Wicked Wednesday: Ripening

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!

28 Thoughts

  1. I like going to the Farmers Market and getting lots of fresh produce like summer squash, red peppers, cucumbers and blueberries. I check the fresh baked items too. Love a loaf of bread and try different ones. Lucky we are here in FL they are open all year long.

  2. Yes, my backyard has definitely ripened! Now I am cooking. On writing my memoir it is not as easy I thought would be, so I gather the short stories of my life then look at the possibility of having a writer put it all together, so it is fun to read.

  3. Regarding gardens, we have a family of very cute bunnies who are getting our tomatoes before we do. Bun family is getting less and less cute by the day.

    Regarding writing, I’m currently living with the panic Barb mentions. Suddenly I have two deadlines (two different series with two different publishers) which are much closer to each other than I’ve ever experienced before, so my process is changing. Not as much time for letting the story sit and rest. Or “season” as Edith puts it. (LOVE that!) And I’m promising myself I’ll never put myself in this situation again, while knowing of course I will.

  4. Total pantser here, editing as I go along, and giving the previous day’s work another look before proceeding. Right now I have a cozy due on November 1, and a novella on the same day. Double yikes! For Annette: I’ve read that if you hang some Christmas balls on the tomato plants the critters will stay away. (The photo with the article showed red decorations.)

  5. My process on projects usually mean getting into the right frame of mind and once I do, I’m all in to doing it. I enjoy working on it, but I have to admit that at times I get kind of single minded concentrating on what I’m doing.

    My favorite summer food just happens to be what is ripening at the moment. We have been enjoying the fresh veggies for a while. We have had blueberries and peaches fresh picked. Right now I’m anticipating the watermelon that are growing in the garden and the trip to the apple orchard in a couple months.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. We inherited a garden with the new house. I made my first zucchini bread and we gave away…lots more. I have two growing eggplant I have no idea what to do with. I roasted countless cherry tomatoes (rather than letting them rot because we don’t eat them fast enough) and I have a windowsill full of jalapenos (with some Anaheims on the way). Plus the bell peppers, squash, and did I mention the herbs?

    As far as stories, I don’t plot. But I find by the time I reach “the end” the beginning has “seasoned” (totally stealing that word) long enough that I can do the revisions and usually get it in on time (except the current book, where I had to ask for an extension).

  7. We don’t have a bunny problem with our tomato and pepper garden. We have a chipmunk problem. Those rascals at taking a bite or two out of each tomato.
    As for writing, I’m a plotter in the Team Julie camp. Though I do have a manuscript due to my editor on 9/15 that is still in first draft stage. Not much time for ripening, alas.

  8. I use Liz’s method. I write about a third of the book then go back and rewrite until the rest of the story falls out.

  9. I resonate with Barb’s comment about ‘terrifying her way through the process,” driven by fear and a deadline. Oh, how I wish I were as organized as Edith and some of the rest of you!

  10. We’re still waiting for our corn to …. corn. We’ve got tiny ears and we’re hoping they mature before the first frost.

    I’m an edit as you go person and I waffle on the difference between plot and pants. It’s a work in process in more ways that one.

  11. I can relate to both last minute panic and panic paralysis. I’m fighting against panic paralysis at work right now, only moderately successfully.

  12. I love hearing how each of you have your own, and sometimes very different, ways of getting your books put together.

    I let ideas ripen when I have something new to accomplish, if I don’t have a really good idea of what I’m doing. It can be a major project or just something that seems awkward to do. I usually come up with a very workable solution without too much trouble. If I just dive in, I can get myself into a lot of trouble. It’s what my husband calls staring at it until the solution is obvious.

  13. It is so reassuring to hear you all give us these views into writing style. Barb in particular makes me laugh and identify. I start out as a pantser to get something down but turn into a plotter to see where the heck I am going. I get about a third down and start to wonder if I am on track. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not as organized as I think I am. Or don’t know how to organize what I “think.”
    And farm market season is reassuring too. Someone is “ripening” those fruits and vegetables for me and supplying wonderful food!

  14. I’m still a bit new at writing, so it’s fascinating to read about your different processes. I try to plot, but there are parts that just won’t come till I start writing, so revision is painful. Hopefully it will get easier, or at least more efficient, with practice.

  15. We are enjoying tomatoes and patty pan squash. Unfortunately, the groundhogs ate our cucumber plants. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

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