So I thought people might want to know my process in writing. After all that is what this blog is for…and here it is.
- Conceptualization – For me starts usually when I’m working on another book. Basically lightning strikes and I say, “That’s a great idea for a book.” But because I’m already engaged in another project, what I do is jot down a note. Usually in my writer’s notebook for my “current” book I’m writing, but it can also be on napkins, in my ipad, or various other places.
- Runway clearing – Means getting all my other projects wrapped up so they are not interfering with my next project. Basically I’m about to take a big dive underwater and I don’t want to be distracted so all my other works have to be “done/done”
- Collection – I start a new notebook for “this book” I copy all the notes that are scattered across all the places mentioned above and I start putting them down in a notebook of their own.
- Mood setting – I start gathering up music and images that set the mood for me to play / refer to as I start building my world.
- Gathering words– Generally means coming up with a long list of names: places, people, races as well as phrases: slang, swear words or construction of words for a particular race and how their language is structured.
- Research – Weapons, clothing, jewelry, customs, monetary systems, government or religious structures.
- Mapping – Step one is to make a map and start defining regions and determining who lives where and what conflicts/alliances they may have with their neighbors.
- Outline – The entire series from start to finish and determining what the focus will be for each book in the series and what will be its climax and major conflict/resolution.
- Character Studies – Going through each person and defining what their motivations are, their strengths and weaknesses, their desires, their fears.
- Detailed Outline – Putting some meat on the skeleton that was my original outline, so I know exactly where to start and where I’m going to.
- Saturation – by this time the characters have started talking to me, I hear their dialog I see the scenes being played out. I know I’ve got to start writing as they are busting the seams of my brain to get out.
- Writing – Finally sitting down and writing the book.
- First reader – Giving the book to Robin to see what she thinks
- First revision – Going through all of Robin’s comments arguing with her to make sure what she is saying makes sense, then adjusting the story.
- Read as a reader – I’ll now sit down and read this as if I were a new reader coming into the book for the first time – while doing so I’ll make notes of what works, what doesn’t what adjustments have to be made.
- Second revision – Incorporating all the changes form my reading session
- Beta readers – Giving the books to “readers” and “writers” that I know and trust to see what they think of it. This generally means changes, although minor in the overall scheme of things.
- Submission for publication – Now it’s ready for my editor and agent to see.
- Content adjustments – I actually skipped a step because this is assuming the book is picked up by the editor (which isn’t a guarantee) but if it is then the content editor will go through the book and write up what they think needs to be changed.
- Third revision – Same process that I went through with Robin, but this time with Devi, or any other editor that might be assigned to the project. Generally after this the book will be “accepted” by the publisher.
- Copy edits – a copy editor will go through the book and mark up grammar issues, find continuity issues, restructure awkward sentences etc. For the most part this is just a matter of “accepting” everything they say. At this point the book goes to “layout”
- Proofing – Another read “like a reader” only the most egregious mistakes are addressed (like a typo or bad formatting). No ‘changes due to content’ are made at this stage. The publisher’s proof reader is also working from this version
- Sign off – The “official” version is provided with mine and the proof readers changes. At this point no more changes should be made. It’s just a matter of signing and being done.
And that’s it. I’m pretty saturated at this point and hope to start writing in a day or two.
You really inspire me, Michael, and I hope some day I can be in similar shoes. Thank you very much for making such a detailed blog about your process.
Any chance we can see a list of songs on your playlist for this novel (or Riyria). I also listen to music while writing, but it’s usually just the ‘ambient’ station on grooveshark.
Thanks Clay…that’s really fulfilling to hear. Sure I’ll post a list of songs…but I have to be careful. The Riyria songs are huge spoilers for those that haven’t finished the series so posting them would be problematic but I can send you them in email. Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for posting this Michael. It’s definitely insightful! Glad to see you on WordPress now too… I think the community and posting features are so much better than Blogspot.
