Hey, it’s a new month.  I’m starting a new book.  And I thought it might be an interesting experiment, this time, to blog about my writing process (such as it is) as I go.  I’ll tag them all “How I Write a Book.”

I know many of you who read this blog are writers, and you each have your own process.  I certainly don’t mean to suggest anyone should follow mine!  It’s messy, as you’ll see, and continually evolving.  But there are some people who follow this blog who may be wondering, “Just what it is Tessa’s doing when she should be [returning my phone calls/addressing my Christmas card/making my dinner]?”  This is mainly for them. 🙂

Right now, I’m getting ready to start writing this book.  Which means, I’m wrapping up the work involved in preparing to write the book.  Which brings me to

My Messy Process, Step One:  Thinking.

Lots of thinking.  Lots and lots of thinking.  In the case of this book, my fourth, I’ve been mulling over these characters and their story for at least 8 or 9 months now, since I was in the middle of writing book two.  And beyond Spencer and Amelia (the hero and heroine’s names), I currently have three other couples – wait, four – whose stories are spreading roots in my gray matter.

The thinking part of this process is the longest step, obviously.  It’s also the one most often mistaken by bystanders for daydreaming, inattention, child neglect, etc.  Well, in truth, there’s an element of each of those in it.

I think about the characters while I’m out for a walk, making dinner, washing dishes, taking a shower, and so on.  Becoming a professional writer has actually been some salvation for me, because I am a person who has a hard time turning off her brain.  If I weren’t thinking about character histories and plot tangles, I’d be thinking about something else – something that would probably get me into trouble.  🙂  By nature, I’m inclined to endless rumination, so it’s handy to have this endless supply of mental alfalfa.

The thinking usually starts with a character–in this case, it was the hero.  And then I decide on his pair–the person who is nothing he wants, but everything he needs.  In the earliest stages, they are very flat characters.  I simply start with a few personality traits that will clash spectacularly at first, but with a bit of time and affection, dovetail nicely.  For example, in this book I began with the idea that I would pair a character who is socially awkward and introverted with one for whom close relationships and hospitality are paramount.

And then the fun begins…I start to imagine all the things they could possibly argue about, all the ways in which they could find themselves at cross-purposes, and what it will take to bring them together in the end.  That’s where plotting comes in.  And I guess I’ll blog about that next time.

9 comments to “A new leaf…a window into my “process””

  1. Darcy Burke
    · October 3rd, 2008 at 11:44 pm · Link

    Wow, so far our processes are freakishly similar (messy and all). I had to laugh at the daydreaming aspect of being a writer. So true! And, like you, I can’t turn my brain off. Going to sleep was once very difficult for me, but now I think about (insert character, plot, whatever here) and soon I’m either scribbling notes or fast asleep. Usually the latter because I’m tired enough that I don’t want to get up and write it down. The thing I hate is not being able to turn it off when I’m busy with another book. Case in point: I’m writing a book now but keep thinking about the next book. Then today I thought of a different project that’s been on the backburner of my brain for the last year or so. See? Can’t. Turn. It. Off.

  2. kelly krysten
    · October 4th, 2008 at 8:52 am · Link

    I don’t think that’s messy, Tessa. It sounds similar to mine but it clearly works for you better.:) I like the thinking portion. In fact, I like every portion that isn’t when I get to a roadblock in the story since I’m a panster and not a plotter(Did that sentence make any sense?).

    Darcy, I know what you mean about not being able to turn it off. And I also typically fall asleep rather than writing down the ideas that flud me right before sleep.

  3. kelly krysten
    · October 4th, 2008 at 8:53 am · Link

    Oh yeah! I forgot to say: Thanks for sharing, Tessa! I love hearing about author’s processes.

  4. Elyssa
    · October 4th, 2008 at 11:04 am · Link

    I love hearing about author’s processes, too, so thanks for sharing. And I think this is a great idea to do as you write book four.

    I wish I could say I was half as organized as you are or even do this sort of plotting but I don’t. I get an idea and then start muddling my way through it, all the while cursing and enjoying my very fly-by-the-seats process.

  5. Tessa
    · October 4th, 2008 at 12:19 pm · Link

    Darcy, I know exactly what you mean about falling asleep! I used to have to fall asleep with the Home Shopping channel on, because I needed meaningless chatter to distract me from my own thinking, or I’d never go to sleep. Now I don’t have that problem anymore. Maybe becoming a parent had something to do with it, though. 🙂

    Kelly, I haven’t gotten to the messy part yet, LOL. But I love hearing about other authors’ processes, too. It’s always reassuring to know that there’s no one “right” way. You just have to find what works for you.

    Ely, pantsing seems to work just dandy for you! I wish I could say the same. I feel positively ill when I don’t have a clear vision of The End. That’s not to say it doesn’t change as I go — it always does — but I need to visualize those goalposts in order to give it my best kick.

    Hey, it’s football Saturday!

  6. terrio
    · October 6th, 2008 at 6:39 am · Link

    Thanks for talking process and I’m looking forward to following the progress of this book. I haven’t reached a point where I can develop a process, so I don’t know what mine is. I’m a plantser so I have general ideas of where things are going, but the entire trip is never mapped out clearly.

    For a while there, I had that “can’t turn it off” problem as well. But now I’m so exhausted, I can’t seem to turn it back on. LOL! But I will. Hopefully. Maybe. No, I’m sure. Sort of…

  7. Janga
    · October 6th, 2008 at 7:34 am · Link

    I’m convinced that there is a correlation between personality type and writing process, so I am always fascinated when writers talk about how they write.

    For me, everything starts with the characters. I have to have full character bios before I start writing. In my only complte mss the heroine came first, but I knew nothing about her except that she was sad. It took the hero to tell me who she was and to give me my plot. I think he was my equivalent of what some French poet termed “the given line.” 🙂

  8. Keira Soleore
    · October 7th, 2008 at 9:37 am · Link

    Tessa, it’s fun to see this look into your mind. For me the excitement of starting a new story (yesterday! yippee!!) is that I get to pull out all my research books and choose china patterns, furniture, dress designs….oooh, all these shiny, new details. 🙂

  9. Renee
    · December 30th, 2008 at 8:47 pm · Link

    I know I’m so late to this blog entry, but, here I am. I can’t believe I’m not the only person in the world whose mind doesn’t shut down. Well, unless I’m actively writing, then my mind can rest.

    Must be a writer thing.