Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Writer's Different Stages

By Alan Orloff

Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog today. Us working stiffs have to stick together…
[Thank you, Alan, for being here today!]

If you’re a writer, you’ve been there. Some of us may dread it, others may relish it. Others may lock themselves in their rooms to avoid it. I’m not talking about housework; I’m talking about starting a new writing project.

Typically, I go through different stages.

The Procrastination Stage. I’d like to dive right into something new, I really would, but (inevitably) the idea needs more time to percolate. Then I decide I’ve really got to nail down the outline before starting. And those darn character sketches should be fleshed out. Of course, wouldn’t it be better if I waited until Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter/the new millennium when my story takes place so I can really capture the mood? Wait, there’s a Star Trek marathon on TV? Excellent!

The Abject Terror Stage. OMG! There is no way I’m going to be able to write a novel. No way! Do I remember how to string sentences together? Even though I’ve done it before, this time, the words just aren’t going to come. And if they do, they’re going to stink. Might as well not even try. I AM DOOMED!!

The Time-to-Clean-the-House Stage. (See Procrastination Stage, above)

The Million Questions Stage (sometimes this stage gets combined with the procrastination stage. Who am I kidding? Sometimes EVERY stage gets combined with the procrastination stage).

Will it be fun to write?
Will it be especially difficult?
Will it be marketable?
Should it be first-person or third-person POV?
Vampires or no vampires?
What kind of research will be necessary?
Are the characters “people” I’d like to spend a significant amount of time with?
Are their names easy to type?
Does the project have depth?
Is there series potential?
Will I be able to write this under my own name, or will it be another story by “Chuck Wagon”?
Are there similar works “out there”?
Will this be something my critique group will want to read? (ie, genre, tone)
Can I even type eighty thousand words? And get them all in the correct order?

The Sharpening-of-Pencils Stage. This is where I sharpen all my pencils and align my pads of paper. Make sure my erasers are handy. See to it my muse is fed. (Note: this stage is purely metaphorically.)

And finally, The If-I-Don’t-Start-Writing-NOW-I’ll-Hate-Myself Stage. ’Nuff said.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do. Right after I check my email.

What about you, Stiffs? How do you tackle a new writing project?

The first book in Alan Orloff’s Last Laff Mystery series, KILLER ROUTINE, is now available, at your favorite booksellers and on-line. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, came out last April and was nominated for the Best First Novel Agatha Award. For more information about Alan and his books, please visit


Joyce Tremel said...

Welcome back, Alan. The procrastination stage is my favorite. At least it must be. I'm in it all the time.

Will you be at the Festival of Mystery this year?

PatRemick said...

I'd like to respond but I have to go clean my house... LOL. Welcome Alan and thanks for a great laugh... even your posting is a little too close to the truth for me!

Ramona said...

Next time you're in that cleaning stage, give me a call. I'm happy to provide a therapeutic area for my fellow writers to work out their anxieties.

I get stuck in list-making.

C.L. Phillips said...

I confess I know these stages too well...

Paula Matter said...

Welcome back, Alan!

Oh, yes, I can definitely relate to all of these stages. Except I don't clean the house. I'll say to myself, "Self, I think I'll read this novel/how-to/short story to learn a thing or two from this author."

Congratulations on the Agatha nom, and best of luck to you!

Jenna said...

I jump in. Today, in fact. It's official as of yesterday that Berkley bought DIY-6. I have set a goal for myself of finishing the first draft by the end of June. It's ambitious, considering that the kids will finish school the end of May. Excuse me while I go get busy.

Nice to see you, Alan!

Alan Orloff said...

Hi Joyce. Yes, Mr. Procrastination (see how much I respect him) and I are old friends, too. Yes, I am very much looking forward to the Festival this year--hope to see you and Paula and Annette there again (and others, too!).

Pat - Sorry to bring up a sore subject!

Ramona - Thanks for that kind offer :) I'll be there shortly.

CL - Of course you do. You're a writer!

Paula - Thanks! Yes, I forgot that stage. The I-Need-to-Read-for-Inspiration Stage. Very popular!

Jennie - Congrats on the deal! I have the same end of June goal, because once those kids are home from school...fuggedaboutit!

NoraA said...

Hi Alan, Procrastination is becoming my new middle name. Since I started doing book reviews, I find myself at a loss for words.

I now read a book, and then let it sit on my desk next to me for a couple of days while I ruminate what to say and how to say it. Ich farshteis dein problem.

Patg said...

Task reject is becoming my state in life. Glad (well not really) to see I'm in good company. 8)

Annette said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. My hubby has today off, which, combined with two nights of insomnia, led me to mistakenly think it's Saturday.

Anywho, welcome back to Working Stiffs, Alan! Yes, I'll definitely be at the Festival of Mystery. Looking forward to seeing you there.

As for procrastination... Me? I'm the Queen of Procrastination. However, I'm willing to sacrifice...if you want to come clean my house after you do Ramona's, it's all yours.

Alan Orloff said...

Nora - I tried to start an anti-procrastination club once, but we kept putting off the chapter meetings.

Patg - Procratinators Rule!

Annette - I'll be over to clean, right after I take care of a few things here. Like my own spring cleaning. For 2003. See you at Oakmont!

Thanks Stiffs, for having me over to play today. I had fun!