posted by Aunty Cindy
Recently I started a delightful email correspondence with a “newbie” fantasy writer. The daughter of one of my former employees, who wanted to ask me some questions about being “a professional writer.” I was thrilled at the chance, and some of my answers to her questions turned out to be as enlightening for me as I hope they were for her. I thought I’d share a few and see if they give you any insight into your own and other writers’ processes.
1)What is the process you use to complete a story?
I'm a very linear writer. I start on page one of Chapter one and I write through to The End. SHEESH! I really hate to think of myself as that inflexible, but when it comes to my first draft, I am. I envy writers who can sit down and write whatever scene occurs to them and then go back and tie them all together (Diana Gabaldon says she does this). Unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever be one of them.
Once I start revising, it's that "whole 'nother story!" I can skip around all over the place, and sometimes I have to. If I change something, like a location or an article, in one chapter then I have to go through and make sure it's consistent every place. I also save hard copies of my critique partners' comments, and I have no problem picking up any of those, going to whatever chapter and reworking based on their suggestions.
2)Do you write every day?
Usually, however, I can't write when I'm on a vacation. Lord knows, I've tried! My CP actually loaned me her Alpha Smart TWICE (both times I was on a cruise) and I never did use the dang thing. I have done revising, critiquing, and contest judging while on vacation. This truly must use another part of the brain, more analytical than creative. As long as I can find a few quiet moments (and they don't even have to be all that quiet) I can read and/or revise.
After the two Alpha Smart episodes, I've pretty much given up on trying to write first draft while traveling. But I always use the opportunity to catch up on my reading. I can't read in a moving car, but have no problem reading on a plane or in the airport.
3)Do you write by hand or type? Why?
Definitely type! My handwriting is so bad that even I can't read it sometimes. Probably the only person who might be able to decipher my chicken scratches is my goddaughter, the pharmacist. I asked her once if they had to take a class on reading doctors' handwriting in pharmacy school. She just laughed.
Plus, it is far easier to delete and cut & paste on the computer than cross out words and write between the lines and in the margins. I'm one of those writers who constantly changes things as I go along. I guess in one respect I'm always revising and rewriting. The computer is perfect for doing that.
4) Are you a character writer or plot writer?
Actually, I think one depends on the other. The plot is going to depend on how the characters act and react to the things that happen to them. And of course, the things that happen deeply influence the characters and how they view themselves and their world.
5) Why do you write?
I guess I'm one of those people who was born a writer, or at least a story teller. I loved books even before I could read them for myself! Once I did learn to read, I devoured every book I could get my hands on, and if I didn't like the way it ended, I made up my own ending. It wasn't a far stretch from there to start writing my own stories. Sharing them wasn't nearly so easy, even though I wanted to.
I've tried "not writing" and even went for several years when I wrote nothing. That was a very unhappy period of my life. Eventually, I discovered I am not a happy person unless I'm doing some kind of writing. And you know the saying, "When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" So as difficult and frustrating as writing can be sometimes, it still beats not writing ALL TO HECK!
So if you are a writer, how do you answer some of these questions? And if you are a reader, what other questions would you like to ask your favorite writer?