My Basic Process

I am often asked questions about how I write.  Outline or let it come as it wants? Describe characters in detail or build them as I go?  Here is my basic process in a nutshell (if you want a play-by-play of how I created a story, check out the Steps to a Story series).

Once I have characters and a basic plot (not a lot of details, but an idea of what happens to the characters) I start writing.  Usually there are a few scenes that are vivid in my head; I often write these out-of-order, knowing I have to revise them when I get to them chronologically.  When these are done, I start assembling the plot details, at least for the beginning of the story, and laying out a very basic outline.

My outlines usually include vague terms like “heroics here” or “the war ends” without any details about how these things occur, and they usually get less specific the farther they are from the beginning.  The only purpose of my outline is to put the major landmark scenes in the right order and context.  At this point I tend to write in chronological order, jumping a little bit ahead if I get a really good idea for an upcoming scene.

The basic writing process falls into place here.  Create the broad concept for the chapter or scene in my head.  Develop more details, such as specific dialog, sequence of events, and usually the first few sentences.  This is still in my head, although I’ll jot a few notes if I come up with a good phrase or sentence that I don’t want to lose.  When I sit down to write, I start with what’s been cooking in my imagination and let the scene flow as I type.  I save individual chapters as separate files.  Then I leave it alone.

After a few days, and usually after writing a few more scenes, I come back and re-read what I wrote.  At this point I revise; I replace repeated words (a pet peeve of mine), re-write awkward or confusing sentences, add details or improve the dialog.  Once I’m happy with a chapter, I cut and paste it into the manuscript document, moving the chapter file into a separate folder.  This way I technically have two copies of the manuscript on my computer, one as a single document and the other as individual chapters.

With the pace I’ve been keeping on Dragon, I’ve been able to give my First Readers whatever is completed by the end of Sunday (the first day of my weekend) and then continue writing on Monday.  This lets me stay a bit ahead, so I always have a few chapters ready for them.  My pace may slow – writing 4 or 5 chapters a week is really fast for me – but so far my brain really likes this story.

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