The Novel Journey: The process

The Novel Journey: The process

Today I (finally) started to work on my new novel; The Hunt.

As I previously mentioned, work has been very busy lately and so writing had to take a backseat. However, I now have a much clearer schedule ahead of me and  I’m looking forward to this new project.

I’ve had a few people ask me what my process is when I write so I thought I would go ahead and explain how I go about it. It’s important to note that all writers are very different. This is just what I have found that works for me. I know there are a lot of articles out there that explain how each and every step of the writing process works. I’ve largely ignored all of these. Personally, I think it’s all too easy to get lost in the “how” and to never actually get into the “doing”.

Writing fan fiction has enabled me to trial a few different writing methods and I’ve learnt my own processes, things that work well for me. We’re all different and if you are thinking about writing a novel, I strongly suggest you try different methods. But never lose sight of what you are doing and make sure the majority of your time is spent on writing. You can finesse the process over time.

Process

Once I have decided on a basic idea for my story, I work through these stages;

  • Characters
  • Outline
  • Skeleton
  • Second run
  • Edit

Characters

Personally, I believe that the characters are more important than the plot of your book. The characters are, hopefully, what the readers will empathise with. The plot is just the vehicle that takes them on a journey. Of course the plot has to be good or it will be a boring journey, you know those train journeys that are predominantly in tunnels? Yuck. No one wants that.

So, the first step for me is figuring out the characters. I probably already have an idea of them from the basic idea I have thought of. The next step is to pad the characters out a little and add in the rest of the cast.

I don’t go into too much detail with the characters, I know some writers create an entire backstory and even answer interview-style questions in the voice of the character. For me, a basic understanding of their personality and motives is more than enough, you’ll get to discover more about them as you write them.

Secondary characters are just as important as your primary ones. They are often the reader’s eyes and can help move the story along. If they are two dimensional then people will want to skip through those parts of the book. We’ve all had that book where you are really invested in the primary characters and you turn the page and…uh-oh, it’s her. That woman you don’t care about. Second characters need to be as interesting as your primary ones.

Outline

For me, I like to have a vague idea of where I’m going to ensure the pacing works. However, I won’t get too bogged down in this either. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a “doing” kind of person.

I outline each chapter and I note down two things – 1) who has the point of view and 2) what happens in that chapter. I do this for as many chapters as I can, hopefully to the end. That way I know the POV I’m writing in and what needs to happen in that chapter.

Sometimes I get a way into the outline and I’m not sure what direction I want to go in. If this happens, I leave it for a few days and if I’m still not sure, I leave it entirely. Experience has taught me that the process of writing the book will help me to decide how I want it to end. As I approach the unmapped part of the book, I will have written enough that I will then automatically know what I want to happen next.

For me, all of this groundwork is important, but it’s more important to get on with the writing.

Skeleton

Now, I’m writing. Different authors have different ways of writing. I used to be someone who would write in order, no going back over things. If I came across something that stumped me, I would stop and wait until I could write it before moving on. I found this a little inefficient so I recently changed my strategy. Now I work, in order, and write as much as I can from my outline. If I get stuck I write a note in capital letters of what needs to be added at that point and then I move on.

Although I say this is a skeleton, it’s actually quite a detailed first draft. Probably more a skeleton with muscles and organs. I’m just missing the skin. Skin’s important though.

Second run (skin)

I usually have a few chapters written before I go back and add some more layers in the second run. When I feel like there is a natural break in the book, something big has happened or we are moving onto a different perspective, location etc…I will go back to the start. From here I will proofread and add a layer or two to what I have written.

I love writing dialogue so the skeleton usually consists of a lot of dialogue and not a lot of introspection, this gets added in this second run-through. I’ll also proofread as much as I can at this point. By the end of this process I have my novel. Although there are always some errors.

Edit

The final stage.

When I have finished the novel I celebrate, take a break and come back to it later. I find it a good idea to get this distance from the work, it gives you fresh perspective when you get back to it. When I do go back to it, I read through for obvious plot mistakes, grammar mistakes etc. I try to get it as tight as I can and ensure that the flow works.


So, that is my process. Today I started on the Skeleton and got 3,000 words done this morning. I’m on holiday for the next two weeks so who knows how productive that will be!

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