Edith/Maddie here, with a third August Wicked Wednesday.
August is a month of much ripening in New England gardens and on farms. The tomatoes are finally red, the cucumbers full and crisp, the sweet corn ready to sink your teeth into. You can harvest plump blueberries. You can pick juicy peaches and, if you grow vegetables, enjoy fresh salsa or ratatouille from peppers and eggplants and herbs and the ubiquitous zucchini picked entirely in your own garden (or at your local farm stand, if you don’t garden).
But we’re authors, so let’s talk about ripening a book. Many readers are curious about our writing process, which is different for each of us.
Wickeds, what’s your book ripening process? Do you take your time writing it, letting it develop and mature gradually? Do you bat out the first draft and then leave it to gel for a while? Do you edit as you go or leave tweaking to your revision passes? Dish on how your book becomes ripe enough to send in.
Barb: Lately I’ve decided that my writing process is finding the perfect “Balance of Panic.” My panic that the book is terrible has to be perfectly offset by my panic that I won’t complete it by the deadline, without tipping over into panic paralysis. Once I find the perfect balance I can terrify my way through the process to the end.
Liz: Barb, that’s amazing…and so relatable. My process has always been weird. I write half the book, then go back and start editing to see if I can pull some kind of story out of the mess of words I’ve written. Then I write the next third, and do the same thing. And then usually like a day before the deadline I write the ending…well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
Julie: Barb and Liz, I love reading about your processes. But they give me a stomach ache. Deadlines are very helpful, but I’ve discovered that I need to write a draft, let it sit for at least two weeks, edit then polish. I’ve found that’s my best process. If I don’t give it time to ripen between drafts, the story doesn’t work. I do plot, so that first draft is a solid effort with holes that need to be fixed.
Edith/Maddie: I think my process is more like yours, Julie, even though you plot and I don’t. I don’t heavily edit as I go, but I do start each day giving the previous day’s writing a light edit. Right now I’m letting a first draft “season” for the month while I work on short stories and polish a different manuscript. I’m rarely in panic mode like Barb (and possibly Liz), thank goodness!
Jessie: I love hearing all the ways it is possible to produce a manuscript that is ready to submit! Like Julie, I plot. The plot is a series of scenes, in order, each summarized on a sticky note. I write a slightly more narrative synopsis from there. Each day as I begin to work I read the synopsis for the scenes I plan to write and then I begin pacing my office and dictating using Dragon. If I have time, I leave the first draft for a bit to simmer. If not, I plunge ahead after a day or two and generally am completely finished after two more drafts.
Sherry: I’m late to the party. I love this question, Edith. I write the first draft, send it to independent editor Barb Goffman, polish, send it to my three beta readers, and polish again. But I also tend to procrastinate — I’ve got plenty of time and then write fast.
Readers: What’s your ripening process for projects? Or just mention your favorite ripe summer food!