Friday 1 December 2017

Guest Blog - Daphne James Huff

The writing process for a new writer

I am in the first year of my writing career, so my process is still “under construction.” I tried pantsing, and that got me through my first project. But I knew that wasn’t quite the best solution for me, long-term. I have since tried plotting and like it much better. My recent projects have been in a genre that has pretty strict structure and tropes. I’ve been finding this helpful, rather than restrictive.

As a newer writer, it’s reassuring to have a guideline to what’s expected in a story. Having a defined set of beats and structure means I’m almost required to plot, to think things through, to make sure I hit all the elements needed.

Circumstance also dictates a large part of my process. I have a full-time job, and I have a young son who isn’t able to occupy himself for more than five minutes at a time. The only time I have to write is the evening, and a few hours on the weekend. So I need to be organized, and I need to write quickly. Plotting again is helpful for this. 

I let myself dream and brainstorm during the random moments of the day that I have a break, rather than spend precious childfree time on it.

However, the most critical part of my process – which will be of no surprise to veteran writers – is feedback from readers.

I have one friend who reads everything I write. She sees it at different stages, but often she’s getting the awful first draft you’re not really supposed to show anyone. So why do I show her? For me, it’s a matter of accountability. She asks me almost every day what I’m writing, or if she can read anything for me. It gives me that extra push I need to find the time to get some words on the page to send her.

Sometimes I send her a random assortment of scenes for an idea I had. Sometimes I send her entire chapters I’ve already plotted, written, and taken a second self-editing pass at. She sends back comments, fixes typos, and points out places things don’t make sense.

If it’s a first ugly draft, I don’t worry about “fixing” anything, and just absorb her impressions of the characters and story ideas. She usually asks questions I had planned on answering later in the story, but sometimes her comments can lead things down a slightly different path.

The hardest thing for me is to “kill my darlings". When you’ve spent hours writing thousands of words, cutting a huge chunk of that can be both painful and depressing. So I pretty much ignore her when she tells me to do it. The important thing, however, is that she also ignores my ignoring her and keeps telling me to do it.   

I don’t know if she’s considered a beta reader, an accountability partner, an editor, or something in between. Whatever her role should be officially called, it’s the single most important part of my writing process: remembering that on the other end of the writing journey, there is a reader waiting for your words.

You can follow Daphne on Facebook, her website check out her books on Amazon, or even on her podcast!

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