I’ve been asked this question, in various forms, often. So I thought I’d answer it on my blog.
I think every writer writes in their own way but it’s sometimes worth listening to what others do to see if it might suit me. Try it, if I don’t like it, don’t do it again, is my philosophy.
So the process I’ve developed is this:
– Character first. I spend quite a lot of time getting to know my characters, scribbling stuff down about them, looking at them from various points of view (for example, a hero’s mum will have a different view of him than the heroine will). Somewhere during that process I begin to use first person, which makes me feel I’m getting to know the character.
– Repeat for major characters.
– List conflicts, list quests. Hope some of the conflicts of each character conflict with the quests of others. If they don’t … make them!
– I’m usually doing some research as I go along. Conflicts and quests arise from or are affected by my research. For example, in Is This Love?, which comes out in November, Tamara is a yoga instructor. I’m into yoga and my own instructor spent an afternoon with me, helping me create Tamara’s business, limited by some of her conflicts. From that research sprang the fact that to work for the local rich businessman she would be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. And from that sprang so many plot points I can’t count them!
– Decide what’s keeping my hero and heroine apart
– Decide why they want to get together (even if they don’t know it yet)
– By now, from the conflicts and quests, I’ll probably have some idea of the material that makes up the plot up to
about the half way point. I might scribble these plot points all over a big piece of paper (not in order, more like a spider plan) then choose a route through it. Sticky notes work even better, because I can reorder. NB If I write the plot points as a flow chart, my brain gets tunnel vision and refuses to see that there might be another way.
– When the beginning of my novel is telling me it wants to me to start, I start. At this point, I always have the feeling that I’ve got too many plates spinning and I’m racing around trying to keep them all going. But I do like the beginning of a book because it’s like being on the grid at the start of a race (to mix my metaphors). It’s exciting and nothing has gone wrong yet.
– Because the first draft is hard for me I do keep stopping and taking stock of my plot and trying to work out if any of the plates need another spin or should they not have been there in the first place?
– I probably have at least four major taking stock points in a book.
– And then I reach the ending, which I feel is really really hard. So I often stop, go back to the beginning of the book and begin to edit and hope that when I reach the end again, what should happen has become obvious.
But the above relates only to the first draft. I do A LOT of editing!