~ By Jane Peden
What’s the right way to write a book?
Over the past ten years I’ve attended countless writing workshops at my local RWA chapter, National RWA Conference, and other writing groups. And I’ve heard many absolutes. You MUST use a critique group. . . . Make sure you know your character’s GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict) BEFORE you start to write your story. . . Always interview your characters so that you know their interests, their strengths, their backgrounds, their favorite flavor of ice cream . . . Make an outline and a detailed synopsis first, even if you don’t stick to it. . .
I’ve seen elaborate story collages, scene-by-scene POV spreadsheets, and charts covered with colored sticky notes. I recently attended what I could best describe as a graduate-level seminar on Scrivener.
None of that works for me. I’m not saying it’s wrong. But it’s just not my process. I’m not only a pantser – I’m a pantser who writes scenes completely out of order. I start with just a hook. When I began writing my debut book, a contemporary category romance, all I knew was that the woman millionaire Miami lawyer Sam Flanagan had a brief fling with five years ago in Las Vegas was going to show up at his office unannounced and demand that he marry her. And that when they’d had their fling, she’d secretly been engaged to someone else. And that she’d had Sam’s baby and never told him.
What I didn’t know was why any of that happened, and I didn’t figure it out until I was halfway through the first draft.
This is why a critique group would never work for me. My project doesn’t make much sense in its early stages, and having someone point that out to me would be an unnecessary and discouraging statement of the obvious. By the time I’m on my third draft I’m finally ready for a beta reader. Because by then, I’ve found the story.
Writing a book reminds me of a quote I love by Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” That’s how I approach discovering the story while writing a book, and it works for me. But it may not work for you.
It’s become obvious to me over the years that my method of just diving in there and attacking the blank screen on my laptop with no real sense of direction doesn’t get a lot of respect in the writing community. I’ve even heard a nationally-acclaimed speaker at a writers’ conference tell an anecdote belittling a commercially successful author who claimed to write “organically.” The speaker scoffed that the other writer had to have been lying because of course you must spend the time plotting up front if you want to write a well-crafted book. (That’s when I decided to slip out the back door and go write in my hotel room, which, for me, was a more productive use of the time.)
The bottom line is, everyone’s writing process is different. What matters is being true to your own process even when you feel like you are going against the prevailing view.
So the answer is, the “right” way to write a book is whatever way works for YOU.
Jane Peden is the pen name of a Florida trial attorney who writes sexy contemporary romances set in the exciting South Florida city of Miami, where millionaire lawyers live extravagant lifestyles and find love when they least expect it. When Jane isn’t in court, you can find her at the beach with her laptop, dreaming up stories about successful, confident men who know what they want and how to get it, and smart, sexy women who demand love on their own terms. Jane lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and a fish. Jane writes for Entangled Publishing, and her debut novel, The Millionaires’ Unexpected Proposal, will be released through Entangled’s Indulgence line on March 31, 2015.