I get asked about my writing process quite a bit, so I’m finally putting all of my thoughts together for you.
Keep in mind, this is the process that I’ve found through trial and error to work best for me. There is no right or wrong way to write.
Start with your idea. What story are you most excited about? What characters simply won’t leave you alone? You should be pretty excited to get started on making it come to life.
This is actually my favorite part, so I have to stop myself from spending too much time here. At the last writer’s conference I went to an instructor spoke about another author who had enough prewriting and research material to fill an full-length novel, but no actual novel. You have to stop yourself at the point when you have the information you need and actually start writing. As fun as it is to discover your character’s favorite candy bar and most embarrassing moment from 3rd grade, it doesn’t actually matter when it comes to writing the book…unless it’s about choking on a snickers bar and the emotional trauma it caused making Reese’s her new favorite candy.
So, what do I do?
I have a notebook with me at all times. Either a physical one or the app on my phone. I jot down any ideas that come in my head. Something that sounds great at 11pm might be crap in the morning, but getting in the habit of writing those ideas down is so important! Sorry, but sitting down and opening a blank word doc and hoping for the best isn’t the way to write a book. You need to be consciously and even more importantly unconsciously thinking about your stories.
There have been so many pivotal eureka moments when I’m driving, showering, or shopping and I immediate stop to add it to my notes. It’s amazing what your brain comes up with when you aren’t actively thinking about something.
Once I have a collection of notes about a book and it’s come alive in my mind I take to the computer. Notebook is my best friend. I have a folder for each book I’m working on and folders within for each character, plot line, and outline. This is where I build my character profiles complete with character building quizzes and images. I plan my setting and begin working on the details.
This is where I could hang out for months making pretty inspiration boards and finding the perfect model/celebrity for my dream cast. Beware! This is not how books are written. Have fun, get to know your characters, develop the plot lines THEN MOVE ON!
I include this in my rewrite stage, but I’ve see other authors consider this it’s own step. There are TONS of ways to plot. I like the story arch for my most overall plot line. Then I go further into 4 part pacing. Then I develop the subplots. Then I do flashcards.
This part to me is so important. I prefer to get as much information down now as I can to make the writing process that much easier. That way you don’t get stuck halfway through wondering how in the world you are going to get to the end of the story.
Once you have your outline and plot where you want it and you can clearly see the beginning, then end, and most importantly how you get there it’s time to write!
2. First Draft
I’m of the mind set that i want to make my first draft as clean as possible so editing sucks as little as possible. I try not to skip scenes or dialogue. If I get stuck with a scene then I’ll either give myself a day or two before coming back to it or I break my own rules and skip it and write it later. The most important rule or writing is that there are no rules. Do what is best for you and your story. Some scenes are hard to write, some are emotional, some feel like pulling teeth, but those are usually the most impactful.
3. You’re done!
Just kidding. The best is yet to come.
So you’ve finished the first draft. You wrote “The End”. You cry because the beast that has consumed your every thought and action is DONE!
Give yourself a day to celebrate then come back and realize that you have so much more to do.
It’s time to finish those skipped scenes you promised you wouldn’t leave behind. Read/skim through and see if there is information you thought you gave that you forgot. Is there an entire scene without dialogue? Is there any entire scene of just dialogue? This is where I work on fixing the big things.
Once you’ve got that done you can celebrate again because boy does that part suck! You think you have a finished book but ha! Jokes on you.
This is usually around the time people start believing they’re talentless jokes whose work should never see the light of day.
Now would be a good time to take a vacation. Read a book you didn’t write. Say hi to the family you’ve ignored.
Give yourself some time to recover. Some people like a few weeks or even a few months. I like about 2 weeks before hitting it hard again.
My least favorite part of the process. I wrote the book. It’s done. It’s fine. I just want to publish the baby! But no. Stop. You and the book are not done yet. Now it’s time to use a critical eye and read the book, not your book, it’s easier to tear it apart if you separate yourself. Yes you put your whole heart and soul into it and it’s absolute perfection, but you need to have an unbiased eye.
I recommend doing 2 rounds of editing on your own before sending it off to a professional editor. Yes you need one. No your writing is not perfect. You didn’t catch everything already. You didn’t actually separate your heart from the project when you were editing.
You need new eyes.
Send it out to a few Beta readers that you trust to read it for you and if they’re awesome they’ll catch some mistakes for you, too. But you need an editor. We can all tell when a book hasn’t been edited well. Don’t be that person.
Be prepared with a tub of ice cream.
Opening the edited document is gut wrenching. You think there is nothing else your editor could possibly find. You’ve combed through it and you know, YOU KNOW, it’s dang near perfect. Nay, nay my friend. All you will see is red. Blood. Pain. Loss.
Lines and lines of red. Errors, misspelling, plot holes. RED!
Now is the time to reach for the ice cream and take comfort knowing it’s like that for everyone.
Trudge through the mess that was once your perfect manuscript and know that the end is near and it will be worth it in the end!
Now it’s time to decide what to do with your baby. Traditional, Indie, or small press. This is another topic for another time, but there are plenty of resources available to help you chose the path that is write for you.
Thanks for reading.
If you have any questions, please let me know!