Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inside Elana: Writing

Okay, so I've decided to dedicate a few posts in the near future to, well, me. But not really me. But I'm going to let you inside my writing cave so you can see how I write, revise, edit, blog, whatever.

Now, every person's process is different. What works for me will most likely not work for you (I mean, seriously. What I do should only be attempted by professional stunt men). But I think maybe you'll see something I do that you might want to try, or that you do too. Or maybe not. I guess we'll see! (Or maybe you'll just realize that I'm not that special--flawed even--and that if I can write and publish a book, then you can too!)

Up today: Writing.

And by writing, I mean the first draft. The first time you put words on the page. What you need to know about me before we start:
1. I type about 90 - 110 words per minute. (Don't be a hater.)
2. I never turn off my internal editor. (Ever.)

So with those disclaimers out of the way, I'll let you in on how fresh words go down at my house.

Sometimes I have a scene in my head. If so, this is how the writing goes:
1. I open the WiP. I begin typing the scene at the end of the WiP document. Order matters not.

2. I put little brackety things (yes, technical term) before the misplaced scene like: [GUNN AND RAINE FLYING, THURSDAY NIGHT] and at the end like: [END OF CHAPTER? MAYBE ANOTHER SCENE, CHECK CH. LENGTH]. These brackety things get highlighted in yellow. (I will admit that I generally only write out of order for the first 80 - 100 pages. After that, everything is sewn together and I can write linearly to the end. Sometimes. Right now? Not so much.)

3. I write myself some notes for what might come next or before. These are long and rambling and full of ??? and capital letters. Notes get highlighted also, usually in blue.

4. I read over the new words I've just written, allowing the Internal Editor to have her way with them.

5. I save the WiP and go watch TV. If I have a scene in my head, I can crank out about 2000 words in an hour.

Seriously. That's how I do it.

If I don't have a scene in my head, writing goes something like this:
1. I open the WiP. I go back about 15 pages and read. I edit as mercilessly as possible as I go. Sometimes I add words to clarify. I delete. I evaluate word choice. I add/remove details. I let the Internal Editor do whatever she wants.

2. I read the notes I left for myself last time.

3. I pick up the story from where I left off, carefully stitching together the scenes I wrote out of order with neat sutures into the story where they belong. I write myself notes for next time.

4. I read over the new words I've just written, allowing the Internal Editor to have her way with them.

5. I save the WiP and go watch TV.

Ta-da! I embrace my eclectic, out-of-order, messy, note-filled writing style with gusto. Entire drafts have been composed in less than 3 weeks.

How do you write?

71 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Wow! I'm so impressed with how quickly you write. I tend to edit too much as I go so my progress is SLOW. I should probably try to just write it and know I'll come back to it later and move on.

Renae said...

Okay I know you said not to hate, but I am super jealous of how fast you type! I need to learn to just go with the flow like you do. I love how when you don't have a particular idea you go back and read or watch tv.

Thanks for letting us into your head!

Stephanie McGee said...

Sheesh! I write start to finish. My brain cannot handle the out of order method. Sometimes I'll have a scene in mind for later and might jot that down in the outline. But I can't write it before it's time for it to be in the book.

Emily White said...

You can stop and watch tv?? If I do something like that, it's over.

Usually, my first drafts take a while to write. I can type fast (not quite as fast as you. Only about 70 words a minute), but my inner editor likes to cripple me. My NaNo novel, I finished in a week. I'm still in shock about that. But I only did it because I told my inner editor to shut up or die. :P

Candyland said...

And this is why I strive to be your writing clone.

kellyhashway said...

Wow, you just made me feel better about the way I write because it is so similar to what you do. Although instead of watching TV, I play with my daughter or read a book. I also don't highlight in yellow. I put notes in all caps with ** around them. Otherwise, I'm pretty much just like you. My internal editor is forever at work, which is why I never have a true first draft of anything I write.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've been trying out the brackety things for my NaNo novel this time and I love it. I've got things like {add some seasonal elements), (NAME!!!), (need to go back and add scene about...).

I put one scene in blue becuase it's out of order - I've never done that before - scary stuff! :)

Jen Daiker said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who writes fast!

I loved getting in the mind of Elana... what an awesome place to be :)

Magan said...

I like the bracket and highlight suggestions! Usually I just write "BLAH, BLAH BLAH." Then when I go back to edit it's very confusing... I actually started, at Claudia Gray's advice, to make scene goals instead of page goals for the day, but sometimes the scene doesn't fit so this helps out alot!

