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Writing Process & Programs > What is your Novel Writing Process?

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message 1: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments

How do you go about writing a novel? I always find it interesting to see how other people write their books. What do they think about when writing it? What steps do they take? Do they just say "Screw it" and start writing or do they plan out everything to the letter?

Feel free to comment about how you go about writing a novel/story in as much or as little detail as you wish.

For me, when I start writing up a light novel I create the characters first. Usually filling out a large character profile sheet and noting all the important information about a character. Everything from the basic:

Name, Age, Hair, Eyes, Height, Weight...

down to the more detailed stuff like:

Nail polish color, Foot size, Breast size, Piercings, IQ, outfits for school/work/causal...

I find that a lot of the times I focus on the name of my characters, trying to not only find a name that fits but also trying to find the Kanji that represent the idea I have for the characters. Once all is said an done I move on to what the characters would do, how they would act. Granted as of late I have actually been trying to work in the way of doing plot first then characters, seeing as how a lot of stories end up being Slice-of-Life which is the genre I least like surprisingly.

That is more or less the general idea how I work on my stories (this isn't counting the countless hours I can spend formatting and typesetting my stories with nice font [oh boy, don't get me started on my love for fonts.]) and that is how they that.

So, yeah. Share how you do things if you like ^-^

message 2: by L.C. (last edited Jul 26, 2018 08:10AM) (new)

L.C. Perry | 43 comments OH I sort of follow that pattern too! My stories are all character-driven so I guess it's no surprise that I start off making the characters lol. For me, the characters are what I'm most excited about and if I don't have good characters that I am satisfied with, then the book won't work.

Although I first develop the characters, I have to have some sort of plot idea before I start. It doesn't have to be flushed out yet, but I have to have an idea that points me in the right direction. For example, I can't write contemporary characters if the plot idea is in a fantasy setting.

This is what I did for my Gold Shadow series. Technically, the idea for a MC and plot came at the same time, but as long as I know where the plot was heading, I started outlining the characters. Since it became a series, it didn't surprise me that some of my characters started moving away from the outline and became more like real people. New characters also popped up as well as new plot twists and I just went along with it as long as it all fit.

As for the writing process itself, I now outline chapters ahead of time before writing them. I used to just write on the spot (I wouldn't even know how the story would end) but I've been moving away from that since that gets me into more writer's block and I also wouldn't be able to think of foreshadowing or planting details that would be flushed out later.

message 3: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 669 comments Mod
Oh, the story about how I got to try writing could be a long one. From the early ideas of my 12-year-old self through the concept stages and to eventually starting writing in 2015, 13 years later, pretty much on a dare.

As for the writing process, I am taking it as another of my hobbies so it's extremely irregular. How I got to it shaped my process much - I had some parts of the story and some of the characters and I am building on both as it comes to me, improvising, learning on the go.

It's the same with editing - sometimes I need an external nudge, sometimes I'll see it needs work (but have no clue how), sometimes I'll get a random idea that feels better than what I currently have.

It's often just as random as what I actually do. After finishing the first draft of the first book, I originally thought o just go through the cycles of editing, yet I was switching between that and going on with the story, to the point I had the first draft of the second book written before the third draft of book one and at this point (working on sixth draft of book one), roughly 30% of book three is in first draft.

message 4: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 147 comments I have several notebooks (and sometimes scrap paper, sticky notes, e-mails to myself, etc) where I write down little ideas or descriptions as they come to me. Eventually a few of these little things will come together to form a more coherent image of a particular story, which then promotes a faster wave of adding more and more ideas onto it. Once I feel it's "ready" to be written and can find the time I either do a more detailed plan (sometimes chapter by chapter, sometimes timeline) and then I begin writing.

Though, that whole plan thing is not always the case. The novel I just finished refused to be planned out in advance and I just started writing it from beginning to end, discovering and researching as I went along. However, because I didn't have as much of a plan it took ALOT longer than any other work.

I've written entire novels and spent years getting into the minds of some characters, following them on their journeys, and I still don't have a clear picture of what they look like - nor do I care. I write third person limited so the scenes are from the characters POVs and in my opinion characters don't spend a bunch of time thinking about how they look or over-analyzing what they're wearing - especially when they're busy fighting sorcerers and such. So I focus a lot more on how the characters are feeling and how they react to certain events rather than how they look.

Anyway, when I'm done the thing I leave it for a few moths to collect dust to see if I'll still like it later on and then if I do still think it's good I move on to the editing and publishing phases.

message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 333 comments I have just started a new project, and what I have done so far is first define the major character in terms of character -what his attributes are and not what what he looks like and I am up to chapter 3 and I have only described a minor character. Then I decide what the book is about, i.e. the theme, and I have outlined the plot up to about half-way through. I know where it should go in terms of scenes, and I have outlined about seven further characters that have yet to appear. I have a character that may be major or minor that I am unsure of how she will end up, and I have two characters that I know how they will end up, but I have yet to decide how to get them into the story. So the start is a bit exploratory, and I often write the first third about four or five times before I am satisfied I have the start more or less right for the rest. The rest then tends to follow from that.

message 6: by B.A. (last edited Jul 26, 2018 11:52AM) (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 816 comments I find that I start with an idea. I will jot down things which could happen, the people involved and situations. I also think in terms of What if____? and complete the question as I go along. As I'm doing this, I'm developing the protagonist and antagonist. If I can't get enough conflict or it seems boring, I throw it back to the idea bunnies and pull out another idea.

