Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Making Your Writing Process More Efficient: A Guest Post by Author Anna Staniszewski

Now that my second book is about to go out into the world, I’ve realized that my writing process has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to be a die-hard pantser. The idea of outlining made me shudder. I did write with an ending in mind and with an awareness of the character’s emotional journey, but planning the story out beforehand felt too restricting.

Once I sold two follow-up books to my debut, however, I entered the thrilling/terrifying world of writing on deadline. Suddenly, I had a lot less time to get a book done which meant that my process had to be much more efficient. The answer? Oh boy. I had to shed my pantser ways.

I tried outlining. I really did. But it just didn’t work for me. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t know what happens in a scene until I actually write it. But as I played around with different planning techniques, I realized that writing a synopsis allowed me to tell the story without breaking it down scene by scene. Plus, a synopsis still gave me the feeling that I was telling the story instead of planning it.   

Once I had a new and improved writing approach, I spent a lot more time during the revision stage working with the synopsis instead of the actual manuscript. That way, if I decided to make any big changes in the story, I could see how they played out in the synopsis first before rewriting any scenes. This kept me from making any major missteps in the story while still giving me a lot of freedom to experiment.

Now that I’m revising the third book in the series, I’m trying to balance creativity with time-management. Writing, of course, isn’t a scientific pursuit. Sometimes, no matter how well you plan things, you still need to wait for inspiration. But I’m glad that I’ve been forced to make my process more focused and mature. I may never be an outliner, but I guess you never know.

Thanks, Anna! Here's the adorable & funny book trailer for MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL:

Author Anna Staniszewski
Anna's Bio:    
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston, Mass. with her husband and their adopted black Labrador, Emma. When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. You can visit her at


Ruth Donnelly said...

Anna, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing these thoughts about your writing process! I love the idea of using a synopsis to preplan while still staying in storyteller mode. Can't wait to read the two new UnFairy Tale books!

Anna Staniszewski said...

Thank you so much for letting me stop by!

Sheila JG said...

Great post! And very helpful. I have the same aversion to outlining, so it's good to know there's hope for improving my writing process. Thanks!

Mirka Breen said...

Enormously helpful post, Ruth and Anna.
I’ve always written out the ‘skeleton’-but left all the color to be done on the spot. This for anything from the shortest PB to MG I find that works for me. Anna fine-tuned what works for her. Way to go!

Ruth Donnelly said...

Thanks for commenting, Sheila and Mirka. Maybe outlining is too linear for us right-brained types. ;)

Ruth Schiffmann said...

It's so true that our process can change as our circumstances do. I'm glad that some planning has helped you with your second book. I'm realizing with my current WIP that pre-planning could have spared me a lot of floundering. For the project I have waiting in the wings, I've already started a mini synopsis that is more of a plan than I've ever had before.

Marcia said...

Yes to finding some middle ground between outlining and pantsing. I've found the plot points/midpoint/pinch points method by Larry Brooks helpful.