Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Birth of a Novel

1. Idea - I'm usually driving or taking a shower or watching a commercial when an idea for a new novel hits me. At this point, it's pretty vague like a sci-fi version of Riverdale where they're all androids. I keep a file of all of these random ideas and read through them occasionally for a good laugh or inspiration. I know in today's market, my book needs to have a really good hook AND amazing characters AND a unique plot to stand a chance.

2. Storyline - Whether I'm agented or not, I write a query first. I want an idea of where this is going, who my main characters are, what they want, what they're fighting for, and how they'll grow over the course of the story. It's just a framework, a place to start. As I write, things always evolve and sometimes my finished story barely resembles this first query.

3. Research - If I'm writing the above idea, I will watch every single episode of Riverdale, read old Archie comics, and then I'm going to brush up on Asimov. I also collect pictures of how I want my characters to look and get images of places where my story is going to take place. IE, if there's a beach scene, I'll collect a few images of ideal beaches so when it comes to describe the color of the water, I have a picture right in front of me.

4. First Draft - This is always the part that scares me the most--the blank page. There's lot of hype around the "great first line" so I work to come up with one of those first. For me, once there are words on the page, I can write.

I'm not a pure plotter, but I'm not a pure pantster either. I have my query for an overall map, and before I sit down for a writing session, I usually have the next two scenes in mind. I can't work with things more rigid than that. I like to be able to change the sex of my characters in the middle of a scene or blow something up if I'm in a bad mood.

5. Second/Third Draft - This is the one where I roll up my sleeves, pour a big glass
of wine, and sit down ready to rip shit apart. I write speculative fiction so one of my biggest jobs at this stage is to organize my information. Did I dump a load of world-building in chapter one? Is there another place where it would better fit?

Then I look at my characters. In my first drafts, I'm pretty good at getting the what and how down, but in my second run, I need to look at the why. Why would Archie reasonably decide to erase Jughead's memory function? What is he feeling in this scene? Many writers have to reduce their word count. I usually have to build mine.

And my third task in this stage is description. I go through my initial descriptions of scenes/people, look at my reference photos, and decide if someone (or thing) needs a bit more color or fluff. I know some writers have a natural affinity for this. I'm more of a plot/character based writer so this is something I have to force myself to do, like taking vitamins.

6. Let it sit. - I won't look at it for at least two weeks, but I will send it to Beta Readers at this point.

7. The Kindle Read - I've heard of several ways to get better perspective on your novel. Change the font, print it out (that makes me swoon because it's sooo much paper!), read it out of order, but I just send it to my Kindle and read it there.

It's amazing how many typos and mistakes I catch there, enough so that I begin to think, "Oh my God, I am not qualified to do this!" But there are also parts where I get so caught up in it, I forget I wrote it, and I'm supposed to be editing.

I also take this opportunity to give my work a sensitivity read. I like to work with anti-heroines who can be mean and cruel and insulting, but I mark places that might be too mean, or cruel, or insulting and make notes to dial those back.

8. Final Edit - So this is it, my last pass before I consider it as good as I can get it. I incorporate my Beta Readers' notes, my notes from my Kindle read, add a title page, a header and footer and consider it done. (This is a lie, a book is never done.)

I know this sounds like a long process, and it is! It usually takes me 6-8 months to get here, and that's considered fast in the industry. Please don't feel bad if you take a year or two or more. Everyone has their own speed, steps, and free writing time.

But what's your process? How do you get ideas and how many drafts do you go through before you consider it "done"?

1 comment:

DRC said...

I forget how many drafts my last work, Tunnel, went through. There were a lot. I did find during the fine editing stages that reading random pages in no particular order for typos, etc, prevented you from getting too stuck in the story so you didn't read over them. That was a handy tip someone gave me and one I'll remember. I do tend to plan a lot when writing. I allow myself freedom should the story need to deviate, but mostly I'll stick to that plan.