~ By Jennifer Lohmann
I started my current work in progress much like I’ve started by previous five books. I had a flicker of an idea, sat down at my computer, opened Microsoft Word and started typing. I am a definite pantser, making notes in the margins and creating a plot outline and character sketches in Microsoft OneNote as I go along. And this process works for me. I start at the beginning, write about a third of the book, skip to the end, write about a quarter of the book, and then skip around the middle filling in what needs to happen to make the beginning of the book meet up with the end. This may not be how I want to write, but I’ve written five books like this.
About eight thousand words into my WIP, I hit a new and very scary snag. My hero wasn’t doing anything heroic. Instead of being quiet and thoughtful (like Julian from The Romantic by Madeline Hunter, a favorite book of mine), my hero came off the page as passive-aggressive (Bad! Bad!) and he wasn’t telling the heroine the truth about anything. As the writer, I knew why he was keeping secrets. I knew why he was hot and cold. And none of those reasons made him passive aggressive. But that was all knowledge in my head, not anything written on the paper. And it was all backstory, so I didn’t want to put it on the page in one big info dump. Suddenly I had this large problem. Readers had to stick with the book to find out why my hero wasn’t actually a jerk, but I couldn’t imagine why any reader would stick with him.
I put the book aside for a couple of days, always thinking, “If the reader only knew about this thing the hero had done, they’d understand why he was being a jerk. Or this thing. Or this thing. How do I tell them?”
I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me before I realized I was writing the middle of the book. All that stuff I wanted the reader to know wasn’t backstory at all, but the moment when the hero and heroine’s friendship is about to change and, even though it didn’t feel the beginning of their romantic relationship, it was the end of their friendship and the reader needed to see that. Not in flashback, not told in backstory but actually experience the demise of their friendship in all its angsty glory on the page.
BOOM! My writing process had crashed at my feet and I was working to build anew. I was writing the book backwards (for me) and it was scary stuff. It’s still scary stuff.
The part of me that used to be assured “Jennifer Lohmann” writes books like this, can’t say that anymore. I wonder about the next book and the next and the next. Is there another writing process yet to come that I haven’t experienced? Will I fight and struggle through it, or will I recognize the change and be able to adapt.
Will it makes my books better?
‘Cause the best possible book is really all I want out of my writing process. I’m still in the middle of this change and don’t have an answer. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer. But I do have questions for you.
Has your writing process ever changed? How did it change and how did you adapt? Was it a conscious choice? Do you like your new process? Do you wish you could go back?
Jennifer Lohmann (http://jenniferlohmann.com/) is a Rocky Mountain girl at heart, having grown up in southern Idaho and Salt Lake City. She is the author of five novels, including Weekends in Carolina which releases in June 1, 2014 and Winning Ruby Heart, which releases in September 1, 2014. When she’s not writing or working as a public librarian, she wrangles two cats and five backyard chickens. Fortunately, the dog is better behaved. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.