My writing process… wow. That’s a big topic. Over the past three years in which I’ve been ‘writing seriously’ I’ve learned a lot. I’m constantly changing it and trying new things, but here’s a basic overview of how I
spend my days write, in a few basic steps.
#1 The Idea
Aughhhhhh! *cue frustrated scream* For some reason, this is always the hardest part for me. I know, I know. The idea is the book. But I usually get stuck at this step for quite awhile when trying to start a new project. The reason why?
I force myself to get an idea.
What I’ve learned:
Good ideas don’t come like that.
My horrible idea-process usually begins by reading a really amazing book (Resistence, A Time To Die, Bones of Makaidos) and I think “I need to write a book like that! I can do it!” I spend hours making my brain produce something decent, and usually only a cheap knock-off of the book I’m raging over comes out. I work with it, tweak it until it seems original, force myself to write a few chapters on paper, then set it down, feeling horrible and discouraged. I’ve been working with Dareas Trilogy for three years now, so I always had that to fall back on. However, that doesn’t make it any less discouraging.
So I’d settle into bed and… Pop! Idea, people! Random idea from who knows where that entered my brain. I mean, hello? Couldn’t that idea have come before I spent hours working on another one?
Anyway. I write them in an idea notebook. This is my original one. (I cleaned it up just for you. Can you tell?)
Then, along came this new one that reminded me to record dates of when these ideas come. Ingenious, isn’t it? And remember those plot bunny unions I was talking about on my What I’m Writing page? They live here.
#2 First Writing Stage (Panstering)
Usually, this includes scribbles in a notebook. After I decide which one I want to use (I have quite a collection of half-filled ones), I write the first chapters/prologue.
And you thought I was a plotter.
Well, I am. But, to make a blogfession, only one of my series has ever made it past this notebook stage. If I were a book idea, I’d feel pretty hopeless with me as the writer. Many of my ideas have never seen the light of an OfficeWriter page. For instance, Dareas Trilogy lived for over a year in these notebooks:
(Not to mention all the novellas I originally wrote. But that’s another story)
Anyway. After my writing ideas survive brutal rejection for sometimes months on end and lots of scribbles, misspelled words, and ripped pages, they get to go on the computer.
Now, please note, I don’t intend to use this strategy once I finish Dareas Trilogy. I’ve made a few notes and scenes on paper for my next series, but I’m not going to take six months spelling out words on paper again. I love and pen and paper more than pounding the keyboard and hitting Backspace, but Backspace has been my best friend because of how fast I can hit it.
And finally that idea gets on the computer. If I’ve already written it on paper, now I copy it onto a document. If it’s brand-new, I’ll probably just start writing.
Now, before you shout “hypocrite!” let me explain.
I plot in my head.
“Hypocrite anyway! That’s not plotting!”
It is. I keep myself up at night thinking up story ideas. Seriously. I take a mental journey with my characters. I think as a writer we just feel how the story is supposed to start. I begin there, and my mind starts taking me places in this story. Sometimes I jot down random ideas (not as often as I should). Then, I’ll do a one-sentence synopsis, and maybe a rough book-blurb. That’s it. Without pausing, I launch into writing. I have a vague idea of the plot points and stuff, but I don’t know. I can’t know. I haven’t worked with the story yet.
At first, the story leads me. Once I get a feel for the story, then I take the lead and start leading it. I try to just get words on paper (or screen) in this stage. I just go with the flow here. That’s how I get to know my story. Then…..
#3 Second Writing Stage (Plotting)
Go ahead. Shout “finally!” But I’m about to surprise you, because….
I plot after I’ve already started writing.
That’s right! (go ahead and laugh dryly at my lame joke). I draw up the plot after I’ve started writing. That idea feels completely different once I’ve started working with it. Now, I think I know where I want to go.
Brace yourselves. This is about to get intense.
That’s right. (again! Okay, don’t try to laugh this time). I use this teeny tiny board to plot.
Just kidding. Look at this:
Sometimes, I do it in a notebook first. But these giant boards I work math problems on make me feel more powerful as I scribble out torture ideas for my characters.
No, I’m actually not that mean. If anything, I make everything all butterflies and pumpkins for my MCs. But more about that in a later post.
Anyway, I mark out ideas on character arcs and plots, and then put a simplified, neater one in a notebook for easy reference when writing. Then, armed with this new outline which I rarely look at, I keep writing.
Usually, I have problems with scenes between the points on my outline. Then I have a random flash of inspiration and the whole plot might change. Remember, even with a plot, the new story is still in charge here
#4 Setting (just like a cake)
I sit back with a frustrated yet happy sigh. I’m done. I wrote lots and lots of words. Usually, I try to write about 5,000 every day, but try to go big on the weekends. Sometimes, it takes me a week and a half to write a book. Most times, because of the length and ever-changing schedule, a month is more realistic, and much longer if I’ve worked on paper.
Except that one time I wrote 200 notebook pages in 2 weeks. Epic. That notebook and those pens were literally attatched to my hands.
I try and let the story sit for a week. This is a recent discovery of mine. Works great but very hard to do. I end up working on book 2, world building, character arcs, another project, or read other books until my eyes hurt. It takes sheer willpower not to look at the story again.
Everybody hates editing. It’s just a writers’ thing. They’d rather be writing new stuff than editing old stuff.
Maybe. I like editing. For me, the hard part is getting it all down at first. Then it gets much easier.
*cue horrified scream*
That’s right. Most often, I’d rather perfect a chapter than write a new one. I spent a year editing the first drafts of Found.
Then I scraped most of it and rewrote it.
Then I scraped the whole thing, almost quit with the idea, and ending up radically changing the entire series. Gotta have that perseverance to write.
Anyway. I usually start by going through and taking out unnecessary scenes or adding new ones. Tighten the ropes. Make it cleaner and more direct.
In the past, I’ve just kept doing this over and over. Now, I’m going to try going step by step with characters, plot, and world building. I hope that goes well.
Alpha reading! Beta reading! More editing! More beta reading! Lots more editing! Proofreading! Then formatting, cover design, more formatting, proofreading, working, hoping, sweating, praying….
And finally, publishing.
I’ll let you know when I get to that step. For now, I’m rewriting my dear (sometimes not so) Book 1. Read about it here
Hope you enjoyed.
– Audrey Caylin
What’s Your Writing Process like?