Thanks again Elana!

Erinn said...

Wow you're very effective at writing. I normally write a sentence or a paragraph and then go check Blogger or twitter or play a round of Plants VERSE Zombies. I always have everything planned out a head of time though, that's really important, otherwise my process is even slower.

Excellent post

Matthew Rush said...

I thought you said you were a pantser? This sounds kind of organized to me.

Personally I plan and outline a bit more than this ahead of time, but once I sit down to write that first draft it's linear, all the way through.

Or at least that's how it went with the one and only novel I have ever written.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for letting us peek at your process.

I use bracket notes (need to do it more though) and piece together bits as well.

Christine Fonseca said...

I'm sorry but the no scene part cracked me up...cause I know our convos during that time! HAHAHAHA!!! Awesome process that really works for you Elana. WOOT

Michelle McLean said...

lol I write any way and any time I can :D Different books seem to work differently - my first book, I wrote mostly in order, second book, totally out of order and by hand, third book, outlined and totally in order....just seems to depend on the WIP :D

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Gosh I can't write like that or I get totally mad at myself and start editing like mad...well not a pretty sight.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Thanks for the insight into your process, Elana. It's always interesting to see how we all differ in the way we approach writing.

I usually write straight through, editing as I go (but only simple edits like fixing typos or rewording a line). Sometimes if I think I've screwed something up, I'll have to go back and fix the screw-up before I can move forward - which is what happened with my NaNo novel yesterday.

Way to go on the 2K an hour. And congrats on your NaNo progress. You rock. I'm running at around 1K an hour - if my hands and my brain are cooperating with my drive.

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, 3 weeks. You are the bomb! I'm a straight line kinda gal, and I don't leave myself notes, just crappy, forged through writing that my internal editor replaces later.

And I write a lot slower. I type a lot slower, too. Maybe 65 . . . which I USED to think wasn't bad. ;)

Claire Dawn said...

I'm like that. But then, in my life, anything that takes too long does not get done :(

Rachel said...

Fun! I type about that fast, too, and I have an outline that I write from BUT it still takes me a lot longer than that because my internal editor is constantly on, and I am squinting into the air picturing every bit of it and then I hem and haw over the right way to approach the scene or tackle that sentence . . . Oh yeah and I have two munkins constantly climbing on me, demanding attention and food and stuff. LOL Thanks for the look into your head

storyqueen said...

Well, I don't bring my internal editor (played by Harrison Ford) out until revision, because he's busy, you know? But I leave notes all over my WIP for myself, otherwise I'd just forget important stuff.

My WIP's are kinda messy.....

lbdiamond said...

Yeah, that sounds pretty familiar. Though my internal editor has gained strength with each successive novel and I've become slower as a result.

My newest task is OUTLINING! *a moment of silence for the loss of panster-me* BUT I'd rather angst over an outline than end up with a whole manuscript sans a viable plot. ;)

Meredith said...

I can't turn off my inner editor, either, even for NaNo! I'm not fast enough to type up 2,000 words in an hour, though! At least I have one step down pat: save the document and go watch T.V. :)

Bish Denham said...

I am a totally linear writer. I will take notes and write a few sentences if a I think of scene I might could use later, but I cannot for the life of me write scenes out of order, it would through me off.

I envy the speed with which you can type.

Summer said...

If I couldn't type fast, it'd take me a year to write one novel. Thank you, childhood IM trend!

I can crank out 2k/hr, but it's pretty rare. I sit there, listening to my music, watching my candles, and start formulating a sentence in my head. It's like working with clay--it has a shape, I form it, and then I take away a little here, add a little there. Maybe stop spinning the wheel (actually type the sentence), then back up and shape the top into a flare.

What a weird analogy. But anyway, each sentence that gets typed has gone through a few revisions in my head first.

I like to reward myself with TV, but since we ditched our cable this year, it's usually something on Hulu or Netflix.

Pam Torres said...

Well, I'm not too ashamed to say *cringing self-consciously* that I am still finding my process. [I hate that I am so honest!] So, reading about other writer's processes is incredibly valuable to me. I really like the notes written right in the WIP. I was using stickies and well, you know how that goes. Yesterday, I found one stuck to the toothpaste.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Wow! You can really pour it out when you're inspired. I like how you have permission to write out of order. That seems quite helpful.

Em-Musing said...

