I don’t think I have approached the writing of any novel the same way twice, and I’ve written three of them so far. Currently I’m working on a fourth, and have discovered that as I write more and more I grow as a writer and find better processes to create the novels I want to write. I wanted to share a few of the processes that I have used and am currently using to produce (hopefully) quality writing.
- The Unfolding Story – For my first novel, The Transgression Box, I at first created a rough outline of the several planets that I wanted my hero to visit throughout the novel (all of them being allegorical representations of what I felt were problems in American Christianity). Other than the initial conflict that sent that main character over his personal heroic threshold the majority of the novel was achieved by living in the head of my main character and allowing the story to unfold as I wrote it. The problems with this is that I ended up with a pretty simple plot, a moderate adventure story where the hardest part was usually figuring out a way to get my main character out of the extreme peril in which I had placed him. Stephen King admits to writing this way, but I learned that it wasn’t necessarily the way I liked to write.
- The Meticulous Outline – For my second book, a three part novel released over the course of 9 months, This Broken Earth, I not only created a future apocalypse that was based on current news stories, but I wrote an extremely detailed outline. I wrote the outline because the novel was written in first person omniscient which is a point of view where the novel is not only in first person, but each chapter is from the perspective of a different character, switching back and forth between their respective points of view. I found this method to be necessary because of the time constraints, mainly because I had to get the next part of the book online before a certain date and it helped me to organize the story so that I could accomplish this task. I still sell a few of those books per week, so I suppose there is something to be said about outlining a novel before writing it.
- Writing the Ending First – For my third book, Come Apart, I wanted to write a science-fiction mystery novel, one of those “what is going on?” kind of novels sort of like the television series LOST. In order to line up all of the elements needed to puzzle the brains of the reader, I wrote the last chapter first because I had the ending clearer in my head than the rest of it and just wanted to get it done. Once I did this, I discovered that I had to lay out the rest of the book so that it lined up with what happens in the end. It also pushed me to get done with it, effectively smashing any writers block that tried to get in the way.
- Writing and Rewriting – For my latest WIP, I first spent six months designing a system of planets in a far-flung galaxy, a place where the human race fled from their own ruined solar system, only to conquer the races who lived there. The novel is set over 100 years after the natives of those planets rose up and overthrew their conquerors, a time when the human race has been reduced to less than fifty individuals. The novel is also a murder mystery, and I have a detailed outline of the plot, but I’m finding that the best writing I have done has been when I come back to a chapter I wrote weeks ago to rewrite it into something so much better. I have changed the sex of certain characters, added characters, worked in several sub-plots that required the revision of several chapters, but am managing to keep to my daily quota of words written even when I erase entire paragraphs. I’m still on target to finish the rough draft by May 1st so that I can revise it a couple of times before sending it to beta readers, but I feel like I’ve written some of the best material of my life as a writer.
What is your writing process? Has it evolved over time like mine or is it stagnating? Post below with comments so that we can all learn from one another.