I put words down with little worry about how it flows. That will come later during the revisions.
Most of the time, I know the general direction, but that could change as I let it take it’s own organic shape, depending on the characters and how they tell their stories. I don’t always know what’s coming and sometimes it’s a surprise!
Around two or three hours is about my limit unless I am pushing through to finish a section. Then I leave it until the next morning and allow it tosimmer, just like a pot of vegetable soup. The next morning I read over the previous work and see what needs to be added or taken away, like tasting the soup to see if it needs a pinch of something.
But the actual writing is only a part of the process. Just as important are chunks of time to think. Long walks, bathtub soaks, and driving trips give me time to percolate the story and let characters develop their own personalities. Sometimes this is where the plot takes an unexpected turn or some piece of the symbolism fits together. For type A personalities, this part is hard to carve out because we want to produce something on the laptop screen, but the value is exponential.
Another part is observation. I write about a farming community in Kentucky, so I need to know when the Walnut trees bloom in the spring and when the leaves fall in the autumn. Weaving in the season with what is happening in the setting is important for giving a sense of place. I pay close attention to my surroundings when I am writing about a particular season so I can bring the reader and all of his or her senses into this area at a certain time.
Observing people is also a key aspect. I am in an area where dialect is rich and colorful and colloquialisms are as plentiful as the bluegrass. Listening to how people pronounce words, the cadence of their speech, facial expressions and body language is part of my job if I want to write something true to the place.
After all these things go in to make a manuscript, then the revisions begin. Sometimes characters get dropped or sidelined to tighten the story, or maybe a subplot is changed to fit the theme better. Being open to these changes is imperative to making the story better. Sometimes I can see this myself but many times it takes multiple outside readers to weigh in and when I see a consistent theme, I take the advice to heart. The revisions take as long as it takes. And even then, your publisher will have more to make. The story is not done until it is finally in print and on the bookshelf.
A day in the life of a writer might be filled with any of the above parts, but I would be remiss if I missed one of the most important: Marketing.
For those of us who are introverts, we have a rich inner life but the thought of going out there and having to sell something is like being forced to go into the barnyard with a flogging rooster. Actually, that might be preferable. But it’s part of the whole package, and even more so these days as publishers are slimming down their publicity departments to the bare bones.
But even that part can be fun. Getting to meet readers who want to talk about the book and the characters, listening to folks who desire to write and don’t know how to get started, and being inspired for the next book by the urgings from readers.Every day can be different, but this is one writer who is happy to be on the journey.