As a newbie, whenever I tried to find someone who would explain to me how they wrote a book, most would give me some nebulous answer. It’s quite possibly because no one has time to answer that, it’s like asking “How do you build an airplane.” Often what answers I did glean all seemed a bit mystical. Now that I’ve written 8 books, I have a process. Thought I’d share for any newer writers who want a peek into someone’s detailed process. And it has Seven Phases—Happy 7th Birthday Seekerville!
Phase 1 – Create story
1. Think of a story or character that has a hook=the cool thing about it that makes me want to write it next.
2. Brainstorming and write the story with stream of consciousness writing. Annoy husband with what if questions about imaginary people I don’t really know very well.
For plotting, I run through Worksheets I created myself from all the writing Craft books/workshops/blogs/etc. that I find worthwhile. I add more worksheets as I continue learning! I go through one sheet at a time, answering all the questions I can and then if stumped I move to the next, back and forth until I get a real good handle on the plot.
BONUS: If you want to see them, email me, I’ll send you a big ol’ doc—it might not be completely understandable unless you’ve been attending the same craft workshops and reading the same craft books, but you can see what I do with the information. Email: mjagears AT gmail DOT com).
3. Plot work - Lies they believe (Susan May Warren’s writing books address this).
4. Plot work – Moral Premise (Stanley William’s The Moral Premise).
5. Plot work – Breakout Novel Info (Donald Maas books).
6. Plot work – Romance (gleaned from several books , blog posts, and my own observations).
7. Plot work – Misc. (those nuggets I’ve gleaned from conferences and posts or small insights into the craft.)
8. Plot work – 3 act structure (James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure).
9. Plot work – Character Analysis (Creating Believable Characters with Enneagrams)
10. Plot work – Write a synopsis or Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake (If worried, have a critique partner look at synopsis and see if they see potential pitfalls).
11. Plot work – Create a Chapter/Scene list taking into account all of the above and thinking through GMCs and Scene and Sequels. (Techniques of the Selling Writer by Swain).
Phase 2 – Write Story
12. Rough draft – write everything quickly and linearly using chapter/scene list to stay on track (can add or delete as I go if story warrants), only stop to look up history that would kill a scene/plot point if I was wrong, flag any other history/story questions as I go. If stuck, I note what I want to write “write something gushy here” or “check the neighbor’s name” and keep going until the end.
Phase 3 – Revise story
13. Revision– Quickly read through entire rough draft as quickly as possible (wincing at terrible writing) making notes in the margin as I go of what needs fixed story wise.
14. Revision - Chapter by Chapter – Sweep through it taking care of notes and making my horrible writing make sense, filling in details (I tend to have a bunch of talking heads in a rough draft), checking history notes or story notes.
15. Revision - Chapter by Chapter – Sweep through as many times as necessary until it reads decently and does what I think I want it to do.
16. Critique Feedback – Give to Macro Critique Partner each chapter as I go. (I wouldn’t have done this as a beginner because my prose wouldn’t be good enough not to annoy my critter, but I’m better now—when I was newer I would have waited until after the editing phase.)
– Examples of macro edit suggestions I got this round “Romance is non-existent in these chapters,” “If you’re going to use the character like this, then I want to see him several times before now,” “I don’t like how you’re making this preacher look like an idiot,” “He isn’t at a point in the relationship to go to her with this problem, so change this to an accidental meeting or something.” - I read these, but I let these pile up and make notes about how I want to fix things in response to crits, but if it changes something story wise, something BIG, I might quit revising and go through the previous chapter and add/change/revise the thread of that particular problem so that I feel confident that it’ll flow, and the rest of the book will flow properly according to new changes in response to crits.
17. Revision- Chapter by Chapter – After the first crit partner has seen everything, I go back through and fix macro edit problems in the manner I choose.
Phase 4 – Edit Story
I do this chapter by chapter, see my website link to “weasel words” and you can see what I mean by each type of word clues I’m highlighting to look for problems and how to create Macros in Word so you can highlight an entire list of words with one click.
18. Macro Check of Tense.
19. Macro Check of Deep POV and Emotion.
20. Macro Check of Timing.
21. Macro Check of Weasel/Filler words.
22. Macro Check of Pet/Repeated too often words (different for everyone most likely).
23. Macro Check of Possessive and Starting sentences with a conjunction check. (Any particular grammar mistake you do too often.)
24. Macro Check of Pronoun clusters.
25. Read through Dialog only.
26. Read through entire chapter.
27. Critique Feedback – Give to another critique partner for line by line critiquing as I go. This critique partner notes any story problems he sees and is more particular about my actual writing. I let these crits pile up. If it affects my story, I rewrite or make notes on what needs to be added/revised/changed and keep going.
28. Editing – Once the second partner is finished, I fix all line by line/story problems from critique feedback in the manner I choose.
29. Read all the way through smoothing things out.
Phase 5 – Macro Edit Story
30. Polishing – Listen to book draft with Kindle Text to Speech as I knit and fix things that don’t flow well.
31. Submit to my managing editor and agent.
32. Macro-Edit – Take care of all macro edit suggestions that come back from my agent and editor.
33. Critique feedback – If I write a huge chunk of new writing, like a whole scene worth, I’ll put it through my revision/editing process and if I’m worried about it, I give it to my two previous critique partners for feedback and edit accordingly with their feedback.
34. Polishing – read through draft or where I did a lot of editing.
Phase 6 – Line Edit Story
35. Submit to line editor
36. Line Edit – Read through draft and make any revisions necessary according to editor’s notes and changes.
37. Polishing – Read aloud, making changes as needed.
Phase 7 – Copy Edit Story
38. Submit to copy editor.
39. Copy Edit – Read through draft to check for typos, misspellings and anything that would make me look stupid that was missed.
40. Hand it over and never look at it again! Begin Marketing Phase.
Writers, tell me a funny story about you being asked, “How do you write a book?”
Readers, what work-related task makes cleaning toilets seem like a more fun use of your time?
2014 Carol Award winner, Melissa Jagears is a stay-at-home mom who writes Christian Historical Romance into the wee hours of the night.
She’s the author of the Unexpected Brides Series with Bethany House. The prequel ebook novella, Love by the Letter is free to try. And so far, A Bride for Keeps and A Bride in Store should have found their way onto your favorite bookstore’s shelves. You can learn more about her, her books, and where she hangs out online at www.melissajagears.com
**Actually cleaning toilets is the husband's job, and I wouldn't want to take that joy from him. What I really procrastinate with is Photoshop. So, since I'm in the middle of a rough draft, I'm giving away a Facebook Author Banner. I will make the winner a Facebook cover photo with your book(s). Give me the cover jps, what you want it to say, and I'll whip you up something! Here are some of my latest. (I do these for $20 if you were curious.) Please mention in the comments if you would like to be in the giveaway.
Seekerville is giving away one print or digital copy of A Bride in Store to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
A Bride In Store
Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn't even in town when she finally arrives.
Axel's business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend's mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store--where she quickly proves she's much more adept at business than he ever will be.
The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream in store for them both.