I have no idea.My mind just
up- chucks stuff and I write it down as fast as it comes out. I edit later. My first completed manuscript came at me in waves. I'd be brushing my teeth, a scene would pop up, I'd rush to my computer, and many drooling minutes later, write util my mind went blank. After a year, I realized I had a novel. Now, I at least can see a story coming before I puke.

noellepierce said...

That's similar to my proce...wait. Three WEEKS?! Yeah, not similar at all. I'm the type that has to write linearly because characters change before I get to later scenes. They also dictate how and when I get to said later scenes. I tried to write the black moment early. Once. It was rewritten when my characters finally got to that point. When the story's written, I can go back in and change scenes without a problem, making it fit with what I already have, but not in first draft.

I can also usually crank out about 2k in an hour, if my fingers are cooperating. Oh, and if my characters are happy with where we're going. I'll force myself to write through a block, and sometimes that works out and they surprise me by going in a new direction, other times I reread and it's crap. Music helps me set the mood (thank God for playlists, and sometimes Pandora!)

I love the idea of writing notes in the WIP - I do something like that, sometimes, but usually it's a reminder that there's a continuity issue that needs to be addressed at some point in the future. I remember in one story I had three or four "Aha! I love her!" moments for the hero, and at least two for the heroine. *face palm*

lynnrush said...

Oh my word, I got a little scared reading that. You're right, though, one process for one writer might not word for another. Or scare the heck out of them at least.

LOL. Kidding, but really, writing out of order. . . I've just heard about that recently. Never really considered it or really knew anyone who did that to be honest.

I sure can't. LOL!

How I write?
Well, I get an idea and the next thing could be one of two options:
1. I open a word document and start typing. No planning, no nothing. I've even started without having a name for my main character before.

2. I do a mind map. Put my character's name in the middle in a box, then start drawing lines to circles that hold ideas, thoughts, conflicts, or whatever comes to my mind. And then, I write.

That's about it. I whip out a first draft, then let it sit for a few weeks, then jump into it and start doing some hard core editing/fleshing out.

LOVE it. It's such a rush starting a new story. write on, my friend!

The Golden Eagle said...

I find that writing out of order doesn't really work for me; if I write something ahead of time I end up getting baffled. So my first draft usually progresses chronologically.

You've written entire drafts in 3 weeks?! Wow. I don't hate, but I'm a just a tad jealous! I've been working on one draft for over a year now. :P

L.T. Elliot said...

I don't know why but I love the idea of suturing words together. It makes a lot of sense to me. =]

p.s. Have I ever told you about that song from The Postal Service? The one with the ending I thought you'd like? It's called "Nothing Better." I think you'd like it. =D

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

reading about your pantsing technique freaks me the heck right out.
RIGHT OUT

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I always reread about 10-15 pages back before I start in every night. It helps me refresh my memory so that every scene blends together well. I also use brackets and highlighting. In fact, sometimes, I forget to go back and fix it or remove, and CPs will be like, What the heck is this? Or why is this yellow? We are scarily similar--except you write much faster than me. I usually only crank out maybe 1k-1500 words in an hour. I can't type that fast. And probably can't think that fast...

Colene Murphy said...

Amazing process! Great to know how you do it and can't wait for the rest of these posts!
I have to reread a page or two myself before I can keep going once I put it down. Sometimes I write a scene out of order but mostly I just make a note on the bottom of the document to remember what I wanted to include in a scene that I haven't written yet.

Quinn said...

Great to get a look into your process.

I've never actually timed myself, so I'm not sure how many words I can write a minute. But I know I'm a pretty fast typer (keyboard class in high school to thank for that). Perhaps I could match you in words per minute, but I'd never get to that.

My problem is thinking of the words to type. See, like you, I also have that internal editor. Only my editor doesn't like to let me type a word unless it's right.

Well, that makes it sound like I sit around agonizing over every word and that's not the case. I just like to put a lot of effort into my first draft.

Abby Annis said...

Wow, Elana, you are awesome! A full draft in 3 weeks? So jealous and impressed at the same time. :)

My process is much more aggravating, I mean, drawn out. ;) Great post!

lisanowak said...

Wow, that method would drive my internal perfectionist crazy. She has to have everything smooth and neat before moving on. But it sounds like it's a very effective way for you to write. I think everyone needs to develop his or her own process and not worry about whether it fits the standards set out there by the "experts". I also think we can improve our process by looking at other people's and blending some of their ideas with our own.

Carolyn V. said...

You don't turn off your internal editor? I'm impressed. My IE always slows me down. =)

Paul Greci said...

