A word about process…

Sometimes my mom will call me up and ask me for a recipe. At times I have it and will give it to her. At times, she has to deal with a bit of karma when I answer, “Well, I do this and put enough of this in to make it whatever, and bake it until it’s done, you know”. My mom has given me that answer plenty of times so it serves her right.

So here’s the thing. The way I cook vs. the way I bake is a lot like the way I write vs. the way I handle the non-writing part of my life.

When I’m baking, I follow a recipe. You have to worry about timing and proportions and things like leavening and consistency A LOT. So if I’m making cake or cookies or breads – anything with yeast, baking powder, baking soda, etc….I follow the recipe. But when I’m cooking a dinner dish – a casserole, something in the crockpot, roast, whatever…I usually don’t follow a recipe. I might sometimes use a guideline if it sounds good, but I often throw stuff together. Last week I thought the recipe for Turkey Meatball Chili needed to be saucier, so instead of 2 tbsp of tomato paste I put in the whole can. If I don’t have a certain veg I’ll throw another in – or add extra. Seasoning numbers? That’s a guideline only. Seriously. I wing it. A LOT.

When I’m not writing, my life is like a recipe. There is a schedule (writing is on it), and there is a list. Things are in a certain place and happen at a certain time. It’s very orderly and it works.

But when I’m writing, my process is like making chili. Or a better analogy – my Kitchen Sink Soup (recipe on my webpage). I start with a base – 2 characters with a goal, motivation and conflict and a happy ending by the last page. But everything else?

You got it. I’m what they call a pantser.

This wasn’t always easy to accept. I tried doing a synopsis ahead of time, or an outline. I tried doing up GMC charts. Tried writing to a three-act structure thinking it would make it easier when I got into trouble. Know what happened? I got into MORE trouble. Finally, finally, I came to accept that you know what? THIS IS MY PROCESS. And it works. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t get a tweak when it’s necessary – I totally think processes evolve with the writer. But I stopped fighting it. I embraced it. After I did that, I wrote faster and with less stress because I LEARNED TO TRUST IT.

Recently a friend was lamenting her word count compared to mine. I told her to stop. She has a certain process and it’s OKAY. She writes fabulous books, so what does it matter if it takes her a little longer, or if she has to have the front end of the book completely solid before moving on? You can’t judge yourself next to someone else’s process. And if yours works, why would you want to? Some people write a dirty draft and go back and do an overhaul. Some people write out of sequence. Some write a methodical word count every day and others strike when the iron’s hot. Some do extensive planning first and others “write into the mist” as Jo Beverley once said.

The key thing is to realize that your process is yours and it’s not right or wrong. It just is. I have learned that in every book there will come a time when a character surprises me. When a piece of dialogue or internal monologue will come out and be so powerful I will probably cry – and I haven’t planned it. That I COULDN’T plan it. That characters will take me in directions I never knew and make the book so much better than what I could have outlined. That is where the magic of my stories comes from. I know it will happen because it always does.

So if you’re a writer reading this – trust your process. Claim it, love it, embrace it. And I promise – things will be so much better when you decide to work WITH it rather than against it.

And if you’re a reader, you just got a glimpse into my rather twisted writer-mind. Meanwhile, in case my first analogy made you hungry, you can check out my recipes on my recipe page at http://www.donnaalward.com/recipecorner.htm

 

 

Website | + posts

Award-winning author Donna Alward has the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. In 2001 she penned her first novel and found herself hooked on writing romance. In 2006 she sold her first manuscript, and now writes heartwarming Romances from her home in Nova Scotia, Canada. Donna loves to hear from readers; you can contact her through her website at www.donnaalward.com or through her publisher.

Twitter: @DonnaAlward

6 thoughts on “A word about process…”

  1. Whatever your process is, you’re fabulous, Donna. I consider myself a pantster, too. Beyond what I have to write to sell a project, I just like to let things happen in a book. But I also have to have my scene perfect before I can go on to the next one. When I get to the end of the book, I’m done. Hey, whatever works.

  2. This is so so so so true, Donna. The longer I write the more variations I see. There is no Right way to Write.
    What works for you is the right process and don’t let anyone tell you different.

  3. What an unusual and good blog, Donna. I’d have to say that I am, too. Sometimes I take it even further and process even my own food — I’m notorious for making my own ketsup, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc. And I LOVE to cook and bake!

    But as far as writing, I’ve written many a book from one scene that just won’t let me go. : ) So, yes, I am, too. 🙂

  4. Thanks all!

    So often we stress about how we “should” be writing rather than accepting our own methods. In some ways it’s like voice – every writer has their own voice and trying to emulate someone else’s doesn’t really work. 🙂

Comments are closed.