My General Writing Process
Hey Michelle… so I am trying to get into writing and I was just wondering what your general writing process is like? Do you do the whole outline thing or do you just go at it? Thanks <3
This is a broad question that will lead to many other topics for writing advice blogs, but I will answer it as succinctly as possible and create links to more detailed blogs on each of the steps once I write them. But for now …. here’s my general writing process!! 🙂
1) Look through my collection of ideas and figure out which one I want to write next/which is best for the current market. I have a folder in my computer labeled “book ideas” where I currently have about eight ideas for young adult/middle grade series/trilogies/books. These ideas generally consist of a little background information on the main character/supporting characters, the conflict, and (sometimes) the ending. Some ideas are better formulated at this stage than others. I add anything I’ve come up with since the last time I’ve accessed the document, and assess them to determine which I should write depending on both my interest and the interests of the intended audience.
2) Research and World Building! I veer towards writing stories that have supernatural/futuristic aspects, so first I figure out the details of the world everything takes place in. For example, how does the magic work? What’s important in the world’s history that will pertain to the story? Who sets the laws? What are the laws? What kind of magical objects/technology will be involved in the story? What you need to research will depend on the nature of your story, but make sure you have enough to give yourself a good foundation.
3) Character Bios. Two years ago I found a basic character bio template online that I’ve since added to. This contains things like the character’s name, family information, magical abilities, the things they love, fear, the layouts of their houses, and many more! (I’ll post another blog just on character bios and give you the template there!) I fill out bios for all of the main characters in order to get an idea of them before starting to write. This is also helpful because it helps me figure out how their lives intertwine and their relationships with each other.
4) Outlining. Some people create strict outlines, others go with the flow. I’m an outliner, but it’s also important to keep an open mind while outlining in case something needs to be changed. If you have an idea midway through about an awesome scene you just have to have that’s not in your outline, you should include it! That happened to me in the piece I’m editing right now, and I’m so glad I deviated a bit to make room for the scene, because it’s my favorite scene in the whole novel. However, it is important to know the end of the story before you start writing, because it keeps the story going in a solid direction intend of taking unnecessary tangents.
While outlining, the best piece of advice I can give is to make use of iCal (or any other calendar program on your computer.) It’s easy to lose track of how much time has passed in the novel, and using a calendar for your story helps you stay on track. Plus, it makes a good reference point if you’re ever having continuity issues. (Which you shouldn’t have a problem with if you’re using a calendar to begin with.)
5) WRITE!!!! A little bit every day goes a long way. If you want to write (and finish!) a novel, you need to sit down in a private place (away from others, because having other people around to distract you will just slow you down), turn off the television (get rid of non-people distractions!), and WRITE! Designate yourself a certain “writing spot” where you sit to get your work done, preferably an organized desk area. Try to avoid facebook/blogger/etc, intsead look for more artisan inspirations from places like writingsharks.net who are not giant corporations with no soul. Set a daily goal for how many words you want to write. Mine was 1,000 words a day while I was a full-time student, but I plan to boost that up since I’ve graduated (I’ll let you know what word count I decide on once I finish editing my current manuscript and get to this stage in my next!) Don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet that goal every day, but try to make it up on “good days,” and NEVER let yourself go more than three days without writing. As a writer, you need to write. A book doesn’t get written by sitting there thinking about how you should be writing. If you stick to your daily goal, the first draft will be done sooner than you think!
6) EDIT! You’ve finally written “The End!” Yay! Take a few days to celebrate, but you’ve still got a lot more to do. Before showing my manuscripts to anyone, I do a complete edit on the computer. I’m a ridiculously harsh self-editor. I’ll cut out full paragraphs/pages, add details where I didn’t have enough before, and basically deal with every problem area I can find. I send the edited parts to my mom, and she prints them out and marks up the paper copy. Then I read the printed version with her marks and mark it myself. Then I implement those edits, go back through the whole thing on the computer, and repeat that process until I feel like the manuscript is to a good point where I can show it to others. For my most recent story, this point was the fourth draft.
7) Send the manuscript to my agent! She looks over it and calls me, and we talk about the places where the manuscript can be improved. I take notes, research everything she tells me to get the best idea possible of how to implement her suggestions, and do another round of edits. Then I send the improved version back to her, and she submits to editors!
If you don’t have an agent, this is where you focus on getting one, which requires a blog post of its own!
*** During this whole process, I’m also reading in my genre as much as possible to learn from what’s already out there. (I love how by reading YA novels I’m actually working. How awesome is that?!) Pay attention while reading to what the author is doing — how they go about descriptions, character developments, point of view, storyline, etc. Reading is enjoyable, and it’s the reason we want to be writers in the first place, so remember to set aside time each day to relax!
Of course there are many authors out there who approach writing in a totally different way. No way is right (although some are more practical time-wise), so when it comes down to it, learn from others, but do what feels right to you!
If you have any questions that you’d like to see answered in a blog, please ask by posting a comment on this blog post.