Thanks for the inside view of your writing process, Elana.

How do I write? It's been a little different with each manuscript, depending partly on how developed the idea was when I started the book and partly on what I experienced as writer, and how that changed me, during the last first draft.

Susan R. Mills said...

I envy you that you can write out of order. I am a linear writer.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

LOL...wow. That really is just brain dumpage on the paper. I guess I can't call what I do that anymore, cause mine involves a whole lot more staring at the screen trying to figure things out and not stopping until I get an entire chapter from beginning to end. I also always put all my notes to myself in a separate file called "brainstorming" which has a whole lot of sub categories inside to keep it organized. So yeah...now I feel like Mr. Monk compared to you. And hm...of the two of us you haz bookdeal so hm...I wonder what that means... ;)

Patti said...

Same as a few others, I have a hard time writing out of order. I'm very linear writer. I love that you go watch TV, too many people in this world say to me "I don't watch TV"

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yes, I hate you! I type 40 wpm with mistakes. 35 wpm with... fewer mistakes.
I'm an outliner, so I rarely write scenes out of order. I will go back and read/edit and then continue from where I stopped.
I also hand write first. I'm much faster writing than typing!

Angela M. said...

I write much the same as you with the exception of writing out of order. I'm one of those linear writers like some of the other commenters. If I have a scene in my head for later in the story, I may write a few key notes, but I don't actually write the scene until I get to it in the story.

I tend to get blocked the most with those "stitching" parts, the transitions between major scenes.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I think it’s great you type up to 110 words per minute. Whatever mine is it slows down during the creation process. Why? Because of my stupid internal editor. I constantly go back and edit the sentence or stop until I have the phrasing just right.

Krispy said...

My fear about writing scenes I want to write is that I'll never write the connecting ones or that it will make those harder because I don't have a "fun" scene to look forward to. BUT I like all the notes you do. That might help keep things interesting, not to mention help you keep things straight. Cool beans!

Jill Kemerer said...

Great! I'm a major plotter, so your process terrifies me, but I'm going to send this link to my panster friends. What useful tips!!
Thanks!

Tina Lynn said...

Wow, no plotting at all? Do you even know where you're going? I write almost exactly like you except instead of notes I use a Digital Voice Recorder and just spill out thoughts until I work out what's coming next. Oh, and three weeks, whoa! I've done 100k in a month, but I was super-inspired. #inawe

Nicole L Rivera said...

I love the TV watching part of your writing. Got to reward yourself, right? Right. When I write, I have a daily word count goal. I find an inspirational place to sit -- usually Starbucks. And, I sit there and write until I've added 2K to my word count. That may take an hour, it may take three hours, but however long it gets done. I'm going to add the watch TV thing in. I like it :) Thanks for sharing. I love the fact that we all do things differently, but we are the same in our goals to write. Share away, you are helping so many people :)

Sara B. Larson said...

Wow, I have such a hard time writing out of order. I have, rarely, but most of the time, I write linearly - start to finish. Great insights into your process. How fun to find out how you work! ;)

LeishaMaw said...

Thanks for sharing your process! I love that TV is part of it. Sometimes I think we forget at writers that we have to spend time away from the computer to let the ideas simmer. Great post.

Amber Argyle said...

"I pick up the story from where I left off, carefully stitching together the scenes I wrote out of order with neat sutures into the story where they belong."

This is sounding a lot like Frankenstein . . .

lol!

Melissa said...

You are a machine (with a heart of gold that is thankfully human!).

Can I borrow your internal editor? When I let mine have her way she gets annoyed and deletes whole chapters.

Nicole Zoltack said...

When I write for nano, I turn off my internal editor. I have to. But because of doing nano for years now, and having learned so much about the process of writing and editing throughout the rest of the year, I can now write much faster and cleaner even when my internal editor is turned off. Editing my nano stories takes much longer than when I write a story outside of November. I think the quickest I wrote a story was two months. But those two months were separated by a long time. It's not the writing that is the long part for me, its the editing and polishing stage that takes forever.

toni said...

I spend most of my time thinking about writing but not nearly enough time actually doing it... oh wells, lol :)

Marieke said...

Wow! Also, interesting. I was just talking about this with one of my crit partners the other day. When I'm working on one of my fantasy WIPs - commercial YA - the words fly off the paper. When I'm working on my literary YA.... they don't. It's not that I lack inspiration or ideas, but it's just a lot, lot, lot slower. In both cases I edit, in both cases I think about every word, but in the case of my literary WIP I think about every word at least thrice. And then some. :)

Mary said...