If the idea is good, I'll block out scenes, and check I have all the necessary components to make the book work. This I usually do with legal pad paper and pen since those are easy to carry and I can work on it when I have down time at work. It may go through several revisions until it has everything needed to make a decent story. This is also where I'm building the characters with all their idiosyncrasies. (I may use three legal pads to get the story right.)

Next is typing a first draft. Depending on my mood, I may put it into scrivener, NovelFactory, or go to Word. At this point, I'm working on my process. I'm going to change it to where I'm writing one day and editing the next. If I have everything in the initial scenes, this should work quite well. (I changed from being a pantser to being an organizer where I have the main action written, but then let the muse take me into the scenes for the emotions and character building. )

Once I have the complete manuscript written, I let it sit for a few months then go back and edit again. What I may have thought was good on the first run through may not be on the second. I will do all sorts of revisions on the copy I print out, which I read aloud and use a red pen to mark it up. Then comes typing it in to the manuscript and editing several more times to attempt to catch all the errors and one last time of listening to it.

Over all, I can write a full novel in a month or two (100K+ words) but it will take another three month to get it fully edited. What I have discovered is how each time I write, I find ways to improve what I'm doing, making the books tighter and better and the process faster.

FYI, as I'm blocking out a new book, I'm usually editing or possibly writing another book. I set blocks of time to do each thing which needs to get done. Over the summer, it has been great as I've been able to put in 8 hrs a day on my writing. Starting next month, that will decrease to 3 hrs four days a week. My writing/editing time is a priority, so no, I don't waste a lot of time on the internet or watching TV. I do block out time to do things like email, marketing, classes, reading blogs, updating my website and reading. These are all things I need to do as a self published writer.

message 7: by Erica (new)

Erica Forrest | 14 comments *just posting so I can follow this thread, it's very interesting seeing how you all work!

message 8: by Ubiquitous (new)

Ubiquitous Bubba (ubiquitousbubba) | 20 comments My process is not a rigid one. At a minimum, I'll make some notes about the story premise, characters and their unique characteristics, known plot points (if any), and any "rules" of the story. I normally work in Scrivener, so it's easy to create/maintain these notes.

For longer projects (such as novels), I'll create a bare outline just to provide a rough map for where I think the story might go. Pivotal scenes will be sketched out in advance and placed in the approximate chapter location. I use these as guideposts as the story finds its way through the fog. As the story begins to take shape, I find that some of the original plot ideas are either replaced, changed or moved in some way.

Most of my characters are "odd" in some way. On those rare occasions where I use an ordinary character, they will soon find themselves in a completely alien environment.

The other defining characteristic for my characters is their communication style. "Hearing" the character's voice helps me to understand how they think and how they will act.

In the writing process, I focus much more on characters rather than settings. Often, I use the setting only to create a bizarre or uncomfortable situation for my characters.

I will often hold an editing session for an older scene prior to a writing session on a new scene. Sometimes, editing a prior scene helps me to clarify new directions. I also tend to edit as I write, so I will frequently pause to find just the right word or phrase. (I know. Everyone at Goodreads is shouting that I'm doing it wrong. I don't care, because it's the way that I work.)

When the draft is finished, I'll go through the story several times during the editing process. During editing, I prefer to read out loud. I know that some like to use text to speech, but I prefer to hear it in my voice. I know that I catch more things when listening than I do when I'm reading silently.

Oh, and pizza...Pizza helps, too.

message 9: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments
Erica wrote: "*just posting so I can follow this thread, it's very interesting seeing how you all work!"

I agree, 'tis very interesting.

I have found that lately a lot of my light novels have focused more on like the overall message or theme of the story.

Ubiquitous wrote: " I will frequently pause to find just the right word or phrase."

Do not worry I do that a lot too.

message 10: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments Being a rather visual person, all my stories start out as little movies in my head that I slowly add on to as I figure out the overall plot and the characters. Coming up with characters is usually the easiest part for me as they are usually pretty fleshed out the moment I come up with a story idea. As I said, I'm pretty visual so their mannerisms come to me somewhat quickly and easily, and from there I'm able to pin down their personalities fairly fast. Plot, on the other hand, can sometimes take me a little more time to figure out, especially if there's a lot of world-building involved. If there's a ton of world building required before pinning down the plot, then I'll usually make a lot of notes on the world before continuing with the plotting.

When I am ready to write I first outline the story like crazy, taking all the majors scenes I had pictured and putting them in order. I always have to have the story worked out in outline form before writing it or else it will end up stalling (I've tried writing stories without an outline but it rarely works for me). Once outlined, I then start writing, and I'll usually figure out the finer details of the story chapter by chapter.

message 11: by Micah (last edited Jul 27, 2018 11:38AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments I've done everything from full outline chapter by chapter to flying completely by the seat of my pants. Some projects are clearer than others. Some are more vague in my mind, which is probably why I end up with a dozen or more projects started and not a lot finished.

My most successful methodology is to come up with the following:
1) Beginning scene (includes the "flavor" of the MC and something of the beginning dilemma/problem)
2) Storyline concept (a broad "what if" kind of question; for example an early unpublished novel proposed "What if there is an alien vampire that doesn't feed off blood, but the soul of one person?")
3) Some idea of how it ends (my one published novel I knew what actions would happen at the end, but not necessarily which characters were involved or which were the good guys/bad guys).
4) And finally, set scenes I'd like to work into the tale. These often come during writing, most aren't known at the beginning.

