Risky Regencies

Amanda’s Writing Method (or don’t try this at home)


(The photo with today’s post is one I found of Diane and me at our evening in Bath at the Assembly Rooms! I will try to find more for next week)

My Writing Process

1) Find an Idea
The question most non-writers ask writers seems to be “How do you get your ideas?” I always have to answer “I have no clue.” Maybe it comes from a painting or a movie, or something I read in a non-fiction book. All I know is I seem to have a lot of them–ideas, that is. They all go into an “idea notebook” to be brought out and expanded on later. Also, I seem to start with characters who need a plot rather than a plot that needs characters.

2) Okay, I have my idea! Now, I have to buy research books–a total neccessity, of course. 🙂 And I have to track down research books I already own, because they could be anywhere in the house. Or the garage. I find lots of books I forgot I had, which means I have to sit down on the floor and read through them, dust them, look at pictures, and jot down new ideas I find from them. Eventually, though, I do get to step 3…

3) I write a short synopsis of the story. I’m not much of a “plotter”–I have a writer friend who starts out by writing a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline, but I can’t do this. I have no idea what will be happening in chapter twenty at this point. But publishers do like to see what the story will be about, so the short synopsis gets written. I organize my research notes and start the rough draft.

4) I write my rough drafts in longhand in Hello Kitty notebooks I buy at Target. This means a trip to Target, of course. Once the vital notebooks are procured, I may go over to look at shoes. And makeup. And purses. And the pet supply aisle. Then I buy some Choxie Coffee Toffee bars to sustain me through the writing to come. And maybe a copy of Vogue. For breaks, you know.

5) Now I get to work (really!). I usually write sitting on my bed, surrounded by those research books, cats, and empty Choxie boxes. Like Diane, I give myself about 4-5 months per book. But I have my “day job,” and thus have to make the most out of all my writing time. This means no email, Go Fug Yourself, or Orlandobloom.com. Usually. Well, not more than once an hour.

6) It takes me about 100 pages to really get to know the characters and their story, to see where it’s going. Then I start typing the chapters to send to my critique partners. I may do a little revising at this point, but usually I just print up their comments and jot down notes for any changes I notice are needed, and then I press ahead. The whole longhand-to-computer thing helps me see where I’ve been repetitive or lost some continuity. The problem is that sometimes I can’t read my own handwriting! (Oh, and I write the story in linear fashion. No doing up scenes and connecting then later, as I’ve heard Gabaldon does. My mind just doesn’t work that way!)

7) End of rough draft! I type The End, send to the cp’s, and put it out of my mind for a few days. By this time, I have a pretty dire case of ‘writer’s butt’ from all that Choxie (I have to have something to soothe me after dealing with stubborn characters who do NOT want to do what they’re told!). I go to more yoga classes and run on the treadmill a lot, thinking back over the story in my mind. This helps me see where some of the problems are, and also helps me fit back into my jeans.

8) I get the manuscript out and polish, revise, and send it off. I worry about it, and then try to get onto the next story! The Lure of the Other is always strong by this point, and I’m eager to start a new book. The next story is still shiny and new, full of hope, unlike the tattered, battered one that has just ended. I head to the bookstore for more research books, and then back to Target…

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Diane Perkins
16 years ago

Amanda,
How come I never knew you wrote longhand in Hello Kitty notebooks???

I envy you your abundance of story ideas. I don’t have an abundance of story ideas. I’m actively trying to figure out how to feed this muse. That was part of the reason I went to the all day Jane Austen program, which I’ll blog about on Monday.

Diane

Cara King
16 years ago

I write my rough drafts in longhand in Hello Kitty notebooks

Wow. I had no idea.
I had…no…idea.

If only I liked Hello Kitty. And writing longhand. If only! Then maybe I’d be more prolific.

Sigh.

Cara
(who’s going to become hugely prolific any day now. Honest.)

Judy T
Judy T
16 years ago

This is hysterical. From reading all the entries, it is also clear that a sense of humor is a must. 😀

Judy T
Judy T
16 years ago

Oh! And the costumes are lovely!

Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

Somehow I write more “creatively” in longhand (though it often leads to hand cramps!) and the HK notebooks make it seem a bit more fun, especially when it’s one of the many days when I just don’t want to sit down and write. 🙂

Can’t wait to hear about the Jane Austen program!

Lois
16 years ago

That’s what I did once upon a time, back in 8th grade and a few years after that, when I wrote my dumb fanfic stories. LOL Once it was an Albert Einstein notebook. 😉

And I love the costumes!! 🙂

Lois

Susan Wilbanks
16 years ago

I wrote my first manuscript while working part-time and my second while a stay-at-home mom, and I did those rough drafts in longhand. I didn’t have anything as fun as Hello Kitty notebooks, but mine HAD to be college-ruled Mead notebooks with sturdy covers, and I had preferred colors for the cover based on color themes that recurred in the stories.

Now that I’m working full time, I’ve forced myself to learn to draft at the computer. It’s quicker, and during quiet moments at work I can write. I keep a draft document in my gmail account, and each night I paste whatever I’ve written that day into my manuscript.

I don’t think my writing quality has suffered–at least, I hope not!–but I miss those longhand drafts. There’s just something freeing about getting away from the computer, and I find it easier to draft really sexy, violent, or otherwise intense scenes longhand. Maybe it’s the fact that it doesn’t look as much like a book as a Word file does–it helps me get intimate with the story and worry less about what readers, especially readers such as my mom, might think of it and me!

Elena Greene
16 years ago

I occasionally write longhand, too. My laptop died and I don’t have an Alphasmart (yet) so I’m resorting to it more often lately, while traveling or while waiting during my kids’ swim lessons.

I also find it helpful sometimes to switch to longhand when roughing out difficult scenes.

I use those old black and white marbled composition notebooks. Maybe if the pages weren’t sewn together I’d be more likely to rip out the ones I didn’t like. 🙂

Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

LOL, Lois! I also did this in the 8th grade–I had a long, soap opera-ish story going that starred my friends as all the characters. I worked on it at night when I was supposed to be doing homework. And my parents wondered why I did so badly in algebra…

I agree that writing dramatic/intense scenes is much easier in longhand. I can draft “quieter” scenes on the computer, but the darker ones I need to write out to really get into them. Plus tge notebooks are very portable. 🙂

Anonymous
Anonymous
16 years ago

It is such a great idea to maintain an idea notebook. That way, you know that the new idea is safe and your mind can be free to return to current project.

WOW! 100+ pages in longhand. That’s really impressive.

In Writing Down the Bones, she also encourages choosing notebooks that take your fancy (kind of like the tea, perfume, music, etc.: writing rituals) and writing longhand to get the brain to pour out through the fingers onto the paper.

Heh. I’m exactly like that in the stationary aisle of any store, and Staples or Office Depot…

Amanda, have you tried Choxie with the chili peppers? Phew!

I’ve tried the write-any-scene-you-feel-like-and-connect-later method, and it was a huge failure with large holes. I like the idea of writing linearly that many of you have recommended here.

Thanks, Amanda, for sharing your writing process.

Anonymous
Anonymous
16 years ago

Amanda and Diane: What a cool photo of the two of you at the Assembly. Hope you have others to share, too.

Todd
16 years ago

Elena, Your laptop died??!!! When my laptop dies I’m going to wear black for a year. (Or maybe I’ll just buy one of those new black Macintosh powerbooks. 🙂

I admire anyone who can write a novel at all, let alone in longhand. I somehow think that I would find Hello Kitty a bit distracting, though…I often jot down ideas and things in notebooks, which of course means that I need to buy notebooks. I love notebooks. I have a near-infinite supply of notebooks, most of them 95%+ blank. But I still love them!

Todd-who-is-still-envious-of-the-whole-dancing-in-the-assembly-rooms-thing

Diane Perkins
16 years ago

Speaking of notebooks, I’ve had a notebook printed with my bookcover on the cover-for my own use, from Cafe Press. Unfortunately they are unlined and way too pricey to be practical, but, you know, sometimes ya just gotta have fun.

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