The 17 Step Method

Why is it that the more you know, the harder it is to write? A couple of years ago, my process was this:

1. Have an idea.
2. Write it.

Excellent huh? But then came along this pesky thing called craft and things changed, and so did my process. It became something like this:

1. Have an idea
2. Work out the conflict.
3. Sit down and write it.

Nowadays though, I know more. So at the present time it’s like this:

1. Have an idea.
2.Work out the conflict.
3. Figure out the backstory.
4. Figure out the characters.
5. Determine character arcs.
6. Think about a vague synopsis.
7. Sit down and write it.
8. Stop. Realise you haven’t thought about the backstory deeply enough. Repeat Step 3.
9. Continue writing.
10. Stop. Realise you haven’t really got a handle on the conflict. Go back to step 2.
11. Keep writing.
12. Stop. Realise that your beginning sucks and you’ve started in the wrong place.
13. Start again.
14. Stop. Realise that your conflict actually sucks.
15. Try to keep going despite it, hoping it’ll all work out in the end.
16. Stop. Realise that it’s not going to work out and your whole story sucks.
17. Give up, go get a martini and watch Spartacus instead.

No doubt, in another year or two it’ll go something like this:

1. Have an idea.
2. Decide to bypass all the crap by proceeding directly to step 17.

Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me?

25 thoughts on “The 17 Step Method”

  1. And that is why NaNoWriMo exists. So you have idea, write. Without all the bullshit.

    You need to sign up and go for it.

    My captcha is “menwondo.” Sounds like an evil spirit out to get the hero, who…

  2. Lisa – Ahhh, you’re quite right. Too much bullshit going on here. My brain just won’t let go of the craft. Perhaps if instead of taking the martini to watch Spartacus, I could take it to the PC instead, maybe that would work. Worked for Hemingway…at least for a little while. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, am doing Nano. Did 6k yesterday *smug grin*. Menwondo! I like it. Could be used instead of abracadabra.

  3. What’s that quote about not waiting for all the lights to turn green before you pull out of the drive, because if you do you’ll never start the car? Something like that.

    The problem with learning about writing is that you often painfully aware of everything you’re doing wrong. Stop trying to write a perfect draft. Go back to to the two-step way of doing things and save all the BS for the later drafts.

  4. Jackie – I’ll get straight to the important stuff – loving number 17! Also a bit devastated that he’s not going to be in the next series because he has leukemia. Gutted, as I LOVE Spartacus.
    Just write and write and write, the other stuff works it’s way in later.
    What conflict???!!!!!

  5. Elizabeth – good quote! I should remember that. Yeah, I actually don’t ever do a perfect draft. I usually do about ten in the editing process because I tend to just disgorge everything. Then again, there’s a reason I’m not published and it’s because of some of the things that keep making me stop. So I HAVE to get them right. I guess I’m just trying to save myself tonnes of editing. Maybe it’s the wrong way to go about it…
    Anyway, martini? πŸ˜‰

    Susan – Lol re conflict! Nah, I HAVE to get that one right before hand. Rewriting is too hard if I haven’t. And yeah on Spartacus. Isn’t it awful? Poor guy. I’m gutted too.

  6. Jackie, I’m nanoing too, and my characters are eating. Again… what do I do when trying to progress a book? take em out to dinner. Sigh…
    Anyway, tomorrow its going to change. No more food, no toilet breaks, no chatting (for them, I hasten to add)
    Think I’m gonna starve them and see what happens…

  7. Oh I am sooooo with you Jackie! I’ve got a great WIP and I’m enjoying writing it but….every time I write dialogue I’m wondering if I’m doing it right; every time I write a scene I’m wondering is this too tell-y, shouldn’t I be showing? And then I end up getting all worked up and frustrated and it’s spoiling the whole experience.

    I would love an editing switch inserted into my brain – I could turn it off while I’m getting my crappy first draft written and then flip it on when I want to edit. *sighs* Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

  8. Sally, Ah eating. Yes, I quite like a food scene but sometimes it does feel all you’re doing is taking them out to eat all the eh? But seriously, no toilet breaks? Boy you’re harsh. πŸ™‚ Let me know how the starving goes.

