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?


The Importance of Finishing What You Start

One thing writing has taught me is the importance of finishing what you start. Everyone can benefit from this lesson, not just writers. I have a lot of unfinished works on my hard drive but writing isn’t the only thing I have a hard time finishing.

I’ve started knitting. So far I’ve finished two scarfs and half a washcloth. I still use the half washcloth but it is half the size the pattern called for. However I’ve started and unraveled countless projects so far. Right now I have two separate projects going at once, one another scarf and something called a spa towel. I’m already tempted to start another washcloth but I’m refraining until the towel is done. So what right? Who cares if I finish what I start knitting wise. It’s all practice right? Only its hard to see how I’ve improved if I keep undoing my work. Plus I’m trying to give these things as presents for Christmas and I don’t just want to give unknitted yarn.

So being stuck I made some goals for December, easily achievable and recordable. I’m going to finish the unfinished projects on my hard drive. This includes five flash fiction stories (less than 500 words needed for each), one novelette (about 3k-6k left), and 3 short stories, all of them only needing an ending. Boy I suck at endings.

I already know that I’m not sure how many of these projects, especially the flash fiction are even going to make it to revision. The passion on them has been lost since they’ve sat untouched for months. However dispassionate I feel, I need to finish them. I’ll learn from the finished project and I’ll know at that time whether they will ever see the light of publication.

I’m not just going to begin where I left off, instead I’m going to read each piece through from beginning to end and then write. I may even do some planning on the endings, though I already have the ending planned for both the novelette and the short stories. It’s the flash fiction that I have no idea where I’m going with.

This is one of the reasons I started blogging. To have the satisfaction of something finished, even if its just a blog post.  There are a lot of reasons why I blog actually, but that’s a subject for a different post.

Who else has problems finishing what they start, not necessarily just writing projects? Do you abandon them or come back later? What motivates you to finish what you start?

Increase Your Word Count

Some say that it takes a million words before what we write is publishable. That is obviously up for debate but something to keep in the back of the mind. Getting to a million words is going to take time though. However there are ways to increase your word count and cut the time it does take. 4,000 words a day can take a writer anywhere from an hour to a full eight hour or more day.  There is a great blog post by author Rachael Aaron which details how she went from writing 2,000 words a day to up to 10,000 words a day. I love this article. There are a ton of tips for any writer and I highly recommend reading at least this post . She also came out with an ebook that includes revised blog content and new content that you can get on amazon.

My first suggestion is to keep a record of your daily word count. Include in this, the time you wrote and where and look for patterns. Find out where and when you work best. It’s also a great motivator to see word counts grow, especially if you are able to make a jump from a small daily amount to more than double or more your previous ability.

Of the three points on Rachael Aaron’s triangle, knowledge is the most important one for me. Before writing any scene, I ask myself these important questions. What does my character want or need in this scene? Who or what stands in their way? And do they accomplish their goal? If yes, but then what happens to complicate things. If no, and then what happens in response to their failure. I got the yes, but/no, and from writer Mary Robinette Kowal. There are other questions you can ask yourself before starting the actual writing of a scene, but I always ask at least these four. Then I know there is going to be conflict and change in every scene. No more meandering and pointless conversations where nothing happens.

An example from my current WIP: My character wants to catch an unregistered super before he can escape. The unregistered super isn’t going to make that easy, using the people between them as weapons against the MC. The MC almost catches the super as he flees into a building, but the building explodes before the MC can follow him.

The next point on the triangle is time. Writers forget that not all of your writing time is typing words in a word processor. A lot of our time is dedicated to thinking about our stories, living in them and with the characters. Not everyone has a full day to dedicate to their craft, with full time careers or a family to take care of or full time school, there are other requirements of our time. I often spend the time I’m doing chores to immerse myself in the world of my current WIP.

Finally, she talks about enthusiasm. This amounts to making sure every scene we write is one we are excited about. This is crucial but easily overlooked. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we must have this scene for such and such to make sense. However no scene in your novel is necessary. Any information you need to convey, can be conveyed in any scene. So skip those boring scenes and stick to those that get your heart pumping, that you can’t wait to write. And if you begin to dread the scene you are on, you have a couple of options. You can skip it. Move on to the next scene. Try to add any necessary information from the cut scene, but honestly this is a first draft. It is okay to miss pieces. Once you have the skeleton written, it’s easier to see what is really necessary. You could also change up the scene. Change the characters. Change the setting. Change the character motivations. I find if I’m dreading a scene, it’s because the motivations of my characters are murky or weak. Once I electrify their needs or raise the stakes, the scene starts to fly.

You are going to have rough days. Days where the words feel like crap. Days you can barely scratch out anything worth keeping. However on the whole, writing should be enjoyable. You should look forward to it more often than dread. If you’re starting to find excuses to not write, examine why. It could be that you’ve taken a wrong turn in your current manuscript or it could be that this isn’t working for you. And that’s okay. No one has to be a writer. And no writer has to follow anyone’s path. Do what works for you.

What are some of your favorite ways to increase word count?