(Or, How I Write)
How hard can it be to write a book? You just sit down and type, right? Then the hard part’s over, right? If only!
The truth is, there are many steps to writing a book.
I’ve come up with a list of 12 which I will share with you in a three-part series. Writing the first draft is just one of them.
Here are the first four:
This is the idea-generating part of the process, often the easiest step for a writer as our imaginations work overtime to begin with.
This is the FUN. The dreamy stage.
This is the time when you wake up in the middle of the night to make notes, or pull over on the side of the road to jot something down before you forget it. When your body gets an adrenaline rush just from figuring out a new plot point.
I love to go for walks during this stage. The rhythmic pounding of my feet on the pavement helps send my brain to work as I work through ideas and let them form into a story.
2. Character Outlines
When I write a book, I know more about my characters than I do about my best friends.
I outline their history, their deepest fears, their darkest secrets, every job they’ve ever had, and everyone they’ve ever dated. Everything in their life that has made them become who they are.
Most of this never makes it into the book, but it helps the characters to be fully-developed and tangible. I spend a lot of time on this step and make pages and pages of notes for each main character.
The next step is to map out the idea, and then put some kind of structure to it. You could also call this outlining.
Not all writers do this first, but I found my writing improved after I started putting more effort into this step.
This is where you find out if the idea will work or not. Are there any plot holes? Does the concept flow? Is this something I can work with?
Since I’m also a screenwriter, I tend to plot my novels in the same way – three acts, divided scene by scene, on index cards. Then I can shuffle things around if necessary. I like to use coloured paper and index cards. It makes it pretty, but also helps organize my thoughts.
This is a shot of my desk from the last time I wrote a screenplay:
Most of my stories involve a lot of research.
For the screenplay Unearthed, I had a banker’s box full of notes and documents about paleontology, creation and the structures of organizations.
But stories require a lot of research even if they’re not scientific or historic. It’s important to get the little things correct too.
In Love Incognito, I had to research the difference between what ordering a ‘regular’ coffee means on the west coast of the United States versus the east coast.
The internet is gold for this type of research. Never has it been so quick and easy to find answers for silly questions.
For my current dystopian work-in-progress, my research mostly involves the ‘future’ history that will take place to bring the world to the state it’s in during my novel’s setting.
I really enjoy the research part of writing – probably because I love learning. Of course, it could also just be the trivia geek part of me.
So there you have it!
The first four steps to writing a book.
Did you notice we haven’t actually started writing yet?
You’ll have to stay tuned for the next post in this series to see what happens next.