How a Book Is Born, Part 8

Writing this way has required me to change my process a little. As I’ve said, I normally write an extended outline that blocks out the major action of the plot and the emotional turning points, and then I layer in the details in as many as five or even ten complete revisions. But I don’t have time to revise all those times, so I have to get the first draft as right as I can make it. I’ve allowed for one quick edit/revision, but I have to nail this out of the gate.

That means rewriting while I’m writing, which is usually deadly to my creative process – it stops the forward momentum of my energy. But I can’t let it stop me this time – I’m just going to have to adapt.

That means I have to do that layering now. For example, the first day of BIC, I wrote three scenes that introduced the four main characters. Then I remembered that I had promised my daughter that there would be dogs, and readers like dogs, and also dogs take up words, so the dogs were going in. Normally I would just include the dogs going forward and make a revision note to myself to go back and introduce them during the next revision.

But that wasn’t going to work. So I had to stop what I was going and go back and add the damned dogs. That required rewriting a whole scene I had just finished writing, which I found annoying.

When I picked up where I had left off, though, I was kind of glad I had gone back to fill that in because now the dogs were introduced and I didn’t have to worry about it.

By the same token, I often use a “TK” to indicate research I need to do or a name I need to come up with. But that wasn’t going to fly this time, either. I needed to do the research as I went, which meant stopping to look up information about Yuan dynasty China and clicking through pages of baby names.

This tempted me to get off track from the writing, but I have a tried-and-true method for dealing with research creep, and that’s to set a timer. When the timer goes off, I’m done researching and back to writing.

So, the words are actually slower in coming than usual, but they I’ve already done significant revision, so it all evens out in the end.

But when I’m through with this I’m going back to my old ways. Just because I can do new things doesn’t mean I want to.