The part of the writing process that makes people run screaming

Even my dog didn’t want to hear about my works in progress.

The writing process is a weird and wonderful thing. Every writer has his or her own process. Want to know what a writer’s process is? Just ask, writers will talk about it endlessly.

It’s similar to when you ask a golfer how the game went, hoping for a “good” or “bad” and instead get a hole-by-hole, stroke-by-stroke account that makes you want to do a Colonel Mustard with a putter.

I’ve been thinking about writing process as NaNoWriMo approaches. Oh, you don’t know what that is? It’s the National Writing Month challenge – write 50,000 words by the end of the month. Presto! You’ve almost got a novel. You register, do all sorts of other things. I’m not clear, because I don’t do it.

I saw that the Waterville Public Library is having Wednesday “write-ins” for writers who are taking part. These hour-long sessions, I’m guessing, are more support group and rap session than writing. Sorry, library, if I’m getting it wrong. I just can’t see getting a lot of actual writing done in an hour with a bunch of other writers around, even if it’s in a nice quiet library.

Not that that’s a bad thing – I mean the support group and rap session. Many writers, including me, have taken part in writer groups, which not only provide feedback but also give writers a chance to talk things out.

One thing I’ve discovered about my writing process is the need to talk it out. I have to talk out backstory, plot – hear it, let it develop verbally. I didn’t decide that part of my process, it’s just something that I realized. It’s weird, right?

And, frankly, it’s not easy. I don’t mean the talking part. I mean the finding the right person to listen part.

Writers may understand – when you try to talk out your plot or character background to people, it’s often like telling someone about your golf game. You see the eyes of the listener glaze over, the lack of interest. The confusion. The panic when they think, listening, that your book is going to truly suck because the lengthy convoluted story you’re telling them seems to have nothing to do with what they thought the book was about.

Just as bad is when they start rewriting it for you, which is one reason I don’t want to have another writer as my sounding board for this part of the process.

I don’t want to be derailed. I don’t want to debate whether a plot point is good, or whether the character would actually say or do that. I want my brain to go where it needs to go to work it all out without interference. So, I’m not looking for advice so much as someone to bounce it off. And by bounce it off, I mean they listen with understanding and comprehension, making appropriate points when needed.

That person, I can tell you from experience, is not easy to find. (No offense to anyone I’ve talked about details with my book, and you know who you are). My sister suggested I hire a sex worker who’d just sit and listen to me talk about my book, but I can see a lot of pitfalls in that. In fact, it wouldn’t be much different from the issues I have now, except I’d be losing money in the process.

I’m not looking for an answer here, or advice, or sympathy. I’m just talking it out. Thanks for listening.

About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
This entry was posted in Maureen's Posts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The part of the writing process that makes people run screaming

  1. Laurie Graves says:

    Yup. Fortunately, my husband is a good listener and even has helpful suggestions.

  2. Barbara Ross says:

    I don’t think things through by talking, I think them through by writing, not just for fiction but for life. Hence my endless to do lists. So this is not a problem for me. But my daughter, who is also a writier, thinks things through by talking…so wait a minute. Maybe it is a problem for me !

  3. Monica says:

    I found that if I talk it thru I no longer want to write it. So, I have to write it first, then talk it thru.

Leave a Reply