I get asked about my writing process all the time. Really. Most writers have their own way of doing things. But the more I write, the more I explain about it, the more I realize that my process could be a bit unusual. So, I’m going to talk about the actual writing part of it today. My editing part is way odd. I’ve known that for a while, but it’s for another post.
Most writers take a first glance at what I do and mistakenly assume I’m a plotter. But once I lay this out for you, you’ll see nothing is further from the truth.
When I first start a project, there are certain things I already know. I know what genre I’m going to write. I know, based on that, how long the novel should be at a minimum. I know there’s a call to action at the beginning and a total resolution at the end. Even in a series, the book itself should tie up. Though a few small things can be left wide open, it should give the appearance of some sort of resolution.
I also know that there’s a huge climactic scene just a few chapters from the end. And half way between this and the beginning, there’s a major turning point (the midpoint). I also know that halfway between the midpoint and the beginning, and again between the midpoint and the climax, there are decision points.
I probably have no idea what these points will be.
But I may have a few ideas for odd scenes scattered around in my mind. Or on my desk.
I put all these things into a linear timeline. Which I admit looks scarily like an outline. Hence why people think I’m a plotter. Here’s what it might look like in the beginning:
I always color code my timeline. It helps me to see where I am and what’s missing easier. Green is for ideas. Black is for a written scene. Pink (or green highlight) is where the plot points are, what I’m building to. Yellow highlight or grey is for weather and time.
As I write a scene (keeping an eye on the next upcoming plot point), I enter the highlights of it into the timeline in black. I progress through the story naturally, following it where it leads. Sometimes my pre-ideas don’t work out and are deleted. This is what a pantser does.
I never go back and do corrections to past scenes unless it’s something that’s really major that affects the direction the story goes. Instead, I write it in bold red to do later. Like in the image below.
By looking at a timeline like this, I can see when I have way too many things packed into one day, when it should be day or night, what the weather is like. It’s basically just a snapshot of the novel that will help me make decisions as I work toward a final product.
It’s important to remember that none of this is permanent. It’s all fluid and can change completely. It often does, so don’t fall in love with it.
A final benefit to making a timeline like this is that it is oh-so-helpful when writing an extended synopsis. Each little scene is right there. I just need to combine them into sentences and smooth them out.
So, that’s the way I write my novels. It may work for you, it may not. Each writer works best in different ways.
As I said, editing is way different (and way weird). That’s for another day.