Ben Adams, author of The Enigmatologist (pub date April 30th Devil’s Tower/Ravenswood Publishing), shares the inside scoop on his writing process.
My writing process is fairly simple. I wake up, read some, then write in the afternoons. I usually work nights and weekends so this schedule works well for me. During first drafts, I try to plow through as quickly as possible. With The Enigmatologist, I had a rough outline, one that would leave me open in case the story took me in a surprising direction. I’ve written without an outline, but I find it easier to have some sort of lose structure. I tried to crank out 5-10 pages a day, not worrying about the quality of the writing. I think the most important aspect of a first draft is to just get the story down, and there are lots of times where I’ll just write basic choreography, get the characters across the room and out the door and onto the next scene.
Then in the next draft, I’ll go through each chapter, each page and write an expansion draft, filling in all the details, giving life to the setting, characters. This draft takes significantly longer, as I’m really discovering the book, the characters, trying to fill in the blanks, and make it better. Then I’ll draft for specific topics like setting, characterization, interiority, subtext, theme, jokes—each one of these occupying a draft. The jokes draft is always the last one. Although many of the jokes occur organically as I’m writing I found it’s easier when writing running gags to insert them after the fact. You can step back and see the draft as a whole and add jokes where they can have the most impact. And I read the book after each draft. When I get towards what I think is the end of the book, I’ll print a copy of it and re-read it again, marking it up with a pen. I think I’ve read The Enigmatologist about 20 times—at least it feels that way.
I know a lot of writer’s listen to music while they write, try to absorb the atmosphere of the music, but I can’t do that. I was a professional musician for a long time and if I try to listen to music while I write, I wind up focusing more on the music than what I’m working on. So, I need silence. The internet can also be distracting for writers, so I try to limit my use to research. However, I am heavily dependant on thesaurus.com. I always feel like there’s a word or concept just out of reach, so I’m always on that site looking for this phantom word. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever found the exact word I’m looking for, but I’m almost always inspired by what I find.
Also, I try to write five days a week, Monday-Friday. I like to keep a regular schedule. There are some days where what I write is flat or uninspired or just plain bad, but I know that I can always change what I’ve written in future drafts. And I know that it’s just one bad day. Usually I’ll come back the next day with lowered expectations and have a great writing day. The key is just to keep at, to just keep writing.