A Glimpse at SJ's Writing Process

Over the past two years of being on Figment and sharing my work with my tiny little world, I've had a few people ask me about my writin...

Over the past two years of being on Figment and sharing my work with my tiny little world, I've had a few people ask me about my writing style. They ask me what my secret is. They ask me how I write so fast. Where I get my ideas from. Why is it all so natural to me and many other great things that make me have a head so big I fall over and shout, "Help, I've fallen, and I can't get up!" Basically, I don't think people understand just how hard it is for me to write sometimes. My writing definitely isn't effortless. There is a huge struggle that goes on behind the scenes, and I'm about to cast aside that curtain for you. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a glimpse at my writing process. All the questions you might have about how I punch out chapters so quickly and then disappear for weeks on end? They will be answered here. 

First thing is first, I get an idea. I don't go outside much. A big part of my life is spent indoors because I don't like the sun (I'm only half joking), and I don't have wheels to get me anywhere I might want to go. And I love the tv too much. 99% of the time, I'm at my desk, in my bed, on the couch, or sitting on the counter eating cheese like I'm a mouse. 

So where do all my ideas come from? Well, music mostly. And all those television shows that I spend so much time watching. I also live with my wonderfully hilarious family. My siblings are bizarre and random and a huge source of inspiration. And a lot of my stories actually originate with my parents and the stories they share about their lives before they were known exclusively as Mom and Dad. 

This is how I usually get ideas-
My sister, pointing at a stray piece of corn that fell off someone's plate during dinner, "The children of the corn have infected this seed." That is a totally random thing to say. It made me laugh. And then all of a sudden I'm struck with an idea and in a flash, I'm running off to my computer and yelling, "NO MOM I CAN'T DO THE DISHES (or something else) RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I GOT AN IDEA AND I GOTTA WRITE IT DOWN GOSH DARNNIT EVERYBODY LEAVE ME ALONE BEFORE I FORGET THIS NUGGETY SCHEME!" 

My dog runs behind me, her little nails scratching over the hardwood floors all the way to the office room. She barks in confusion as I dash to my desk chair and land in it so heavily that the thing tilts and I have to hold onto the desk so I don't topple over. As fast as my smallish fingers can fly, I open up the web browser, I type in Figment.com. I log into my account. I click the story I got an idea for, and I type like I'm Bradley Cooper after he took those wacky meds in that movie Limitless. 

When the idea is fully written out, I lean back in my chair and sigh. A satisfied smile spreads over my face and I read over my jumble of thoughts splayed disorderly on the screen. My random outlines that are just an explosion of my ideas generally look something like this (but more crazy)- 

And then almost always after that, if I'm creating new characters, I'll go and search what famous person I want them to be based on. How do I pick out what actor to have my character look like? Simple. I go with whoever I have a crush on. For my latest novel, I've chosen Sebastian Stan. Why? Because that Sebastian Stan dude is one hot totty with a muscular body. He's a spicy enchilada with a baby face. I wouldn't mind marrying him and bearing his offspring. But the chances of that happening are slim jim, so I'll just give one of my character's his face, have my MC interact with him and pretend it's our real life love story. Also, I can have all the excuses in the world for staring at an obscene amount of photos of him. Does this make me sound crazy? I feel a little crazy revealing all that to you. Surely it's normal. Right?


If it's early in the day, I'll follow my train of thought and let the inspiration take me where it wants. But before I settle into hours of relentless writing, I have to get everything situated. There are pre-writing rituals that mus be carried out. I gotta have a little music, so I pop in my headphones and listen to one of three songs- Poet by Bastille, Make A Man Out of You from Mulan, or Eye of the Tiger. These songs pump me up. And once they are blasting in my ears, I dance all the way to the kitchen and make myself a bagel.
Sometimes I might have to remake that bagel because I put too much butter on it. If a bagel has too much butter on it, it makes my head hurt and my fingers get all greasy and I can't type. But if there isn't enough butter, then the whole bagel tastes dry and bland and bleh. So the bagel has to be well buttered. Butter the bagel. I also pour myself some milk. If it's a cold day, I wrap up in a big blue blanket that looks like the TARDIS. 



I can write a chapter in an hour if I stay on track. I can do this for days. Just punch out chapter after chapter after chapter after chapter of wonderful material that leaves me looking like a greasy blob because I haven't left my computer in a long time or eaten in a while and I typically look like this-

I finish the work. I'm so happy. I feel like a weight has lifted off my shoulders. I'm free to breathe. My mind is clear. The words are gone and painted across the once blank screen. I read back the labors of my hands. I love it. It's great. I publish it on Figment. My readers love it. They think it's great. They think I'm great. I AM MAGIC! I AM IRON MAN!

