All writers are different, we all do things differently. That’s totally cool. But there’s something interesting about hearing how writers do their own "thing."
I’m currently about 20k into both my 4th and 5th novels. In the time I’ve been writing I’ve developed a process that seems to work pretty well for me (okay, sometimes.)
Step 1. Idea’s
This deserves a post all its own, so I won’t get too in depth. Really, this is only a step here because it’s necessary. Right now I have 5 novel ideas I want to write right now. Not everyone has so many ideas at once-- It’s not necessarily a good thing. But it does mean I don’t have to make a point to come up with ideas for a new novel. I’ve got a damn waiting list.
Step 2. The first chapter
If an idea is really stuck in my head I usually sit down and write a little bit of it. A first chapter, 2 maybe 3, but no more than 10k words. The novel isn’t completely developed nor am I ready to commit to drafting at the moment but the passion is too strong. It’s too much of an opportunity to waste (So far, what the things I just sat down and wrote when the idea was super fresh and exciting I’ve kept in the final draft, though of course tweaked and twisted and polished (with the exception of my YA contemporary which through R&R ended up cutting the first few chapters of one of these. I managed to keep the first paragraph though, just in a slightly different way). The first chapter gives me a very grounded idea of some of the basics of the story. Who is this character? What do they want? Where are they?
Setting is a big one. I didn’t know Darcy Darkling was going to be based in a future society until I started writing about the wall around her city. I didn’t know A Sea Of Treason was going to start out in Carolina, or that Whitely had just moved there from NYC. Those things came out naturally, which is the way I like to do things. I don’t like mapping everything out for my characters. I like to feel them through my writing. But I also don’t like to go into a new draft completely blind. Which is why I write a little bit before I plan. This way, when I start getting the full plot lines in place, I already feel like I know these characters and where they should be headed. I also have a basic idea of the rules of their society.
Step 3: Day Dreaming (aka plotting)
Some people plot out a book meticulously, mapping out every twist and turn to the T. I don’t. I’m not much of a plotter, to be honest. Yes, making a plot structure for the book is important, and I do plan things out a little, but some of that I do after I write a first draft. Before drafting, I plot by day dreaming. Sometimes I’ll jot down a logical plan or two, thing I know will have to happen, but mostly I just like to play with the characters in my head. Think about what they’ll do, where they’ll go. Some books only take a little bit of planning. Others I think about a whole lot. Like my pirate book, I know just about every scene that I will write for that book. Partially because I love the romance in it, that is a fun one to live out in my head. Can’t wait to get that stuff onto paper!
Step 4: Space
After I write first part of the novel, I leave it alone for a while. I put it down and go about my business. What comes next totally depends on my mood, what’s going on in my life, and the story. I’ve often had more than one story fighting for time to be written (like right now). So sometimes one story has to take a back seat. Which one I choose might not have anything to do with one idea being better than another, or me liking one more. Sometimes it’s just what I’m in the mood for, or what my brain needs at the moment. For example, I was working on some big revisions/rewrites on Naked when nano came around this year. I was emotionally/mentally drained because I was putting so much time and effort into making the changes work, that I couldn’t get myself to pick my pirate book up and finish it like I planned. So instead I wrote something new. The MG I’m working on ended up being the quickest transformation from idea to drafting I’ve ever done. And I only did it because I needed something new, something fresh, something fun. Something with low expectations. I do think this MG has a fantastic concept for the market, but I’m not writing it hoping to query. I’m writing it for me. That’s what I needed. Something light and fun that could help me let go of the stress of writing for publication for a little while. So sometimes I wait a month before I start writing. Sometimes a year. It totally depends. But I almost always wait at least a month to get going for real.
Step 5: pitches
I actually usually do this AS I’m writing. It helps me get excited about potentially pitching this book one day, about querying it. It also helps me keep the same kind of inspiration through the months I’m writing it. For Darcy Darkling, I had a pretty full query written out while drafting that I pasted to the top of my WIP document and would read every time I opened it. Helped me know where I was going next in the story, what the overall idea/feelings/goals of this story was. It kept me inspired. It kept me passionate about Darcy and her journey. Some stories are easier to pitch than others. My pirate books, I have a fantastic pitch that I doubt I’ll change of word of if I enter a contest. But the query was tough. Darcy was the opposite. That query came easy, and though I definitely changed it I didn’t have to change it much. But the pitch was HARD.
Step 6: goals.
It’s time to sit down and actually write. YAY! This is the exciting part. This is the sucky part.
Some people love, love, love drafting. Some people hate it. I’m kind of in between. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes I hate it. My biggest problem is having the discipline to get the story down consistently. I can’t write a book in one day. If I could, I’d probably do that every time. But in a month, you go through so many ups and downs. Things get in the way. Some days you are just tired and can’t focus. It’s just… hard to make yourself do work at every spare moment you have. So I make goals. Five thousand words a week or two thousand words a day (nano style). It depends. Having these concrete goals helps to keep me in check. Not that I don’t fail at them. I do. A lot. But it helps. Sometimes, I end up writing half and stopping for a few weeks to take a break. It’s important to know when something is getting to be too much. There is a fine line between discipline and pushing yourself too hard. Writing is hard work. Mentally taxing stuff. So don’t feel bad about taking breaks. Even longs one. But at some point you’ll have to get yourself back up and finish the story or you’ll never forgive yourself. Do what’s right for you, but don’t make excuses (believe me, I’m good at excuses)
Step 7: Finish the damn book
Just do it.
As soon you write “The end” that starts a whole new process. REVISIONS!! Whoa there buddy. That’ the big stuff, and I’ll write a post on my editing process as well. I’d love to hear about your processes, leave some love in the comments! (though if you’re going to get as long winded as me, maybe write your own blog post and link it to me)