Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How I Write a Book

I've started doing guest posts once a month on Kristie Britt's blog. I met Kristie through the Bransford Forums. Anyway, today's post is also posted on her blog. And this is how I write a book!


The Idea Starts It All

So first I need an idea for my book. Sometimes that starts in my head with a relationship or a villain or a snapshot of a scene within the book. It’s started in different places for all the manuscripts I’ve written, but before I start writing an entire novel, I have to fall so much in love with some aspect of this novel that I want to spend the next few months of my life hammering out a first draft.

The World Forms

I write fantasy and science fiction, so before I can really start writing, I need to understand my world. I brainstorm my world and basically spew out my thoughts into a Word document. By writing down all the things I’ve been thinking about, I develop a much clearer idea of what my world looks like. Some aspects of this world will probably change, but now I have a fixed place in my head.

The Main Character Becomes Real

Then I need to understand my main character (MC) and what on earth I’m doing with this book.  Mostly I take a few walks and think about my MC until I start thinking of my MC as a real person, and I start throwing notes onto the messy Word document from above. By the point I think of my MC as a real person, I know I can write that MC, but I still need to have some basic idea of the conflict I want in my book. The adversary has to be tied into the main character because that adversary is, in some way, working against the main character, so I’m counting the villain or Big Problem in this step. More Word document brain spewage and I’m off.

The First Draft Somehow Gets Written

So now I’ve got a very basic idea of where I’m going, a person who’s in the starring role, and a world where it all takes place, and some sort of adversary or conflict. I’ve just got to sit down and write. And write. And write. Sometimes the writing is easy. Sometimes I have to sit down whenever I can and make myself put out whatever I can, whether that’s a few thousand words or a few hundred. And then, after months of pouring over my first draft, I find myself at the end, and I’m soooo happy I could just do a little dance.

Analysis and the Re-Writes

I set aside my first draft for a while because I need a vacation from it before I can look at it with truly critical eyes. But then I come back ready to inflict damage on the poor thing. At this stage I’ve done things like cut out whole chapters, write chapter by chapter synopses to figure out what each chapter contributes, and add new chapters to amp up the tension. Since I don’t really plan out my first draft, here is where the planning needs to happen. I need to figure out where my draft moves like molasses, where it picks up, what it has, and what it needs. This stage can easily take place over several different drafts, but, hopefully, at the end, I have a book with a solid beginning, middle, and end. By the way, additional eyes at some point during this process are key because by the time you’ve read your own book over and over, you just cannot be objective. Those readers are the key to a molasses-free book.

Unfortunately, you could keep writing and re-writing the same book for the rest of your life. At some point you’ve just got to say “Enough!” and start querying. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re wrong, and then you have to do a few more re-writes before it truly is enough, but if this book doesn’t make it, there’s always the chance that the next one will. And you will have gained so much just from having written this book that surely it’s got to be worth it. Right?

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