The beginning scene gives me a jumping off point, a springboard. Having a storyline concept defines the topology of the plot, gives me some boundary lines to work within while not being too constricting. Having an idea how the story ends gives me a target point to shoot for. The set scenes give me shorter term plot points to aim for and are often the more action oriented scenes.

New characters and plot elements are then free to pop up as I write. At some point between halfway and two thirds of the way through the writing I have to buckle down and spell out in a "What's Really Going On" document that explicitly lays down how all the story threads come together, who the bad guys are, etc.

During writing I often feel like I'm standing on a high hill looking out over a landscape I have yet to traverse, seeing only the high points, the dips and valleys all obscured in mist. It's the low points which are hardest to cross and the route often ends up in a different version of the high points than I originally conceptualized, but stories have a mind of their own. Who are we to oppose them?

message 12: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4276 comments Mod
Usually my novels start with a little spark. "Rave On" started with the thought of two people meeting and flirting in a Laundromat. "Suckers & Rogues" started by reflecting on bullies from my childhood and how I handled them. My third, which I've just started to work on, started with my father-in-law erroneously laughing about my wife having a mid-life crisis.

None of those probably seems interesting. I have dozens of such sparks a day, hundreds a week. Most go away in a few minutes. Now and then one will linger and I'll think it over and over until I see a story forming.

Then, it could be months, even a year or more, before I start writing. That time between is spent contemplating the idea, characters, possible subplots, etc.

The rough draft is generally shit. I write it very fast without thinking much about it. I don't worry about characterization much. I don't care about spelling, grammar, punctuation, any of that. I don't even care if what I'm writing resembles a story. I write a number of jumbled and unorganized scenes. Generally they don't make a lot of sense together, often times have huge gaps, and kinda drop into the next scene suddenly. It's okay. I'm just getting my favorite ideas out at that moment.

Then it rests a few days, a week, a month. (This is where I am with my third novel).

When I come back, I start to piece together what I have, making connections between scenes, tossing out stuff that isn't working. I generally do this for two drafts.

The fourth draft is a rough polishing and a lot of research. This is where I know what I need to learn before I can start putting real details in the story. This third novel is going to take a lot more research than my first two combined. It's around here that I begin to learn what the book is really about.

Around the fifth draft until the seventh or eighth, I focus on characterization, plot and other major elements of the book, trying to fine tune them, trying to draw out. It's around this point I often find myself practically rewriting the story.

And then begins a number of drafts with the intention of editing, editing, fine tuning, editing... and so on.

I know I'm done when I'm sick of looking at it and want to delete it forever.

message 13: by Ian (last edited Jul 27, 2018 04:54PM) (new)

Ian Miller | 333 comments If you want to know "boring" I have currently finished a scientific book, for an ebook, so I go and compile it, and what do I find? Somehow Word has put in some hidden formatting the compiler does not like, and odd places don't come out right. One really bad one is subscripts - the compiler makes them all ordinary text. It appears this is not the fault of the compiler because it does subscripts from other sources. Anyway, I have to go through the whole thing and convert every subscript (about ten a page) to ordinary script and then convert it to 8 point, and it alone. Finding everything is tedious, and doing it worse. I shall be very glad to see the end of this one.

Advice - if you are going to write a technical book, write a typical page and try compiling it and see what it looks like before you get into this mess.

message 14: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments Ian wrote: "If you want to know "boring" I have currently finished a scientific book, for an ebook, so I go and compile it, and what do I find? Somehow Word has put in some hidden formatting the compiler does ..."

If I was compiling a scientific book or technical book I would just using LaTeX as it is perfect for science and math notation. It may be a bit odd at first because LaTeX is a typesetting program but it is really nice. Like if you wanted to write out the limit as x goes to zero it would look like:

$$ \lim_{x \leftarrow 0} $$

Once you get used to it the program is pretty helpful. LaTeX could also be used for Novels which I did use it before for a lot of my light novels.

message 15: by A. J. Deschene (new)

A. J. Deschene (ajdeschene) | 58 comments _
Normally, if I have an idea in mind that's been nagging at me for several weeks, I'll start writing down different things that would make it interesting. I write down everything that comes to my mind so I can forget it and clear space for more ideas.
If it keeps nagging at me, I'll start with a one sentence summary, then a paragraph, then a couple pages, then a chapter outline.
I did this for a screenplay after trying to figure out the story for a year and a half and running into a bunch of problems. I find it helps to have information about the scenes/chapters, what their purposes are, what important element to the story are in them, where the characters stand in their arch, etc. etc. etc.
Then I'll write a short version around 100 pages long or so; just long enough to get all the really important parts in and make sure the story works and everything.
Finally, I ditch the outlines and simmaries and just focus writing the novels, letting more chapters be added if and when necessary.
I try and write at least one chapter a week to keep on pace for my mindset release date.

A. J. Deschene
I can't put my real signature on here because I'm on my phone. ;)

message 16: by Erica (new)

Erica Forrest | 14 comments I used Calibre Library to format my Word document to an ebook which meant figuring out html on the fly, certainly not a stressless experience! Maybe someone should start a thread for recommending good softwares for writing and editing and formatting...

message 17: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments Erica wrote: "I used Calibre Library to format my Word document to an ebook which meant figuring out html on the fly, certainly not a stressless experience! Maybe someone should start a thread for recommending g..."

