So, there’s a meme going around among writers where they tag each other and then write a blog post about their writing process. You can see the lovely Maid Marian’s post here. If you’ve done one, drop a comment and I’ll add your link as well. Consider yourself tagged if you read this. No, really, I’m tagging you. No backsies.
I haven’t gotten tagged yet, but it always works out that when I finally do get tagged for stuff like this, I’m too busy or I can’t brain properly to write the post. So I’m going to skip the getting tagged part and just go ahead and write it anyway. Even though nobody asked. :/
My writing process, I think, will make some other writers a little angry. Because I know that a lot of other writers struggle with blurbs, and I tend to write the blurb first.
I figure, if I can write a summary teaser that sells me on the story, the idea is strong enough to hold my interest through a draft.
When I have the nugget of a story idea, I basically pitch myself the story as if I were an editor. I figure, if I can write a summary teaser that sells me on the story, the idea is strong enough to hold my interest through a draft. Conversely, if I can’t make it sound like a story I’d love to read at the beginning, when it’s all fresh and unspoiled by the ugly process of actually wrangling words onto paper, then the concept probably isn’t strong enough to pursue.
So yeah, most of my stories had a blurb before they actually existed. I may tweak it if the final story veers far from my initial pitch. But it also serves as a litmus test while drafting. If I get stuck, sometimes I’ll go back to the blurb and ask myself if I’m still really writing that story I was all excited about.
I do a good bit of pre-writing usually before I draft. Some of it may be research notes, so I have them all in one place and don’t get distracted by Wikipedia. Some of it may be character vignettes or journal entries. It almost always includes a fairly detailed outline. As much as I’d love to be a discovery writer, I really like actually finishing stories. And for anything longer than flash fiction, that requires an outline. This week’s Writing Excuses podcast has a good discussion about pre-writing. You should check it out. (I also do the thing Mary talks about–going for a walk to ideate.)
Then I start drafting. I often make a copy of the outline in a new document, and start drafting above the outline. As I finish each section in prose, I’ll delete that section in the outline. That way, each time I return to the draft, I know what scene I’m supposed to start working on. My drafts can be very fast, depending on how much time I can find to work on it.
I typically do at least one clean-up pass right after I finish the draft. At that point, the whole story is still fresh in my head, and I find that glaring continuity errors are easier to spot. I also fix any obvious grammar gaffes that worked their way in. In a perfect world, for anything longer than a short story I let it rest a week or a month before going back and tackling the structural and line edit passes.
So, that’s basically my process. For your amusement, here’s a “pitching myself” blurb I just wrote for a mystery featuring my psychic and ghost BFFs, Melody and Grace. I’ve never written a straight-up murder mystery, so this one would be a whole new genre. If you were me, would you think this story is grabby enough to write? Why or why not?
If you’d like a writing prompt, come up with a story idea and drop your self-pitch into the comments.
Melody and Gracie road trip to a local renaissance faire so Em can pick up a little extra money filling in for the “gypsy fortune teller.” When they get there, she gets an ominous vision during a reading with one of the “knights” from the joust. He disregards her warning, and then turns up dead two days later. Can a part-time hairdresser/part-time psychic and her ghostly BFF solve the mystery? Or will Em be joining Gracie on the other side sooner than either of them would like?