Tuesday, April 26, 2011


"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties."

- Gail Sheehy

My cheek is dotted with a line of blemishes. Why, you ask? Because I spent most of Saturday morning, when I wasn’t typing, with a thumb against my cheek (pondering pose). Writer’s hazard, but totally worth it. That’s because:



(It’s hovering around 65k)

Recap: I’ve done this manuscript slower than ever. After conceiving of the idea last spring, wrote a chapter or two. I spent the summer editing other work. When I picked it back up in the fall, I didn’t do much because I wrote two short stories. Then came the full-time job.

No time. No energy.

But I made a few pushes.

And when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about my writing. Even though I’m still a panster, I developed the next scenes in my head. Though there were plenty of surprises as I wrote, including whole scenes I didn’t envision.

And for the first time, I gave 3 chapters at a time to a critique buddy so she could give me impressions.

How-to write books will say not to do this. Something about creativity fighting with an inner editor.

I’ll tell you another secret. Each time I sit to write for all pieces, I ALWAYS read what I wrote the previous writing session. (And I fix things. Shhhh!) It’s the best way to remember exactly what I wrote, so I keep the flow and the voice.

The reason I pass along bits at a time to my buddy is because if something isn’t clear and needs fixing, and could potentially create a problem throughout the entire manuscript, why not find out NOW? This 2nd set of eyes early on appears to have made my novel tighter. (Obviously delusional...)

Just the other day on Facebook, someone was beside herself because her critique group told her that her YA manuscript didn’t have a teen voice. I bet it would’ve helped her to know that after chapter 3 instead of at The End.

For every author who writes, there is a different style of writing. There’s no formula. Just because something works for most authors most of the time, doesn’t mean it works for me. Or you.

Guidelines are just that. Guidelines.

Write 1k words everyday. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

(Fail. Fail.)

There are mechanics of writing, and we’ve gotta know that. There’s grammar, plotting, show and not tell. But this is a creative endeavor we’re doing here. Voice, characterization, dialogue - we’re going to have our own stamps for this stuff.

Tahereh Mafi wrote an excellent POST explaining her method to writing and revising.

She states:

…before i got a book deal, a lot of people were telling me i was doing it wrong. people would tell me it wasn't possible to write a decent draft in such a short period of time, that it wasn't possible to be a pantser and write a cohesive novel not filled with plot holes and glaring errors. in short, i became convinced i was writing incorrectly. but i soon discovered that there is no incorrect way to write a novel. my efforts to change these things about myself didn't work. they weren't organic to me and what i needed to do. they were forced and unnatural. i had to revert back to what was comfortable for me.

Good thing she believed in herself. She’s 23 years old and will soon publish her debut novel Shatter Me. And, oh yeah, I think there’s already talk of a movie. So….

We can inhale how-to books,

Scour agents and editor blogs,

Read posts of published authors with a microscope -

Truth is, this whole writing endeavor is a lot of reading, writing, revising. And instinct. The more we read, write, and revise, the better our instincts become.

Then we just need faith. And a bit of luck – right place at the right time.

What writing processes work for you?


  1. I've gotten the bulk of two manuscripts done during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I find it incredibly liberating to be told, don't worry, don't think, don't edit, don't stop. Just go, go, go. When you hit a wall, type in the phone book, just keep going. I don't know why I can't do that without the artificial deadline of 30 days for 50,000 words, but thank goodness for NaNoWriMo or I'd have a bunch of nothing, instead of one and a half manuscripts!

  2. Congratulations Theresa on finishing your first draft of Naked Eye!! Well done you!!! Yay!!!!

    I think one is able to learn so much with the technique of novel writing and its deconstruction through how to books, but as for the completion and the process, these are all your own. I so agree!

    I'm repeating my comment over at Jackee's blog cos I think it also answers your question here. Personally, I have to be happy in and with myself and with my environment (physically, mentally and emotionally) to even start a story. Then I need deadlines to force me to write as I know I work well under pressure. But really my heart has to be at peace first. So I guess that's the start to my writing process!