Well, I learned how to format my works in Scribus (A free layout program like at of InDesign) It really isn't all that hard once you understand the basics of how everything works. I have tried out Calibre, and seeing as how I know HTML it isn't bad at all. As far as software goes for editing I don't really know any good free ones but for formatting there are a few some you have to pay while others are free.

MS Word - I believe you have to pay for Word, and while it is possible to format in it, it can be a bit of pain to work with sometimes.

InDesign - Adobe Indesign I know you have to pay for but it allows you to typeset novels, fomatting them in anyway you wish.

LibreOffice - Basically the free version of MS Word. Ever since I switched to Linux I had to start using this for writing. It is pretty nice. Not the best for formatting though.

Scribus - Basically the free version of InDesign it allows you to layout, and format your novels however you wish.

Scrivener - I believe almost every writer knows this software for writing. It cost a good bit of money ($50 I believe) and while that may not be a lot, for us poor people that is way too much haha. Still it is a really nice software for writing your notes and keeping track of things. I really just wish they had it for Linux.

yWriter5 - A free software that I actually used to write my first light novel. It is actually a pretty nice program. You can have your notes for characters, write out your scenes, and move them around. It is almost like Scrivener in a way. Sort of...

Bibisco - A free software for writing and is pretty nice but it tends to focus more on chapters and scenes. Still it really is a nice free program.

Calibre Library - Allows for typesetting your novel in an eBook format, but it does require some HTML knowledge.

LaTeX - A free typesetting program that is more geared to math and science documents but do not be fooled you can use it for novels. I used to use it for a lot of my books because of nice math notation. You do have to know a bit code but it is really not that bad and for the most part you can just use the GUI to click on what you need.

That isn't a list of all the software but it is ones that I have either used or know about that would usually be enough for most people to write a book, format it, an self-publish it to Amazon.

message 18: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 333 comments Wolfy, I use LaTex for more complicated equations, but the compiler I use (Jutoh) will not compile it, so I have to make .png images of the equations and paste them in. This is too complicated for simple equations and explanations of terms, so I have to resort to linear equations, etc, with Word.

Jutoh does apparently work for subscripts - but not, seemingly, with text started with my version of MS Word for Apple.

message 19: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Walker (jetplague) | 33 comments I've been using Scrivener and still trying to get my feel for it. I like it for some aspects...but when it comes to the process of gets confusing sometimes. I like that could can collect the pages in a neat order or even re-arrange them.

Word is ok....but limiting. And that it is much harder to do a layout I find.

Indesign baffles me to no end. I guess taking a course on it should help....but damn, you shouldn't have too. These programs should be self-explanatory and easier to use...I found it way too confusing.

QuarkXpress was by far my favorite of choice when it came to layouts, it did the job....a little easier to understand than Indesign, and better at text flowing. But damn expensive. Too rich for my blood.

Now If I could take the bookwright program on Blurb and have that for use for all publishing platforms....I'd be happy. That one I found was incredibly useful and very simple. I want that, plus Scrivener.....and an A.I. Editor built in. *Sigh* Maybe in another 20 years it will happen.

message 20: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments Jeff wrote: "I've been using Scrivener and still trying to get my feel for it. I like it for some aspects...but when it comes to the process of gets confusing sometimes. I like that could can coll..."

I have never actually used InDesign but have seen tutorials on it and it seems easy enough to use. Honestly, I could teach you how to use Scribus to format a novel. Maybe I need to make some Youtube videos on formatting in Scribus one day.

message 21: by BW Christopher (new)

BW Christopher | 1 comments I am new to all this but currently on the third draft of a novel which is very challenging and exciting for a first-timer. I suspect before completion I will have been carried away in a straight jacket and taken to a nice little place in the country, a convalescence home I think they call it. One important thing I have learned is the need to find a way of undertaking the writing process which suits me, but it is wonderful and heartening to read the suggestions, struggles and successes of other writers. Thank-you.

message 22: by J. Daniel, Lurking since 2015 (new)

J. Daniel Layfield (jdaniellayfield) | 94 comments Mod
Please remember - no links

message 23: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Whoops J, my bad. Apologies.

message 24: by Graeme (last edited Aug 09, 2018 01:21AM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan My writing methods for "The Metaframe War" series are as follows.

Essence: All meaningful conflict occurs within a relationship.

You have to start somewhere, and it all began with a relationship. Specifically a relationship between a powerful older woman and a younger man (Couger alert?). The essence of the relationship is one of manipulation and abuse where the older woman would manipulate the younger man into completing a task that she herself could not do. The challenge for the young man was to identify what is happening and either avoid being used, or subvert it.

Essence: There must be a larger context in which the conflict occurs.

I toyed with the idea of creating a fantasy world to situate the story in. As a purely practical measure I gave that idea up and chose to situate the story in our modern world plus 5 - 10 years from now, for the simple reason that creating a believable fantasy world from scratch is a substantial piece of work and I didn't have the time to devote to such a task.

Essence: What is the metaphor for Power

The primary source of conflict within the Metaframe War is the pursuit of power by various characters. Power itself is captured in the metaphor of the Metaframe, aka the Divine Engine of Thoth, which allows an adept to literally change the rules of the game (Universe). The Metaframe plays a similar role in my story that the One Ring plays in the LoTRs.

