For what it’s worth, I thought I’d share today about the process I seem to have developed in taking my books from random thoughts in my head to the point they are ready to self-publish.
I start with an idea. A what-if, if you will. What if this girl meets this boy and this happens.
Then I start mulling around ideas of where they would be, what they would do, who they are.
Once the characters start forming in my mind, I need a visual. So I Google ideas for what the main characters will look like. If you search online for something like “brown-haired actresses under 30” just see what all comes up.
Magazines and catalogs are great resources, too. One of the main characters in the book I am currently finishing jumped out at me from the pages of a mail-order catalog. When you are trying to visualize what your characters will look like, keep your eyes and mind open. They will find you and when you see their face, you’ll know that it is a perfect match.
Once I know what my characters look like, I start doing research for the rest of the story. I look up information on the area they live in, the vehicles they will drive, the jobs they have and anything connected to their lifestyle. I create a file of all this information before I ever start writing. I want to have all the facts in my head so they’ll flow with more ease out on my keyboard and onto the computer screen.
The next week or so, I spend thinking about the characters and the characteristics that make them unique as well as the scenes I want to include in the story. I create a rough outline for the book in my head.
When I can’t keep the characters contained any longer, I sit down and write. And write. And write.
While I’m writing I keep both a dictionary and thesaurus open for easy reference, but other than that, I write. My latest novel I wrote in 21 days with more than 90,000 words. Was it finished at that point? Definitely not? But the first draft was done.
After the first draft, I go back through each chapter line by line, tweaking and adjusting. Deleting and rewriting. Adding and changing until it says what I want it to say.
Then I read through it again. Did I use the same word too many times (I have a habit of doing that just a bit!). Do the words flow? Does it make sense? Are the characters real enough? Would he really say that? Would she really think that? Do I convey my thoughts clearly enough that the characters seem real, alive, believable?
I give it one more read trying to pick out any other errors then I send it off to my wonderful proofreaders.
While they are proofreading, I set the book aside and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Once I receive their edits, I make the changes then save the book to my Kindle because I catch a lot of things when I read it this way that I missed before. After I make edits from the Kindle version, I format the book for print with Create Space and order a proof copy. I read through the book one more time, catch what I hope are the final changes, and I’m ready to publish.
From the time I start doing the research to the time I hit “submit” on the keyboard to publish my book, it is about an eight to ten week time frame, depending on the length of the book, how much other stuff I have going on and how intently focused I am on what I am reading.
Although it has taken some trial and error to get this pattern down, it is one that seems to be working well for me. If you are working on your first novel or your thirty-first, I hope you’ll share any tips on what works for you in your writing process.