    Take care and YAYAYYAYAYAYAY for you!!!!! :-)

  3. Congratulations!

    I think some things work for a lot of people and somehow become rules, forgetting the fact that other people just work differently.

    Heck, as long as you're writing!

  4. Yeah! Congrats! I am sending two chapters a week to my partner too. It helps to give me perspective. I just can't help it.

  5. Congratulations. You're right everyone writes differently and even every book is different.

  6. Congrats! Finishing a first draft is amazing :)

    I'm jealous that you can go back and read what you wrote to fix it. I can't stand doing that! I end up getting stuck continuously editing.

    btw, I loove the title, 'Naked Eye' :)

  7. Sooo happy for you! I know you've been wanting to finish this one for awhile and then life got in the way.

    I love sharing snippets before the book is complete, but I find that I lose my juice for it if I do. What's your secret to keep with it?

    Huge congrats hugs!

  8. Congratulations!
    I try not to dwell on habits or rules so much as I've discovered I keep trying new things with each wip. The one thing that's constant though is that I absolutely can not talk about a project until I know the end and have written at least the roughest of rough drafts. I've got to develop the first stages all on my own, with no research or feedback of any kind, otherwise it's ruined.

  9. Congratulations on your draft. That's huge!

    We all work differently. I'm glad you've found what works for you. The only wrong way to write is a way that blocks you. The only right way to write is a way that helps you.

  10. Big Congrats, T. What a big to-do that truly is!!

    I think the main concept to anything you feel... follow your own heart. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  11. @ Judy, NaNo intimidates me, but it's a motivator for you. Proves how different we all are! The good thing about NaNo is then you have many more weeks to edit.

    "...a bunch of nothing." That made me laugh!

    @ Old Kitty, thanks for letting me know Jackee put up a post. I hadn't seen it yet. I'm with you on the first part of your writing process, I need to be in the zone!

    @ Sarah, yes, that's it. There are no rules, just like the name of Jane Friedman's blog on my sidebar. After learning a few basics we all have to find our own way.

    @ J.L. Jackson, it's nice to know I'm not alone in needing feedback. Even though I haven't started editing yet, this manuscript feels all the more better for the feedback.

    @ Holly, good point. I think I've used at least a few different writing processes for my 6 manuscripts.

    @ Juliana, I've heard about the stuck-in-editing syndrome. It's good you know to just concentrate on getting out that draft.

    I'm glad you like the title.

    @ Jackee, it took so long, I was beginning to think I'd lost my mojo.

    This time, I only sent the chapters a few at a time to one person. I didn't tell her what the book would be about or where it was going. This way she could read it like a regular reader, except for fixing some obvious errors. Then she'd send the chapters back with track changes suggestions. The best part was letting me know what didn't make sense, what she found funny, romantic, and so on. I'd go back, make the changes that fit well with me, and move on.

    @ Deniz, I've noticed people keep their work under wraps. I used to be like that until I began blogging. Now I blab about my WIPs too much!

    @ Liz, sage advice you gave me:

    "The only wrong way to write is a way that blocks you. The only right way to write is a way that helps you."

    I'll remember that!

  12. I think we all need to find our own groove...what works for each individual.

    Congratulations Theresa on finishing Naked Eye. Thrilled for you.

  13. Congrats on getting the draft finished!!

  14. Congratulations on the draft!

    You do what works for you. That's it really. How wonderful for that very young woman, Tahereh. Hooray for her to believe in herself. That's what we all must do for OUR selves!

    Hope you're having a wonderful week.
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  15. Thank you for the wonderful post today Theresa. I agree with you in that the Facebook author could have done much better to know her book didn't have voice in chapter 3 instead of at the end. I like your method.

  16. Congrats on finishing that first draft.

    I totally agree with your post here. You can take all the advice you want, but you have to do what's right for you. There is no one way to write a novel - that's something we all need to remember.

