My Writing Process
Every novel is different. Every author is different. Every reader is different.
The writing process is never the same for every novel written and it has taken me quite some time to learn and accept that. Nor can one follow exactly what another author does—because no two processes are the same.
When I was younger—just learning to write—all I did was compile everything into one document. If I didn’t know what to do for a certain scene, I often just left it out and continued. Hence why you’ll never see those come to life. But then I started learning more about the art of fiction and how to write a novel. This new information left me stunted and often arguing with writer’s block because I thought I had to write in a certain way in order to be successful. Whether that meant a certain genre, a certain outline, a certain point of view … whatever it may be.
The greatest lesson a writer can learn is to listen to the voice, listen to the story, and follow your own instincts. They will be the most powerful in helping you succeed.
When I started writing Underneath the Whiskey, it started as a screenplay for class and opened my mind on how to write the story. A story that eventually my mind told me would be my first novel.
For those who question what stories of yours should become novels: trust your instinct. You’ll feel it.
As I started to transition UTW to a novel and not a screenplay, I found myself jumping around scenes. I had all of this information that needed to get out … immediately. So I found myself creating a different document for every scene. I couldn’t write with fluidity. When I tried, I got stuck.
So I followed my instincts and what I knew the story needed. And while that left me with a chaotic mess, and probably took too long to compile everything and make sure the scenes flowed, I know it’s what that novel needed. The only reason the story became a novel.
Now I’ve started the process for novel number two.
I repeat: listen to your instinct. You’ll know what will be a novel and what won’t be.
Before I finished my debut novel, I had already started writing the sequel for it and I was starting to write a brand new idea. One that I was over the moon about, but then editing and finishing UTW took precedence and that idea got put onto a back burner … until a few weeks ago.
After publishing, I tried to go back to this story I was thrilled about. I tried talking to the characters. I tried brainstorming fresh ideas. But ultimately, I got frustrated. Until I let my mind go one day. I took myself and those character’s for a walk, and they decided to walk away from me. (Temporarily, I hope.) And I found these two new, wonderful, beautiful character’s come into my mind. Suddenly, I already had half of the book worked out by the time my walk ended.
But this process turned into a different method than UTW. Not only was the genre different. But so was the formatting. I found myself writing two different documents. One for one character and one for another character, but each document was fluid. Each character has their own separate voice, and they are both fighting for dominance on telling the story. (They don’t know it yet, but they may both tell it.)
I found though, I needed to be more organized this time around. This didn’t just involve labeling my documents more clearly (I’ve lost too many scenes from UTW because my labeling is terrible), or creating multiple folders in one main story folder. This required a full on index card outline on my bedroom wall. (Thanks for the decorations, story! My walls have been too bare.)
My writing method and maybe some helpful tips!
(Ignore the horrendous quality of the photos. My phone is dying–slowly, but surely.)
A new notebook. This is nonnegotiable for me. Each story needs a new notebook.
- Often the notebook has to reflect the character or story for me. It could be simple, but I have to imagine my character’s using it.
- This is a YA novel and the character’s attend a private academy, so it was the perfect excuse to get a fancy black notebook.
A new stack of index cards. (Thank you, Michelle.)
- I write character names, main plots, chapter names, important dates, whatever I should see immediately.
- On the backside of each, I write short descriptions of what happens in regards to the main phrase on the front
- Display them somewhere. Often, I find myself writing them and then losing them. Taped to my wall, not only does it remind me to write, but it keeps the story on the forefront of my mind.
- Use this tool shamelessly. I find what my envision my character’s to look like, inspiration for their homes, schools, towns. Even style of clothing. Whatever you need inspiration for to continue you to write. Create something that when you look at it, it inspires you to write. But be careful, don’t spend too much time on this. You do need to actually write.
- Print photos along with your index cards too! That was wicked helpful for my last novel. Pinterest of UTW.
Calendar or sheet of paper
- It’s hardest for me to keep track of dates, ages, birthdays, and seasons. If I have this all compiled and calculated, it doesn’t distract me as much when the time comes to look it up.
- Keep track of how much time passes between each scenes. Make sure your seasons correlate with what the character’s are doing, holiday’s that fall within your book, and special events. These could make or break a story if you choose to recognize them. (It took me until one of the last edits of UTW to realize my timeline fell on the legalization of same-sex marriage. Without including it, it wouldn’t have helped my character or the story as much.)
- It’s a pet peeve of mine as a reader to recognize the timeline is off!
A writing location
- This often doesn’t change for me. I usually find myself at the same spot at Starbucks or at my desk at home. Create a place for you to lose yourself in these characters.
A writer’s block method
- This obviously can change at moment’s notice. It can change depending on what the issue is, however for me, the beach has been my stable rock the past few weeks. I always find inspiration near water, but I’ve found taking a walk and really having a discussion with my character’s has worked absolute wonders.
- (Sorry beach goers, I’m not insane. If I’m talking to myself, it’s because I’m interviewing my character. Or arguing!)
What methods help you start a new story? Where do you write? How do you outline?