From Idea to Final Draft: My Process

My writing method makes sense to me, but probably doesn’t make sense to other writers. Some probably do things pretty close to how I do and otherwise do the exact opposite of each. So what is my method?

First I outline. I tend to do limited amount of world building and character building. I prefer to discover those types of things as I write. What I do need to know is who my main characters are and what they want, why they want it and what is stopping them from getting it. From there I do a line for scene outline that includes what the character in the scene wants, whats standing in their way and if they get it or not and what worse thing happens to propel the story forward. I stick pretty close to my outline though I’ve been known to change stuff around while writing. This really helps cement what needs to be written each day.



Next I write the exploratory first draft. I follow my outline and just write. I don’t worry about prose or even making scenes come alive. There are a lot of talking heads in my first drafts. A lot of dense sections of action and then a few, but not many descriptions. My settings are bare, my characters naked and the bare bones exposed.



 After a first draft, I try to let it sit a bit but usually I’m ready to start revisions. Revisions for me can take more than three times as much time as a first draft. My first revision is usually a rewrite. The plot had gotten messed up, the ending is rushed, scenes are missing, etc. I do a first read through, making notes on what does and doesn’t work. Then I write an outline of what each scene that actually made it looks like. Usually my scenes will drift a bit from outline as I discover more about my characters and world. This is where I do more world building, answering the questions that came up during the first draft. After all of this analysis I write a new revised outline. I then start at the beginning and write through my outline, sometimes transferring full scenes from draft one to draft two but that depends on how much I keep from the first draft. My first two novels have almost nothing kept because I changed so much.



The third draft is where I flesh out scenes, bring the senses alive and making sure the setting adds to the scene rather than being a dull backdrop. This is where everything gets nailed down and character begins to shine. Second draft is all about fixing the plot. The third draft is about fixing character and setting.



The final draft is the polish. This is where I pump up my verbs and nouns. I cut, cut, cut until the prose cuts back. I make sure it is both readable and enjoyable. I spend time on perfecting similes and metaphors. I also pay more attention to grammar. Once this is done, I’m ready to look for betas.



So what’s your writing process? Do you have one true way of doing things or do you like to try different techniques for different projects?


Writing and Depression

Writing is the best therapy I have found. Not just the act of writing or creating, but having the goal of accomplishing something with my art has had the most positive effect on my clinical depression. I’m not healed, I’m still medicated and I still have lows, but being able to see past tomorrow has given me hope, something that had been lacking in my life for so long.

And yet the struggle continues on a daily basis. From day to day I have to scrounge up the motivation and courage to continue when it is so much easier to go throughout my day in a daze, like a zombie fulfilling the needs of my children yet missing out on experiencing them, on being a part of their lives rather than an automaton that makes sure they fed and clothed.

And then to find out that depression isn’t the only thing I suffer from, that I am actually bi-polar and have been misdiagnosed and mis-medicated for several years. Now clinging to my goals isn’t enough anymore, but it’s something. I keep breathing because I have a plan, a purpose, a goal for something I love.

But what happens when the inevitable low comes and I no longer have the passion? I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I am still searching myself. I chuckle because I wrote the first two paragraphs of this post months ago, before my diagnoses, before my partial hospital treatment, before real therapy. And yet I don’t delete it because in the moment it was true. Whether or not it is the best therapy still, I don’t know. But it still works when it works. It’s still a skill in my repertoire.