Every writer works differently. What works for one, may not work for any other. It took me a long time to figure out what mine is.
I’m not a “pantser” – or a writer who doesn’t plan anything out in advance. I’m not a “plotter” either – if I outline the details of a story, I get bored when I’m writing it. I fall somewhere in between the two.
When it comes to planning, I do some – mostly what I do is make a list of the major events that need to occur and the characters that have to be involved in the story. Beyond that, I let the characters and the story itself tell me how to get from point to point. It keeps me from getting bored, and in fact, I’m able to still be surprised by some of the things that end up happening.
The one problem I’ve always had with writing has been to finish the stories I start. It took until NaNoWrimo 2013 for me find a way to get past the problem. Writing 50,000 words wasn’t the problem for me – finishing the story was. In 2013 I decided that I wasn’t going to pay attention to the word count as much. Instead I concentrated on getting the entire story arc on the page. That meant there were some places where the text contained something like [fight scene here] because at the time, I knew what needed to happen but the words weren’t coming.
What I ended up with is what I call a Zero draft. It’s not something I’d let anyone read – but the whole story is there, from start to finish, and I know the characters and the issues.
Once the zero draft is done, it’s time to let the story sit for a bit while I revise or edit or format other stories. After a minimum of a month, I print the zero draft out and I start on the official revision process to make the First draft. This is when I fill in those places between the [ ]s. This is when I add more sensory tags and cut things that don’t add to the understanding of the story or the characters. This is also when I look for those spots where I left something out because I forgot that a reader can’t see the movie that’s running in my head. My first drafts are the ones that go to beta readers or, if it’s fanfic, gets posted.
So far I’ve only taken one project to this point – the collection of short stories set in the story world of the Double Helix. I’m a one person shop at this point. Would I love to have a real editor? Would I love to have someone do my book cover for me? Or take care of all the publishing details?
But those things all take one thing I don’t have right now – money. A good editor costs. A good cover artist costs. Finding someone to take care of all the fiddling little details of publishing, that I can trust, costs. So for now, I’m stuck doing them all and they all take time away from the writing. So they don’t happen quickly.
That’s my current process. It’s constantly evolving, so I have no doubt that it’ll be at least a bit different a year from now.