  17. Congrats! That's awesome you finished. And thanks for sharing your process. I think for everyone it's different. I'm trying the outline approach for my next manuscript to try it. After I finish my revisions to strengthen my voice in my first one.

  18. omg omg omg! That is so exciting!!! Congratulations! And I do the same thing. I have to reread (and fix) what I wrote the last time every time I sit to write again. And like you and T, I never knew that was wrong, so now that I hear it is, am I gonna change? No!

    All your reasons are very good reasons not to change, also. :o)

    So very cool! And best of luck in your next steps~

  19. Love this post. It's so easy while we're learning this craft to give ourselves over to how other people are doing things. But just as our stories are different so are the paths we take to create them.

  20. Woo hoo! Congratulations on finishing. You're ahead of many writers out there!
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  21. Huge CONGRATS on finishing your draft! Early on, I heard an author say, "There are as many ways to write as there are writers."

    Along my writing journey, I've kept that in mind!

  22. Congrats Theresa, that is terrific, wishing you all the luck with it.
    You and Niamh finishing your ms has made me motivated to get my own novel going again, see, this blogging does work.

  23. Congrats on finishing the draft! That's awesome.

    I've tried writing a certain number of words a day but it doesn't work for me personally. I write in bursts, then take time off and think about things.

  24. Yeah! Congratulations on finishing the draft! I am happy for you!

  25. Go you! Way to finish!

    I'm of a mind that there is no one right way to write. Each of us goes about this in our own way, so it's pretty hard for someone else to say you're doing it wrong. I read somewhere to go back and edit the last scene you wrote before you start the next. I read somewhere else to never edit as you go. Feh. Do what works for you and :raspberries: for them. =op

  26. I'm such a plotter, I'm sure I'm one of those who would have a ms filled with plot holes if I tried to make it up as I went along. In fact, I have a problem with plot holes even when I'm following my outline! I totally agree, we all have to find what works for us, we can't try to confine ourselves to someone else's method.

    Congrats on finishing your draft!

  27. Congrats on finishing, that's fantastic!

    I'm with you and Tahereh - I edit as I go, and show the first few chapters to someone to check I'm heading in the right direction - as you say, better to know early on if there's a big problem, rather than after you've wasted a year on it.

  28. @ Jules, thanks! I like you put it, follow your own heart.

    @ Ann, thanks. There are so many things we have to do the same in life. There's not much wiggle room. Why make writing like that, right?

    @ Connie, thank you!

    @ Ann B., yes, we all must believe in ourselves. Hope you're having a wonderful week too.

    @ Michael, thanks. I'm going to use my method the next time I write a rough draft.

    @ Thanks, Jaydee. It's amazing how many methods of manuscript writing, critiquing, and revising there are.

    @ Natalie, I know Elana Johnson was a panster, but tried outlining for her last manuscript. Good luck!

    @ LTM, glad to hear from someone who also uses that method. It's interesting to read all the different ways writers craft their drafts.

    @ Donna, spoken like a writer:

    "...just as our stories are different so are the paths we take to create them."

    Thanks for commenting!

  29. @ Raquel, now to revise, receive critique, revise, repeat (countless times, query, and land an agent and book deal. As my MC says, "Piece of tiramasu."

    @ Wub2Write, there are as many different ways to write as there are writers! And no 2 stories are the same.

    @ Brigid, if it's the manuscript I think it is, I hope you do it. I'm happy for Niamh.

    @ LR, I tried a measly 500 words a day, but couldn't do it. But I can write 5k in a day if I'm in the right frame of mind!

    @ Choices, thanks! Smiles back!

    @ B.E. Sanderson, conflicting advice shows how arbitrary telling people how to write is. People have opinions, but we do have to write in the way that's best for us!

    @ Susan, funny because I couldn't imagine plotting? My book finds me. Plot holes happen to all of us! The one advice that is universal, have other eyes on our manuscripts. Let them find the plot holes.

    @ Girl Friday, I actually feel like that about my other manuscript but for different reasons. Sometimes your instinct tells you something isn't working, but you keep going.

