The Writing Process
Even though I’ve written ten full books and two novellas, I am still learning my process. What do I mean, “process”?
Process is: the way you write, the way you form a book. And the way your brain lets you do both. For my first novel – Forgotten Marriage – I was stabbing in the dark. I just wrote with no plan, which is often the best way to get the creativity flowing. Sure, I had the overall theme – amnesia, lovers reunited, secret baby – but I spent eons editing the bloody thing, making the scenes flow into logical order, going back over their goals, motivation, conflict. And even when it sold, it still needed some work. Surely there was an easier way to write?
My second book was a bit of a freak – I sold it on synopsis. If you don’t know, that is A RARE THING INDEED for a brand-new author. But I had some help in that it’ was part of a six-part continuity, and I brainstormed with Desire divas Jan Colley, Maxine Sullivan, Tessa Radley, Bron Jameson and Yvonne Lindsay. The senior editor obviously thought I could do it. The synopsis showed I knew my story. But the thing is… I had only six months to write the thing (which shrunk to only six weeks but it’s not like I’m counting…) Holy crap! Deadlines are a scary thing for me… me, who had spent over six years from concept to contract for her first published novel.
As author Fiona Lowe says, your process can and will change for every book, and I found this to be so very true for my second. The real-time story for it (forget backstory for a moment) takes place over a month. I had my hooks – office romance, marriage of convenience – and the characters’ GMC before I started. Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, those 15 page character charts are great if you want to avoid writing. I’ve got a paired down version that doesn’t waste space on questions like, ‘favourite ice cream’. I have specialised character sheets, which deals with goals, motivation, conflict, prime motivation, inner fears, etc. All stuff that aids your characterisation so that when you come to writing your characters, you can really get inside their heads.
So back to my process. I printed out a month calendar with little squares. Put in pertinent dates such as Mothers Day (very important because the hero’s mother has just died) and Fashion Week (again important because it’s a glitzy story set inside a diamond company). Then I filled in the days with physical actions: first meeting, first kiss, love scene, a ball, visiting another character, etc. I then filled in my hero/heroine interaction with other characters (a must because of the continuity thing), what continuity threads I needed to address. Only then did I start putting in my scenes. Stuff like “hero discovers X about heroine, which leads him to believe Y”. or “heroine confronts Mr Z, hero overhears conversation and steps in.” This visual calendar was perfect for showing me what doesn’t flow properly, what scenes needed to be shifted and what needed to be cut. For example, I had a confrontational scene later on in the month that didn’t make sense, because my heroine wouldn’t have tolerated it or reacted the way she did. So I moved it a week forward and hey presto, it worked.
After completing the calendar, I opened Word, and using the wonderful Document Map, started to type in my scene headings. I refuse to write under chapter headings because the chapter breaks always change. So my ‘chapters’ are now the scenes. For example, “First Kiss”, or Heroine confronts hero” at the top of the page. So when I click on that heading on the left hand screen, I can zoom straight to that place in the story. And an extra bonus, I get to see all those scenes listed in logical order. It quickly shows me if something’s out of place (for more on how to use Document Map as a writing tool, see my article here.)
So that’s my process. GMC charts, calendar planning, Document Map in Word. Now I must get back to writing the book!