    Elissa – I used to be able to switch the editor off. In fact I had no problem with doing so, so I don’t know why I’m having these problems now. It’s hard eh? Hey, have you tried Write or Die? That can be great for focussing the mind.

  9. LOL! Jackie – I am so on your last two steps!! Thanks for the ranting on saturday, I felt purged and better (for 24 hours anyway!!). Suck it up, girl and keep going!

  10. Louise – no worries! It was good huh? Did me the world of good too. Next time you need a ranting buddy, just let me know. πŸ™‚ Big ups to the keeping going.

  11. Okay, this is where I say the worthy but dull thing. All this is NORMAL, Jackie. It’s not just you, and it’s how many novels get written, including ones that get published and are by experienced writers.

    The book I’ve just finished had about FIVE drastic redrafts in its first few months of existence. I didn’t get past the first 25,000 words for about five months, it was being shoved from pillar to post so much. But I was determined to write it, and finish it, and so I swallowed the constant rewrites. I got past them, slogged on, rewrote, went mad, tried to hide in a cupboard, wrote some more, jettisoned 10,000 words, frothed at the mouth, whined, begged to be put down, wrote some more, went back to the planning stage and ADDED ANOTHER POV CHARACTER over halfway through the book, began to see the end of the book receding with every day I wrote instead of getting closer, then pulled myself together, booked into a hotel for a few days, spoke to no one, read the whole damn thing, and finished it at 121,000 words.

    It’s all about the willpower. And not believing people who tell you writing a novel is easy. Because it ain’t!

    Chin up.

  12. My feeling Jackie, you’re a pantser not a plotter but your confidence has been battered by the submission process…

    Go back to thrusting your instincts more, forget about all that craft crap while you write the first draft you’ll be surprised by how much of it is endemic now without you actually having to consciously think about it.. And anything that isn’t can be worked in at the revision stage. Start enjoying yourself again and enjoying your hero and heroine.

    Says Heidi, who’s now rewritten the first chapter of her next book about twenty times..And hates both her hero and heroine with a passion.

    BTW, to show my age, when you said Spartacus I thought you were talking about Kirk Douglas in a leather mini-skirt!

  13. Yeah me too! Thought I could fly until craft/conflict/arcs of every kind grounded me good.

    Recommend you leave the glass of martini and take the entire bottle instead – down steadily and then start writing. It won’t make a lot of sense the next morning but it helped get my mojo back – probably because I usually abstain.

  14. Jane – yeah, I know. I was kind of being tongue-in-cheek. πŸ™‚ I LOL-ed at your writing yours though! Frothing at the mouth doesn’t sound good. Almost reached that point with an interminable dinner scene! Anyway, no, this stuff is never easy is it?

    Heidi – yes, indeed, how did you guess?? πŸ™‚ My poor old instincts are shot to hell, it’s true. But you’re right, I’ll try letting go and just writing. It’s certainly easier now I ‘think’ I’ve got the tone right.
    Anyway, good luck with yours. I chucked away my first chapter and started the story at chapter 3 – best thing I ever did! πŸ™‚

    Lindsey – you’re so right!! Lol! I shall try the martini method tonight. πŸ™‚

  15. Got nothing to add to the previous comments as they all sound very wise. I’m not feeling wise at the moment. But I AM really good at randomly quoting others. Nora is a favorite of mine to pull out when I’m feeling the writing pinch. First, write crap. Second, fix crap.

    Which is just a variant of what everyone already said. But – hey – can this comment count towards my NaNoing word accumulation today?


  16. oh congrats on the 6k! good to see you are pushing through your 17 step method.
    I don’t think i do mine in 17 steps or even the 2 steps, but as this is still my first story, we shall see!

    Hope your youngest enjoyed first days at school!

  17. Amy – got the first one sorted. It’s the second I have problems with. πŸ™‚ And yes, sure, add it to your Nano count. Tell Jackie okayed it. πŸ˜‰

    Kerrin – Keep going Kerrin, it’s the only thing to do. And yes, she loved her first day. Hope yours did too!

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