Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Learning how *I* write a book

I'm finally diving back into KEEPER book two drafting (these days my writing schedule is all about juggling). Which meant I spent most of yesterday rereading the few chapters I'd already written--before my last deadline interrupted things--trying to get back in "the groove." And I discovered something surprising:

I actually liked them. 

No, that does not mean they were shiny and perfect--I promise you, they weren't. In fact, they need a lot of work. But that's actually what I liked about them--crazy as that may sound. Because what I could really see in those rough chapters was: 

I know what I'm doing this time.

As all of you now know (thanks to my post last week) it took me a while to learn how to write KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES (*coughs* twenty drafts *coughs*). But through that hellish ordeal I learned something important: How to write a book.

More specifically, I learned how *I* write a book.
  • I learned my drafting process. How I need to overwrite and cut back, because that's how I surprise myself with unplanned scenes that add so much to the story. Even though it means I end up throwing away thousands and thousands of words.
  • I learned how to really listen to the characters and trust what they're telling me--even if it totally screws up all my plans. 
  • I learned that I can find a solution to any problem I come across. Sometimes it doesn't come easy, but if I think it through and keep at it I will figure it out. There's ALWAYS an answer.
  • I learned that it's okay to let the early draft be a mess. To keep pushing forward anyway and deal with cleaning it up later, once the whole story is in place
And I could see all of that reflected in my first few chapters. Sure, there were lots of places where the writing needed some polish or trimming, and the characters were already starting to steer me a few places I hadn't planned on going. But... that's my process. And I can see that this time. I can see where the strengths and weaknesses are, what's working and what isn't, and what I need to do. Which is the most important thing I learned throughout those twenty drafts.

I've learned to trust my instincts. Sure, those with a sharper eye than me (*waves to Laura and Liesa*) will ALWAYS catch important things I miss. But... I also know what I'm doing. I know the process I need to go through to write MY books. And as long as I know that, I can do it. 

Which is probably the best piece of advice I can give any writer. Figure out how YOU write. Sure, craft books and other writers can give you pointers. But in the end, that can only tell you how THEY write. You need to figure out how YOU write. Try different things. Figure out what works for you and what doesn't. And once you find your method, stick to it and believe in it. 

That's what I'm doing, anyway. I'm wading back into the muck of book two, believing I'll find my way through if I just keep pushing forward. Here's hoping I'm right! Bring it on Book Two--I am CONQUERING YOU!



  1. I totally agree with this! I think I've finally discovered my process...and it took me a few books to do it. My current WIP is my favorite story by far. I've enjoyed writing it so much! Fingers crossed it's the one!

  2. Here. Here. I'm finally getting to a place of excitement about book 2 again after I decided to chuck my first draft and start over. Now if I can just stop the procrastination eating and turn off my phone, I might get to writing it.

  3. You go, girl! I have no doubt you'll rock them. :-)

  4. EXCELLENT advice! Everyone has their own way. You're so right!
    WTG on your draft. Keep 'em coming!

  5. Yes! I've been trying not to sweat the small stuff in my WIP, and just write toward a first draft. Once that's done, the real work begins for me. So I need to get to work!

    Thanks for sharing your processes, Shan!

  6. yeps! writing is so individual. Learning yourself is as important as learnign any part of the craft.

  7. hi miss shannon! wow! it so cool that you got it figured out how you write a book. for sure you gotta be you. for me i still didnt get it all figured out but the more stuff i learn from my blogger writer friends and outta my writing books the more im finding out how "I" write a book.
    ...hugs from lenny

  8. Sounds like you found out a great big lesson. Congrats to you.

  9. I love this post, especially how you learn to trust yourself. One of the most important things a writer needs to know. :)

  10. Thanks for sharing this. Instead of overwriting, I underwrite. Each draft adds another layer. However you get there, it's good to trust yourself.

  11. This last year has totally been all about this for me. I hope the next time around it's easier like it has been for you.

    Have fun with book two!

  12. LOVE this. I've worked hard on doing just this past year. I think it's different for every writer, and trying to do everything "the right way" completely derails me. Yes, there are certain elements every story needs, but the key is finding your own process.

  13. I'm 17 years old and still figuring out who I am. I have tried writing books a lot of times but always in vain. I relied on online sources to tell me how to write. But after reading your post, I am going to sit back to figure out what MY way is. Thank You.


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