You may or may not know that I am a published author. I wrote my first novel when I was in high school and published it years later, and last year I wrote The Essential Grammar Handbook. Off and on since 2012, I’ve been working on my second novel, which title abbreviates to TLM (and I’ve been sharing quotes from it on Instagram). But every writer has a different creative process, so today I’m sharing mine in hopes
The Idea – There are many different ways that ideas come to me. I get ideas for stories all the time; they come from things around me, from books and movies and TV, from current events, from everything. Sometimes, I watch or read something and it makes me want to write a different version. But while I get general ideas for stories all the time, I hardly ever get ideas that make me want to write a whole book about them. Those ideas come to me once every couple of years.
Fleshing it out – Once I have an idea, it’s time to make it more concrete. Generally, I do a fair bit of free writing to get the feel of where my brain plans on taking me. I put my headphones in, just let my pen flow, and see what the story has to tell me. After the story and characters reveal themselves to me, I write an outline. I find it incredibly helpful to know where I’m going in each scene. Maybe I don’t outline each individual scene, but at the very least know what the scenes are leading to.
sucky first draft – This is the point where I just have to force myself to write. Not to mean that I don’t want to write, just that it’s not always easy to get the words out. And I have to remind myself every time that I sit down to write that I don’t need to make the scene and/or sentence perfect because that’s what editing is for. Every single time, I remind myself that I need to get the words out and there will be plenty of time later for criticism and nit picking and it’s okay if this sentence isn’t beautiful.
Making my edits – Once the first draft is completed, I step away for a few weeks, and then go back to make my own edits. This is the time to find plot holes, decide if I want to make plot changes (especially if I got better ideas of where to go with it while I was writing), start keeping track of character arcs and character information if I hadn’t already, etc. I might go through 2 or 3 drafts before I feel comfortable enough to show it to others.
Getting feedback from others – Then comes the scary part: sending drafts to the people who I trust to give me honest feedback that will help me turn it into a great book. There are only so many times that I can read my novel before I start missing things that will make a huge difference. Sometimes they point out things that don’t make sense, or they help me figure out if I need to make a character more believable. This point can take five, six different drafts, if not more, since I try to get at least 3 different people’s opinions on it.
Letting go of my pride – This comes with any part of writing a novel for me, but it’s an especially large part of editing and turning the novel into a publishable one. Just because I had an idea doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea, or that I wrote it a good way. If a part of the novel just isn’t clicking for anyone or I didn’t write a scene (or many scenes) in a great way, I shouldn’t try to keep it the way it is because I thought it was great. I need to let go of my pride and do my best to turn it into a publishable novel that people will want to read.
There’s a lot more that comes between the editing stage and holding the finished copy in my hand, but that’s different than the creative process. Plus, I have more experience with the creative process than I do with the publishing one, so that’s beyond today’s post. If you’re interested in learning about self-publishing, check out my Self-Publishing Sunday series.