Essence: A tournement structure provides automatic escalation of conflict and stakes.

I didn't want to have a single pair of opposing entities, such as the Jedi vs the Sith. I wanted to reflect a genuine multi-polar conflict (which is how I see our current geopolitical environment).

I toyed with the idea of having eight or more distinct organisations vying with each other for possession of the Metaframe artefacts, and as the story progressed, they would win, or get eliminated from the contest. Think Game of Thrones or Highlander.

I settled on three, the Order of Thoth, the Red Empire, and the Vampire Dominion in a stable cold war environment - and then the stability breaks down and the situation becomes very fluid.

The beauty of having three competing groups is that I'm never at a loss for someone to "oppose" someone else.

I established all of the above, working with large sheets of paper, a pencil and brainstorming - let's call that phase "Concept Development."

With the concept in hand, I still didn't have a story - that came next. Still working with large sheets of paper and pencil. I would block out four sections on a sheet as follows.

1. Inciting Incident (-ve)
2. First Reversal (+ve)
3. Second Reversal (-ve)
4. Crisis/Climax/Resolution (+ve)

And then I would work with that, how did the story start, how did it progess, and how did it end. I worked on this for two to three months, multiple iterations, throwing things out until I was happy.

I had iterations where Anton was a US special forces soldier in Afghanistan who's unit gets killed by vampires, but he is saved (against her orders) by Chloe Armitage - and the rest of the story occurs with Anton as a vampire. (of course that story ended up in the waste paper basket...).

I had an iteration where there was a cult of purely female ninjas, but they didn't make it though either. (Although something of their essence flowed into the character of Li Wu.)

There were a lot of options that were considered, tried, found wanting and then discarded.

Eventually I had my four elements defined, and I had a story that I could take forward - let's call that phase "Story Development."

Next step was to structure this into a book along the lines of

ACT 1: Inciting incident to first reversal. I.e. The first act starts badly for the Main Character (MC), but ends on a positive note. (Think Luke Skywalker's Aunt and Uncle are murdered, and then he blows up the death star.)

Act 2: Proceed directly to the second reversal (negative note), do not pass go, do not collect $200. The MC is in the deep proverbial. (Think Luke has his hand cut off by his father and Han Solo is frozen in carbonite.)

Act 3: Proceed to the Crisis/Climax/Resolution (positive note) The MC confronts their Nemesis and either decisively wins through or is defeated. All story arcs get resolved. (Emperor Dead, Darth redeemed. Empire Defeated).

(Note to my readers, please don't think that I have simply given away the ending to my series and that Anton is sure to win and Chloe is sure to lose - life is not that simple. Let me ask you this before we go on. Who won at the end of A Subtle Agency? Who was best placed to pursue their agenda? Was it Chloe or Anton? If you think that they both lost and gained - you would be right. It is my aim to ensure that you do not know until the end what will happen and how the essential conflict between Anton and Chloe is finally resolved.)

So I ended up with three nicely defined and summarised "Acts" for one Novel. I looked at it, rubbed my chin and said, "You know what, there's easily enough material to make three books, let's just tell the story with a trilogy."

I was still working with paper at this point, and I got three large sheets and blocked each sheet in three sections. Each of my initial three Acts had morphed into a book, and each book would have three acts.

Like so,

Book 1: (Act 1 ends +ve, Act 2 ends -ve, Act 3 ends +ve hence Book 1 ends +ve).
Book 2: (Act 4 ends -ve, Act 5 ends +ve, Act 6 ends -ve hence Book 2 ends -ve)
Book 3: (Act 7 ends +ve, Act 8 ends -ve, Act 9 ends +ve hence Book 3 ends +ve, hence story ends +ve).

Ok, So I had a trilogy that was structured like Star Wars (new hope) through to Return of the Jedi, and there is nothing wrong with that, besides which I was telling a very different story, wasn't I? (Hang on a second, they're both Modern Epics where the individual is pitted against a corrupt authority and a rag tag group of rebels defeat a great power...).

So I completed the definition of the nine acts. I had quite a bit of material by then and the basis of what seemed to be a pretty good story, and working with pencil and paper was becoming cumbersome - I needed a tool with which to take my story forward to the next stage.

I got Scrivener.

This tool was and remains perfect for what I'm doing. I transferred my paper scribblings into the tool and my story rapidly took shape.

For each of my nine acts I created and defined 7, 9 or 11 chapters each with a solid paragraph of text describing what happened in each chapter.

I started to define my characters in detail, and other objects such as the Metaframe, Vampirism, and the Ramp became fully defined.

So now I had 3 books, 9 acts, and about 80 chapters and I'm looking at it and I realised that there was too much story to fit into that format so I cut books 1 and 2 apart and added in two new books.

So now I had 5 books, 15 acts, and about 145 chapters, all defined. Let's call that phase "Preliminary Design," and it took about 6 months to complete

I then started designing the individual scenes for all the chapters in Book 1, the last three chapters in Book 4 (the original 2nd Reversal) and the final chapter of book 5 (the original crisis/climax/resolution). Let's call that phase "Detailed Design (not completed)" Which took another 6 months.

So with all the scenes in Book 1 defined, all I needed to do was actually write them. I wrote the first act of book 1, came in at approx 84,000 words, 202 pages, that took about 7 months working about 15 hours per week.

I looked at it, and decided it was big enough to publish in it's own right. Act one is "A Subtle Agency."

