ALH Anna Lee Huber - USA Today Bestselling Author

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Reader's Questions - My Writing Process
June 19, 2013

I recently asked my followers on Facebook for any questions they would like me to answer, and several of them asked about my writing process.

They wondered whether certain times of the day work best for me. Yes and no. I should really do better at having a set schedule, but the truth is, I don’t have one. I can usually write at about any time of day, as long as I put myself in the right place mentally to do so. However, I do have some issues with the mid-afternoon slump, so that’s probably my least productive time of day. But really I work best under deadline. If I see that date looming I’m much better at putting my butt in the chair.

How do I start? I don’t have a ritual per se, but I do take a few minutes to get myself into the mental state to write. Deep breathing and an encouraging chant – something like Elizabeth George’s profound statement – “They are only words. They will not defeat me.” – just to get myself focused and over that hurdle of fear I encounter every time I sit down to write. Some days are harder than others, and if I’m not staring a deadline in the face, I’ll play a game with myself. “Just write for 15 minutes, and then if you want to quit you can.” I almost always keep going. Some days I want silence to write. On others, instrumental music, particularly movie soundtracks, helps me concentrate and block the rest of the world out.

How do I organize everything in my head? I do a lot of that on paper, but whether I have notes or not, I’m always keeping in mind the arcs I intend for my story and my characters to make within the novel. That helps propel the momentum of the story and helps me keep everything in line. I also rely quite a lot on intuition and subconscious, which is where I think the true genius of storytelling lies. I organize the story I want to tell, and then I just try to get out of the way of my subconscious (aka – my muse). At the risk of sounding crazy, that’s where Lady Darby resides. When I’m writing her stories, it feels a little bit like she’s talking to me, telling me the story, telling me what to write, even though I’m well aware she’s just a portion of my own imagination. The days when she is easiest to hear are the days when it’s also easiest to write.

Do I do a full outline or just have certain events/actions stored in my head that I want to see characters endure? I’ve written my novels several ways. With The Anatomist’s Wife, I simply had certain events I wanted to happen, and certain epiphanies I wanted the characters to have, and went from there. But I took a lot of wrong turns and it felt a little bit like flying blind. When I began writing Mortal Arts I was under a deadline, so I had to do more plotting. I wrote the beginning of the story without any guide, and then once I knew I had something, I sat down and plotted the rest of the novel. For Book 3, tentatively titled A Grave Matter, I have done a lot more planning. In fact, I plotted the entire story before I wrote a single word. I know all of the scenes and main points, but I leave room to play. And I don’t meticulously plan each scene – those have to be more spontaneous. My process is evolving, but I think I will always be some mixture of a plotter and a pantser (someone who makes it up “off the seat of their pants”.)

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer, or want more details about the information I provided above, please send me a note by email or on Facebook. 

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