At a recent ‘Meet the Author’ event a participant asked me about my writing process. Fortunately for me it was an easy question to answer on a superficial basis as I had previously given this some consideration while at university. I already knew I wrote in layers; a first draft, a second (actually several drafts) and the third major draft before editing and polishing. Only it is more complicated than this and I thought I would share my more in depth thoughts on this process.
I like this quote by Shannon Halt. Because writing is a craft and you must have the raw materials to begin to create. A potter must start with a lump of clay or a painter with a canvas and paints, or even a carpenter with a pile of wood. But it goes further back and down deeper than that initial first draft.
The Way I See My Process…
The use the same analogy of sand pits and sand castles I would describe my process as:
A Vast Rich Desert of Ideas…
The whole of my ideas, thought processes and stories to tell; a vast wilderness with no boundaries, no rules and immense beauty and creativity. From this I extract an idea, a message, or a character and I gather a current set of ideas that relate to the story I want to write:
Choosing an idea…
With millions of grains – tiny germs of ideas to choose from it is challenging to choose but one… this time.
So I shovel out of my huge desert of ideas a significant pile of ideas.
I use an omniscient point of view to conduct my research. One must know all there is to know.
Definition of an omniscient point-of-view, in writing: is to know everything that can be known about a character, including past history, thoughts, feelings, etc. In Latin, omnis means “all” and sciens means “knowing”.
Plot development, character development and back story. I find by writing, sometimes several thousand words of the back story leaves me feeling settled in having got it off my chest and am not tempted to put it into the actual novel and bore poor readers right out of my book.
When I know all (well most of all – you never know when a character is going to do something unpredictable)
Adding the Boundaries…
I gather all this information into a neat pile and systematically contain those ideas in a format to guide me, enclose the ideas and provide parameters within which I must work. I love the research phase. It is often the easiest and inspiring, but can be time consuming. I love to get pictures of my characters, my locations. Of course a fantasy novel goes even further, but more of that later.
Now with the ideas confined into a manageable form I am free to explore, feel passionate and pour out the story straight from the heart without fear I will exceed the boundaries. Once I have my pictures and research files in a lever arch I will often develop a table of characters with notes on who they are, where they fit in and who they might be connected to. Then I begin an outline; main points in the story, mini climaxes, main climax, low and high points, when sex begins, how many scenes, number of chapters.
Letting Loose the Passion…
For me that freedom to ignore the rules and literally throw a first draft on the page with no thought to spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence construction or even timelines or whether an action scene is achievable or probable. A first draft must be created with energy, enthusiasm and direction.
Using my outline I begin. I write and write and write, never stopping to edit or consider or to spell check. Letters become words, and words, sentences. Those sentences form paragraphs, grow into pages to be collected into chapters and finally the last line with THE END.
It is just about getting the story out there, pouring my precious story onto the page.
What am I trying to achieve with this first draft.
- Build a skeletal structure of the plot and flesh it out
- Get the action on the page
- Develop the dialogue
- Sexual interactions.
When you put that full stop at the end and saved a first draft it is indeed the most satisfying thing. I then run the spell check over the whole manuscript, divide it into approximate chapters then I save and put away. I will then come back to this draft in a few days and begin at the beginning.
Now the real writing has begun
Next Cassandra will talk about writing the second, third, fourth or more drafts because…