The Process Is Always Different

I’ve written a lot of books. I’m not even talking about the 24 chihuahua killers I penned back in my fantasy days, the books I consider my writerly education. I’m talking about the books I’ve written since first being published by Hadley Rille Books back in 2010. There were three of those. Then there were three romance novels with Kensington/Lyrical. Then came The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) with HarperCollins/WilliamMorrow. Now there’s Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story, again with HC/WM.

But there are more.

After Bar Harbor, I wrote another four novels before Varina became my all-important “second book.” Between Varina and now, I’ve written another I haven’t even told my editor about, and I’m working on yet another I’m thinking that, when the time comes to pitch, will be a better fit.

That’s thirty-seven completed novels, if we include those chihuahua killers.

Currently, I’m working on #38.

My basic process is a bare-bones outline and a few character sketches before I start. Other than that, I wing it. That usually brings me to a point, about 3/4 of the way to THE END, before I have to go back to page one and get all my little plot-ducks in a row so I can finish the story. Then there’s draft two, maybe a third read-through before sending to my agent for her feedback. Another round after that, and the book is as done as it’s going to be before sending it out to find a home.

Remember, I said, “basic process.”

It would be nice if it held true for every novel. It doesn’t. Like with this one I’m currently calling Tommy And The Tagalongs Play Asbury Park. I did the basic, bare-bones outline, and character sketches. I only got about halfway through before going back to page one, because I’d eliminated a key plot point that ended up draining the whole story of hilarity and tension. But I’d gotten a good hold on my characters, so–cool. I went back to page one, added the plot point, hilariousness and tension, and then realized one of my characters had the wrong name. Absolutely. No big deal, right? Yes and no, because Esther was one kind of character, but Mim (Miriam) was slightly different. Okay, again–cool. I really know my characters now! Back to page one–rearrange/tweak/smooth–only to get bogged down about 2/3 of the way to THE END because, though I know my characters like beloved aunties, something wasn’t right. Something felt…contrived.

And it just hit me, moments before opening this page and writing it all down as much to share as it is to settle it in my own mind. My story has four ladies of a certain age, and only two of them got perspectives. As any woman of any age can tell you, we are crafters and creators of our own stories, thank you very much, and neither need nor want anyone telling them for us. Not even old and dear friends. Especially them, because they’d never gotten a story straight in their lives to begin with, so how can you trust them now?

So here I go again, back to page one, to insert those points-of-view currently missing. This is the stuff that makes my skin tingle and my hair follicles prickle. This is writing. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes, it’s not. I appreciate the easy, but I loooove the skin-tingly, hair-follicle-prickly not, more. So. Much. More.


Filed under Writing is Life

7 responses to “The Process Is Always Different


    You just answered my question about how you go about story writing. Can’t wait to meet another friend you create. 

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bea

    I’m happy to read about your process. I’ve finally committed to actually writing a book and I’m glad to know there is no ‘one way’. I keep reminding myself that the delete key exists for a reason and that I need to just keep writing, knowing that revisions are always key. Also, reading that you find BIG areas that you need to amend or add (ie. two characters voices!) that is confidence building. If it doesn’t come easily to an expert like you, I certainly shouldn’t expect it to come easy to me!


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      It’s always an evolution. I start out with my basic idea, and it just keeps growing and changing. The key is to LET it do so, and not get bogged down in the original plan. Varina’s story started out with POV from Varina, Sylvia, and Donatella, and ended up being Varina, Sylvia, and Paulie. And the “narrator” (Jersey Italian words) ended up being someone different than I spent the whole book believing it was until the epilogue!
      Write, write, write! I can’t wait to read your book. 🙂


  3. Bev Fasig

    Wow! I understand how so much detail and feeling goes into your pages! We will all be looking forward to your future creations!


  4. Mahmoud Chreih

    Thank Terry You are wonderful Captivating and inspiring Regards from the French countryside Always welcome here Delicious wine and cheese WhatsApp 009613680555 M❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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