I’m in the middle of drafting.
When I say middle, I mean I’m swimming through an ocean of words that are simultaneously crashing over my head and pulling at my shirtsleeves and staring me in the face while chewing too loud.
Since everyone is so different, I thought I’d take a beat and give you a wee window into what my life looks like when I’m deep in the word trenches.
Empty Plates, Mugs, Bowls, Wrappers
I work in a desolate wasteland of once-upon-a-food.
When I’m drafting, I often forget to eat, and when I don’t forget, my food will sit by me for hours until a cat tries to eat it and I have to finish eating it before she can. My coffee will be gulped halfway down and left to grow cold. Rediscovering it two hours later when I’m in the middle of a scene is like finding buried treasure.
When I do forget, I’ll get said coffee, go through the aforementioned half-gulping, and several hours later will look at the clock and realize I last ingested nutrition-like substances six or seven hours before.
You don’t want to see my room when I’m drafting.
My room tends to be a reflection of the inside of my head, and when I’m making big with the words, my brain is full of mountains and valleys and cyclones and tsunamis. So’s my room. Clothes come off and land in a pile. I pirouette around them to get anywhere. The cats navigate a minefield, slinking between hillocks of bras and pants with tails low to the ground and whiskers forward.
If you ask me about this book, you will not get an elevator pitch. Unless that elevator is stuck and we are both in it, and however many hours we are there will be literally an elevator pitch, because you will probably want to pry open the elevator doors and pitch me into the shaft.
I write my loglines and query letters and often synopses before I ever start scribbling, but once I start drafting, all bets are off. My brain will be as cluttered as my bedroom, and you’re likely to get a dissertation on weather patterns or fantastical world climate change or axial tilt and elliptical orbits or characterization over the entire series or magic systems or something about food.
Probably that last because I’ve forgotten to eat again.
I have been known to do nothing all day but write and drink coffee. This does not make me a special snowflake.
The Flagellation Carousel
This is probably the biggest emotional hurdle I face while drafting. Earlier I told my friend Cait Greer that I’m always terrified my books are boring if someone’s not actively busy dying. When I wrote my magical realism last year, no one was in much danger of dying. I spent most of the book fretting that it was the most snore-worthy book ever, because the stakes all fell below the whole getting gutted with fishhooks thing.
Most of this goes around and around in my head from “THIS IS THE MOST ORIGINAL THING I’VE EVER WRITTEN” to “OMG IF THIS IS THE MOST ORIGINAL THING I HAVE EVER WRITTEN THEN I AM THE BIGGEST HACKY MCDERIVATIVE FACE IN ALL THE LAND” to “THIS SCENE IS AWESOME AND WOOOOORDS” to “LITERALLY THIS SCENE IS ABOUT A ROCK WHO CARES” and back.
Welcome to the inside of my head.
…..it’s not often a quiet place.
I spend most of my time in sponge-phase, which sort of begs explanation, so…
The Drafting Life Cycle of an Emmie Brain
Stage 1: Sponge — I’m reading, listening, observing, Facebooking, Twittering, prancing, eating, going through life like a slightly bemused boss. If I’m writing, it’s scribbles of notes. Or blogs, probably GIF heavy ones.
Stage 2: Marination — Everything I soaked up gets put into a plastic brain-bag and all the air is sucked out of it until it is a compact pouch of randomness. The flavors meld, they become new things, they transcend themselves (hopefully), and they hopefully end up cohesive instead of smelling like old feet.
Stage 3: Dripping — The brain-bag is full. FULL, I tell you. The seal is leaking. Stuff starts dribbling out all over everywhere. It gets on napkins and post-its and iPhone notepads and the backs of receipts and possibly my own skin, written in my own blood.* It leaks onto index cards in Scrivener, into worldbuilding docs and outlines. I start hearing voices who don’t want to believe I’m their god. I usually have to bust out the squirt bottle.
Stage 4: SQUEEEEEZE — This is when something grabs hold of me and wrings me out. Anyone who’s followed me for a while has probably seen that I have some heavy word count days. 10K is not so huge for me. 15K is definitely a semi-regular occurrence. 20K+? Not unheard of. That’s how I do. Because after I’m soaking stuff up, marinating, and leaking, something comes along and it ALL comes out. At once. In a gush of words on paper or screen. I’ll write while I’m on the train, while I’m on lunch break, while I’m watching the Bachelor.** I’ll write in my bed, surrounded by cats and piles of clothes and empty mugs and bowls and late into the night when I have to wake up early in the morning.
And then, somewhere in this fourth stage, a book happens.
So there you have it, folks. This is my process and how I do the thing called writing. What’s yours?
*Just kidding…..OR AM I
** Not apologizing for this. Chris Harrison needs to go out to coffee with me and just make snarky comments about his own show for an hour.
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox
Join other followers