Okay, so this is a topic we’ve touched on before, and unless you’re really new here, you already know that I am the Pantsiest Panster Who Ever Pantsed™.
Since my process hasn’t really changed, and in an attempt not to rehash previous posts, I thought I’d lay out my process with my latest release, Rewritten, Book 7 in the Bound series that I share with Jess Jarman.
Despite the fact that my non-writing workload has been nuts this year, not to mention the whole cover identity problem where we learned that I am, in fact, the literal worst, the book itself came together fairly easily, and in my usual Pantsiest Panster Who Ever Pantsed™ way.
As always, the first step was getting a line of dialogue in my head. Well, in this case, it was three lines of dialogue.
“I don’t need a minder. Didn’t ask for you. Don’t want you.”
And I had my usual thought: Who the hell says something like that? The immediate answer was, obviously, an asshole. Probably someone like this, but with a Scottish accent instead of an Irish one. So, you know, an asshole named Angus. A hot asshole named Angus.
The next question is why is this guy such a dick? I realized pretty quickly that it was someone who was experiencing a lot of frustration and and guilt over the poor life choices that led him to whatever emotional hole he’s in.
Then I had to decide who he was saying it to? And why. Normally, it takes me a little longer to figure out a character’s backstory is. But I knew right away what Eliza’s past entailed and exactly what her secrets were and what she had to hide. But I was stuck on the why. Why she was stuck babysitting Angus? What was his damage that he needed a keeper anyway?
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t comb through a ridiculous amount of Aidan Turner photos on Pinterest while trying to answer that question. But, when I saw this picture, I was like, “He’s the super hot George R. R. Martin of Sci-Fi–that’s why!”
(Side note: If you’re my husband or children, and you hear me announce random stuff like this on the regular, you just roll your eyes and say things like: “I hope he writes faster than the actual one.” or “He’d better not sell a TV series before he’s done writing his damn books.” Or, if you’re my daughter, “So…how hot?” Which, I suppose, is proof that most writers don’t live in a vacuum. And inspiration is everywhere. Or something.)
Once I knew that much about Angus, (thanks, Pinterest and fam) I knew why Eliza was there and what she was supposed to be doing and exactly how much he was going to hate it.
This is the part where I wish I could tell you that I plotted like a reasonable person. But I don’t. It’s not for lack of want or trying. It’s just that thinking all the way through a plot doesn’t work for me. It’s just not how my brain is wired.
But this was the point where I sat down and thought seriously about what specifically Angus and Eliza each wanted at this point in their lives, why they wanted it, and why they couldn’t have it. Good old GMC: goals, motivation, and conflict.
Usually, the dialogue that starts a story idea growing in the first place doesn’t end up working into the story until later in the book. For instance, the line that ended up being the impetus for In Bounds :
“Butterscotch chips can’t dance with all that skirt.”
didn’t end up showing up in the story until page 37. So I had to do a lot of working backward to figure out how the hell that conversation would even happen.
Angus’ dialogue was clearly the opening of this story which made it a little weird for me. I like working backward because it feels like I have a better sense of who the characters are when I start the actual story. But, I knew what their GMCs were, I knew their story would require shoving them both together whether they wanted it or not, so sci-fi cons and author events seemed perfect.
At this point, I think I had ideas for two or three scenes that occurred later in the book: a scene where she’s pissed at him for invading her privacy, one where he finds out what her previous name was, and one where she has a pretty brutal panic attack. The trick, as usual, was getting there.
I knew the privacy invasion scene would come first, so again it was a case of working backward from there to the line, “I don’t need a minder.” and start writing. Then I sent chapters to my CPs for feedback as I wrote toward the next plot point that I was aware of. I was surprised by how the revelation of Eliza’s former name came out and more surprised by everything that happened afterward. The way I’d originally thought it would go was…not at all how it went. But, I’m pleased with how it turned out.
Writing really went fairly well until I got to the reason for Eliza’s panic attack. Without giving away too much, I was having trouble maneuvering the cause of her panic attack to the venue where it began. And that required multiple (probably whiny) phone calls to my series partner, Jess (who is all things patient, wise, and brilliant).
By this point, I had a few more vague scene-shaped ideas that I knew were coming up, so I continued writing toward those. But there were still tons of surprises for me along the way–like Angus’ friend Tansy, more about his brother (which forced me to go back and change some things earlier in the book), and more about how truly isolated Eliza had been.
There were more (also whiny) phone calls to Jess when the big black moment arrived because I was, again, having trouble getting the cause to the venue. And there was also the borrowing of Jess’ character, Kit (OMGYOUGUYSICAN’TWAITFORHISSTORY!) who was instrumental in the secondary plot resolution.
But that’s basically my process. Get a line of dialogue and some vague distant-y sort of plot points and write until I reach them while occasionally whining at Jess. I think this works for me for a couple of reasons. I’m not really a linear thinker–not with my own writing, anyway–editing is a completely different story. Also, I have Attention Deficit Disorder. No, it’s not a superpower or anything, it’s actually a pain in the ass in a lot of ways, but it’s a gift when it comes to making connections that I never would have seen if I was trying to plot a book prior to writing.
I’ve realized that whether I’m consciously thinking about it or not, I understand and can utilize the tenets of story structure. Even better, now that I worry far less about knowing how everything is supposed to go before I start writing, I allow the story to unfold in ways that surprise me every time. And even if I don’t consciously know what’s going to happen, my subconscious apparently does because as I get to the last third or so of any story, I realize that I’ve laid the groundwork for various events earlier in the book without even realizing it. I love it when I see those connections pop up and I figure out how to use them. Pretty sure that’s an ADD thing. But trusting the story to unfold in the way it’s meant to, and trusting myself to get it there, has been huge for me as a writer.
I know that probably sounds super crunchy granola, but that’s the process that works for me. Anyone else write like this? Be sure to check out Torrance and Kris‘ processes, too!
If you’d like to read Rewritten, that would be awesome! You can find it at these fine places.
(excerpt) Amazon * B&N * iBooks * Kobo
And if you’d like to read the previous posts on this topic, check out:
My Writing Process in 30ish Steps
How I Create My Characters AKA The Children’s Book Proposal that Tanked: If You Give a Bron a Line of Dialogue