Monday, September 20, 2010

My Six Stages of Writing

"I see dead people."
Since I write mysteries, this is the beginning of every writing project. I always start with the victim, who seem to appear unannounced and inconveniently in my brain. This arrival starts all the brainstorming - who are they? Why did they die? And I'm off to the races.

"... life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you're gonna get."
This is the story of my first draft - I always think I know where I'm going and I never do. Characters that I thought would be friendly turn out to have nasty sides to their personalities, while others I'd thought were evil turn out to be just misunderstood.

"Fasten your seat-belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
Here's an explanation of my second, third (and countless other) drafts as I add more description, more character depth, more twists and turns to my plot. Actually 'bumpy' is putting it mildly.

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
There is a time when this sums up my attitude towards my WIP. I'm sick of it. Sick of the characters. Sick of the plot. I'm convinced its the worst drivel that ever has been put on a page. This stage isn't pretty.

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory."
Then comes the wonderful stage when I see the finish line just inches ahead of me and I know I'm going to actually complete the project. This feeling almost makes up for the agony of some of the others. Not quite, mind you, but it's close.

"May the force be with you."
The final step is sending that project out into the world and out of my control. It's a scary time, but one I worked hard to achieve. I usually try to pat myself on the back, but instead...

"I see dead people".
Here we go again.


  1. Elspeth - Oh, what a creative way to describe your journey!! I just love those lines!! Thank you :-). And may I please add this one: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I always feel that way when I actually start to write. I'm all excited about the book and ready to tell the story...

  2. Same here. Except I don't see dead people. I see a snippet of a scene. Or a face. I think it must be easier to see the victim first.

  3. Margot; I actually thought of that quote - to describe the relationship between a writer and their protagonist - its certainly the way I feel about mine.

    Carol; I can't imagine starting any other way, but I understand what you mean about seeing a snippet of a scene.

  4. OH man, I love this! It's so true.


  5. I like the "I see dead people" part. :) It always starts with a victim, doesn't it? That's when I start getting excited about the next project.

  6. Haha this is funny! And I loved that movie "I see dead people", plus a book that starts with a dead person is the best kind!

  7. I've written several mystery/suspense books without dead people. There ARE other crimes and Bad Things, after all. In my first book, the dead person didn't turn out to be a murder victim until I was well into the book. In another, I just needed a body to get my heroine mad at the hero. I haven't figured out WHERE I start yet.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  8. Wonderful journey you've built here. :)
    I love that 'here we go again' part, don't you?

  9. What a lovely way to describe your journey!

  10. This is great! (Anything with movie lines is instantly thirty times better!) I can identify with all of the steps in the process, except my "dead people" phase usually comes later in the story, since I don't write mysteries.


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