My Writing Process

The writing process differs for everyone, and this is the great thing about writing. You write in a way that suits you, allowing you to become more productive in your day-to-day. So, rule number one with the writing process? Follow your own path. Rule number two? Don’t compare yourself to others and feel that you’re doing something “wrong.” And finally, Rule number three? Be open to new things that work and resonate with you and your own writing style to nurture your gift and grow as a writer. Rule number three is where I come in by sharing my writing process. So, where do I start?

If you’re short on time, this is my process in essence:

For the detail, keep reading …

Step 1: Inspiration.

Ideas come from it, excitement comes from it, and motivation comes from it. It is born from the essence of who we are, and the way we perceive the world and the potentials around us. It evokes our imagination, opens our minds, and allows us to venture off into many lands with no limitations. Inspiration feeds us, it flips a switch, and it’s a part of the process that operates without logic, conformity, and rules, hence why I love it!

From inspiration comes Step 2: The Idea.

What happens when inspiration hits and the seed of an idea plants itself in my mind? I roll with it, that’s what. I need time to let these ideas take root, and when I have moments to daydream such as bedtime, in the shower or bath, I let the images flow and the characters form. By enabling this to happen, the idea grows into a mold that I can work with allowing for the next part of the process.

Step 3: The Planning Stage

So this stage for me is the most fun. It’s the ‘I don’t give a flying *#@*’ stage because here I can do what I want. I get to play around with character development, giving them an identity and depth (see my previous article: Character Profiling for more on this), and I can start drafting potential settings and alternate worlds. I also get to summarize the idea in a way that encapsulates the story at its highest level, bringing it to its early stages of life by finally putting pen to paper. I draft this similar to how I would write a book blurb—the words often seen on a book sleeve or in book description online—and then I go from there.

Step 4: The Plotting Stage

Now we’re getting serious. In the world of relationships, this step is similar to going steady. Yep. It’s an important step, one I need to be committed to because things just got real. I do this via my whiteboard because I am a very visual person. I’m happy to be tied to a desk, or my bed, or the sofa, to write the actual story because, let’s face it, I don’t have much of choice there. But I struggle with the plotting part of my book when having such restrictions—that is why a whiteboard is an excellent tool for me. With my marker armed at the ready, I plot out a mind map, sticking the title in the middle, and noting down the key things that happen at specific points of the book. For example, if I were a Grimm Brother in a past life, I would have most likely got my quill at the ready and drafted something like this for their version of Snow White:

Mine is a bit more detailed than this and sometimes runs across a few mind maps, but it’s not specified synopsis territory because I don’t work well with so much structure laid before me. My imagination recoils with fear, my mind shuts down at such order, and Procrastination grabs me with her wily clutches until I relent to her power. But I need some form of structure, and this does the job. I also have to note here that this is almost, always, subject to change as the story develops, so I’ve learned to go with it and stay flexible. This plot is for guidance only and not set in stone.

Step 5: Research

Now, I know this will differ from person to person, and from fiction to non-fiction, so step five may come earlier for some. However, for me, it comes about as a result of the planning and plotting stage. For instance, when I was creating a new world for the Terra Vane series, I needed to understand the backdrop on a much deeper level. Such a story meant creating a world that incorporated a system and roles that readers may never be privy to in detail, but it would give me an in-depth knowledge of the world for a more believable delivery to the reader. My research for this series consists of writing job role profiles for Enforcer Agents, creating an organization chart for the Portiside City Agency, and even clarifying where the vampires send their laundry. I consider this research, and the study I needed to do before I began writing anything headed with a chapter number.

As my books progress, there will always be times I need to stop and duck out of the story to do more research and to check the details against specific facts. So even though I’ve listed it as step 5, for me, research will be required throughout.

Step 6: The Writing

Yay! It’s finally time to write the story and put pen to paper. And do you know what? I always falter at this step. For some reason, Procrastination decides she wants to play some more, and all my insecurities decide they want to come out to play at the same time, too. Stupid things plague my mind like, I’m not good enough, I’m not ready, I can’t write another book and blah, blah, blah, and the negative thoughts take hold. I’ve tried many ways to counteract it over time, and the only thing that works is one of the simplest of things; I shut up, plow through and write the book. That’s it. And it works.