But after publishing all that work, my head hurts. I need a break. I'm spent. I look like The Dalek Emperor. So I go take a shower. Wash the exhaustion and grime away. Go to sleep. Eat something other then bread and butter. Go on a walk. Get busy with life away from a world I've constructed. I watch movies. I read. I laugh. I have fun. I sleep a whole lot and rest up for the next time I write a bunch of words.

And then I'm in such a good mood, I figure I'll write more. I come back to my work. I sit down. Reread what I wrote so I can gather my bearings for the next chapter. And then. Oh no... 

This is utter crap on a stick I don't like it take it out back and incinerate this and pee on the ashes!

I'm left feeling a nearly irresistible urge to delete everything. Horrible thoughts whirl around in my aching brain, shouting at me, mocking, saying, "You've wasted the past three years of your life. You're a terrible author. You'll never be as good as Jane Austen, or good period. Nobody is going to like your writing. Your friends just say they like your stories because they're nice people bless their hearts, but you suck. God, why did you ever think you should pursue this as a career?" And then I tell my friends. And they encourage me that I'm a fine author. And I feel bad for complaining to them. I feel like the biggest, whiniest jerk head seeking attention. So I feel like a failure and a brat.

And I spend a few days like this-

I check my websites. I see my friends ask where I've disappeared to. They want to know what the matter is, but I can't tell them. Not again. This always happens, and I'm afraid they'll get tired of me always crying. But they haven't gotten tired yet, and they always get me to speak. They always hear me out. They tell me to stop being so sad and self deprecating. I'm a good writer. I need to write more. 

I cannot express to you just how much I need my wonderful friends (I'm thinking about CR, Meg, Aerin, Aurora, Abbey, Linda...ect). A support system is important for a writer. So so so important. Every time they pull me out of my rotting pit of despair I'm torn between feeling blessed to have them in my life, and anger at myself for abusing their kindness. My general thought process right around these sickening moments looks like this-  "Wow, I'm a dramatic loser who totally overreacts to everything, and I broadcast my misery way more than necessary."

Friends, "Pull yourself together and get back on the horse."

And damnit, just for them, I do. I get back on that horse with as much confidence as I can muster. 

*deep breath*

*cracks knuckles*
*cue pre-writing mantra*

"I will write today" "Writing is my passion" "I may be horrible at stringing words together now, but crying about it isn't going to help." "Work." "Get better." "Improve." "At least finish the friggin novel."

Eventually, I hit my stride again. 
I know that I can do this (and it's totally okay if that sentence made you think of Christina Perri's Only Human)
I know I'm an okay-ish writer in the very least
I should not be ashamed. 
I should just learn and move forward. 
More ideas take root in my brain and blossom into full blown novels. 
I get excited again. 
I forget the sorrow, and I just do what I love. 
I write.


And then the  whole process starts over again. 

Oh look, another gif of Sebastian Stan.

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  1. Haha, this was fun to read! I'm pretty sure most of us go through struggles like these when it comes to writing, though. At least I do. This week, I was kind of celebrating birthdays and stuff and kind of let the story that I was *supposed* to be working on sit aside because, "Well, the week is off, so I'll wait until next week." My excuse :P But I did do some writing this week! If nothing else, write something. It always helps.

    Oh, and I was totally cracking up at the part where you wrote "Sebastian Stan: Because he is beauty. Because he is grace" because seriously, after Winter Soldier, I sort of started crushing on him. And then I saw you wrote Theo James in there, too. You have good taste in men ;)

    1. I think it's relatively healthy for a writer to doubt their work xD Doubt leads to working harder to produce the best writing you can give. If a person was too overly confident, then they might just produce crap all the time and that's not good. Am I making any sense? Ah, whatever xD


    2. Totally makes sense. I'm trying to rewire my mind into thinking that all criticism is to just help me to improve. A writer stops become a writer when there's nothing else they need to write, after all.

      Haha! He is pretty hot :)

  2. You're awesome SJ! This post was hilarious and I totally sympathize. I think we've all been there. I procrastinate a lot when I write (or, I just work on fanfiction for awhile and avoid my novel like the bloody plague). Ahem, any way, excellent post!

    1. thank you! But yeah, I think a little doubt is pretty normal for us writers xD