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Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Doralynn Kennedy

Plotter or Pantser?

The afternoon ended in an explosion of thunder, a screech of bald tires on dry pavement, and a head-on collision on Route Forty-Four outside of Phoenix.

Fortunately, that is not a description of my last road trip. It’s an example of my writing process. I think all writers have their own peculiar writing techniques. I know one writer who badgers everyone he meets for title suggestions. When he hears a title that engages him, he creates a story to fit it. Other writers I know outline their entire book. They don’t even begin writing until they have every step of their journey mapped out. They know where every bend in the road is. They know all the rough spots, detours, and pot holes along their trip. I envy their organizational skills. Anyone who has ever visited my home knows that I lack that particular trait. I am a one-woman testament to the second law of thermodynamics. Everything is moving from a state of order to disorder. My desk alone proves that.

I have attempted to emulate my outlining friends in the past, but my stories ended up reading like outlines. Really bad outlines. I learned my lesson, and now I don’t even give a passing thought to being organized. I accept the fact that I am a mess and try to make the best of it.

My true writing process is similar to my friend who creates stories from titles. I think of a first sentence and then the rest of the story follows from that. Within a few paragraphs, I have a general idea of who my characters are, what the plot is, and what is going on. But I mostly write down the story as it happens. I don’t like doing research, so I try to stick to topics that I have some familiarity with. If I am writing something that I do not have first-hand knowledge of, then I research, but I don’t do it until I reach the section of the story that actually needs to be studied. Then I stop the writing process and delve into research. Sometimes that takes quite a bit of time. Since this is not an activity that I enjoy, I frequently procrastinate during this time, and that drags out the completion of my book—sometimes by several months. Another thing that slows me down is burn out. Frequently, towards the end of a novel, I lose interest, take a break, and find it difficult to get going again. And sometimes, I just get stuck and don’t really know what happens next. It eventually becomes clear to me, and I start writing again.

There are many other drawbacks to my method of writing, as well. Sometimes I get toward the end of my manuscript and realize I need to add a chapter or two, rearrange the order of events, or scrap something entirely. My characters don’t always behave in ways that I expect them to, nor do what I’d hoped they would. They tend to take on a life and will of their own. For the most part, they run the show like a group of spoiled children, reducing my role to janitor—leaving me to scurry about cleaning up their mess and staying late to lock up the joint after they’ve all gone home for the night. Or in this case, the end of the book has been reached, and the last sentence on the final page has been penned.

I hope you enjoyed today's essay. If you'd like to see how my writing process pans out, let me recommend my debut novel, Sleeping With Skeletons. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Hi Doralynn,

I find it so fascinating, how each writer's writing process is so different. Kind of like fingerprints.

I loved the analogy you used about feeling like a janitor, cleaning up after the kids and locking up after hours. Sometimes it's a thankless job, sigh. But then it's all worth it when the story comes together as you'd hoped.


Doralynn Kennedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment. It does feel pretty thankless at times, but like you said, it's all worth it when the story comes together as you hoped.

I'm celebrating that today, in fact. I finished the first draft of my novel 'Spiders' yesterday, and I'm really pleased with it. That's such a great feeling.

thanks again.

The Reading Frenzy said...

Hi Doralynn,
No matter how your writing process begins or progresses the end result is wonderful.
As you know I loved Sleeping with Skeletons and think it was a great novel and am patiently waiting for the next one.
your fan

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Deb, how nice to hear from you! I was thinking of you yesterday when I finished 'Spiders'. I consider it the best manuscript I've ever written, so I hope I can find a publisher for it. I'd send it to The Wild Rose Press, but though it has strong romantic elements, it's not a romance. It's a crime/thriller/supense novel.

Thanks for the visit.

Cathy M said...

Hi Doralynn,

The writing process is fascinating, especially to a non-writer like myself.

Congrats on finishing the first draft of Spiders.

robynl said...

not everyone can be organized and neat; whatever it takes to get the job(book) finished so be it.

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Cathy, thanks for the congrats on finishing Spiders. I love the characters and the story, so I was really happy to give them some closure. I intend to write more stories with them, though. Thanks again. Doralynn

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Robynl, thanks for the feedback. I'd love to be organized; but, like you said, not everyone can be. Thanks again. Doralynn