Maybe I’ve talked about this before in a video, but I feel like I haven’t blogged about it. My own writing process has been the same for a few years now, so I thought I’d take a moment to talk about it. I like reading about how other people write, as I sometimes can take bits and pieces of that and use it for myself.
Stage 1 – Idea Percolation
I can’t tell you how many spur of the moment ideas I’ve had for a really great book. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. You crack open a fresh Word document (or Scrivener project) and start writing and dang does everything sound awesome. But then the book usually fades away and becomes nothing more than a few pages of good writing that is destined to gather dust.
I don’t do that as much anymore because of my idea percolation stage. I typically get an idea for a book, then instead of writing right away, I let it sit. I’ll sit on an idea for months. During the years it took me to write TUS3, I was sitting on the idea for Pulse. I kept creating scenes in my head, plots, etc.
Keep in mind, I’m always writing something so there is no down time during this stage. While I’m writing a book, I have idea percolation going for my next book. By the time I’m ready to start writing the next book, I know what I want to do. Whatever ideas stuck with me the most are the ones I know I should write, because they’ve been with me for so long.
This really helps me weed out ideas that are just fleeting, cool ideas, versus more substantial ideas that have potential to become something great.
Stage 2 – Very Rough Outline
I like to outline, but not to the point where I’m following a script. Once I know what I want the book to be like, I’ll do a bit of light outlining for scenes I’m confident I want, and general plot flow. This is to keep me somewhat focused so I don’t lose sight of the big picture.
At this point I’m open to new ideas, major changes in plot and character, etc. I’m just writing stuff down in case I forget later (which happens; even amazing ideas sometimes disappear!)
Stage 3 – Easy Writing
No getting around this part. Eventually I just write. Write, write, write! I use Scrivener to outline, so I have a ton of note cards representing scenes. I’ll write any scene I feel like, any character. I allow myself to write what I think will be “fun” that day.
Once my writing starts slowing down, usually at about halfway, I know it’s time to move on to Stage 4.
Stage 4 – Concrete Outline
At this point it’s time to tighten up the outline. I use outlines as a way to make sure my timelines are all good, scenes are distributed correctly, and things like that. During Stage 3, I might’ve come up with new cool ideas that I need to seamlessly integrate into the rest of the story, so in Stage 4 I revisit the outline and make sure things are still looking good.
Now there won’t be room for much improvisation, because writing has become a matter of finishing the work, filling in holes, smoothing the rough edges. I allow this late outline to pretty much be the last say in how the book will go, barring any revolutionary ideas that might happen later.
Stage 5 – Writing to Finish
This is the “busy work” of writing for me. I’m still having fun writing, but it wasn’t as whimsical as it was in the beginning. Now I’m just trying to get the book done, writing like crazy, finishing up all those scenes and making sure the transitions between them are solid. It’s important to realize this stage of writing isn’t necessarily fun the entire time. It can, and does, feel like work. But that’s okay because its all part of the process!
Stage 6 – Let it Rest
When I finally finished the book (yay!) I walk away. I don’t start revising immediately. Like my Idea Percolation Stage, I also need time away from the book. That space allows me to revise more efficiently and with fresh eyes once I come back. This could be a week or a month, but never longer than a month.
Stage 7 – Self-Editing
I’ll go over the entire book, start to finish, and read and edit. I catch and fix plot holes, character inconsistencies, and phrasing. If I think an area needs more, I’ll integrate another chapter or few pages. I won’t address how I deal with a major change needed in the book; that’s a whole other blog!
Stage 8 – Beta Readers
This stage is SO important. I have a handful of trusted people that I can send my second draft to and ask for feedback. They’ll tell me what sucks, what needs more work, what doesn’t make sense. I parse that feedback and create a third draft based on it.
Note: Around this time I start finally writing that idea that had been percolating!
Stage 9 – Professional Editor
Whether it is being published by someone else, or I’m hiring someone personally, the third draft is sent to a professional editor. They’ll go over it, I make the edits, then sometimes I send it back for them to look at one last time.
Stage 10 – Bask in the Glory… Kinda
At this point I’ve read the book so many times there are another billion things I would do to change it, but I consider the book done. You have to ship it eventually. And in my experience, if you keep a book too long, and work on it excessively, it can start to suffer from it.
So, now that the book is done I proceed to cover design, formatting, blurb obtaining, and all that good stuff. I send the book out into the world and hope for the best!