Let me start off by mentioning that writing processes are highly personal, and so mine is likely different from that of other authors. I tend to be less of a planner, which means the steps I take are focused more around creating interesting situations that will move the plot forward than on progressing toward a set goal. With that in mind, here are the steps I take when writing a novel:
- Start with an idea. The initial kernel that gets me in front of the computer. This could be an entire plot, a dynamic character, or sometimes all I have is a mental picture. It really doesn’t matter; what matters is that I start writing, and grow the novel from this first seed.
- Determine setting and story. The majority of my experiences with writer’s block have stemmed from neglecting to define a story before starting. This isn’t a plot—I usually have little to no idea where it will end up—but the start of one. The key question is: what is the conflict? Once I know that, starting becomes a lot easier.
- Create the characters. I like to start with a core of four well-defined characters—the main characters—and add as necessary.
- Write the first chapter. In the case of The Clique, the first chapter was a 600-word scene, whereas for Torn it was a full, 2000-word chapter. The reason being that for The Clique I wanted to give a snapshot of the friendships that would be central to the novel, but for Torn the story was about a single character, so diving in immediately made more sense.
- The second chapter. I’m convinced that this is the true test of whether I’ll finish a novel. If I can get through a good second chapter, odds are it will be complete within the month. My books in progress folder is filled with first chapters, but only one or two second chapters that weren’t joined by thirds, fourths, and… You get the idea.
- For each chapter:
- Figure out the bubblegum. This is the part that when I figure out, feels like a sudden moment of clarity in my mind (seems to ‘pop’), and will almost always come at the end of a chapter. Could be a cute moment, a romantic climax, or the exact opposite—everything tumbling down.
- Choose a setting. Each chapter has to have a setting, and it tends to have more effect than intended.
- Tie it into the main plot. This is related to the point on my 10 Tips, about every chapter moving the plot forward. It doesn’t always have to be obvious. In fact, if every chapter is obvious in the way it affects your story, that’s something that ought to be fixed.
- The conflict must get worse with time. This gives the sense of increasing tension that is so essential to keeping readers interested. For example, if one character throws a rock through another character’s window, and then in the next chapter all they do is insult him/her, the conflict is moving in the wrong direction.
- Write out the actual chapter.
- Edit. There are those who might argue that editing isn’t a part of the writing process, but with as much writing as I do during my first couple edits, I would beg to differ. Editing is, in many ways, a skill in and of itself, so I won’t get too crazy here with the explanation. Take out what doesn’t work, add in more that does, and try to make your novel into a single cohesive whole.
As I said at the beginning of this, we all have different writing processes. I’d be very interested to read what steps an author who tends to plan more might take, so if you fall into that category leave a comment! Or if you have any other questions or comments, you can leave them down below. Thanks for reading.