I’ve begun a side project for myself this last week. Something I’ve been advised to do from several books and blogs. I’m compiling a little notebook with all of my #1 tips. This notebook can go with me anywhere. Any time I’m working away from home, I will have anything I might need at my fingertips. I haven’t gotten very far yet (there’s way too much to go through and narrow down) but it has been a great way to spend some of my free time. And in doing it, I’ve been thinking more about my own creative process and wanted to share it with you.
For starters, I always have several things going on at one time. On the back burner, I’m starting to plot. Snippets of setting, conversation, or characters come to me and I write it down. Once I have enough of these, I sit down and really flesh out the project. If I hadn’t always done this anyway, it has been a tip in many books, blogs, and on a podcast I listen to. I have a notebook filled with ideas that I’ve written in since high school. Plus, on my phone, the notepad option is jammed with snippets that float around my mind when I’m on the go.
I’m a plotter 100% when it comes to full projects. I get a binder and divide it up into sections; a work log, a page to brainstorm the title and log line, character sheets, general plot points and ideas, pages to break down the time line and start putting the pieces together, the actual finalized outline, and a section for research questions and any other information I need. If I map out anything or have pictures that remind me of the story, this is where I keep them. I’ve developed my personal method from a few different books about plotting. Each time I start a new project, it changes just a little bit depending on if I’ve gained any new insight from my craft books.
Then comes the writing part. I’ve always written my first draft by hand. Partly so I can have it with me wherever I go, and partly so that I always have a copy (no matter how bad it is) if my computer were to crash. However, I’ve been considering changing this part of my process lately. With new technology, my documents are saved to an online account that I can 1. access anywhere and 2. never worry about losing just because my computer crashes. Plus, I type way faster than I can write by hand. But I’m still stuck in my ways, so we’ll see if this actually changes. The #1 tip I have about this stage is to just sit down and get it done. The only thing a first draft needs to be is finished. I don’t worry about going back to read over anything I’ve already written unless I need to refresh my memory of a certain detail. I never edit until I’m all the way done. This is a sure way to drive myself crazy.
Because I write by hand, the next part of the process is typing up the book after it’s done. I wait until the first draft is completely done because I also use this time to discover what I need to focus on in the first round of edits. As I type, I have a notepad ready to write down questions I have or point out where I have a plot hole that needs to be taken care of. Once it’s typed up, I go back to review these questions and ask more. I’m what is called an underwriter. My first draft is always too short. When I go through and ask questions, it’s a way to fill in the story to make it fuller.
My editing process has four stages. 1. Big questions 2. Little questions 3. Fine tuning 4. Final pass. After this I have to stop, because I will nitpick it to death if I don’t. During the fine-tuning stage, I have a checklist that I’ve compiled from a few different craft books. It really helps me think clearer about what I’m trying to accomplish with the editing process. After the final pass, which is mostly to double check for typos and grammatical errors, I’ll let someone else read it and tell me what they think. I have a few people on my team that give me feedback and I take it into consideration to make one last run through if they had anything major that needed to be fixed. At this point, I have thought about hiring an outside editor, but I haven’t had the funds yet. One day, though, that is the plan. I know I’m not perfect and an outside professional has so many benefits.
After I’m sure the book is as good as it’s going to get, I’ll be ready to put it out into the world.
To sum up, I’m plotting something that I think might end up as a horror novel. I’m also writing something that is a little sci/fi or speculative fiction. I’m also typing a thriller. I’m also doing edits on my short story collection. There are always four projects on the table at once. From all the craft books I’ve read, I know this is how you have to think to be a career writer. You can’t just focus on one book forever and never start anything else just because the one book hasn’t been successful yet. Publishers, agents, readers… they all want to know what you’ve got coming up next.
I’ve had a request to attach audio files of my posts for people who have trouble reading. I’m going to attempt to add these to any future posts. This is my first try, so be patient with me 🙂
Also, I’m using text2speech.org and it only lets me do 4000 characters at a time, so most posts will be split up into multiple audio files. If anyone knows of a site that I won’t have to cut up the files, please let me know.