Reader Questions: Process & Pagecount

Lots of process questions, so I’m going to tuck them together into one and answer different aspects of questions people have asked!

Lola & Anne just want straight-up process discussion, which you’d think I’d have covered with the posts for the last couple of weeks, but you’d be wrooooong. :)

Then Kat Bonson follows up with How does your writing process work (e.g. do you write specific # of pages a day or is it a hit & miss kind of thing)? How does your agent/editor fit into your process?

I have a pretty standard writing process, which is not necessarily one that I’m always pleased with. It generally looks like “write 30% of the book, hit a wall, go back, fix the things that are wrong, write up to about 70%, hit another wall, go back, fix the things that are wrong, complete the book, fix the things that are wrong…”

It does not matter if the book is 60,000 words or 175,000 words: those are the benchmarks regardless of word count.

What this gets me is a pretty clean first draft, or what I call first draft (despite what the folders in my writing directory may say)–the thing I send to my editor, anyway, because by the time I finally get to the end I’ve usually fixed most of what I can fix without outside interference.

Occasionally there is a massive, massive rewrite called for by editorial, and that begets a whole different kind of process which I will write about soon if I remember. But we’ll stick with non-traumatizing books for now. :)

Typically I write books in order. Chronologically. More recently, one of the ways I start to know I’m really coming near to the end of the book is that I find myself wanting to skip ahead to write the end. Generally I go right ahead and let myself do that, because it’s much more agonizing to wait than it is to just get it out of the way, and sometimes it informs me about things that have to happen between where I am in the story and where my subconscious is telling me it’s going to end up.

Probably the first time I did that skip-ahead thing was with SPIRIT DANCES, the 6th book of the Walker Papers, for which I wrote the final chapter immediately after writing, er, COYOTE DREAMS, the 3rd book of the Walker Papers. Then I sent that chapter to my editor as part of my proposal for books 4-6. You think *you* guys had a long wait for that scene, holy carp, my poor editor read it YEARS in advance and KNEW IT WAS COMING but had to wait through the *five other books* I did for her before she got to read the whole story! :)

(Incidentally, aside from one direct-to-the-reader comment from Joanne, the final chapter of SPIRIT DANCES is actually almost identical to the one published.)

The last time I did the skipping around was with SHAMAN RISES, the final book of the Walker Papers, which I wrote–by my standards–hugely out of order…but as my husband pointed out, it is The End. It’s the culmination of over a million words of writing. If I’m inclined to write the end out of order, it kind of makes sense that I wrote that whole *book* out of order.

I don’t know yet if the intensive synopsizing I talked about last week will affect the out-of-order ending (probably not, as I skipped ahead and wrote the end of STONE’S THROE too, and I had a really solid synopsis for that one), but it *does* significantly reduce the 30 & 70% impact walls.

In terms of daily page count, well, my perpetual goal is 1100 words a day, every day. I never do that. The one year I averaged it was the busiest writing year of my life (and I also moved overseas o.O), but it remains my goal. More realistically, if I get the chance to sit down and write at all, I tend to feel like if I don’t get a thousand words it wasn’t much worth sitting down to even try–but it can be really hard to keep the momentum going when I *don’t* get to write every day, so I try (not particularly successfully) not to beat myself up about it too much.

It’s easiest to not beat myself up when I’m starting a book and feeling the characters out and stuff. The thing I’m working on now, it took three days and probably four or five hours to get the first thousand words down, but today I did a bit over 4K in 3 hours or so. Beginnings are slow, but once I get my feet under me I pick up speed. The truth is I like to binge write, and if I can get four or five days of dawn-to-dusk writing in I’ll write 30 or 40K and I’m happy as a clam. I don’t write anything ELSE for weeks after that, but it’s great while it lasts.

Probably 95% of my agent’s input is “work on that, I think it’ll sell” with the occasional “I didn’t like this bit,” which then causes me to go 1. NO YOU ARE A FOOL THIS IS HOW IT MUST BE, *pause for reflection*, 2. NO I AM A FOOL YOUR WAY IS TOTALLY HOW IT MUST BE, HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT, or alternately 1. holy shit, what a great idea, I’ll incorporate that!

There is no 2 after that one. :)

My editors’ input is actually fairly similar, though with less emphasis on the “work on this, it’ll sell” and more on the insightful commentary that causes me to be embarrassed that I didn’t see it in the first place. I rarely think they’re fools, although I invariably have a OH GOD YOU HATE ME HOW CAN YOU SAY SUCH THINGS ABOUT MY BAAAAAAAAABYYYYYYY reaction before getting over myself.

I’ll talk about the occasions upon which they ask for something more dramatic in a different post. :)


  1. this didn’t crosspost to LJ

    1. I am aware of that, but do not know how to fix it.

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