Act 2 is "A Traitor's War."
Act 3 is "The Dragon's Den."
Act 4 is "The Day Guard."
etc, ...

The Metaframe war series will run to 8 actual books. A Subtle Agency will be the shortest of the books, all the rest will likely run between 85K and 200K words.

I'm doing the scene definition of the future books as I go, so that I always have a couple of books ready to write at any point in time.

If you have any questions about my techniques, feel free to ask.

message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 19, 2018 11:53AM) (new)

My method is to start by writing a synopsis of the story, then break the whole subject down into 4 parts. I write a plan of what part of the story will happen in each of the 4 parts. Each part has 6 chapters, so I aim for around 24 chapters at 4-5k words a chapter.

Following this I then start the typing process on Word for each chapter one at a time, saving each chapter individually. When I am writing it's as if it's playing out in my mind like a movie scene and I am writing what I am seeing in my minds eye.

Characters for me develop over the story and I keep little notes on each as I go to remember what I have said about their age, appearances.

I then edit each chapter individually before piecing it all together in one document.

message 26: by J.N. (new)

J.N. Bedout (jndebedout) | 115 comments I plot things out in Visio, using swimlanes and/or color-coding as character POVs and blocks for scenes. This makes it super easy to move things around or redefine. Using callouts, I can notate special details, like motivations, fears, etc. It's also great for defining character genealogies, critical if you have lots of members of a family involved. Works for hierarchies, too, including military (who commands who, who serves who, who hates who, etc.)

Gantt charts are a nice touch for general timelines. A true boon when bouncing between time frames.

Once everything is set, I'll fill in a skeleton in Scrivener. Make adjustments as needed. Finally, once that is all done, I can start to write the content of each scene, using the visio plots and Scrivener notes as guidelines.

Once the entire enchilada is written, edited, and proofed, I'll import the content into Scribus for the paperback and Word for the ebook. It's generally a downhill sprint from there.

Some of what I use is open source (Scribus, Gimp, Inkscape). Other software are not (Visio, Word, Scrivener).

message 27: by Erica (new)

Erica Forrest | 14 comments I'm a lucid dreamer and most of my stories start as a dream or nightmare, and a few words scribbled down in the dead of night.
By morning, if I read over it again and decide it's actually a decent idea for a story, I start working out characters to live in that scene I have in my mind. The plot follows pretty naturally, and I freewrite any scenes that immediately grab my attention.

Usually, I do that in a day or two, depending on how busy and I'll have about 4000 words.
After that, I like to do a lot of in-depth plot outlining, scene-to-scene, and then I generally fill the rest of the book by just expanding on my outline piece by piece whenever a scene comes to mind, in what is probably the most inefficient fashion.

When I (invariably) get stuck, I trick my brain by printing out the whole document and editing with a pen. Something about shifting from the screen to the paper resets my focus and suddenly I can spot the plot holes and awkward interactions and dull scenes and get my second wind to finish off the thing.

I'm working on my second published novel now, and I've gained a lot of confidence after writing the first, making excellent progress. I had no idea that InDesign could be used for formatting novels! I really need to start using more of the Adobe products I'm paying for...

message 28: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments Erica wrote: "I'm a lucid dreamer and most of my stories start as a dream or nightmare, and a few words scribbled down in the dead of night.
By morning, if I read over it again and decide it's actually a decent..."

Yeah, I have had a few ideas from dreams and stuff. Actually one of the names for a character came to me when I was asleep, I ended up having to write it down quickly in the dead of night.

I wish I could print out what I type but sadly I don't have a printer or anything like that.

Heh yeah, InDesign is used for laying out pages so it is useful. I would say use all the Adobe products you have, because if I recall they cost a shit ton of money ( is a lot to someone like me at least, but yeah).

message 29: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan J.N. wrote: "Gantt charts are a nice touch for general timelines. A true boon when bouncing between time frames...."

I haven't thought of that.

I do sequence things out in excel some times, with characters occupying columns and steps through scenes occupying rows. Especially if I've got a battle going on.

message 30: by Lori-Ann (new)

Lori-Ann Claude | 76 comments Graeme wrote: "I do sequence things out in excel some times, with characters occupying columns and steps through scenes occupying rows. Especially if I've got a battle going on. "

That's what I do too, use columns for characters and the story date for rows. I plan out upcoming scenes that way. It's easy to jot down future details (like when a letter will arrive at its destination or a journey will come to an end). I like Excel's grouping function to be able to expand/collapse sections (I group per month).

I use such a chart to manage practically every character in a story, not just the actual scenes that make it in the story.

I also have a huge bible of facts in Excel and I manage my characters in a family tree software.

message 31: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Lori-Ann wrote: "I use such a chart to manage practically every character in a story, not just the actual scenes that make it in the story. ... I also have a huge bible of facts in Excel and I manage my characters in a family tree software...."


message 32: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 779 comments I start out by thinking what the overall plot and basis of the book will be. What the main idea is that I will build around and build off of. I then decide on the names of characters and how many I want. Then I think of how many chapters I want, what they will be about and give them titles. The writing then begins and usually I just write whatever comes into my mind unless I already have something planned out in my head but usually it's freestyle off the top of my head.

