When I say The Writing Process, what I mean, of course, is my writing process. The specific process I use, whilst generally typical of the process used by most writers who plan out their novel before writing, does have some peculiarities specific to my needs and foibles:
- Start putting everything into order to make a story. If you scribble basic outlines of each scene/story idea onto scraps of paper or sticky notes, you can literally lay them out before you until they start to make some sort of sense. You will likely have bits missing or maybe not even have an overall story – that is fine, any order is better than none.
- Stop! Steps (3) & (4) are interchangeable, so do whichever takes your fancy first.
- Take time to sketch out you main characters:
Who are they? What are they like? What life events have shaped them the way they are? What do they want? Why?
What is their past, what are the relationships between them, what strengths and flaws do they have, how will they have changed by the end of the story?
Ideally, your Protagonist’s (Hero) and your Antagonist (villain) should want the same thing or same goal – that way they are in direct competition. What do they want – this is the aim of your story.
Try to make the character flaws of your Protagonist the character strengths of your Antagonist, and the character strengths of your Protagonist the character weaknesses of your Antagonist – again putting them in direct conflict.
The flaws in your Protagonist’s character are the thinks that let them down and get them into trouble. Overcoming one or more character flaws is what leads to ultimate victory or them gaining the thing they want. So what flaws will lead them into trouble and what flaw(s) will be overcome? Jot down story ideas and scenes.
The strengths in your Antagonist’s character are what gives them victories over your Protagonist. However, failing to overcome one or more of their character flaws is what leads to they ultimate failure or to losing the thing they are after. So what are their strengths and what flaw(s) will they fail to overcome? Jot down story ideas and scenes.
- Take time to think about your overall story:
What, in very simple terms is your story, (sum it up in one short sentence) – a much harder exercise than it seems.
How will the main character(s) have evolved from the beginning to the end of the story (One sentence for each character).
Think up some subplots which might compliment/juxtapose/parody the main story, or which show character growth (one sentence for each).
If you don’t already know about Story Arcs, do some research, start to fit your stuff from steps (1) & (2) into your main Story Arc.
Take out every scene and story idea that does not progress the main story.
Use deleted scenes and story ideas for sub plots and character stories. Again, fit them into Story Arcs. If they still don’t fit, save them for the sequels.
Fill in all the gaps with new story ideas and scenes.
- Do whichever of step (3) or (4) you didn’t just do.
- Start putting everything together:
Put everything together for your main story into one straight line in chronological order – lay them out on the floor if you have to, or stick post-it notes to a wall/window/notice board/desk – whatever works for you.
In separate lines lay out the scenes/story ideas for each sub-plot and each character development/story, and decide where they start and finish in relation to the main story.
Merge all the story lines together.
It may have taken you hours, days, weeks, or even months, to complete this exercise, but you now have an outline plan for your entire novel.
- Start writing: I tend to write one chapter at a time, editing the chapter a couple of times until I am happy with it. This is my editing process:
- First draft: write or dictate a the basic scene/chapter/story. I often use a voice to text software while doing domestic chores or dictate into my mobile while out walking and transpose it to text later).
- Scene Brief Edit:
Add in as much description and sensory experience as I can (using all five senses), filling in any plot/story gaps.
Any additions, alterations or amendments to the plot/story are recorded on the outline plan (see 7) and immediately corrected or added to previous chapters (otherwise I will forget about them).
- Grammar Edit: concentrate on sentence, paragraph, and dialogue construction. Sort out grammar and syntax issues.
- Sound Edit: this where everyone tells you to read your writing out loud. I find that difficult to do, so I get the computer to read it to me using text-to-speech software. This is were I pick up sound issues and readability issues.
- Full read through of the novel with final edits.
- Pass out to beta readers for comments and feedback.
- Beta edit.
- Professional Edit: I pass the manuscript to a US editor I employ. This is party to proofread, partly for a high level copy edit, but mainly to correct British English to US English (the majority of my readers/customers are in the US so I publish my novel in US English).
- Novel writing completed. Publish.