Is there a process for writing a novel?
‘Is there a process for writing a novel?’ is a question that writers, especially new writers, ask across the board. Is there a process, a right way of creating the story, and am I doing it the best way possible?
If you’re interested in efficiency, you might hate the idea of moving full-steam-ahead on a project without knowing whether you’re using the best process for writing. So many writers provide “helpful” tips like “write every day.” When you think about it, that’s rather a worthless bit of advice, isn’t it? So what if I write every day? Am I writing in the right order? Will it all flow together in the end? What if I write every day but none of it makes sense?
I’ve read a lot of books about writing and tried a lot of different processes. I’ve come to the conclusion, based on both research and practice, that there is no specific process for writing a novel. The number of workable processes are as abundant as the number of novels that exist.
But this is no reason to get discouraged!
We can still glean some wisdom from other writers who have finished novels and use their knowledge to help us finish our own. I love reviewing the details, however great or small, that other writers give to offer glimpses into their personal writing processes. These are some of the quotes that have helped me create my own personal process. I tend to operate in a more intuitive style than a direct, organized approach, feeling personally that a story must unfold naturally in order to flow in a way that makes sense to me. And I personally love the sandbox imagery! It makes the idea of a process seem more playful and far less serious and rigid.
Quotes about the process of writing
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”Shannon Hale
“I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word. Literature is my sandbox. In it I play, build my forts and castles, spend glorious time.”Rabih Alameddine
“I write just about everything piecemeal…It’s effective because it works; I’m never held up stewing about What Comes Next— I don’t care what comes next, I just care about something I can see happening. The order of the happening has a logic to it (often, more than one), and that will become clear to me as I work.”Diana Gabaldon
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”George R.R. Martin