By opening up a new project in the Scrivener tool I use (more to come on this tool in future articles), I’m telling those thoughts to do one. By ignoring such feelings and breaking ground with those first few words, it means I‘m writing. I’ve done it. And I’ve started a new journey. Woohoo! High five. Fist bump. Let’s shake our ass, or whatever is needed to celebrate this beautiful, revolutionary moment! No one or nothing can ever take away those words that set a fire beneath our stories—no one—not even you if you press delete. Those first words set your intention. They’re magical like turning a key. And there is no going back after that.

Step 7: The Overhaul

So, once I’ve completed the first draft and typed the words ‘The End’ I feel a sense of achievement. It’s time to celebrate, and I often do so by making a statement on social media, or by annoying my husband by dropping it into conversation every two minutes or even telling random people on the street—actually, scrap that last one. I’m an introvert. Let’s not go crazy. But no matter what I do with the information, I embrace the excitement that it’s finished. I honor the fact of what a fantastic achievement it is because it is. And you also need to realize that when you complete your pieces of work—no matter how big or small.

Once I’ve wound down from such a feat, I then push up my sleeves and get ready for the overhaul. Yep. It’s time to get down and dirty and into the detail. Before anyone such as editors or beta readers can see this, I need to make sure it’s decent, and by that I mean it needs to make sense rather than the gobbledygook my brain dump delivers in the first draft. And yes, it’s total and utter nonsense. I know that. But that’s because it’s meant to be. My first draft is a purge of my ideas, and, at this stage, it’s more important that I write it rather than worry over it. The worrying part comes next. Only kidding, no worrying required, but it’s time to remove the Hat of Creativity and throw on my backpack of tools ready to give the manuscript a makeover.

The overhaul is all about reading through my manuscript chapter by chapter and changing any brain dump stains of miswritten words (gross, I know), or any plot points that don’t make sense. It’s the first line of editing where I attack misspellings, inconsistencies, and bring it up to some form of standard. I run it through spellcheck and a grammar checking tool (I use Grammarly or the Hemingway app to do this), and get it to a point where, at this stage, it’s the best I’m going to get it.

Step 8: The Beta Readers

I have some great friends who offer to beta read for me, and they’re great at giving me the perspective of a reader. Their comments make me smile, laugh, and they catch things I miss, proving them to be invaluable. However, it’s only recently that I’ve taken the deeper plunge into the world of beta readers, and I’ve found that those who are writers themselves, or who beta read regularly, approach the process a little differently. They have no loyalty to you. They’re not there to worry about your feelings. But they are there to help you write a better story and give you constructive criticism—something I found hard, but story-changing (for the better). However, no matter the feedback you get, always stay true to your voice while keeping open to new ideas. It’s a delicate balance, and it took me a while to understand this.

Important note: Beta Readers aren’t editors. If they’re kind enough, they may point out errors, but they’re there to get a feel for the story, the plot and the pacing, not to edit.

Step 9: Editor

If you haven’t got an editor yet, don’t worry. I’ll do a separate article on this in the future to help guide you on your own choices regarding this part of the process. But in my experience, if I could pick only one thing to invest in for my writing, then it would be an editor. Not many people are equipped to go out in the world without one, and it’s an experience that will teach you something every time. Having an editor is invaluable, and affordable if you shop around, and I can’t speak highly enough of the lessons I’ve learned in the past from the editors I’ve used.

Staying with my writing process, for now, the next step is the editing phase. Initially, my manuscript goes to the editor for a copy edit. They keep it for a few weeks, communicating with me in the process, then return it with recommended edits. When I receive the proposed changes, I go through the manuscript again and make sure I’m happy with the recommendations.

