The Creative Process

A couple weeks ago, I was on a panel of authors at my alma mater discussing The Creative Process. At first, I wasn’t sure the panelists would have anything in common. One was a screenwriter, another an expert in Russian literature, another had a bestseller about Steve Jobs and yet another wrote American literature. And then there was me: the thriller writer. But, it turned out that our creative process all involved research and a degree of musing about the world–although we did it in different ways. I am pretty sure I was the only panelist that regularly uses excel spreadsheets to plot out the action in my story, the character arcs, and play-by-plays of integral scenes before I start writing.  So, I asked my fellow MissDemeanors. What is an integral part of your creative process. Here’s what they said: “I love brainstorming. In fact, part of why I’ve enjoyed nanowrimo so much the last few years is because it feels like a month of br ainstorming. I write down notes about characters, themes, words they might like, scenes that might be good. I don’t edit myself. Then, when I’ve filled an entire notebook, which usually takes about a month, I have enough material to begin writing.” –Susan “I hate to admit this but, as a life-long insomniac, an integral part of my creative process is to use the long sleepless hours in the middle of the night to think about plot lines and characters and how they might react to twists. Those hours between 2:00  and 4:00 are when reality stares me right in the eye. Sometimes I exhaust myself into a deep sleep and very often I come up with new ideas that would never occur to me during my waking hours.”Michele “For me the creative process has to be a balance between planning (what do I need for the story in specific terms, what does the story arc need) and free form thinking. That means time at the desk and time doing something else which lets my mind roam (yard work is a help here). Creative does mean just that…. at the same time process, well, means steps, piece by piece something coming together. It’s the blend that matters!” –Tracee “Before I begin actually writing each story I draw a mind map with my protagonist at the center. Then I add villains, sidekicks and secondary characters with descriptions of what each one wants and where desires intersect to trip each other up. It’s an exercise that lets me visualize logical expectations of both characters and readers, remove cliches or turn them on their heads, and explore opportunities for twists. The final map becomes a touchstone but I don’t let it lock me in as I write. I find that my characters sometimes surprise me so I stay open to that possibility and have as much fun with it as possible.”–Robin “For me, it’s a combination of daydreaming and research. My research I mostly mean reading. So it doesn’t really seem like research. This is the fun part–daydreaming and reading and thinking about characters. I often have an idea for an opening scene, at least what will be the opening scene of the working draft, and I write that just to get it down, as a way into the story. I make nonsensical notes in a big sketchbook and when I filled that, I sit down with that material and jot down notes for scenes on index cards. When I have about 60 index cards, I start writing in earnest.” –Paula

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