A Peek into an Author’s Process

Every author must find the way of writing that works for them.

Beloved author Taylor Caldwell published from 1938 through her last novel that reachedthe public in 1980. Before computers, in her prime she publis13895294_838185579650964_324159099735800385_nhed 42 books in 43 years, many of which were bestsellers. Her published works sold an estimated 30 million copies.

She disliked talking about her process, but one reporter kept pushing.

“How do you do it?”

The clearly irritated author responded, “I write just like everybody else. I sit down at my desk and write what they tell me to!”

This is pretty much how I write, though I’m blessed with notebook computers that allow me to nestle into comfy and nurturing nooks while I write. In modern lingo, I’m a pantser. That’s short for writing by the seat of your pants.

The label pantser was popularized by Dean Wesley Smith in Writing into the Dark, a pivotal book in which he established the validity of this form of writing. I found it inspiring and comforting, as I am constitutionally incapable of outlining. 

And I, too, write what they tell me. Oh, I don’t actually hear voices. I see images and scenes, feel sensations, and it’s my job to capture them so that readers become engrossed in the unfolding saga. While I draw from my own experiences, the stories are not about me. Yet because they come through me, they carry the flavors of who I am. And they work on me. They require me to examine events, sensations and thoughts. I follow the threads of motivations – passion, fear, confusion – all the ways we humans struggle.

Sometimes it’s challenging. There are things I’d prefer not to look at, but by examining those difficult things, I get to imagine what could be done differently. How could things be better based on the truths that reside in me.

I have to write as honestly and deeply as I can, which can be uncomfortable, but if truth doesn’t resonate through it, a story falls flat. Why bother?

You know. You can tell the difference between a story that stirs you and one that distracts you. And truth doesn’t have to be heavy or serious. In this context, it’s a vibration that invites a closer look as you get an insight for your own way of perceiving and living.

Isn’t that a terrific takeaway!

0 thoughts on “A Peek into an Author’s Process”

  1. I’m more of an outliner, and I like to have my scenes sketched out, but I remain flexible for some pantsing. I find I often change things up from my outline as new ideas come along while I’m writing the first draft. Characters have a way of going in directions we hadn’t quite planned! That’s one of the things that makes writing so fun.
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  2. I’m a panster, although I’ve been known to do a rough outline for NaNoWriMo. I use all my senses when I’m writing. And yes, I listen to my characters. Sometimes they are voices in my head. Several years ago, I struggled with a story line. After multiple rewrites and changing the points of view, I woke up around 3 in the morning with a voice yelling at me. She said, “it’s my story, dammit, tell it my way.” Well, yes, ma’am. And so Mad Max Davies became the main character and the ones I was trying to force into a narrative receded. Three books later, she’s still in command.

    1. What a great story, Betsy Ashton! I love it when the characters take over. The story gets so much more interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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