The Writing Process–A Bowl of Clam Chowder

This is some of the best New England Clam Chowder around. Found at Sam the Clam’s in CT. Delish.

But no two clam chowders are made with exactly the same process. Everyone has their own way of getting to that perfect chowder.

I’ve found the same thing with novel writing. My first manuscript, I had a page of character outlines and a 12-page plot outline. And then I just dove into writing. At each chapter, I’d stop and outline the things that needed to happen and the scenes necessary for this to occur.

A very stop and start writing process. But it worked and I completed a draft.

A very very very bad draft that required many many rounds of revisions.

So next book. I wrote a 40 page outline. Um yeah, very detailed. But it made the writing easier because I had a GPS navigating my way to the end point.

Next book I tried a different approach. I spent weeks just daydreaming and imagining everything. Then I wrote a 4 page outline of the first 50 pages. Once I got those 50 pages written, I wrote a 5 page synopsis of the whole book. Then the query letter. Then I wrote the rest of the book in fits of 15-20k words.

The first draft turned out better than my others. Still needed edits and revisions. But the bones were laid out in the right order.

And as I wrote, I did light edits on the previous 2-3 days’ worth of writing. Some people frown on this.

For me, it helped me move forward. I can’t if there’s a fly buzzing around my head saying “Fix it!” Plus, when I’d get stuck on inspiration, I’d edit the previous day and as I came to the end, I’d know what came next.

I don’t know that any of these ways is universally the best. One might be best for me or for that book. But the point is each time I ended up with a delicious bowl of clam chowder.

So how I got there doesn’t seem as important as the fact that the method got me there.

What about you? Do you have a tried and true method for writing? Are you an outliner? A pantser? An edit-as-you-go or a strict-no-editing-until-the-end writer?


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8 Responses to The Writing Process–A Bowl of Clam Chowder

  1. Lucas says:

    I just whizzed through a great thriller novel in one day while on a plane. Never done that before. I just couldn’t wait to turn the next page and see what happened next. If I were to write something like that, I’d need a good outline of the events way before I started writing the actual story.

    • I think thrillers and mysteries definitely lend themselves more to outlining because plot is so paramount there. What kept you turning the pages? Was it the character, the conflict, the cliff hanger at the end of the chapter?

  2. Gerard says:

    I do a lot of work writing and it depends on the project. Many times I’ll do a written outline, but at other times I just plunge right in. But no matter what method I use, it usually starts with me thinking a lot about the approach and the direction of the article. So whether I commit an outline to writing or not, I always have some type of outline.

    • It’s funny how much pre-writing we do in our heads. I usually have some sort of concept and direction prior to writing. Though I tend to favor a written outline since I have stops and starts and that way I don’t lose my direction if I take a few weeks to come back to a project. 🙂

  3. Lucas says:

    The conflict was relentless. Every chapter had major conflict. Reading it was like swimming at full sprint through choppy waves and gasping for air. A lot of books tend to slow down with romance or backstory but this book started off at warp speed and never stopped until the last page. Amazing.

    • Sounds like a great tension builder. Who wrote it? I usually die when the writer gets into setting because it feels so slow to me. That’s my favorite part to skip and my least favorite part to write.

  4. Lucas says:

    It was called Sail by James Patterson, aka master of the mindless thriller. I can’t read his books very often as they lack depth and complexity, but for a quick plane ride there is nothing that will make the hours in your cramped seat whizz by faster.

Any thoughts or reactions or favorite foods you want to share?