The next question in the queue (could someone please explain to me why that word has the letters "ue" in it twice?) comes from Rachelle. She asked about the writing process, how much do I get absorbed into it, stuff like that. Well, sometimes it feels like this picture, but for the most part I absolutely love writing and I'm happy to talk about it.
It's a good time to answer this question because I am completely immersed in writing the sequel to my book that comes out in March. I should've been writing it since last spring, but I found it really hard to do that and work with my editor on Book 1 at the same time. Plus, I work much better under pressure. And I've been plotting it out for months and months.
Here's how I write a book:
I'm a very all-or-nothing kind of guy. For example, I like soda. Drinking water with meals is about as exciting as watching quilting shows with my wife. But soda is bad for you. So I've tried many times to quit drinking it, sometimes holding myself to one a week or some lame program like that. It never works. I either don't drink it at all or I drink it like a thirsty man in the desert. I've done pretty well recently.
Same with writing. When I'm into a story, I need to write, write, write. I'm very streaky. I'll go weeks doing very little writing, then write a whole bunch for 2 or 3 months. If you remember, I wrote the first draft of THE JOURNAL OF CURIOUS LETTERS in 7 weeks. That was partly because I had a sudden and unexpected deadline, but mainly because I got so absorbed into the story I spent every spare second writing.
Before I begin a book, I've thought about it for a very long time, jotting down notes when really cool things pop into my head. I also do a simple outline, 1 or 2 pages where I have a bullet point list of the main events. That's the extent of my prework.
One note here: it is VERY important to me to know how my book ends before I begin writing it. I know a lot of authors don't do this. They say the characters whisk them away and decide the ending for them. That's great. For them.
But not me. In my opinion, every word of the book is setting up the ending. How can you do this if you don't know how it ends? It's not like I have it exactly detailed, but I always know the general climax and all that, including what happens to each character. Some say this impedes your creativity because you can't change things.
Hogwash. I can change whatever I want, and do it all the time. Nothing is sacred. But at least I start with what I think will be the ending and go from there. To me, that's better than nothing.
Stephen King says he doesn't plot. And he's pretty much The Master, so I'm probably wrong. But, and I'm so scared to say this because I worry that I might spontaneously combust, if there is one teensy tiny thing I sometimes don't like about The Master, it's his endings. They are often anticlimactic. (please, dear Lord, do not let him read this, please do not let him read this) He is the most gifted author I know, but sometimes his endings leave me wanting. Okay, I'm just going to shut up about that.
Anyway, so I start writing the book. I don't know what to say about that part. It's an indescribable thing, and I know why so many people think authors are nut jobs. It's because we sometimes TRY to describe it and sound like psychos.
The story consumes me, the characters become real, it becomes my life. It's all I think about 99% of the time, no matter what I'm doing. Even when I put it aside to play with my kids, work, whatever, the book still hangs there in my brain, begging me to give it more thought. It becomes so real and takes over my life so much that maybe I am ready to admit I'm crazy.
Oh well. There you have it. I'm looney. But I have a hot wife, four awesome kids, and a lot of good friends and family. So I'm happily insane.
Just a couple more things. I do not edit as I go. Never, never, never. I write the whole thing in one long burst of creativity, not worrying about how good or how cruddy the writing may be. During the first draft, the STORY is the ONLY thing that matters. And the characters. When that first draft is done, then I go back and rework it, recraft it, rewrite it. But I rarely change anything major relating to the story itself after the first draft is complete.
Next, I go through the book from beginning to end, probably four or five times, cleaning as I go. Then I give it to my wife and sit on pins and needles hoping she likes it. She usually does and gives great feedback. Then I give it to my critique group and other close friends.
The part I hate is going through all of their stuff, deciding what to accept and what to reject. Mainly because by that point I am sick to death of the book. Imagine reading the same book nine or ten times within the span of a few weeks. Do ya think you'd get a little sick of it?
Finally, after all of that exhaustive work, I turn it in to my editor, dreading the prospect of getting HER suggested rewrites back. And that, my friends, is just about enough for today. For those keeping score, I'm at 32,262 words on Book 2 and still on track to be done by February.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Posted by James Dashner at 9:51 AM