(This was written for the blog tour. I figured I’d put it up here, too, just in case you missed it.)
It seems like every author has a process, some little ritual that gets ideas from their head into their word processor. I know I do.
This is a process I like to call “whatever works”.
I do have a usual modus operandi. I start by outlining my story on actual paper. I like Mead’s Five Star notebooks for this, since they’re sturdy and can take the abuse I give them. My notebook gets hauled around in the car, in my bag to the pool, on my lap, on my desk, on the floor, on my bed… College ruled, please! Otherwise, my handwriting’s illegible.
My handwriting’s illegible anyway, but nevermind.
I write out a longhand synopsis of the plot. This is where the real work gets done. If something doesn’t make sense, it’ll come out in this stage. Here’s where I see that gee, the heroine is really too stupid to live, or I have a massive deus ex machina at the ending, or hey, what the heck’s the point of this thing that’s going on? All the threads come off the spool here and get woven together.
I’d rather revise a longhand synopsis than words I’ve gone to the trouble of typing out. For example, my current work in progress, the sequel to my upcoming shifter book “Taint of Shadow”, has had three outline revisions already. I haven’t typed a word, but it’s been revised three times. Better now than later.
The outline doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, it gets broken up by pages of notes, ideas, brainstorms, character interviews, vignettes, whatever. If I’ve got a writer’s block, I write through it (or go take a shower, which almost always gives me something to work with). At this stage, my web browser also gets overworked. When researching, I’ll have three tabs worth of websites open in Firefox at times.
My wiki gets a workout here, too. Pages for characters, world notes, plot points, sometimes even the synopsis get put in. I work in a lot of mediums.
Once I have that synopsis hammered out, I usually do an old fashioned outline, still in the notebook. I want to break that thing down into chapters, digestible bites, and points of view. It’s like a car. I’ve built the chassis, but now, I need the frame to put it on.
For more complex stories, the outline and synopsis go into a program called Power Structure. Simpler stories just get the paper outline, or sometimes an outline in the wiki if my writing’s particularly messy.
Now it’s time to write the story. This usually goes fast, since I know what’s going on already. I write at least two thousand words a day (except on short stories, where I obsess over every word, and then I allow myself a thousand a way). I start by reading over what I’ve already written, at least a few thousand words. I do a little polishing here, then write the next part.
My husband reads each chapter as I finish it. This is my first “reality check”. If it’s not working, I know right away.
After it’s done, it goes to my crit group. I polish it up, then send it out.
This process does change up sometimes. Every now and again, I write completely by the seat of my pants. I usually have the plot in my head, and I just go from there. Sometimes, I just use paper. Sometimes, I just use Power Structure. It really is all about what works for that particular story.
Short stories don’t take me that long to plan. A week, tops. For longer, more complex stories, it can take me two or three weeks to put together. I try not to stress about the time not spent writing. Ideas come to me every day, they get woven in and integrated, things get reworked, and everything gets put together in the best way I know how. When the ideas stop flowing, I know the plotting’s done. I have everything I need.
Meghan’s Submission had no outline, just the words in my head. New Life, my upcoming Vampire Oracle story, had a paper outline. Taint of Shadow, my upcoming shifter book, had four paper synopses, two outlines, a Power Structure file, and wiki information.