You can’t force the process…relax and enjoy it.

May 1, 2009 | At Home | 5 comments

This has been my in-between week. I finished a project last week, including revisions. I have three deadlines between now and November, but I’ve carefully charted each project on my handy calendar and am as confident as I can be that I can make all three deadlines. Which is good, because you really do need time between projects AND you (OK I) really need plotting time.

I’ve written a number of books, and plotted even more. For the first four or so, my process changed with each book. I thought I was incapable of having a process. Then I hit on one that seemed to work for me…for a FEW books. This is where I made a mistake. I tried to force myself to stick with that process because, “HEY, it worked before.” Unfortunately, a book can not be forced. If you try to force a book or any element of a book (characters, romantic connection) it reads like that and I can feel it as I’m writing it. This makes me twitchy. It is way far from fun.

I have three projects to plot and I’m taking bits from the processes that worked before and mixing them into something new. So far its working for me.

I started with the characters, not just their goals, motivations and conflict, but their physical appearances. I did not, however, do the fill in the blank thing–this has never worked for me. Instead I trolled the Internet and found pictures. Then beside each I write the book title, the character’s name and what they are (werewolf, vampire, Amazon queen). From there I open Word and just start typing.

I love this part–this is the story telling part. First I write a short blurb describing each of the main characters–like you might find on the back cover of a book. Then I move on to the actual book–a synopsis. I keep this like back cover copy in tone too, but longer and with an ending and plot twists.

I just tell the story, writing it down as I do. It is FUN. And by doing this I keep from slipping into the analytical part of my brain. I think that is why writers freeze while trying to write synopses. They move out of story-teller mode into business-writing mode. A synopsis is your story–just a boiled down version, don’t get so caught up in the facts, let it flow. Then later when it is on the page you can do exactly what you do with your book…revise.

(FYI, the main difference between this process and my last version is that I was charting turning points before I started the writing. That’s what began to feel forced. I have that form on my web site, if you are interested. It might work for you and even if you do the more story-teller oriented version of this, plugging those pieces in afterwards is a a great way to check and make sure you have them all there. Also the pictures. I used to do that, but then I let my A personality take over and I tried to rush things. To write a book you have to be relaxed. That’s my new mantra. :) )


  1. Estella

    Whatever works for you—just keep turning out those good books.

  2. theo

    I am such a pantser, I have a terrible time plotting, doing any kind of synopsis before the book is finished, even coming up with a basic character sketch until I’m through the first two chapters. My characters are still telling me what they’re like at that point. Eventually, I do write down what they are, what they’re like, but not at first. As far as not forcing the process, I so agree with that! And I’ve read books that felt just that way, like the author had to deliver so forced that story out.

    Whatever you do, like Estella says, just keep doing it and turning out great stories :D

  3. Lori

    Thanks, Estella and Theo.
    Theo it is worth trying to write a synopsis first for a few reasons…1.) I suspect once you do you’ll find it makes writing the actual book easier. 2.) Once you are published you can often sell on proposal–3 chapters and a synopsis. 3.) even if selling a full, editors and agent frequently ask for a synopsis too and it is WAY easier to write a synopsis before you write the book. I know that last one sounds crazy, but really it is true. After the whole book is done, it gets harder for some reason to leave out details you don’t need or want in the synopsis.

  4. theo

    I did try a synopsis once for a story I was excited about doing. After I got done with the synopsis, it didn’t sound nearly as much fun as I thought it would be and I also almost felt like I no longer needed to write the whole thing because I already had in a way. Does that make sense? Probably not :P Need more coffee.

    How do you avoid that? Or do you not experience it? Probably not. I’m weird anyway…

    But I’ll try it again. Maybe now that I’ve been doing this awhile it will work for me.

    Thanks! :D

  5. Lori

    I haven’t, but I have heard of other writers experiencing that. What I find is by doing the synopsis problems pop out at me much more visibly than if I just write the book. And revising a synopsis is a lot easier than revising a whole book!
    But mainly you want to be able to sell on proposal; for that reason alone it’s a skill worth conquering. And the final book doesn’t have to exactly match the synopsis. Amazon Ink took a big turn away from the original synopsis!