Creating a book (a whole big book with words and pages, oh my!) is rather intimidating. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written a complete book before; what I’ve learned is that the second time is just as nerve-wracking – possibly even more so.
A few people have asked me recently about my writing process, so I thought that I’d give a quick run-down about how book 2 is shaping up, and how I get from point A to point B. This process seems to work for me, but I cannot stress enough that every writer is different.
Step 1 [1 week]: A shred of an idea pops into my head. For book 2, it started with the setting – and immediately I knew that I wanted to write a book in that place. I quickly threw together some vague character outlines (names of characters, ages, circumstance) and sent a one-paragraph pitch to my editors. They liked it! Huzzah!
Step 2 [2 months]: Read. A lot. I mean, A LOT. In this stage, I’ll devour about 3 to 4 books a week and take copious notes about what’s working. For me, reading is the best way to stir up my imagination.
Step 3 [2 months]: Amass a ton of random sentences/occasional paragraphs. I write things that I think sound pretty and which relate (or may not relate) to my plot. Okay, I know that sounds super strange, but for me, it just helps to see words on paper. It helps to know that I’m possibly getting somewhere. Book 2 had 20k words before I really knew what the story was about.
Step 4 [1 month]: Begin to coalesce random sentences/paragraphs into some sort of structure. Build upon them. Cut out what doesn’t relate to the plot at all. Read more. Take more notes.
Step 5 [1 month]: Create an outline based on everything I’ve amassed. For me, this also has to do with setting. For example, my outline for book 2 looks like: “Chapter 6: Church Scene” or “Chapter 9: Ice Rink Scene.” By this point, at around 40k-60k words, I have a good feel of the story, although I’m not confident about everything that’s going to happen.
Step 6 [2 months]: Right now, I’m at this stage for book 2 – around 60k words. My book has an outline, knows where it’s going, and has some pretty nice sentences. Now comes the major shaping. I’ll print out everything and, starting at the first chapter, begin to re-type the book. I’ll open a new document in my computer and start to write the book from scratch, using my 60k words as notes. I have a clear idea who my characters are, and now it’s time to create a coherent piece.
Step 7 [3 weeks]: My book should be around 70-75k words. I’ll step away from it for a few weeks and read others’ books. Take more notes. Really think about things I want to change or keep the same in my own novel.
Step 8 [2 months]: Cut, cut, cut, re-write. Most of what I’ve written will be kind of crap, and I need to make it better.
Step 9 [3 weeks]: Send it out to critique partners.
Step 10 [3 weeks]: Read. Become startled and confused by feedback, but then realize it makes sense.
Step 11 [3 weeks]: Send to my agent.
Step 12 [3 weeks]: Read. Take in feedback.
Step 13: Send to my editors!
And again, it’s different for everyone, but I hope this may help one or two people. My best advice is just to trust your gut: you know what’s working in your process. Stick with that.