November…
The best advice I’ve seen on this was in a commentary by Joss Whedon about writing Buffy. Basically, if a scene just isn’t working, find the part you love most and toss THAT because writing around it is probably your problem.
It is surprisingly good advice for any kind of creative endevour: graphic design, gardening, home remodeling, craft projects, etc.
We have to agree to disagree on this one.
Yeah, doesn’t work for me either. But if it works for Joss Whedon, more power to him!
I had 20 pages of thoughts and observations on your process, the other contributing famous writers and more but, after reviewing, rewrites and trashing the crap it came out edited down this: I’m glad it’s you doing the writing and me doing the reading. ??
d LM a says
In the midst of the SLOG the decision was made to Lance that Carbuncle!
Pain is gone now the admissjon has been made.
In your writing process do you always wait for confession before confessing to where you see the … (error)
K D says
That actually explains a lot about Jack Reacher.
LOL, I was thinking the same thing.
Eight years ago, we went to see Larry McMurtry, who wrote Lonesome Dove (and lots of books) and co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. He said, some days the work flows and some days it does not. When it was going well, he learned to stop at a certain word count, because if he did not stop, the next day would not go as well.
I think the moral is especially true for you guys. Writing as a duo creates completely new dynamics compared to people like Koontz or King that work solo.
Comparing your process to other writers is useless and counterproductive, you are awesome just the way you are and the BDH’s devotion is proof.
It would be much easier for me to comment on this with more snippets.
+1. Perhaps even the 2K words they’re throwing away?
I am surprised you folded the laundry together ?. I would have been looking for some space from my husband. My husband and I can do a lot of things together but when we start to get on each other’s nerves we usually just need some space. I am always amazed at what works in other marriages/partnerships.
At least the laundry got folded.
I do some planning using a mindmap but tend to pantser a bit in between. Then if I find I am not sure where to next I brainstorm a number of possibilities. It starts to flow again. Love your books so hope you figure out where to next in the story. Those mind numbing tasks or exercise times allow your subconscious to work on your options and come up with the next step too.
30 Book a Month Reader says
I would like to point out that while I have been disappointed by King and Koontz, I have never – not once – been disappointed in an Andrews book. So…
When I was writing fanfiction, many years ago, I made the colossal mistake of not writing down what was coming to me… it was totally out of context and order, something that would be in the middle of the story, so instead I tried to come up with a beginning and forgot all the details of that pivotal scene… when it was fresh and inspired, it was with dialogue and everything! I really struggled trying to come up with the beginning that would lead to that scene so much, with no success, that I gave up and never ended up writing the story. Conclusion, if I ever get back into writing, to write things as they come and work on connecting things later.
Question… is that what your snippets are, inspired ideas or scenes you are getting along the way? Are they already incorporated in the story, things waiting to be placed in the story, or some of each?
Or are some just fun thoughts not intended to be in the story? I’m sure there may be other options, but that occurred to me after I posted the comment. Do many written things not end up in the story?
I love your books. I am a rabid reader. I’m not a couch potato that watches tv. I’m a rocking chair potato that reads and reads, during lunch, after work, weekends. I read over 100 books a year. I am in the middle of a book that is just boring, with too many sex scenes just for sex scene sake. I’m plodding through because I hate not to finish a book. I’ve put this book down for several days at a time, which is not like me. Reading this book has become a chore. I told myself I needed a break from the boring writing so I grabbed Diamond Fire again to read for the second time. I picked it not only because of the wonderful story line but because of how well written it is. Your writing skills are remarkable. I loved reading it as much or more the second time through. That is also not like me. But your writings skills made it as enjoyable the second time even though I already know the ending.
I am still trying to finish the boring book. Six of my preordered books have uploaded on my kindle. I’m backing up. All because of this one book.
There are bad writers, okay writers, good writers and great writers. I read enough to have read them all. You are great writers. When you recommend a book I definitely check it out. Why, because you are great writers. I pre-order your books. Why, because you are great writers. I visit your website. Why, because are great writers.
The boring book is not one I preordered, but it is an author I’ve read before and know she is a good author. This one is not her best book. However years ago I wouldn’t have found this book so boring. So why now do I find it so boring. Because I’ve spent years reading some great writers.
I just wanted to thank you for that.