New and aspiring writers often ask published writers, “What’s your process?” It feels a little funny to talk about the writing process, because it’s something I’m always learning about as well — even though I’ve been doing it for twenty years! But I can tell you a few of the things that have worked for me.

WritingProcessFirst, the tools. When I was a kid growing up in Colorado, I started writing with a blue felt-tip pen. So, that’s what I still do! I use a blue pen and a pad of paper, and somehow it seems to give me the creative chemistry that I need. (Later in the process, I’ll use the same friendly blue pen to make edits on a printed draft.)

My favorite place to work is in my writing chair in the attic, with a cup of cinnamon tea right next to me. But one thing I’ve found is that I’m always writing, no matter what tools are in reach. Whether I’m out for a hike with my family, on an airplane, or baking cookies, the ideas keep flowing, and I’ve had to develop the habit of remembering them and writing them down as soon as possible.

I’ve noted in an earlier blog post that I need three story elements in place to write the first draft of a novel: Detailed descriptions of each new character; a big idea, usually in the form of a question or mystery that the characters will solve, that drives the plot; and a compelling world for their adventures. Once these are in place, they keep me interested in a story — from the page I’m working on today to the six or seven full rewrites I usually do on my novels.

One lesson I’ve taken in is that both sides of my brain contribute to making this mysterious brew. The organized side of me outlines the story—where the characters start, where they’ll end up, and the mountains they’ll have to climb in between. But the imaginative side of my brain follows where my characters lead, even — especially! — when they stray from the map I’ve created. That’s when this process turns into a true joy, when my story jumps out from the blue ink on the page and takes on a life of its own.

 




4 Comments

  1. Reply

    CC Riley

    April 23, 2014

    I’ve just written my fourth novel, but I’ve never gotten to the revision process. What does that look like for you? Any advice?

    • Reply

      T. A. Barron

      April 23, 2014

      Great question. I rewrite every book at least 8 or 9 times, from start to finish, before I’m done. It can be a very long process, but revising is essential to good writing. I think of it as a bit like polishing a sphere: To make it smooth and seamless, with no edges, is my goal. I pay special attention to key elements such as pacing, descriptive details, and making the voice of each character as consistent as possible. How long does it take? Until I get it right!

      Good luck with your own writing. Never forget that you have something valuable to say, and it’s worth sharing!

      Best wishes,
      T.A.B.

      • Reply

        CC Riley

        June 10, 2014

        Thank you so much for your insight! I’m starting the revision process now, which seems to me to be more like a complete rewriting since I have some pretty big holes to fill. I’m really excited to be starting this process and I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement.

        When I was probably fourteen, I picked up a copy of The Great Tree of Avalon. Tamwyn was one of my favorite characters because I, too, often felt that I was always trying to do right but my clumsiness often got in the way. Elli and I shared that swift tongue, and I can remember laughing out loud at some of the things that the sprite on her shoulder would say. Even now, when I kill a spider or a fly, I think about this story and those characters. It sounds odd when I write it all out, but that series had a big impact on who I am now. I’m now a ninth grade English teacher and I was able to share those books with one of my students. I can’t thank you enough for being a writer and sharing those stories. If you ever come to Arkansas, I would love to see you speak!

  2. Reply

    SSpjut

    May 2, 2014

    To hear you say that you do 8-9 revisions per book makes me feel better about my own process. I’ve discovered there is great freedom in knowing that there is nothing engraved in stone, which makes it easier to get the story down, adding layers and changes until it becomes the thing I originally envisioned – or hopefully even better.


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