Wow! I never thought about the brackets and colors. Very cool idea. I will drop a sticky-note reminder into my doc so I know to go back and do something there.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

Great tips! My process is similar to this with brackets and stuff, although I've never finished in 3 weeks!

Splenderosa said...

I'm not even sure I am a writer yet, though I have a very good story I would love to tell. It would be hilarious & partially true. I loved reading this post today. xx's

tahlianewland.com said...

I do pretty much the same, minus the high speed typing.

In addition I have the story plotted out in dot points on my doc, so I can write the scenes as the inspiration hits and know what's coming before and what's coming afterwards, (my best scenes are the ones written out of order)

I can write a first draft in 3 - 4 weeks too. It's the finishing that takes me the time.

I'm reediting at the moment, on my agents advice, and at the finshed-but-look-at-it-again stage, it's taking a lot of time because it really is fine tuning.

You can check out ch 1 (YA fantasy) on my blogsite

tahlianewland.com said...

I do pretty much the same, minus the high speed typing.

In addition I have the story plotted out in dot points on my doc, so I can write the scenes as the inspiration hits and know what's coming before and what's coming afterwards, (my best scenes are the ones written out of order)

I can write a first draft in 3 - 4 weeks too. It's the finishing that takes me the time.

I'm reediting at the moment, on my agents advice, and at the finshed-but-look-at-it-again stage, it's taking a lot of time because it really is fine tuning.

You can check out ch 1 (YA fantasy) on my blogsite

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the glimpse into Elana-Land-of-Writing! When you said your internal editor never shuts off, I thought, me too! I can get her to quiet down but often just let her go. It's easier that way and I can sit back and eat chocolate. Thanks for sharing how it works for you. It's encouraging!
Happy Tuesday,
Karen

Donea Lee said...

Girl! You are a writing MACHINE! 3 weeks? *jaw dropping* I can only wish. :)

The ONLY similarities here are that I do happen to put out-of-order scenes and notes for later at the end of my WiP. I can't say for sure that they are neat and orderly or that I always refer back to them, but they are there. My characters often rebel and do other things than what I had planned...

Ishta Mercurio said...

2000 words in an hour? That's twice my fastest word vomit speed - holy dog doodles!

I wish I could do that.

On another slightly different subject, I like your process. I write out of order at the beginning, too - so far, that's all I've done, although I have started to move things around. I also put notes for later in my WiP - I'll put alternate sentences or paragraphs in italics in parentheses, although I should probably do the thing you do and highlight them. I refer to my outline a LOT, and when I get stuck, I take a shower and the problem works itself out in my head.

Basically, it's also messy and note-filled, and there are a lot of extra words at the beginning because I'll have two or more versions of the same scene, and I don't like to delete them until I know for sure where I want the story to go. (And then I don't delete them, I just cut and paste into a separate file for future reference in case I have to bring parts of them back later.) I have a PB manuscript in front of me right now with parts that are different sizes and in italics and in parentheses and have multiple question marks after them, and it's okay because I can see the whole thing with all the alternatives and it will get there in the end.

I don't turn off my internal editor, but I don't let her make me delete anything. I let her type too, after I have my turn.

Sarah said...

I love hearing about your process! 90-110 words per minute...dude.

My internal editor is, like, permanently attached to my fingers. I cannot write out of order. I've tried (and sometimes I think it would help if I could), but I'm painfully linear when it comes to writing.

Lisa and Laura said...

This is FASCINATING. I think if I tried to write out of order, my head would explode.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Thanks! I did see things I do. And I think I've discovered I need to do more highlighting. :) Thanks.

Andrea Mack said...

It's always interesting to read about another writer's process. I wish I could write so fast!

Christina Lee said...

Sounds kinda familiar (but not that fast--GEEZ)!! I love that you mention TV afterward--haha. If only that were totally true in our mom lives ;--)

Laura Pauling said...

I can see how writing out of order at the start would work as a panster (or as an outliner) because ideas come as we write, so you might as well write with the ideas you have, even if it's not the start. Interesting. I pretty much write linear.

Nichole Giles said...

Yeah, shut up about that three week thing. Cuz. Yeah. That's just unreal. But the messy, bracketed-notes and highlighted stuff system is very similar to mine. So yeah, it works, right?

Rock on with your NaNo wordage!

See Elana's recent blog posts

Recent Posts Widget