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S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Guest Post: Trust Your Process by Dianne Salerni

There’s a lot of well-meaning advice to be found on the
internet and in craft books about the process of writing.  I’ve seen these three floating out there a lot:
  • You must outline.
  • You must not edit while you draft. It interrupts your flow.
  • You must let the manuscript rest after completing the first draft.
While I am sure some writers swear by those statements, none of them apply to me, and trying to follow them would make me miserable and less productive.

If you haven’t completed a single, finished and revised book, then you haven’t found a process that works for you, and by all means take advantage of advice and suggestions from other writers. However, if you have completed a manuscript that made it all the way to a revised and polished version (even if it didn’t get you an agent or sell to publishers), then you already have your process.

That’s not to say it isn’t a painful one!

I’ve come to accept that my first drafts are grueling. They often cause me to doubt my own sanity. I’ve tried composing detailed outlines and character sheets. They don’t help. The story and the characters develop dynamically on the page, and there’s no way for me to get around that. Although I always know the main plot points, I rarely know how to connect them until I reach that part of the story. (I call myself a dot-to-dotter.) It isn’t until I type the end that I learn what the whole book was supposed to be about, which is why I eagerly roll into the second draft without a resting period. In some ways, my first draft is a giant, ugly outline.

Revision, however, comes easily to me, and I make several, swift, revised versions of a manuscript within a few weeks. By the time I turn a manuscript in to my agent or editor, it’s been through 3-4 revision passes.

You may not like your process. Sometimes you might even hate it. But if it gets you where you’re going – trust it! Don't try to copy someone else's method, because chances are, if it would work for you, you'd already know it.

Dianne K. Salerni is the author of two YA historical novels,
THE CAGED GRAVES and WE HEAR THE DEAD and her newest release, the first book in a MG fantasy series from HarperCollins, THE EIGHTH DAY, available for preorder here (releases 4.22.14).


Newly orphaned Jax Aubrey discovers an eighth day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday and a reclusive girl living next door who exists only on that secret day. She’s the key to a 2000 year old spell with its roots in Arthurian legend, and Jax’s teenage guardian is her reluctant jailer. When Jax accidentally leads a pack of human bloodhounds to her door, he incites a catastrophe that might destroy the regular seven days of the week.

You can find Dianne at her blog and website.

8 comments:

  1. Great advice. I'm really tired of people telling me I'm doing it wrong because I edit while I write. For me, I don't feel like I can move forward until I feel confident about what came before.

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    1. Someone recently posted a quote from Roald Dahl on Facebook that said by the time he reached the end of the first draft, the beginning and middle had been rewritten repeatedly. Then, on the same day, someone on Twitter posted a quote from Steinbeck that said you must push through and get all the words down without ever stopping to edit or revise.

      So, everybody needs to follow what works best for them, including The Great Ones.

      PS -- I like Dahl's books better than Steinbeck's. Shhh.

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  2. Exactly. I never understand people who think if something works for them it's the only way it should be done. Sure, it might work for the majority of people, but there's no hard and fast rule on any of this writing stuff. For instance, lately I've too busy to write most of the week, so I only write on Grunsdays. Will that work for everyone? Of course not.

    Thanks for the post, Dianne. (And for hosting her, Susan.)

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    Replies
    1. Nate, Is taking a "sick day" off work in order to write the same as having a Grunsday? Probably not. Don't tell my boss!

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  3. Congratulations on yet another wonderful book flapping away out in the world!

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  4. "I’ve come to accept that my first drafts are grueling. They often cause me to doubt my own sanity." Thank you for those words! I feel the same way!

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  5. listening and reading an interesting article and a lot of helpful info I really like blogs like this

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  6. "It isn’t until I type the end that I learn what the whole book was supposed to be about..."

    Yep.

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