My Writing Process

March 28, 2021 maddoctorartist 0 Comments

So I've been writing since I was 14, and I've learnt a lot about writing (as you can imagine). These have come from all sorts of sources, initially books (both instructional and from reading fantasy fiction) and advice from other writers I met, and then after the YouTube boom I've gleaned a lot of fantastic stuff from there as well. Some channels I recommend are:

Hello Future Me

Just Write

Brandon Sanderson (in particular his educational lectures)

Overly Sarcastic Productions (their Trope Talk series)

Resonant Arc (though they focus most on video game stories a lot of elements carry over into novels)

Tale Foundry

From a combination of all of these things, I've now standardized a lot of my writing process, so this post will go through how I construct a novel, from initial idea to finished, published product!

Step One- Ideas and Outlines

As you may have read from my author interview, the original idea for The Binding came when I was taking some blood samples to the lab during my first hospital job. I had a scene emerge in my mind—a girl sitting alone in a forest, because she wanted to protect her heart. I took this concept and expanded it, creating the Binding spell, laying down some rules, and then went on to develop Eliza as a character. All this I jotted down in a Word document as a series of questions to help flesh things out.

I even did an illustration of the scene!

Once I had a clear idea of what the general themes would be, I then wrote out the outline for the story. I am very much a planner type of writer, and I find it easy to follow an outline rather than write and see where things go. The outline isn't set in stone, however, so if a character interaction changes the direction of a story I will adapt and re-outline. I had to do this for The Goddess's Blessing (the last book of the trilogy), which changed the second half of the story entirely from the original.

Step Two- First/ Second Draft

With the outline complete, now comes the hard part- the actual writing! This means putting rough chapter markers in the original outline, and then fleshing everything out. I do tend to refine quite a bit- which is where I will write 400-500 words and then go back and tidy it up a few times. A lot of authors warn against this as you can get stuck in the same scene for ages, but I've found this method good for me, as I can do this relatively quickly and move on. This saves time later with the first edit, and allows me to focus on expanding things like characterization (which is one of my weaknesses) rather than the technical parts.

I also highlight or make a note of areas I can't quite figure out and will need to come back to. I keep the notes in a separate Notepad document.

This is also the bit where I can re-write the outline if the story seems to be going in another direction. This helps me keep things flexible without abandoning structure altogether.

Step Three- Editing

The bit most authors dread, but I actually find the first edit quite fun! This allows me to inject more characterisation, spruce up dialogue and cut down on unnecessary filler words ('just', 'even', 'eyes widened' are particularly bad ones for me). I quite like Brandon Sanderson's tip where you only focus on one thing per edit (so one edit for technical issues like word choice/ sentence structure, one edit for characters/ dialogue, one edit for plot points etc).

So edit 1: adding more character thoughts/ reactions, smoothing out/ refining dialogue and ensuring a consistent voice, removing filler words, removing too much 'tell' areas, also writing down a list of overused words

Edit 2: world/ geography consistencies, temporal consistencies (how long it takes to get from one place to another), adding in additional relevant worldbuilding or removing irrelevant details

Edit 3: checking for accurate word choices, checking my list of overused words and cutting these down (I use the 'Find' option in Word for this), making sure I'm using consistent hyphens/ spellings/ capitalisations

For each run-through of the story I'll also try and correct any typos I come across.

At this stage it's also good to send the story to some trusted beta readers who can give external feedback to point out things you might not have thought about.

Step Four- Polish

This bit I find the most tedious, as at this point I'll have read through the manuscript so many times. For this I take a slightly different approach to editing.

Once I'm happy that the story itself has been trimmed and tided and the plot and character elements are as good as they can be, next comes the technical part- to catch grammar/ spelling errors/ typos. I start from the last chapter and work backwards, using an e-reader to read the text aloud. I use Free Natural Reader and Balabolka for this- both are free to download.

This is really good for catching typos and tense changes, and is better than reading aloud yourself as the e-reader will always read what's on screen, whereas your brain may insert or inject words that aren't there. Don't be tempted to set the reading speed too fast- you should get it to match the tempo of your own reading speed.

Reading backwards also stops you getting caught in the 'rhythm' of the story, as this can make you overlook thing as you've already read it so many times.

Once you've self-proofed, this is when you should send the manuscript to a trusted editor so they can check for any other remaining errors. Different types of editor edit for different things so make sure you pick the right type.

Step Five- Formatting

This step used to be a huge headache, but now I have ready-made templates from my previous books it's super easy. Definitely learn to use Word's Styles Feature, as this makes it much quicker.

Once you've made the corrections from the editor, it's time to make the book publishable.

Ebooks and paperback books have specific formatting (to make sure there's no misaligned text or random blank pages) and these need to be adhered to, to make sure the books look right. Different distributors also have different formatting (Amazon vs Smashwords) so make sure you have separate templates for each.

A new site has come around called Draft2Digital which is another way you can format your books. I used them recently and their user interface is quite straight-forward.

Step Six- Cover and Synopsis

Fortunately I am an artist as well as a writer, so this saves me having to hunt down a cover artist. Of course making a cover is still time-consuming and needs to be the best it can be, to attract readers. To know where to start about covers, I recommend David Gaughran's free course, where he covers not only this but pretty much everything you need to know about self publishing.

And then comes the synopsis- the bane of most writer's existence, but oddly enough I don't find it too much of a hassle. I put this down to being a doctor- I have to document patient stories in their medical notes succinctly and in summary, so it's something I'm quite used to!

It also helps to read the synopses of other books in your genre to get an idea of what tone to go for.

Step Seven- Preparing for Publishing

And so the last step involves checking and re-checking to make sure the books are ready to go.

On Amazon KDP, there is a preview tool to check ebooks and paperbacks, and you can also order proof copies of paperbacks to check they print properly and that the cover looks good.

A look inside the proof copy of The Goddess's Blessing

Once these are all ready, you're ready to go live!

If there are any errors Amazon picks up, they will notify you so you can make the changes. But if all goes well, your book will pop up on the market place, ready for your readers to devour.

And so these are the steps I take in my writing process. Of course this isn't the only way to do it and there are thousands of other methods out there. Are you a writer? What works for your in your process?

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