My Writing Process
Somebody recently asked me how I know when my book is ready for publication. How do I know when to let it go and stop making changes? As I’m sure any creative person would agree, it’s very hard to see any work as complete. There is always room for improvement. However, I’ve disciplined myself to a very strict writing process and this helps me know when I’ve reached the point to let my work go and let someone else read it.
I start off with my trusty notebook (as pictured). I use it to write down all my ideas. These are usually scraps of ideas to begin with and I write them down whenever I have inspiration. This means that when I come to write something new, I always have a pot of ideas to delve into. Although, by the time I’m ready to write, an idea has normally been hounding me for months and it’s already quite developed in my mind.
When I’ve made the decision to start a new book, the first thing I do is work on the storyline. I’ll think of what I want to happen, the conflict along the way, the characters and the situations, and I’ll draft it up on a side or two of paper. Then, when I have my outline, I’ll add more meat to the bones and write up a summary of each chapter. This can take several hours, and normally by this point I’m just itching to begin the actual novel. But I never overlook the importance of planning.
When the detail is all in place, it’s only then that I actually start chapter one. After years of writing, I’ve learnt that the first draft needs to be ‘bashed out’. It’s inevitable that as you start to write, new ideas will transpire, the characters will develop in ways you hadn’t expected, and when you finally get to the end, the first chapter will most definitely need tweaking. So that being the case, I never place too much emphasis on perfecting draft one. It’s important to get the plot and characters in place and then the next draft is where the real graft comes in.
Draft two is exhausting. I labour over every sentence, making sure I’ve chosen the right words and structured it properly so it conveys exactly what I need it to. It’s also here where the plot holes come to light and the inconsistencies appear. It normally takes me far longer to get through draft two than the first draft.
When I get to draft three, this is far more fun. This is the first time I really read my work as a reader not a writer, and I make fewer changes - just those that are necessary. Then, as a final check, I always print off a version to edit it away from the screen. This is more like a proof read, checking for spelling, grammar and the inevitable typos.
Then I stop. I’m sure I could go on forever tweaking, but it’s always here I invite fresh perspectives. I have a group of people that I rely on to read my work at this point, including my editor, and I know they will always give me honest, constructive feedback. Once they’ve all read it, I take on board the suggestions and I do one final edit. Then I let it go.
Publishing a book, for me, is about as exciting as life gets. Month and months of very hard work finally go out into the larger world. It’s amazing to think that what started out as a little idea from a dream or an observation is now a full length story being read by people that I’ve never met. That’s an incredible dream come true.