Writing Advice

My Novel-Writing Process

close up of human hand

Over the past few years, I’ve completed four 50K+ word novels, and I have two more on the way.

When I was younger, I was a complete pantster. I sat down and write whatever came into my head, and while I had an idea of how the story would start, what might happen in the middle, and how it would end, I was quite literally making it up as I went. That only worked for one of my projects (rest in peace, my many unfinished projects that I’ll probably never revisit)

Now, and I say now as an indefinite term of time as my writing strategies are apt to change, I find myself in a rather comfortable way of brainstorming and planning novels.

First, I think up characters. In books, you get plot, subplots, worlds, dialogue, and the like. But my favorite things about books have always been memorable characters. I find that most of my ideas have been sparked by one or a few character ideas. Whether its a piece of art or just an idea that sprang into my head, the image of a girl planting a patch of daisies or an old man watching the sunset is enough to prick my curiosity enough to ask who they are and what they might be doing. Sometimes, it’s something exciting. When it is, I take notes. From there, I get a plot that arises out of those questions that I ask. I know that it’s a rather vague way of explaining things, but that’s just the way my brain works.

Once I have a substantial enough plot, I write out what I like to call an “exhaustive summary”, because it’s exhausting to write and because it’s as thorough and detailed as I can possibly make it. Sometimes, if I’m not sure how two scenes I want to have should connect, writing them out and seeing them in front of me gives me ideas.

When the summary is complete, I divide the scenes into chunks that I estimate would span one chapter. I tend to divide them up in a way that makes the chapters as long as I can, because I can always split a chapter. I’d rather find myself with more chapters in the end than with less, trying to stretch them to reach my word count. (My projects often tend towards a smaller word count than I’d like)

I count up the chunks, estimate the amount of chapters based off of those chunks, and get to work! I can usually write one chapter every two days if I clear time. So, if the book has an estimated thirty chapters, that’s only about sixty days before the first draft is done!

Once the first draft is done, we come to my absolute favorite part: editing.

(Okay, that was sarcasm. Editing will be the death of me.)

It’s the process that can span literal ages for me. It plays on my perfectionistic tendencies and drives me insane. But it’s necessary. Sometimes who scenes need to be cut and replaced. Sometimes a chapter went over better in my head than it did on the page. Sometimes a scene is flat and needs a change.

And every little edit brings me closer to the painting in my head and the story in my heart.


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