In regards to your detailed outline, I was curious how often you find yourself deviating from it during the writing process. That’s something I struggled with on a previous novel attempt. The whole idea of doing an outline was to keep me focused, but I found myself wandering all over interesting side streets once I actually got to writing and it kept screwing up my original plan. 🙂
It’s hard to know whether a “side street” is a distraction or something that is actually good. In my last book of Heir of Novron I had a group of people who I really wanted to get to Percepliquis, and I was trying to “hurry them along” They made it quite clear that it made no sense to push on and arrive at the site on a cold snowy night when there was a nice nearby town with an Inn with warm food and beds nearby. I had to agree with them…so I took a side trip to Ratibor and some of what came about while they were there are some really great and memorable scenes that added to the work as a whole. So…I say wait until the whole book is done before you declare those “side” trips as a pure distraction.
This has really helped me a lot. While I didn’t make a separate notebook for each book, I do pretty much this same thing, the only thing I do not do is an outline. I believe this has gotten me into trouble, and I will do it finally. I read another writing blog that the author said to “mix it up” if you normally don’t write with an outline, use an outline!. I will do this see if it helps.
This was something I needed dearly. A pretty detailed example of what is done. I appreciate it greatly!
Was that blog “terribleminds”? I agree with some of his recommendations but not all of them. I REALLY need an outline – to go without one is just a colossal waste of time.
Yes sir it was. I don’t think I am to the point where I can say what is or isn’t good advice when it coming to writing a book. Writing code, yes, but not a story. I’ve done some work already today. I’ve decided to rework a story I’ve written about 10 chapters into, and to be honest, this has really helped me see that my first direction wasn’t right. I’m changing the storyline a tad bit, and a good amount of the lore. This in turn actually solidified my ending, so it has turned out to be a good day. I must admit that I should have approached this as I do computer code. I normally write up an outline “pseudo code” and then flesh it out from there. I am not sure why I thought I could deviate from my norm.
I do greatly understand what you are talking about involving the saturation stage. I’ve gotten to this point several times where I have to put thought to paper or I will explode.
Anywho, thanks again for the short story. I’ve not read it yet, but I will when I get home from work.
Writing software and writing books actually have a lot of similarities – both are creative, and require planning and seeing connections. My wife used to program and it makes her a good editor.
Always fascinated by the process other writers take to get where they’re going. Aside from the specifics yours seems a lot like mine, though I’ll typically do a quick content edit before passing it off to my first readers, then a single revision after.
I agree – it is interesting to see other’s process…and I know this doesn’t apply to you but just wanted to say that I cringe when I hear new authors wanting to adopt processes of other authors rather than coming up with their own system. Each author is going to have their own process that works for them and part of that is finding your own.
Unfortunately there’s not much a new author starting from scratch can do. They need a starting point, and even if they’re at the stage where they know they need structure they’re not experienced enough to have developed their own… so they go “shopping” for one. The writers that will succeed will work through that and develop their own over time.
Very true – I guess you have to start somewhere and as you said – if you can keep what works for you discard what doesn’t then mold it “into your own” you’ll be in good shape.
My own process is very similar though sometimes the music gets too distracting and I’ve got to turn it off. Would be interested in the specifics on your first outline. If you have time at some point would like to see an example. Doesn’t need to be from an actual story so no spoilers for anyone.
I will definitely make this one of my future posts – I’ll show the first chapter of Theft of Swords (which is available for free online so if people want to compare the outline to the final result they can.
This would actually be incredible to see. I am waiting patiently!
Awesome process, and very helpful to me. I’d love to read a post that broke down the “writing” part into stages. For me, it’s never straight-through, I reach a point where the momentum is lost, the characters are still a bit protean, and it helps to just go back to page 1 and start reading with the purpose of coloring in reaction, response, voice, tone, and other characterizations. By the time I catch up where the narrative dropped off, I know everyone better and how they will react. Also helps if you want to build foreshadowing.
All these comments are good – I’ll certainly add it to my list of things to write about – I’m doing to try and cover 1 post a day – and I can use this as one of the topics – so thanks – and stay tuned.
I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog.
I’m hoping to see the same high-grade content from you in the future
as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated
me to get my very own site now 😉
You are very welcome. I’m glad you find it helpful. Glad you are inspired to start something on your own…I hope it goes well.