Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Preparation, Planning, Production

The title of the blog today is actually a chapter in a book by Dwight Swain called Techniques of the Selling Writer. It is a fab book and if you can locate a copy, you should definitely pick it up - assuming of course, that you're a writer. If you're a reader, then not so much. :)

So I was reading a bit of this book last night while soaking in a hot bath with mineral salts that are supposed to clear up my nose (not sure if it worked, but the bath was really nice), and the first sentence in this chapter made me laugh out loud both because of its directness and how truthful it is. See what you think:

"The best observation anyone can make on preparation, planning and production is that everyone has a God-given right to go to hell in his own way - and don't let anyone kid you out of yours."

This is priceless! And can apply to anything in life, really. But for writers it's specifically important because we spend so much time in books, workshops, with critique partners and mentors hearing how we OUGHT to do things. The reality is, writing method is as varied by author as is hair color and just as personal. I don't know of any two writers who write exactly alike. And quite frankly, most authors I know have had to adjust their method of writing after their first sale.

I had to go from seat-of-the-pants to writing a proposal, and I REALLY mean seat-of-the-pants. RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU started with a single scene idea I had - what if an alligator bit into a backpack of drugs, got high and ran into someone's swimming pool. Literally, that was all I had - one scene that I thought would make a hilarious opening to a book. Then I had to build everything around it. And since I changed who the bad guy was three different times before I wrote THE END, I definitely wasn't writing from an outline. I subscribed to the Stephen King theory which is "if I don't know how it ends, how can my reader?" Then enter the sale - and the sale on proposal concept and life begain to suck and I had to plan ahead. It's still a work in process (the planning ahead part) but I'm getting better at it.

I'm going to cover a bit more of what Swain has to say on the three P's tomorrow, but for today, I would like to know how you "settled" on your writing method, has anyone tried to change it, and what did you do about it when they did.

Have a great Hump Day!


Wendy Roberts said...

I'm struggling with this too, Jana. I just had to write a proposal and I really wanted to add a note at the bottom that said, "Characters may or may not do what is said in this synopsis." LOL. I almost have to write the bad guy as vague in a proposal. C'mon, if I know who did it I won't want to write it!

Wendy Roberts said...

Oh I have to say, that Jenny Crusie talked about this once and said she's been known to write in a proposal, "And then something really wonderful/scary and/or big will happen here." I aspire to be a NYT bestseller who can write proposals like THAT!

Tori Lennox said...

I've had a copy of that Swain book for years, but I've never, um, actually read it....

Jaye Wells said...

My process continues to evolve. I'm sure once I sell there will be yet another revamp.

Jana DeLeon said...

LOL Wendy, yes we all aspire to be Jenny Crusie, especially when it comes to leeway on proposals and the royalty checks! :) Maybe I'll try that "something fabulous" line in my current proposal. What do ya think?

tori - it's really very good. A little deep sometimes, so it's one of those things I haven't tried to absorb at one time. I keep it by my tub and read pearls of wisdom while soaking. It seems to stick better if I take it in small chunks.

jaye - even after you sell and write the next one, you'll still be revamping. I'm still looking for the most efficient way to manage writing, career and family and I suppose I always will be. After all, life never remains the same and we're always adjusting to something that changed around us.

Kim Stagliano said...


Jana DeLeon said...

lol kim - praying is a given!

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