Hello, friends. Today in Writing A Book Is Tantamount To An Exorcism, I wanna talk about
whatever comes nonsensically out How I Write.
Many times, you will be asked that very question. “How do you write? What’s your writing process? What’s your deal? What the hell is the matter with you?” people will say, or something along one of those lines, and the best way to answer that is by ignoring the Terrified You being held against their will in a small cage inside your head and power through as though Public Persona You knows what they’re doing. Make very declarative answers. Grand, sweeping and often moral statements that you intend to be broadly applied to writers you’ve never met – because that’s what the listener is going to do with it anyway, why fight it. The important thing is that you never, ever admit that every single book was written differently, and if you weren’t a colossal hoarder of self-records, you would have zero memory how it happened, because you woke up sore and in a stupor, your body beaten and broken, and beside you was a bloodied collection of pages, which you quickly threw at a passerby, thereby making them a CP.
I’ve written blog posts before about The Things I Need To Start Writing, which I’ll just quote here because sending you to a post from 2013 is just jarring (for me, no one’s thinking about you) and wow, life changed since then, I mean not specifically then, but in the time since, and this kind of mental scramble is precisely what I was trying to avoid. Thanks for your help.
[I have redacted references to projects you still know nothing about.]
a) Concept – This is one of the most AHA! moments – or at least, the first.
b) First look – This is either the first line of the story/book or a mental movie of the first scene. This one’s interesting because it’s not tethered to a particular point in the process. Sometimes the first line happens several times. Like in the case of rewriting. The thing is, it has to feel like “the one” every time for me to move forward.
c) Music – Yeeees. This is a big one. Again, this one isn’t set in stone, in terms of when this happens. I do not understand people for whom music is not everything. I do not. [ETA: As I’ve said elsewhere, this is about finding a song/usually instrumental that captures the …aura(?) of the story. The tone, fine.]
d) First query – [ETA: Yeah, this where one tests the stakes and the emotional logic flow, I find.]
e) Title – Man, this is another one that has become sort of paramount. Because titles come quickly to me, when one doesn’t, I’m missing something very important to my process. The title is everything. First of all, I keep a lot of “administrative” documents and I HATE them being titled after the main character, unless of course it’s also the title, which has only ever been the case with Keepsake, and even then, it’s not her given name. [ETA: ….AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA]
I need these things.
So. How much of this is still true.
Well for one thing, I’m 3/4 done with a project that’s still named after the main character, if that tells you anything. So Title, you’re not that important to me anymore. We’ve grown apart. It’s not me, it’s you.
Now writing a follow-up (and I am intentionally not saying sequel, yes, because sometimes it’s just a follow-up, kids, and I’m not sure companion book works for me either, if it does still necessarily chronologically follow the first book), a couple things are different from jump.
(a) Concept is locked in. Woot.
(2) You can get surprisingly far into writing without a Query because (i) you are very familiar with the character, due to having already written some of their story, even if they weren’t the main character in the first book, and (%) your First Look for this story might also have appeared in book 1.
But that still leaves Music, and in a follow-up with a different main character, this is still seriously important to me. Namely so that this character, who lives in the same world and concept, doesn’t sound like the first one.
Can we just talk about the things that are different this time around that I’m gonna unnecessarily declare are my new requirements despite that this is not my first or third or fifth rodeo and I should know better?! Thank you.
(F) First Chapter – this isn’t 100% new, but apparently I didn’t do it in 2013, so here we are. Pretty sure First Look evolved into this because before I was writing this book in earnest, I had three first chapters to choose from – one of which was so far from what I’d thought it was gonna be like that I knew I wasn’t ready to actively write it.
(D) Synopsis – homg, this was a game-changer. Allow me to pause here and say: Don’t come into my comments (where no one comes anymore anyway) telling me about how you’ve always written synopses first. That’s great. Good for you. I did not. But my life has undergone some very bandwidth-gobbling transitions, and I genuinely had my first experience of I’m Pretty Sure I’ll Never Write A Full-Length Novel Again Because Who Can Even Do That, so when I was asked for a partial (which I already had because Ease of Flowing Into Second Book) and a synopsis, it was a blessing. As well as an easy, two step process.
Aaand step two:
And of course, now I’ll swear by it, until it doesn’t happen for a future wip, at which point, My Process will change again, and I will die on whatever hill that is.
Because you see, the way in which book writing is like an exorcism is that whatever gets the demon out is the right way to do it. (I don’t know very much about exorcisms.)
I was gonna talk about this whole Every 15k Make A List Of Important Facts/Themes/Plot Points That Mustn’t Get Abandoned thing I’ve also been doing, but this is long and unwieldy and I’ve lost my devotion to it.