I keep saying I’m going to write this post and then I never do, but now, friends…I’m finally going to write this post. It’s all about my process as a novelist and how/why I write the things I do. Despite being unagented and unpublished and generally a very small fish in a very big pond, I’ve been ask by a few people: “What is your process like?” Well, readers, I’m here to tell you.
It’s a mess.
Like any artist, my process is a process that works for me. It may not work for you. I fully believe that every writer has to find their own way of doing things, and no one way is the Correct(TM) Way. If your process works for you, then, congratulations, it’s correct.
Now, since I love lists…Here’s a handful of bullet points describing what I do to draft a book. Some caveats: I’m generally a fast drafter and a fairly clean one. My Go Big or Go Home mentality has been with me forever. Multiple drafts? Don’t know her.
Anyway, here’s my list:
As much as the pantser in me hates this word, I must say that I always outline my books first. But not necessarily in a way that’s rigid or cohesive. Since my books generally tend to be very focused on setting (Setting as Character!!!), I often start with where the book is going to be set and go from there. Sci Fi Vampires is set in a domed city called EDEN-1 (which is based on Chicago!). Neon Tiger is set in a city called Polaris in a secondary world. I always name the setting first. Once I have a name and a place, I move onto details.
How does this place function? Why is it the way it is? What are the parameters of this world?
Once I’m done with fleshing out the setting, I move onto the fun part: Characters. Each of my main principle characters gets their own little biography paragraph within my outline. These paragraphs are filled with basic things like hair color, eye color, any quirks they may have, bits of backstory, etc. These are all done in bullet points, because like I said, I love lists. Once characters are done, I create a new section for worldbuilding. Note that these aren’t plot beats I want to hit. It’s just a bunch of worldbuilding stuff thrown into a bulleted list.
Only then do I move onto plot beats, which are new to me thanks to AMM. After attempting to draft a book using a detailed outline of Save the Cat plot beats, I realized that method wasn’t for me. So now I still use beats, but I’m pretty vague about them. I list what I want to happen and when when I want it to happen. In very broad terms to give myself some wiggle room.
Here comes the fun part. The truly fun part. DRAFTING. Once I’m done with my outline (they usually end up being about 10 pages long), I start drafting. I’m never worried about certain things happening in my drafts. I tend to just write without thinking much about it. This is why I’m a fast drafter. It’s fine, I think, I;ll fix it later in revisions. Sometimes I hate myself for doing this, but, hey, I do it anyway because I am consistent.
Depending on the book, it can take me a few months to draft, or a few weeks. Contemporaries usually take me a few weeks. A fantasy or a sci-fi takes 2-3 months. I can’t explain why I draft so quickly. I just…know when I have a story I want to tell, so I try to get it out as quickly as I can. It drives me bonkers knowing there’s work to be done and not doing it. Damn Protestant work ethic. I also have problems with hyperfocus. It’s not a good thing. Don’t be me.
3. BETA READING
After drafting, I usually let a project sit for a few days before I send it out to beta readers. Before sending, I try to work out as many of the most obvious mistakes as I can. Typos, flagrantly Wrong things (like having a fireplace in a skyscraper), etc. After that, I send to beta readers. And then I wait on pins and needles because I generally think everything I write is garbage. Yay!
Pretty self-explanatory. Once I get feedback from my beta readers, I revise right away. Seriously. The second I get feedback is the second I’m on revisions. I did this to Allison during AMM and I do that with all my manuscripts now. Like I said, I hate having work that needs to be done and not doing it!
Seeing as this post is long enough, I think we’ll wrap it up here. Every writer has a process that works for them, and this just so happens to be mine. Does your process differ? Do you actually plot your books thoroughly like a responsible person? Couldn’t be me, but congrats and let me know!