I in no way feel qualified to tell anyone how to write. So I’m not telling you how you should write or what your process should be. I can only tell you what works for me. What works for me might not work for you and that’s okay.
Being a writer is something I have dreamed of since I was in the second grade. When I was younger I was either reading, listening to music and building things with Legos or I was writing. Mostly I was writing. All of these things were done alone in my room. I stopped writing for a while and focused on other things.
Getting back into writing proved more difficult than I thought it would be. I just couldn’t figure out how to start. Naturally, I looked to authors I admire to find the best way to write a book. Here’s what I learned, there is no best way to write a novel. There is no right way to write a novel. The best way, the right way, is the way that works for you. One way doesn’t work for everyone. It doesn’t matter how you get it done as long as you get it DONE!
Sometimes I feel so inadequate because I’m not doing things like everyone else. Or it’s not as easy for me as it seems to be for other people. Or it’s taking me longer to finish a project than it does other people. But I know I have to put those feelings aside and focus on the work. No matter how long it takes or how I go about it. Just get it down.
First, I was told I had to outline everything that was going to happen in the story. Outline every backstory, every chapter and that I had to know every little thing about the setting before I could write the first word. Tried that and…no. That did not work. It turns out that knowing every little detail made the story incredibly boring. So boring I never finished it. I knew everything so I lost interest. It was a chore getting up in the morning trying to finish it.
Then I was told not to outline anything. I was supposed to sit down at my computer and just start writing. Let the story and the characters come to me. Tried that and… no. That didn’t work either. Not knowing anything about the story made me anxious. I was never sure if I was going in the right direction.
Victoria Schwab is one of my favorite authors. I follow her on Instagram where she talks about her writing process openly. She says, “you have to find the way that works for you.” After listening to her method I was ready to try it. I made a few adjustments to fit me and added some things I learned from other authors I follow.
I learned with writing I can’t know every single detail but I can’t know nothing either. So I make an outline. I keep the outline in a notebook that is solely for the story I’m writing. Each story gets its own notebook. I know the setting first. Sometimes I draw a map to get a better sense of what the world looks like. The drawing trait skipped me and went to my sister and brother so it’s not a very good drawing. It’s a crude map of where I think things are.
After the world, I know my characters. Usually all of them but sometimes one or two will pop up when I start writing and I have to add them to my notebook. For instance, I’m writing a novel now about pirates. I knew all of the characters first except for one. Isla popped up on the island of Dreamers and Death when I was writing another chapter. I had to go back and add her backstory to the notebook. When it comes to my characters, I know their names and their backstories. I write all of this down so I don’t forget anything. I also know where the characters start in the story and where they end up. Now what happens to them in between that is a mystery, I don’t find out until I start writing. I write mostly fantasy so the magic system of the world is important. I know some of how the magic system works but not everything that way if I have to change, add or tweak something later I can.
I know how the overall story ends. Sometimes I know the ending before I start. When I was writing the Moon Investigations Novellas, I knew how the last book was going to end before I started writing it. While the ending to Restless Bones on Crystal Lake(the 2nd book) came to me after I had already gotten halfway finished. And sometimes I’ll have the ending before I start but then as I’m writing it changes.
Once I know all of this and it’s written in my notebook I get out my note cards. I make notecards for each main character and for the important places in the story. For the important places I write the name, the location, what the people are like, and what happens there and any other important fact I should remember.
For the characters, I write down their name, characteristics, what they look like and their mannerisms, their goals and their reason for doing what they’re doing. I learned this from author Robin LaFevers. She posted on Instagram a while back about how she kept track of all of her characters. The note cards are with me when I’m writing so when I switch character POV’s I can look at the character’s note card and remember what they are like and why they are doing what they’re doing. It helps put me in the mind frame of the character.
Once I know all of this, I can start writing. Now even though I know all of these things, doesn’t mean it’s easier to write. Some days are great and some not so much. I think it’s the curiosity that keeps me going on those bad days. I know where my characters start and where they end up but I don’t know how they get there. I want to know and the only way I’ll ever know is if I keep going. Even if I only write two hundred words a day. I have to keep going so I can learn why the ending is the way it is.
Well, that’s how I write. It’s a borrowed system that is working well for me. At least for now. What is your writing process?