Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blogfest: The Process That Writes Me


The totally cool and aspiring author Shallee McArthur hosted a blogfest earlier this week, but due to time constraints I was not able to participate until now. So buckle up and ready yourself as I share my process.

Step 0: Clear Your Mind and Pull Up A Blank Slate :)

Step 1: Acquiring the Idea - through my career as an (not yet published) author, the first step has always been the intrigue of an idea. I've never gone out of my way to get an idea. I let them come to me. As I continue to read books and watch movies, I ask myself, "what hasn't been done in a while?" and start brainstorming. Like agents and editors, I have to sell myself on the idea before I invest typing words for it. The idea is central to all - everything else is simply getting the idea across. I'll mull over an idea for about a week in my head, and if I feel no inspiration, a warmth through my body or a tingling in my brain, I'll probably drop it. Once my idea is in place (which aims for originality), I move on.

Step 2: Write the First Chapter - wait a moment . . . you're diving right in without a plan? Yep. After a good week or so, I've brainstormed enough to have a fair picture of where the story takes place and who I want to be my characters, so I draft a first chapter to see if the story is worth telling. If it doesn't interest me, I shelf it for later and think of something else. However, if I'm genuinely excited and see potential, I move on.

Step 3: Worldbuilding - I then detail the world in which the story takes place (or a suitable real-world location) and a host of characters to fill it. It's sort of like placing units on a Risk board, deciding how many should go to which territories, but I build their personality, history and psychology once they are in place. Aside from writing the first draft, worldbuilding takes up the most time. I'll write one-page bios for every character, the setting's history, magic or technological system (if any), and so on. Once that is down pat, I move on.

Step 4: Outline - this is where I draft a summary of my entire novel - one sentence per chapter. This gives me a picture of just how long the book will be (depending on the nature of the novel) and also provides a word count estimate. When it comes to writing epic novels, I never limit myself. For Young Adult, I aim for no more than 5K words a chapter, 3K for Middle Grade. Outlining is very much like a map on a road trip. You start somewhere and have a destination with a few stops along the way, but I leave what happens in between for the first draft. Until I know exactly what my introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution is, I move on.

Step 5: Write Until It's Done - self explanatory.

I write up each chapter as a separate document, then paste them as a full MS later. Makes for cleaner editing.

This is more or less a general process. Sometimes I make changes to my original plan as I write the first draft or go back to already written chapters so the applied changes make sense. A writer's process is always evolving, I think, but a personal outline is never a bad idea - it's a downright good one.

Thanks for reading! I do hope this was insightful.

I'm David, and the eraser on my pencil is missing!


  1. Thanks for sharing your process, David! Like you said, a writer's process is always evolving-- I've learned a ton from everyone who participated, and I'm sure my process is going to evolve some more. :)

  2. You're welcome, and thank YOU for hosting such an inventive, encouraging blogfest :)

  3. My ideas just come to me too... after that I kind of plan out different plots in my head and do a light outline... but I'm mostly a pantser!

  4. Being excited about the story is vital, and I like that you evaluate your stories on the basis of how much they move you.

    Thanks for sharing your process.

  5. Pantsers unite, Alexia :)

    Damyanti - you're welcome! Thank you for check out my space.

  6. Haha, don't worry, I'm a week (!) late! :-o

    Interesting read! I think saving separate chapters would confuse me too much - I like to have the context available when I'm revising :)