Do you outline? Do you bleed on paper and see what comes out? Do you agonize over every word and then have a first draft that needs almost no revision by the time you’re finished? Every time I start a new book, I’m not sure what my answer is going to be.
I found these quotes from author Pam Munoz Ryan in my Chautauqua notes from 2003:
When I speak to educators, they are especially curious about the writing process. The word process always reminds me of packaged bologna, which has been mechanically wrapped, and in one sense, I think that is exactly what people want to know—a recipe or a series of steps that will take a writer from the blank page to finished manuscript. They want to know a writer’s tidy shrink-wrapped procedure.
She then relates how educators asked her how she used the concept of cause and effect in one of her books so they could teach that to their students. She says:
After a book is published, a writer is asked to examine his or her own techniques and procedures. This is always difficult and painstaking for me. . . . As a writer, I don’t set out to write a book with exemplary use of cause and effect or plot. . . . I set out to write a compelling story. When I start a book, I don’t first ask myself, “What’s the plot?” Instead, I start with the question, “What’s the story I want to tell?” . . . For me, starting a story means a lot of time with my own wandering thoughts. I daydream and try to create answers to my own questions. . . . I ask and answer questions like, “What if?”
I ask those questions too. “What if this plot sucks?”
I want to know the various ways you approach new story ideas. How much do you have to write, visualize, and daydream before you know if a story idea is worth pursuing to the bitter end? And how many hundreds of pages have you thrown away in your lifetime before finding something that stuck?