    @ Karen, thank you! I'm excited.

  30. Everybody's different. Totally agree. Write from the heart. Always.

  31. Hi Theresa .. that's wonderful news .. and it is keeping on .. seeing it in your mind's eye - yet getting to that finishing chapter .. well done - enjoy this achievement .. cheers Hilary

  32. Nice work, Theresa! 65K is a good word count.

  33. CONGRADS, girlfriend. You did it. Celebrate. Please. Faith, I'm there. :0)

    I think if I was that writer, I'd seriously find a new crit group. They should have told her that much, much earlier.

    And guidelines are just that, you're right. But when I started writing, I thought I had to follow every authors advice. And I was SO confused. *shakes head*

  34. Congrats on finishing! I'm with you. Pantsers work very hard on their novels ALL THE TIME, not just when they're sitting in front of the computer.

    I just spoke about this on Saturday, and that I felt the same as Taherah. That I was doing it wrong. And I let that fear paralyze me for a long time. But not anymore!

  35. HUGE congratulations on finishing your draft. That is a major accomplishment. You're so right about the writing process...we each have our own way.

  36. oh congratulations! you must celebrate this milestone! It's always such a great feeling to finish a draft!

  37. I love this post, Theresa, really, really love it.

    I confess, I go back, reread, and change as I go too (I won't tell anybody you do it if you don't tell them I do too :~)

    Fantastic post.

  38. @ Liz, write from the heart. What a great way to put it.

    @ Hilary, thank you. It's such a relief. I'm no longer possessed with my WIP!

    @ Jonathan, thanks. We'll see if I go up or down. Probably a little higher because I've always written too spare before. Maybe this 3 chapters critiqued at a time fixed that a bit. My longest rough draft before this was 50k.

    @ Robyn, glad you've got the faith. Hope it hears you!

    If the author didn't show it to them earlier, then they couldn't let her know. I didn't ask her for details, but I got the impression she hadn't shown it to her group until she'd finished.

    YA is hard. It's not easy to sound like a teen when you're not. Some of us get it earlier and/or have contact with teens, which helps.

    @ Elana, so true. Being a panster is like being possessed. I had no idea how much I thought about characters and plot for the last year until I finished. I have work to do, but it will be adding or taking from what I've already done. When people talk to me, I don't find myself zoning out because I'm thinking about my book anymore.

    @ Julie, thank you. And why wouldn't we have our own way when each book is unique. Right?

    @ Nutschell, I'm relieved and happy. I'm giving myself a breather before the edits begin in earnest.

    @ February, thank you. Another re-reader! I'll keep our secret.

  39. Schedules, outlines, minimum word counts per day work for me.

    Huge congrats on completing your rough draft! It's a fantastic milestone.

  40. I always reread what I just wrote before writing too. I always outline. I need the structure to know where I'm going, but I pants the scenes. I get the best of both worlds, I think.

  41. Well done Theresa, you must be very proud and relieved! :)

  42. 1,000k a day??? And 8 glasses of water? Ouf. I've got to get back on track! Happy you finished your MS! It's such a relief. And I don't think there is a problem giving your MS to a friend---if that friend provides honest, no-holds-barred feedback...

  43. @ Lynda, thanks for the congrats. It's interesting to read what works for each person.

    @ Lydia, it does sound like you're a plotter with panster tendencies. I bet each writer's outlines run the gamut too, from sparse to detailed.

    @ Niki, I'm so relieved. Now I'd like to get the beginning shiny for the conference I'm attending on 05/13.

    @ Her highness, Samantha Vérant, yeah, I can't even achieve half my writing and liquid requirements!

    Yes, my friends gives me good feedback. It's not all pats on the back.

  44. Fantastic post, as usual, Theresa! I hear you on the blemish thing, ergh.

    Congrats on finishing!

    I think you need to do a bit of trial and error to find what works best for you. Or at least, I did!

    My blog's disappeared so my temporary home is here!

