As I was doing my self-edits for Book 3, I was really struck by how my writing process has evolved over the last ten years, when I first was getting serious about writing. I wanted to spend a moment to consider these changes, especially since we are about to trip into a new decade.
When I was in my writing program in college, “pantsing” was the most acceptable way to write a story. Most of my classmates dove into a blank computer screen with no plan, no real idea what was going to come out. So I did the same. At most, I carried the seed of an image in my mind. But I often tripped my way through a story, figuring it out as I went along.
When I wrote my very first book (A YA sci-fi/dystopian Frankenstein retelling), I tried to write the same way as I did in college. No real plan, just a seed of an idea and the open blank page before me. My dystopian quickly stalled out at chapter 3, when my main character (in the middle of an apocalypse, mind you) sat to watch the sun set by a burbling brook and ate chocolate chip cookies.
I quickly realized that “pantsing” was not going to work for me.
My solution was to start researching how to plot. I found a method that intrigued me as it dove into how to develop character arcs as well as plot, which was good for a beginner writer. Meanwhile, I learned and learned and learned everything I possibly could about craft. I restarted my Frankenstein book and finished.
Honestly, I don’t think the book was all that bad. I mean, the voice wasn’t great at all. But it wasn’t terrible for a beginner. I even managed to write a dual POV (which is pretty hard for a first-timer).
Fast forward past another project, to when I started writing WHEN PLANETS FALL. I still stuck to my found method, but I started to not need every single step. The process became more intuitive for me. Even after finishing the book, I could tell something wasn’t quite right about it, but I managed to sell it anyway.
After checking with my editor, I realized my gut was right. I still had to do some heavy revising and added 20k. I got better at working in multi-POV and balancing plot and character arcs and felt that first true joy of seeing how a book can become bigger than you intended it. That feeling is like drinking magic.
Book 2 was a mess. I drafted it before Book 1 sold, and basically had to start from scratch because the story was no longer working. But that’s the thing–I could feel that the story wasn’t going to work. I began to learn to trust my intuition. I outlined and plotted far more than I ever had before, but still left room for surprises along the way. I also had more revisions than I ever had before to try to find my way out of the mess. No way was I gonna do that again!
Book 3 I did something completely different. I spent months on an outline. And then I created a skeleton draft. It was 20k when I was done, but I had enough of the story to work out a lot of the problems ahead of time. Most of my moments of intuition came here, as I reworked and reworked the plot on a mini scale.
Drafting was more boring than usual, since I managed to take out the most surprises, but went faster than I ever had before. I still have yet to receive my editor feedback, but so far I feel really good about the draft.
I know that in the future I’ll spend way more time planning and outlining than I have in the past. It works way better for me and allows me to carry more complicated stories with less major overall.
It’s been fascinating to see how I’ve slowly moved from pantsing to planning so much as to have a mini book before I officially draft. Not only that, but I’ve grown in trusting my intuition and to trust my own story.
This wasn’t a process that evolved over night. It’s been 7 completely drafted projects and 2 half-drafted projects, spread over 8 years. (A solid decade if you include college and all those projects).
Who knows how much my craft will evolve in another decade!
How about you? How have you seen your writing evolve over the last decade?
Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if.She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her second novel, WHEN DREAMERS FALL, will be published May 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing.
Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint. Find her online at http://www.abbyjreed.com.