The Van Gogh Process

Doubt crows be circling today. Pesky things. When will they ever leave me alone? Aaaanyway, I have finished the Hammer Pants ms. Need to rewrite the last chapter – again – but yeah, it’s done. While writing it though, I was chatting with the CPs and happened to let slip that I had done six drafts of this particular ms. They were aghast. Hehe. It’s seems quite a lot, I know, but it doesn’t mean I have rewritten the ms six times or anything.

You see my process works with me writing a very fast quick and dirty draft. I have to do this because if I stop and agonise over every word and plot and whatnot, I will become stuck and won’t finish the story. So I have to push myself to keep going and get it down quickly. Then I go back and edit, rewrite, change stuff etc. And because I like to keep old versions just in case a change I make doesn’t work, I make it a new draft every time I change something major.

It may sound odd but it works for me. And this ms is a tricky one because it’s one I wrote a year or so ago before I’d really got to grips with conflict, and it’s a reunion story and I think reunion stories are actually quite hard! I’ve changed the conflict about five times, the beginning at least three, the ending twice, and all the bits in between more times than I can count. It’s kind of like painting a picture or something, you sketch out what you want to paint first, then the rest of the process is filling it in with colour, painting out some bits or emphasising others. Or in this particular case it’s like scrapping three canvases and starting all over again each time. 🙁

Anyway, six drafts is pretty much par for the course. I do a lot more plotting now than I used to and this helps with changing things but I’m still a pantser at heart and like to give the characters their head when the opportunity presents itself. You may – or may not – be interested to know that I have a deleted scenes document for bits I’ve taken out and that word count on that is….wait for it…60k. The ms is 47k. 🙂

So what’s everyone else’s process like? Do you do take the Van Gogh approach like me? Or are you the one draft sculptor type – you carve it out and once it’s carved it stays carved?

15 thoughts on “The Van Gogh Process”

  1. *hands Jackie the doubt crow bat*

    Anyway…I’m more of a sculptor…but see, I do it, start to finish, and I don’t leave details out, but then I do often need to get major revisions and go back in and really deepen the conflict.

    So for me, it heavily depends on the MS.

    But lady, do I feel your pain re reunion stories. Doing my first and it is not easy.

  2. Maisey – thanks. *swings bat and hits some crows*. Phew! If I was a sculptor…but then again, no… Ahem. I figure my process can work quite well with revisions since it’s just about never ‘done’ if you know what I mean. Then again, it’s been so long since I had any, I wouldn’t know.;-)(hear that gods of publishing??)
    But yeah, reunion stories suck just a little bit.

  3. You two are both going to swing the “she totally sucks” bat at me because I’m working on a reunion story and it’s a blast.

    I think those dumb crows circle always, nagging, mocking. Stupid birds. My process is to write a first fast and dirty draft and then go back for the BIG polish. It can entail throwing out and reworking whole scenes (book 2) or just fleshing out the bones of the story (book 3). It really depends on how strongly developed my conflict before I type “Chapter one”.

  4. Well, since this is my first complete manuscript, I’m not sure I have a process yet. I did this as a really fast draft. Now, although I thought it was finished, I can see some issues with the structure that I am fixing.

    That begs the question, is that because I hadn’t fully processed the way it needed to be structured or is it because that’s what I’ll be doing every time.

  5. well, seeing as it’s taken me a very long time to even complete the first draft…i guess i’m a sculptor, polishing and tightening the layers and little bits.
    I have a file too, where i save all the bits i’ve cut out, and a notes file for when i’m first plotting or find i need to plot or define my characters a bit after i’ve started the story.

  6. Cat – argh!! Don’t tell me you’re finding it easy?? Lol. Actually, my deal was figuring out their past relationship because when I started writing it, I had no idea. Dumb huh? :-). Your process sounds similar to mine actually – though you’re probably waaaay more organised. At least I’ve learned to figure out the conflict BEFORE I start writing.

    Julia – I’m not sure. I think it depends on the ms and where you are in the writing process. A lot of my changes have been because I’ve learned more about conflict since writing it and so can see more clearly what I’m missing. And sometimes you can see what you need until you’ve written the whole thing.

    Kerrin – aha, a sculptor! Nothing wrong with that. In many ways, I wish I was because then when I wrote The End, I would know that it really was The End. The End for me is actually just the beginning. Sigh. It’s mainly because I need to write the story first in order to figure out what the story is about. Does that sound weird? 🙂

  7. I take my hat of to your cos that Process = Dedication to me!!!
    My process is very hit and miss at the moment. But I usually write a fairly tight/neat first draft and only to a minor edit and polish (unless instructed otherwise by eds). Maybe this is where I’m going wrong.

    BTW.. I LOVE reading reunion stories but the only time I’ve ever tried to write one was way back when I knew nothing about nothing. Maybe I’ll get back to those two one day 🙂

  8. Rach – I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do it. I only do it that way because I tend to get bogged down if I’m too careful with the first draft. I over-think at the best of times and writing a once only draft would equal paralysis for me! Re the reunion story – you so should get back to it. I am really enjoying this story but boy, it has been tough to write.

  9. I haven’t tried a reunion story yet. But I do have an idea that has been germinating – or fermenting – in my brain. Which means it will either grow or just make me loopy.

    Aimee

  10. Aimee – oooh, give it a go. Some parts of reunion stories can be good but some parts can be very, very bad. But that just might be because my particular story sucks. 🙂

  11. Now know why current wip is such an ‘illigitimate child’ to write – it’s a reunion story.

    Sometimes I write ‘dirty’, sometimes I ‘sculpt’ depends on how strong a grip I’ve got on the conflict. Envy you Jackie, that you’ve cracked conflict. I’m still at the ‘learn to simplify’ stage.

  12. Lindsey – I don’t think I have cracked the conflict. If I did, I’d be published! Anyway, the only person who can tell me that is the ed. It’s still too complicated probably. Good luck with your reunion story. Ghastly aren’t they?

  13. Ah 🙂 I did try the dirty first draft and then re-write approach..but sadly those stories are shelved now 🙂

    For now, I take enormous amount of time writing the first couple of chapters (and subsequently shedding them) before I move into the story and finish it – except for minor revisions (in my eyes)..CP’s are a different thing though 😉

    Need help battling those crows of doubt? They are just about done with me and I have nothing there left in the form of confidence.. so I might be of help there 😉

  14. There’s a doubt crow bat? Gotta get me one of those 😉

    My process sounds similar to yours. I certainly have an impressive pile of draft versions of my MS by the end of it 🙂

  15. Ju – argh, those crows are vicious aren’t they? Here…*gives Ju a scarecrow* Hope that helps.

    Lacey – the bat is useful so I’m afraid you can’t have mine. I’ll probably be using it for the next few years. 🙂 Yeah, me too re those draft versions. I think the highest I got to was version 8.

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