The Writing Process: Part 1

Once Upon a Time

I’m not sure how helpful or interesting this will be, especially to non-writers, but if you do find it interesting and would like to hear more posts along these lines, be sure to let me know over on my Facebook page.

I thought I’d give a brief overview of how I write a book. I don’t know how other people write books and I may at some point modify my approach, but for right now, this is what works for me.

Idea Stage

It all begins, of course, with an idea, sometimes a single sentence or image. I have a folder of dozens of these ideas and write them down whenever they come to me. The problem is that I have many more ideas than I have time to write and so I have to put them in a cue and decide which ones to include next. I currently have three book series in my head which will take me through at least ten more books so some of these ideas will have to be very patient. But this is where it all starts.

Framework Stage

Once I decide to start working on a project in earnest its time to lay down the groundwork. I don’t always outline the plot beforehand, nor do I always stick to the outline point for point, but I find that it’s better to have one than not. And the more detailed the better. If I can assign dates and times to everything, that is the ideal way of doing things.

Sort of as a secondary tool I will sometimes make a map as well. In fact, I’ve written a fantasy novel (currently unpublished) with a map that is quite detailed and which I worked really hard on. Maps and outlines go hand in hand and can be tremendously useful especially as I tend to do a lot of world-building in the stories I write and I am a very visual person as well.

As part of the first draft, I usually do character sketches as well. Included in these are often a character’s background, goals, and motivations, as well as physical descriptions.

First Draft

This is where it really begins. This is where it gets real. My approach to writing is to sit down and write and not stop until the novel is finished. No passing, no parking, no u-turns. I don’t edit (much) on a first draft. My focus  is simply to finish at this stage and as quickly as possible.

I try to write every single day. Do I always reach this goal? Unfortunately not. But I do more often than not. I have a specific word count goal which helps motivate me in this regard. It varies from book to book. A lot of it really depends on how long I expect the book to be and what other things are going on in life outside of writing at the moment.

One of my allies in this regard is Scrivener. It’s a wonderful writing program (notice I did not say word processor, it’s quite a different animal) which I’ve written about before. It has a progress bar that not only fills up as your word count grows but turns from red to yellow to a lovely and encouraging green as you get closer to the end of your overall word count goal. Sometimes the final draft will end up being less than the goal, sometimes more, but it’s tremendously motivating to have that little tangible reminder of your progress.

And after that…it’s time to take a break! Not only do I usually take a little time off after finishing a draft, but I’m going to hit pause on this post just for now and finish describing the rest of my writing process in the next installment.

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