Writing a novel: follow your path.

My friend Rebecca and I were discussing with the writing group the different ways to write tonight. Some take more time at the beginning, picking out each individual word as it flows on the page. It stutters as the author makes a decision but it is possible that towards the rewriting steps, there is less work to do towards the end.

However that is not what works for me. My own style is nearly a blast of action in the rough draft. I rough out an outline in a day. Primary character’s personalities are roughed out in a week. At this point, for science fiction, I begin to draw things out how I envision technology, for fantasy I begin to envision magic, etc. Basically I do world building.

By month end, I have an act. In a few months, I have my rough draft of my manuscript.

Rough Draft: Now don’t be too impressed: A whole scenes might be only described in a paragraph or two plus added dialogue and major action. Very little detail. I don’t really research in the beginning. I just go for it. Get it down. Get something down. Because until that happens, I don’t know what to research.

For the current manuscript one of the topics I looked up were: truck drivers of long distance routes. How long can a trucker driver go before legally they need to rest? How is this monitored? How much gasoline does a truck use? Is the truck cheaper than flying goods…etc. Once I have my research down, I can add realistic details which will eventually bring me into what I would consider a first draft.

First draft: I go over all the major plot points and then my characters begin to talk to me. The dialogue becomes more distinctive as I get to know them. Their actions are justified at least in their own minds. Once I start hearing all the primary and secondary characters, I know I have a solid second draft.

Second draft: Certain scenes begin to stick out as important, others fade. If I need additional or fewer POV’s this is the draft that tends to let me know that. I also do the first of many copy edits. The story feels strong, but I know better. I set it aside for six weeks (I was given that advice in Stephen King’s On Writing.) I didn’t believe it until I did set Other Systems aside.

Third Draft:  I personally am only now able to see my “little darling” chapters that don’t add to the plot or subplots. After they are cut and other more important chapters are often added to for content, then I do another copy edit. Generally, the main story is what it will be at this point. I feel it is almost good enough. Not to publish–but to show a couple of my friends who have writing backgrounds. Now I have some feedback.

I can do two things. Agree and change. Disagree and ignore. Generally, it is the former, because people always catch inconsistencies and plot holes that I missed.

4th Draft: I add or cut as instructed. Ok, it’s time to copy edit again! Its also time to listen to my manuscript. I read it aloud and make the computer read it aloud to me.

Think I am done?

Nope. Generally a few more ideas slip around in my head and I see even more plot holes. (Dang it! I thought I was an author!!!)
Ok, so on to the fifth draft and sixth which are the same steps. Read for content, read for copy. Listen to it.

However, at this point, I also begin a few other things. I write the marketing material: Synopsis, Summary, Query Letter.  I begin sending out submission packages. This process begins to stabilizes the manuscript further.

Guess what, once the manuscript sells, I’m still not done. Why? Because the publisher’s editors will also do edits. Other Systems will have at least two major edits. I am awaiting the second edit now. Personally, I don’t think that this is a bad thing. The first editor picked up some things and the second editor picked up on totally different things. This will only make the novel stronger.

So that’s how I do write a novel, for any writers out there, what is your process?

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