Friends, confession time:
I always imagined the longer I wrote novels, the more my writing process would evolve and change, but four books in, much of my process—for better or for worse—has remained the same. And now that I am in the early stages of starting a new novel, I find it’s still true. So when the lovely Laura asked me to talk about my writing process, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!
So without further ado, here are some of the methods to my madness…
In the Beginning…
For me, a story always starts with an idea of a scene revolving around a single source of tension—usually of a romantic nature. Maybe it’s estranged lovers reunited unexpectedly at a mutual friends’ wedding, maybe it’s a love triangle reaching its climax in a stopped chairlift at a ski resort—you get the picture. For me, the source of conflict has to be provocative and exciting enough that I know I will want to see it through and remain interested—the reader won’t be compelled if I’m not!
So I have my inspirational scene/relationship—Now what?
Now, I begin. Sometimes with a faint, bare bones outline, but more often than not, without one. And when I begin my stories, I will often thumbnail-sketch scenes to get a sense of the story’s rhythm, to flesh out characters, or simply to get the juices flowing. Often I will write the most exciting scenes first, the scenes I can’t wait to write, even though I know I will have to rewrite them or even cut them down the road.
To Plot or to Pants? That is the Question!
Through the course of writing a novel, I am both a plotter and a pantser, depending on where in the story I’m at. In the beginning, I’m all pants (as the previous paragraph revealed) but about four or five chapters in, I feel the inevitable halting of plot—in other words: Now what??? Usually then I’ll begin to plot, or outline, which brings me back to my lovable thumbnail sketches—some will work, some will be tossed.
But when I say tossed, what I really mean is…
Friends, I am a proud non-hoarder in the physical world. I love nothing more than to gut a closet and empty boxes. But when it comes to the digital world, I am a notorious pack-rat. Over the course of a novel, I will paste deleted sentences, or sometimes even whole scenes, into an “overflow” file. Sometimes I will revisit the content and use it after all. Sometimes it is a note to remind me of a certain reckoning I want a character to have at some point in the story. But nine times out of ten, I won’t use that content after all.
We all know about killing our darlings. I’m afraid I let mine die a slow death.
The Writing Space
When I got my first contract with NAL, I was writing at our family dining table, a beautiful trestle table my husband made from Michigan cherry, so I am most comfortable writing at home. I admire people who can hunker down in a coffee shop—I can’t even fathom it. I always write to music—but almost always to instrumentals. I don’t know what I would do without Pandora. I tend to be a person enamored of the soothing effects of rituals, so for me, the first thing I do when I sit down to write in the morning is to turn on my Pandora station (which is usually different for each book) and then open my manuscript.
Now for those of you who write, it’s your turn! What part of your writing process never changes—or what part recently has?
Bio: A native New Englander who now lives and writes in North Carolina, Erika Marks is the author of The Guest House, The Mermaid Collector and Little Gale Gumbo. Her next novel, It Comes in Waves, releases July 1st.
Giveaway! I have one ARC of It Comes in Waves, so if you are in the US or Canada please leave a comment with your email address!