"What's Your Process?" blogfest is here!!!

First off thanks to Shallee for hosting this creative blogfest. If you haven't checked out her blog yet please do.

I'm a newbie. REAL newbie. Like still screaming from the hospital newbie so please bear with me on my process. As a new writer I know that through the coming years I will change and swap and totally screw up my writing process. For right now I seem to have one that works well for me. I can only take you through the first draft since I have not yet had the wonderful experience of revision.

When I started writing I took an online writing course to help show me the way. One of the first things I learned was making a sweet spot map or SSM. That's where we'll start.

I have several sheets of paper, all with a different list. "I love....", "I hate....", "I fear...". On each one I list various things under the title. I spin off from one thing to another. "I Love....statues, angel statues, mazes, cemeteries, wind, creaking trees, moss, lakes, dragonflies and so on. With these sheets I can find any number of ideas for stories. But let's rewind a bit.

The first thing I do is figure out what sort of story my muse wants to tell. Horror. Paranormal Romance. Fantasy. Let's pick Horror for an example.

Then I go to my SSM (sweet spot map) . I go to my "I fear" page. Kidnapping is high on the list along with being buried alive. Maybe I'm feeling an idea take shape about being kidnapped and buried alive.

Now I need to make a sentence to sum up my idea. This is where I let my muse run free with several different avenues. I think of a couple sentences and write them down and pick one to go with.

1. A serial killer is burying his victims alive and the only person who can stop him is the one who got away.

2. Young girls are turning up dead and the only clue is the rare soil caked around their mouths.

Neither one of these are very good but I can now pull down more ideas for where I want this story to go. I pick one of the sentences and pull out my notebooks and index cards. I'll go through several ideas until I get one that feels right. Normally by now I have a feeling for the beginning and the middle. The end is just a murky shell. I do a lot of "what if's".

What if the story is being told by the killer?

What is the girls come back as zombies?

What if the one who escapes becomes a partner in crime?

And then I swap the answers and do a little more "what if's".

Now I need characters. Who would do this? Who could stop them? Who has the most to lose? I know HOW I want to characters to end up but not how they get there. I don't put too much pre-planing into my characters. I like them to evolve on their own. I get the basics like what makes them tick. What do they want in life? What makes them angry?

HUGE WAIT A MINUTE HERE: Sometimes I have a character and no story. BUT this is rare for me. I then build my story around my character. Example I have a princess space pirate that won't leave me alone so I work on that one in my head. Like I said I'm still evolving.

Next I think of some scenes I just HAVE to write and put a rough sentence on an index card for each scene. I try for around 30 scenes at this point. Some of these will disappear before I even get to them. Some will morph into more scenes.

Then I write. I pick a scene and go. After I get all my favorite scenes I go to the beginning of the story and write from there to the end. Filling in where I have gaps and thinning out when I am overloaded. Since I haven't reached revision yet this is where I stop.

Here are several pieces of advice I have gotten that I keep telling myself.

1. There is NOTHING that can't be fixed in revision.

2. You can't fix what you don't finish. SO WRITE!!

3. EVERY writer has a rough first draft. Some are slightly scarred while other are big steaming piles of ..er.. mud. Most writers just don't want to tell you that.

My writing process is kinda skimpy right now but I can't wait to hear all the others. Happy Writing.


  1. I love the "You can't fix what you don't write" well said.

  2. I love the idea of the sweet spot map! I'm definitely going to try that one. And I love your last three points-- I'll try to remember those when I'm terrified of my first draft. :)

  3. Lots of great kernels here. I love the idea of the sweet spot maps.

  4. Welcome M Pax and Summer. Hey Shallee, seriously awesome blogfest. I really love my SSM's. Especially when I'm stumped and need a new idea I can just look up (their taped on my wall above my comp) and find a way out.

  5. SSMs rock. Gee I should use mine more. *slaps forehead* Items 1, 2, & 3 get me through the day. Your process seems more organized than mine. I refuse to bang my head against the "sentence" wall until I have a clue what's going on. Honestly it's my least favorite part.

  6. HHAAAA It might look organized but you know me better than that. I'm not real heavy on "the sentence" but it just gives me a rough guide. I really should do more on character modules and interviews but those are my least favorite part. Number 3 is what gets me when I want to trash the whole thing and go learn how to make zoo animals out of colored toilet paper.

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog.

    You're absolutely right, write, write, and write some more. You can worry about honing, and polishing later on. Get the story down! ;)


  8. I like your three points of advice. I haven't been writing for very long, but it's such an awesome learning experience!

  9. You have a clear idea of what you want to write about - the sweet spot map is a great idea for generating an initial idea. Good luck with your writing. :)

  10. I love your process of developing an idea into a story. And I like: #2: You can't fix what you don't finish. SO WRITE!! Good advice.

  11. Francine,
    Your site was lovely and thanks for stopping by here. I have to remind myself that when I feel overwhelmed.

    I know what you mean. When I first started I had a small idea of how much there was to learn but I have since then been blown away by the amount of info. And pleasantly surprised by all the support and advice of the writing community.

    Welcome, I love the idea of the SSM which I learned in an online writing course (see side bar). Looking at the SSM has pulled me out of more ruts than I care to count. Thanks for the good luck. I'll need all I can get. ;)

    I have to read that when I want to fix a scene. I'm bad about getting stuck on trying to make it perfect instead of pushing through.

  12. Hi Lisa,
    I love randomly coming across another of Holly's students :). It's great that you're getting so much out of the SSMs. I started my current WIP before starting the course, but I'm definitely going to go back to Lesson 1 when I start the next one and use all the tips and tricks.

  13. I love all the ideas we get from these posts. I like your sweet spot map. Very original. Oh, and welcome to the crazy life of writing.

  14. Welcome Sari,
    I LOVED her HtTS course and am about to start her revision course HTRYN. I can't wait. We are all kinda scattered but I have seen some of her students. I know Kari Marie at karimariewhite.blogspot.com is one and there are a few others in my blogroll I think.

    T C ,
    Welcome to you too. I can'ttake credit for the SSM's. Holly LIsle teaches how to do taht in her online writing course which I absolutely love. (See side bar. Thanks for the welcome.

  15. sorry for all the typos :( I'm tired hehe

  16. The Sweet Spot Map sounds real cool. I enjoyed reading your writing process. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thanks for stopping by and I really love the SSM.

  18. I'm a week late, but catching up on this blogfest now after I finally put my own entry up =)

    The SSM sounds amazing! What a great way to start a story! :D

  19. Hey Marieke,
    Better late than never right?


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