I feel like I don't make chapters long enough but then again I don't want to ramble on or focus solely on one thing and keep talking about it in the chapter which is why my chapters may seem short but are more direct, quick but full of everything you want to read in a good quality book. I will stop writing for a bit to gather my thoughts half way in because I don't want to just freestyle all the way through and then have to go back and change a lot of stuff.

message 33: by Zita (new)

Zita | 5 comments I start with a brain dump file in which I dump the contents of my brain, then divide the story into four parts and pick out the plot points. Once these are in place (they are a bit like tent pegs) I pad out the rest of the story.

I make detailed character profiles for the main characters and secondary characters, and write a paragraph on how their story lines and conflicts fit together. Each book has its own "planning file" in Word. Whenever I get stuck during the writing process, I just refer back to my plan and off I trot.

message 34: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee Dolat | 91 comments I have two methods. Which method I use depends on what I'm writing and which character I'm working with.

1. Spark of a story
2. Dump my brain barf onto a sheet of paper
3. Divide them into scenes and plot points on separate notecards
4. Rearrange note cards like a puzzle until the story flows together
5. Write the story out

This can take anywhere from a few months to longer.

Fly by the Seat of My Pants:
1. Spark of an idea
2. Rough Outline
3. Start Writing
4. Pray none of the characters change their minds (as I stare at my Sylvia character in a pointed fashion)

message 35: by Phillip (new)

Phillip Murrell | 347 comments Kaylee wrote: "Pray none of the characters change their minds (as I stare at my Sylvia character in a pointed fashion) "

Characters ALWAYS change their minds. At least, mine do.

message 36: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee Dolat | 91 comments Phillip wrote: "Kaylee wrote: "Pray none of the characters change their minds (as I stare at my Sylvia character in a pointed fashion) "

Characters ALWAYS change their minds. At least, mine do."

I have one that I consider a trouble maker. She's changed the third book about four times now. The other characters I can throw cookies at and calm them down.

message 37: by B.A. (last edited Aug 21, 2018 08:24PM) (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 816 comments Wolfy wrote: "Erica wrote: "I used Calibre Library to format my Word document to an ebook which meant figuring out html on the fly, certainly not a stressless experience! Maybe someone should start a thread for ..."

Where programs are concerned, you have to think about how you write. There are many. The ones I have used are:
Scrivener: This is one I recommend but it does have a steep learning curve. I like it for organization. I can move things around and keep them in chronological order. I find it works best for those books with tight time lines. The con is how I haven't been able to get the formatting right and I find it difficult to write in it. For me, it is broken up too much and I find I can't get it to flow well.

yWriter: It was okay. An easier version of Scrivener. I found it cumbersome (Like Scrivener). I couldn't get through a full novel with it.

Novel Factory: This is the Snowflake method in a program. It is easy to work with, organizes you work, takes you step by step in writing your novel. It is a great program if you are new and need to figure out how to get it all together. ($29 one time fee) The con for me was the detailed character profiles which went into things until I got tired of doing them. I loved having pictures of the character so you know what they look like leading to how they will act. You can use this while off line}

Novel Creator: This is a new program for me. It uses the Marshall Plan of writing where you write action and reaction scenes. and connect them together to make your novel. You get a free copy of the Marshall Plan with the program. The sections give you areas to concentrate on such as your confidant, opposition, romantic interest, etc. along with the subplot and other story lines. It will give you the number of scenes/sections for the length of the novel you are writing. Great for getting everything organized. When you do start to write, you only need to fluff it out with the dialogue and action, description. (It is $79, one time fee for offline computer version)

(Both of the last two do format for you but haven't tried that)

Scrapple: This is a mind map program. You can put everything in there and connect the lines before writing. It does interface with Scrivener which I do use for templates for certain books..

Microsoft Word: For the price it is a wonderful program ($100 give or take 5 for a year for the full office suite. You can get only what you will use by the year and it is updated for free as new versions come out or buy it one time and use it until you need a new computer) 2016 has voice read back capability for editing. I can plug in ProWritingAid and use it without ever leaving the manuscript. I wasn't fond of Grammerly and it was more expensive than ProWritingAid. (If you are a new writer, ProWritingAid or Gammerly helps you to tighten your writing, correct sentences, get rid of most of the 'bad' thing you write such as 'that, very, pronouns, verb repetition, vague words, etc.')
Dereck Murphy has a free program to teach you how to format in Word. I actually type my books into a formatted template since it cuts the time to format after writing it. Once you learn the rules of formatting (IE no hard returns) it's not so difficult to do. After doing it a few times, it becomes easy. It isn't as pretty as inDesign for print, but it does work.

I like word for writing as I can put up 3 pages or more to read what I wrote, change things, sentences, character names, etc without problem. I will advise if you have minimal money, get either Grammerly or ProWritingAid for editing, no matter what program you use for writing. Editors are expensive, so if you can't afford one, use one of the programs then have several people read it who like your genre and have them give feedback and corrections. Mistakes are inevitable. The trick is to have as few as possible in a published book.

As others have said, there are as many ways of writing a book as there are authors. Experiment until you find what works for you. (I"m trying out the Novel Creator to see if I can do one which stays together without paper and pen.)

message 38: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Volz I'm a panster. I've tried to plot and it messes with me. I do, however, write in a linear fashion, usually starting with characters and a plot idea. I let my characters lead the way. Although my latest WIP is currently a mess and I've had to put it in the drawer for now. I started with a general idea, but my usual method (writing linear) wasn't working, but I kept getting ideas for scenes, so I wrote the scenes as they came to me. But now trying to tie them all together, I find myself backtracking and editing before the first draft is even finished. I'm beyond frustrated. I've got over 60,000 words finished, even thinking of an ending, and I still hate it. LOL Time to start something else until I can get back on track.

message 39: by Micah (last edited Aug 23, 2018 01:09PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments B.A. wrote: "Scrivener: This is one I recommend but it does have a steep learning curve..."

