Everyone’s writing process is different. We have plotters and pantsers and into-the-misters, brainstormers and hang-around-waiting-for-the-muse-to-strikers, technicians and I-dreamed-the-ending-ers, disciplinarians and my-characters-talk-to-me-ers. And no one can (or should!) force their method on any one else — if it works for you, then it works for you.
But look at any published romance book, and you’ll see (I hope!) that a finished romance manuscript has structure. It has character arcs and turning points and goal-motivation-conflicts. It has acts, black moments, crises and climaxes (yeah, those too!). And if it’s a well-written book, you won’t be able to tell which methods the author used.
My point being: some of us take the train, some fly, some walk around in circles — but we’re all getting to the same place.
The other day at my local romance writing group, I was chatting with a writer who was a self-identified pantser. ‘I just get an idea and start writing,’ she said.
Those of you who know me will understand that the very thought of doing this breaks me out in hives 🙂
I shuddered, and thrust my latest outlining notebook in her face — I routinely fill up a 120-pager with handwritten notes before I even start typing the outline, let alone the manuscript — and stammered, ‘But… but… but what about character arcs, and conflicts, and GMCs, and… y’know, the story!!’
She shrugged, and said, ‘Oh, I just fix that when I’m finished.’
After further discussion, we ascertained that we’re actually doing the very same things when we structure a book — I just do it before I begin, while she does it by playing with a completed first draft.
So yeah, everyone’s process is different — but we all go through the same steps, somehow. And I’m a firm believer that no matter what method you choose, or when you choose to do them, there are some structuring steps that just can’t be left out. Eventually, you have to analyse your character arcs/GMCs and romantic turning points, whatever you like to call them, to make sure the romance is realistic and means something to the characters. You have to make sure something is happening in every scene. You have to pay attention to where the manuscript begins, and so forth.
I’m cooking up a brand new book from scratch as we speak, so in true Erica style, I’m up to my neck in spiral-bound notebooks and system cards. Good old outlining. I’ll drop by next week and let you know how it’s going.