There are as many ways to be a writer as there are writers. We come to our process in different ways – some through study and reading, some through discussion with others, and some through trial and error. I’m a product of all three of these methods.
Much like my little window garden, my process is an amalgamation of things in various stages. I will pause here and say that this process works for me, but that doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else. I’ve tried all manner of different ways of being a writer, and what I ultimately discovered is I have to do it Mimi’s way (Mimi is my nickname, though a good number of my friends don’t know me any other way). Mimi’s way amounts to a random garden of things.
I like to work on more than one project at a time. Typically for me, that means three projects at once. That doesn’t mean I’ll start three books at the same time. What I usually do is have one book that is finished, or nearly finished, that I spend a certain amount of time each week on working on revisions and polishing it in preparation for submitting. Right now that book is a young adult novel that is a speculative fiction set about 15 years in the future at the start of the second American Civil War. It is tentatively titled “The Afterward” and it is nearing the end of revisions. I spend a few hours each week (sometimes more), working on the revisions for this book, fine-tuning the story and the details and strengthening it in the anticipation of submitting.
The second book will be the one I’m in the thick of writing. This is my primary project, the most important of the three. It isn’t finished, hasn’t seen a lot of revision yet, and is definitely not ready for submission. At this point, this is the book with the working title “An Evil Heart” that I am writing with my friend and co-writing Jared Anderson. This book is coming down the home stretch as we are into the final quarter of the novel and we will soon need to go back and begin revisions. This book has been an interesting adventure and an emotional challenge, and I will be both relieved and saddened when it is completely finished and ready to submit – but that time hasn’t arrived yet. This book takes the majority of my time right now; many hours in each week. Today, alone, I spent six hours on a chapter that was very difficult to write.
The third part of my process is the book I will work on next or my future project. Again, this will not get as much time as the second example. I don’t want to get distracted and lose focus on my primary project. But I like knowing what is coming up, generating excitement to get started on my next idea. This project also helps me to stay excited and driven on my primary project by giving me reward for meeting the goal of finishing the primary project. I will use this future project as reward for making progress on the other two projects. Because I’m usually quite excited about the new idea, I allow myself to work on character worksheets or to develop the plot of the new book once I have completed tasks on the other two.
The seeds are planted at different times, and so the ideas sprout at different times and at different rates. Eventually, each story will fall into each of the three categories, and eventually they will each be a finished product that goes out into the publishing world in search of a home. It’s not a system that everyone is comfortable with, but it appeals to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is goal, motivation, and reward system that keeps me focused on what I want to achieve.
There are risks, of course. It is easy to spend more time on the future project and less on the other two because you get so excited about the newest story. It is also easy to make excuses about working on one or the other project, or to get so focused on project that the others are ignored. I’m certainly guilty of having done these things. It takes self-discipline and practice to overcome these obstacles. Even then, this system is subject to breakdown if you’re not careful. I still lose sight from time to time of my goals and my personal deadlines. No writing process is perfect, so it’s important to try a number of methods to see what works for you.
I like my system, and like my window garden, I like watching what I’m working on grow and progress. It took time to find the system I could work with and enjoy, but I believe the end product is better as a result.