Editing is another part of the process where I need to be flexible. It’s like being turned inside out and upside down as you feel judged, sometimes unworthy, but you come out the other end like a warrior with a lot better manuscript as a result of it. The editor is there to guide you, advise you, and they know their stuff. They’re your buffer to the outside world, and they’re a crucial component in honing the story you’ve created.

To finish on this step, I send the edited manuscript back to the editor to do a proofread of the text. This is a final check—mainly around grammar and structure—and one that gives it its final polish in regards to the editing phase.

Step 10: The Read-throughs

When the editor returns the final manuscript, I go through it and accept the changes made. After that, it’s time for what I call the read-throughs. Using my writing software, I can compile my manuscript into an ebook or Kindle book and send it to the relevant reading app on my phone or tablet. I prefer the layout of the Kindle book, but iBooks has a better note-taking function that allows me to email the notes and highlights to myself, so I use this one.

Sending the ebook version of my manuscript to the iBooks app, I open it up and read it through as I would do with any other book. When I see anything that may have got overlooked or any other plot developments or inconsistencies, I highlight it and make a note in the app itself.

Once done, I send the notes to myself and update the manuscript. I then do this once more after a short break, each read-through slowly shifting my perspective from that of a writer to one of a reader. I conduct the third and final read-through about ten days before the publish date as the last check to make sure all is okay.

I’m sure I still miss things—I have skim reader issues—but these checks are there to make sure there are minimal mistakes until I can afford to have several proofreaders under my belt. Until then, it’s up to me, my beta readers and my editor to bring it up to par.

Step 11: Publishing

FINALLY! I’m at the stage where I can share the story that has taken over my life for the past six months or so! AT LAST!

The publishing process involves PR and Marketing and making sure websites are updated, the execution of the book trailers, production of promotional materials, and pre-orders are set-up. It’s time for the grunt work to come in, but it’s SO exciting because I’m so close to getting the story into the readers’ hands! I also use this stage to select my paperback publishing options. The paperback involves a bit more work and reviewing, so it comes out slightly later than the ebook. But then it’s on to the next book, the following story, the next adventure.

And that’s it. That is my writing process. Weaving into it I’ll start the next book in the series, usually when there are breaks in the above such as the editing phase. While one manuscript is with the editor, then I can start the planning on the next, but that’s because of my preference and my schedule. The main thing, with any story, is that it has the time and attention it needs. Don’t put yourself under any unnecessary pressure, and go with the flow. Just watch out for Procrastination. She’s a needy chick who wants your time and attention too, so make sure you’re the one holding the reins.

Good luck on your writing journey, and remember, this is my process. It works for me, and the one you forge and develop will work for you. However, if something here helps you out with yours, then great! Also, feel free to share elements of your writing process in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “My Writing Process”

  1. Step four makes me adore you, just so you know.

    Okay, fine, context.

    My writing process is not unlike yours. I have several key moments I build towards, and I spend an absurd amount of time on fleshing out my characters, in my head, and sometimes by way of writing little mini shorts of them just doing random things. Stuff that lets me get a firm grasp on how they talk, body language I may want to use, facial tics that may be common, that sort of thing. I get myself use to writing them a certain way, so they stay consistent, and don’t suddenly develop a weird accent, cause I was watching Doctor Who again.

    The actual plot, however, that’s not a thing that’s even remotely set in stone for me, either. In my head, if I plot things out too strongly, then I have already written it, and my imagination has the attention span of a spastic puppy. It’s ready to move on to something new, and the project more or less dies.

    Which isn’t to say I never plot anything out. At most, I may have a sentence or two guideline to what needs to happen in a chapter. I’ve been using this method for a project I’ve been working on, and it really does give me the best of both worlds. I know what needs to happen, but my imagination can go crazy and do it’s thing. So far, my two beta readers are loving it, and my editor is already pitching it to a publisher, so that’s a thing I should probably do more.

    Because I don’t do it more. I’ve got one published novel I spent twenty years working on, going through multiple drafts before it was what I wanted to be in the first place. I’ve got another where the only thing I knew was the main character, and the basic concept of the plot. I wrote the whole thing, making it up entirely as I went, and it has gotten a fair bit of praise.

