I was involved in several sessions related to writing: two panels and a workshop. Because I was a panelist, I didn’t take notes, so these are my scattered recollections.
In the first panel, about the process of writing, Jim Stratton, Rachel Caine, and I shared our writing processes. I always love hearing from other writers how they work. As you’d expect, everyone had their own take on the process. For example, Rachel said that she can’t start a new book until she’s compiled a custom playlist of at least 10 songs for it. I’m one of those people, on the other hand, who prefers to write in silence. When that’s not possible (I often write in coffee shops), I listen to classical or New Age music, preferably instrumental, because lyrics distract me.
In answer to the “where do you get your ideas?” question, there was consensus that ideas come from anywhere and everywhere—you have to be open to them and willing to ask questions to get a story started in your mind. We talked about how information—maybe a news headline or a snatch of conversation—sinks into the subconscious mind and can pop up again when you need it. Everyone had experienced sudden light-bulb epiphanies while driving or taking a shower or drifting off to sleep. Jim recommended carrying a notebook everywhere to catch these epiphanies, because you never know when or where they’ll happen.
This particular panel was more weighted to plotters than pantsters. Rachel said that as her publication schedule has become tighter—she mentioned that she has a deadline every couple of months now—she’s had to become better at outlining. It’s not always easy and she doesn’t always enjoy it, but it’s a necessary part of being an author. I mentioned that for the nonfiction I write, a detailed outline is important, but I prefer a looser outline for fiction—one that gives me major plot points as goals to write toward but still leaves plenty of room for surprises to crop up during the writing (’cause that’s the fun part!). I also keep a running outline as I write and use it to revisit the original outline from time to time to see if that needs tweaking.
I thought that my mention of nonfiction outlines was a little off topic, but later I talked to someone in the audience who was working on a proposal for a nonfiction how-to book, and we had a great conversation. So I was glad I’d brought it up.
Tomorrow: A panel on agents and a writing workshop.