Welcome back to Week 1 of the Process Project Blog series!
Today is a continuation of yesterday’s interview with the lovely Amanda Pate. Click hereto catch up on the first half of our interview where we talked about why she writes, what she writes, and how she writes. Today, we will find out a little more about how she writes and revises!
J: When you are preparing to write a new story, what kinds of techniques or methods do you use to organize your ideas?
A: For the most part, it doesn't matter what genre I'm writing, I generally tackle the brainstorms and preparation in the same way. I allot at least a week for an idea to percolate. I make notes on my phone, in my journal, or anywhere I can keep track of what I write, and save it for a later time. During that week, I mull it over, think about it, try and discern the characters, what their basic personalities will be, etc. And after a week, or sometimes two, I can start my brainstorming process.
Brainstorming for me always starts off with the characters. I figure out the top 2-3 characters and write down a very basic bio with a workable name (sometimes names change through the course of brainstorming, other times they stick like glue and you can't change them no matter how badly you want to). I normally brainstorm using lists. I'm a very linear thinker and planner, so lists work well for me. I use a program called Scapple--which is just $15 and has a free 1-month trial you should check out--that helps me organize my thoughts and allows me to work in a linear fashion. I go by chapter/scene and start from the beginning and work all the way to the end with a few holes in the middle and a number of holes in the end—enough to allow more creative license as I write.
Some people say that there are two different kinds of writers: the architect and the gardener. I believe I'm a healthy mixture of both. I have a rough idea what's going to happen from beginning to end in my novel, but I strategically leave holes for the growth of other ideas, subplots, and extra characters. And that has actually made all the difference in my writing.
There is however one rule I have in brainstorming: I never delete anything. Deleting is a terrible idea when you're at this stage, because you never know when something might spark a different idea. I can't tell you how many times I get stuck in a novel and then go back to my brainstorms and suddenly get this wave of inspiration.
J: When you’re on the road and ideas come to you, what do you usually do?
A: When I'm on the road and don’t have two hands to type out a quick note on my phone, I have the strongest feeling to pull over and write it down, but let's be realistic. We don't have time for that. Instead, I will whip out my phone and record a voice memo. Then I will go home and transcribe it in my journal or on my computer.
J: While you are working on a piece, do you have any particular way that you structure your work?
A: I use a program called Scrivener--by the same people who put out Scapple, and I swear Scrivener is like GOLD to a writer, and it's only $45. Scrivener allows me to keep absolutely everything on a single file, except for my brainstorms which I keep on a Scapple file. So all of my research, character bios, setting templates, chronological timelines, etc., are on the same project file, which makes retrieving information extremely easy.
With it being so easy and having all of my information in a single place, it makes it effortless for me to outline scenes. I always outline a scene before I write, sometimes it's just your basic "this happens, then this happens, then this..." and sometimes it includes outlines of conversations; it just varies. Even though I work with an outline, I don't always stick to it. If I feel like I need to add interaction with a particular character or a more in-depth description than my outline said, I will add it in. I use my outline as a guide, not a law.
J: When it's time to revise/edit your work, do you have any particular methods that you use to help you through the process?
A: First off, revising is HARD... but in the end it is so very worth it. I first like to sit down and look at my work as a whole. I evaluate where my character holes were, my plot holes, my description holes, etc. I look to see what doesn't make sense, what makes characters unrealistic. Once I recognize my flaws, I try to figure out how to fix them—sometimes that takes separate brainstorms, sometimes not—and then I sit down to write.
Taking my latest revision of my novel, By Order of the King, for example, I added three extra chapters fleshing out characters that were flat. I added a character that actually has quite a strong root in the story now, and I've killed off or completely eradicated other characters. I've developed relationships, I've made certain characters less weepy and more realistic. All of these changes are difficult and take a lot of shaping and scraping away, but in the long run will be great.
In my opinion, you just have to come to terms with the fact that your first draft is always crap. But the essence of your story is good. The heart of your story is worth redeeming, so you have to go through the painful process of deleting, scrapping, and shaving away pieces of your story in order to make it shine.
I want to thank Amanda so much for taking her time to put so much thought and time into her answers, and to share with us how and why she does some of the things she does throughout her writing process! Thanks, Amanda!!
Want to read more by Amanda Pate? Amanda has been published the 2012 and 2013 issues of the Baylorian literary journal for photography and for poetry as well as the Oklahoma Baptist University Literary Journal, Scriblerus. You can read her latest project, By Order of the King, on Wattpad, which is updated on a bi-weekly basis!
Amanda earned a BA in English from a small university in Texas. She is currently getting her MA in Creative Writing in Oklahoma in hopes of going on to obtain her PhD. She dreams of becoming a published author and writing of great adventures and daring sword fights. One of her main goals in life is to own a library with a ladder and backpack across Europe. Amanda also enjoys the smell of old books, wearing scarves, social networking, glasses rather than contacts. She enjoys being a part of a bookish community where she can fangirl over everything that is Young Adult lit.
Check her out on the web here!