    I guess what I’m getting at here is that you are right. Be open to sudden inspiration while writing, and be ready to abandon certain plot elements when the story takes a sudden, much better turn.

    Granted, like you, that’s what works for me. It’s not going to be what works for everyone. Still, there’s my context for adoring you.

    That, and so far, I think you’re really awesome. I can’t wait to read your books.

    Like

    1. It’s such a relief to meet another writer who works this way! I’m terrible at comparing myself to others and falling short, so it’s a continuous learn for me to stay true to my process. That’s great news on the pitch! Our imagination is what sits at the core. Without that, the rest doesn’t mean a thing. By letting it flow through you, you’ve no doubt channeled something great. We have to believe in ourselves. Ironic, I know, considering we have creative souls. But if it’s our humility that helps us to see, then our truth needs to be our strength. I’m still on a huge learning curve, so it’s great having people to reach out to! Thank you for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It really is great to meet another writer who thinks the same way. I’ve gotten so much of the ‘that’s wrong’ stuff before. I imagine you have, as well.

        If it lets us complete a project, then it ca’t be that wrong, cause it’s working, right?

        I mean, I know we’re gonna go back to zombies for a minute here, but bear with. The project I mentioned, where I basically made the entire thing up as I went was my zombie book. It worked, and I got a really solid novel out of it. Then another. Then two more, and a collection of short stories. So, yeah, I’d say that was working.

        Cause, when I tried to plan it, it all went wrong. I threw out probably close to a hundred or so pages at one point when working on the fourth book, because it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel true to the narrative that had existed up to that point, or the characters, or the world, or anything. It just felt off.

        So, I tossed it all, threw out the plan as well, and said to my central character, in my head, what’s the story?

        (I talk to my characters in my head. You know how it is.)

        Got one hell of a story, that had nothing to do with the plan, but damn. It was good. And it felt right.

        Writing is as much about feeling, as it is about anything else. The technical skill matters, sure. Yes. You have to be able to do it, and do it well. But you also have to know to trust your instincts, just like you said. Know when it’s going wrong, and be willing to be harder on yourself than anyone else can be. Face that point where it starts feeling off, and be willing to throw the plan out the window to make it feel right.

        It’s gut instinct writing, but you can do that, cause you know to trust it. You know what your characters, and your story, need, in your heart before your head. You feel it.

        Never let anyone tell you that doens’t matter. It damn well does.

        If you’ve got that, and I think you do from our conversations, then you got this whole thing.

        Here’s the best part. After that, once you have that knack, everything else just happens. The more you write, the better you get at it, from doing it. Always hang on to that gut instinct, though, and all the rest, will fall into place.

        I compare what I write now, to what I did ten years ago, or even five, and it’s a world of difference in confidence, manner, tone, and style. You will always be getting better, and better. Cause you trust that instinct.

        Youv’e got this. Believe in yourself. You know that already, so kick some ass, yeah?

        Like

      2. This is amazing advice! And what a lot of new – and seasoned – writers need while swimming in the shark pool of writing. It’s nice that you can see that and then be prepared to share it with others so they can move forward on their journey. We’ve both got to kick some ass! The writing worlds needs us lol!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’d think. Very few people respond well to my advice, however. I’ve become cautious about giving it out. Everyone is sold on the whole hard and fast plan concept. Which is fine, but as we both agree, that’s not the only way to chop down the tree.

    Still, I try. I can’t help myself. I’m a cynical little giver.

    Anyway, I really need to try and finish a chapter, but I finally found time to respond, so here I am, and here I go. Got a turn of the century fantasy world murder mystery to resolve.

    Yeah, I’m always doing weird stuff like that. I’m weird, cynical, and giving. I like being confusing.

    Like

    1. I’m finding there’s always an audience for your voice, even if the majority are trying to drown you out. Keep sharing your advice for those it will resonate with. For those it will help. Like me lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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