  45. I've been exploring my own writing process and mixing it up a bit.

    My first novel was total pantsing, and while I wrote almost 190,000 words in four months. The whole thing was such a tangled mess that it took me two years to finish revisions and knock it down to 85,000 words.

    Now I'm working with a different model, having the outline in my head first and critiquing as I go.

    Truth is, it's a heck of a lot slower to write. But I wouldn't be surprised if the time it takes isn't any longer than doing it the other way when you add in all those revisions.

    I guess we'll see.

  46. Congrats on finishing your draft! My process seems to change with each manuscript. This time I did a lot of research up front, so by the time I started writing, I knew where I wanted the story to go. Hope it works :)

  47. I do what you do! Every time I sit down to write I read over a few pages from my last writing session (and yes, I correct things too!) and then I carry on. And for exactly the reason you said: it helps me get back into the zone so that the words will flow seamlessly from where they ended off the day before.

    PS. Congrats on finishing the first draft!

  48. Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! Three cheers for you, Theresa. Way to go! :-)

  49. @ Talli, thank you! My blemish issue is clearing up.

    So sorry about your blog. I hope they can retrieve it!

    @ Angela, it probably will be the same amount of time either way. The question will be what way works better for you. Good luck!

    @ Jess, how cool you've tried different methods. Hope it works too!

    @ Rachel, thank you. Before I wrote this post, I wondered if anyone did. Now I know!

    @ Shannon, thanks for the cheers. I'll look for you again during revision blues, querying woes, and rejection nightmares. ; )

  50. I plot my stories before I write them, it helps me to focus my energies and know where I'm going. I like the certainty of steering my story in a direction I want, like I'm God pulling the puppet strings of my creation.


  51. Oh yes, and congratulations on finishing your manuscript!


  52. Congratulations on finishing your first draft!!! That's wonderful news! :)

    I'm sorry I haven't been around for a while... I'm deep in the middle of revisions right now, and although it's been a lot of work, it's been kind of fun too.

    And you're right.. Tahereh is awesome :)...

  53. Congrats on finishing the first draft of your manuscript. I agree with you about the reading, writing, revising and instinct. That's the best advice yet.

  54. @ Jai, thanks. How different that you feel like God pulling the strings. I feel like my characters figure out the story and it's my job to copy it down correctly.

    @ Writing Nut, I've missed you. Glad you came from under the writing revisions mountain. I'm impressed you're so dedicated. I can find plenty of ways to distract myself from revising.

    @ Missed Periods, thanks. Good to know some of my advice works for other people. Maybe I should write a how-to-writing book... maybe not.

  55. Well done on finishing your manuscript! What a fantastic feeling!

  56. Congrats on finishing your draft!

    We all write differently, plotting or pantsing, and at a different pace. We also approach critiques differently. Hey, whatever works and whatever yields the best work possible.

  57. I LOVE this post! You're right; there's a lot of do's and don'ts' out there, as well as 'this way, not that way' and it gets overwhelming.

    I try to just do the best I can. It's all I can do. If it works, great. If not, I'll try something else that closely fits me, but if it still doesn't work, well, at least I tried.

    Congratulations on the finish!

  58. You're so right - the rules are only guidelines. No two writers work the exact same way. Writing is an artistic process, it's unique for each individual.

    Congrats on finishing your rough draft!

  59. @ India, thank you. It is a fantastic feeling!

    @ Medeia, thanks! "...whatever works and whatever yields the best work possible." Agreed!

    @ The Words Crafter, glad to hear from you!

    There are too many do's and don'ts. Like you said, we have to experiment to see what works for us.

    @ Nicole, I wish more how-to authors called them guidelines. Maybe nobody would publish their books. All these rules take some of the artistry out, eh?

    Thank you!

  60. Write the way you want to write--great advice. And I pay attention to my instincts more and more. They've served me well.

  61. @ Cleemckenzie, it's good to know your instincts have served you. I hope they're serving me now!

  62. Congratulations on your draft. That's huge!

    All the best!

  63. @ Nas, thank you! All the best to you too.