I didn't find the learning curve to be all that bad. There's a built-in tutorial that's easy to follow, for example. But the biggest thing for me in learning it was picking out which parts of it were good for my writing style, and which to ignore. There are a LOT of features in it, but if you start with the basics, or don't want/need all the cool extra bits then it's pretty straight forward.

B.A. wrote: "...The con is how I haven't been able to get the formatting right..."

If you mean formatting the final output then I haven't gotten quite that far yet. I've got several books in progress in it, but haven't gotten to the formatting and exporting of a finished file. We'll see. I might default back to Word/HTML for the final product.

B.A. wrote: "... I find it difficult to write in it. For me, it is broken up too much and I find I can't get it to flow well...."

The opposite of me. When I'm writing I just put it in Manuscript view so I can see every part as one long document and type away. If/when I feel I'm at a scene change or where I want a new section, I hit CTRL-K and it creates the new file automatically and I keep writing. Easy-peasy.

After writing a lot, I'll go back and clean things up in the directory (renaming the scene text files, adding new folders, moving things around, filling out the index cards, etc.).

Or you can just simply write in one long file and chop it up later. Very flexible.

message 40: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments When I used Scrivener once, I found it easy to use and as far as formatting in Scrivener...if I recall the software was meant to format your PDF to look like that of a standard manuscript formatted document that you would send to like a publishing agent or something.

message 41: by Val (new)

Val | 7 comments I tried Scrivener a couple times, however it seemed not very convenient to me (probably I was not patient enough). So I got back to writing in mac pages.
What concerns the writing process. I usually come up with a general idea of a plot first and then I create suitable characters, adjusting both along the way.

message 42: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 333 comments On the specific issue of plotting, I usually choose a theme and try to think of an action consistent with it. Then I think of a scene that should be somewhere in the middle of the story, then ask questions of it. Why did character A get to there? Where was he before, doing what? Then by asking such a series of questions, I gradually form a plot. The tricky part comes when there are two reasonable possible answers. I keep both written down, but eventually I have to choose (which is where I am in a current project) and the choice has to be made on the basis of what will bring about the most effective finish and that is not always easy to see in advance.

message 43: by John (new)

John Leung | 6 comments My process:
1. generate a rough story idea
2. create characters, write profiles, goals, conflicts, resolutions
3. write a story outline and plan scenes from beginning to end
4. Write the ending (if known from climax to end)
5. write from the beginning
6. may not be in order, but write scenes that comes to mind
7. write the rest of the novel as much as I can, with revisions along the way
- I took too long to write my first novel, so things kept changing
- usually when new ideas come or when I've learned new things

Hope that helps, and I take questions!

message 44: by B. (new)

B. Forrester (bforresterauthor) | 7 comments I read a really interesting blog post about writing styles recently and the author used the term "Lamp Post Tarzan" to describe writers who have a rough outline or idea of where they're going but still allow their intuition to guide them.

I'm a total Lamp Post Tarzan. I generally bullet point outline my manuscript so I know where the pit stops on the journey are but other than that I just start typing and see what happens.

message 45: by Mark (new)

Mark D Swartz (markdswartz2) | 37 comments B.A. wrote: "Where programs are concerned, you have to think about how you write. There are many. The ones I have used are:"

Excellent review of various writing programs. Thanks so much for this helpful contribution.

message 46: by Evan (new)

Evan | 10 comments B. wrote: "I read a really interesting blog post about writing styles recently and the author used the term "Lamp Post Tarzan" to describe writers who have a rough outline or idea of where they're going but s..."

That's how I approach the plot, but I spend a lot of time developing characters and world building. I like to have the character voices firmly established in my head before I throw them into the world I have built for them.

message 47: by B. (new)

B. Forrester (bforresterauthor) | 7 comments Evan wrote: "B. wrote: "I read a really interesting blog post about writing styles recently and the author used the term "Lamp Post Tarzan" to describe writers who have a rough outline or idea of where they're ..."

I half plot out the characters, half let them reveal themselves as I go. Sometimes I write the first draft, just to get it down, and then I look at where I want to go with it and flesh out the characters and their relationships more.

message 48: by Lewis (new)

Lewis Jordan | 15 comments I start with a general “wouldn’t it be cool if...”

Then I reverse engineer “so for that to happen, these beats need to happen”

Then I work out the characters I need and get a semi-vague sense of who they are. (Personality, attitude; career etc)
Then I just freewheel it with these characters for a while and see where it goes; using the general story I had as a guide

Then when I’m about half way through the story I’ve got a good handle on who these characters really are; and most of the story threads worked out.

Then I go back and retrofit the more detailed characters into the already written stuff to see where that leaves everything

Then I paid through to the end of the first draft.

Then later; layer upon layer of edits.

message 49: by Lewis (new)

Lewis Jordan | 15 comments I’ve not heard the term lamppost Tarzan before but it’s a pretty accurate description

message 50: by J.R. (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 4 comments I love "Lamp Post Tarzan!" That's definitely me. :)

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