novelling: my process, part one

Allow me to interrupt my normal discussions about life and faith with something a little less serious. 🙂 I want this blog to be a healthy mix of anything and everything. So I’ve decided to start a three-part series where I share about my novelling process, my publishing process, and my marketing process as an indie author. Today, I want to share a little bit about the process I go through from beginning to end when working on a new novel. I hope this series will inspire you in some small way.

1.     Where it All Starts (aka Inspiration)

So this first part is for all my peeps like me who have story ideas coming from e v e r y w h e r e. You watch a movie. Boom. Story idea. You read a book. Boom. Story idea. You see a twig. Boom. Story idea. I literally have a folder in the Notes app on my phone full of scattered inspiration. I also have a note in that folder with 100+ random title ideas that come to me out of nowhere. If it has the potential to be a good story, I write it down. Just in case. Though, I probably won’t write anywhere close to half the story ideas I currently have. (Anyone need to adopt a story idea / title? Haha.)

So that’s how the first glimmer of inspiration typically comes to me. I would encourage you to keep a notebook on hand or have a folder on your phone dedicated specifically to story ideas so that you can write them down as soon as they come. Because there may come a day where your Inspiration Factory is running low and fuel and you have to tap into the reserves! 😉

2.     Putting Skin on the Bones of the Story (aka Plotting Part 1)

Okay, so like I said… most of those aforementioned story ideas rarely make it past initial inspiration. But there are a handful of stories out of the bunch that stick with me for days and pretty much continue to snowball in my mind until they’re waaaaay bigger than I initially thought. I can chew on a story idea for weeks – sometimes months – though before I finally sit down to flesh it out. Sometimes I don’t jump on a story right away because I want to test it to see if I’m still just as excited and passionate about it a week later as I am in that moment. As a kid, I used to start a lot of stories and only get one or two chapters done before tossing it. I don’t like to waste my time. 🙂

Another reason I may wait to jump on a story that’s been percolating is maybe I’m just busy and can’t give it the attention I think it deserves. I have to wait until I have the time to sit down and focus on it.

Anyway, these next few points detail what my process looks like once I do finally sit down to flesh out a story.

3.     Building a Foundation (aka Titling)

I’m the type of person who canNOT write a story if it doesn’t have a good working title. Titles are important. Like names, they have meaning. The represent the core of the story. Sort of like a foundation. Without a good foundation, the story is in danger of losing its sense of identity.

Sometimes the title changes along the way as the story comes into greater focus. (As in the case of my current WIP Sons of Slaughter, which was formerly known as Into the Skeleton Woods.) Either way, I still need a good working title that represents the story and where it is at right now. So if I’ve had a story idea that has snowballed so big in my head that I know I’m going to write it, this is the next thing I do. Sometimes I consult my list of title ideas. Mostly I just sit and wrack my brain for days until the heavens open and I am anointed with divine titling inspiration.

4.     Creating a Story Profile (aka Plotting Part 2)

After I finally find the perfect title and am positive that this is a story I’m passionate about, I create a MS Word doc on my computer and name it, for example: Sons of Slaughter – Profile. It’s here where I dump e v e r y t h i n g. But I have a system. First, I work on a rough synopsis. That goes on the cover page of my Profile. Here’s an example.

Once, I have a good working synopsis, the next page of my Profile is titled “Plot Points” and is where I list all the major plot points in no particular order. It’s basically one giant info-dump.

Third, I create my character profiles. Because I’m a visual person, I include at least one picture of a model (typically found on Pinterest) for future reference. In the case of Sons of Slaughter, Beckham “Beck” Reed is modeled by Logan Lerman and Dean Rivera is modeled by Jamie Blackley. Then, I spend a good deal of time thinking about each aspect of their personality in one, long, rambling paragraph. Their quirks, personality traits, fears, weaknesses, hopes, desires, dreams, conflicts, struggles, etc… Most importantly, I detailTheir Driving Force. That is, what primary thing is compelling their thoughts and behaviors throughout the story.

The fourth and final section I include in my profile is titled “Quotes, Excerpts, Themes, and Scenes” where I dump, well, ideas for quotes, excerpts, themes, and scenes. 🙂 This helps me better understand the vibe of the story before I even start to write.

So that’s a quick and easy guide to creating a basic Story Profile! I honestly really love these and want to print mine out and put them in a binder because, just as I’m a visual person, I’m also a tactile person. 🙂

5.     Visual Storytelling (aka Storyboarding)

I honestly don’t know any writer who doesn’t do this. Haha. Anyway, as soon as I have a story that I’m passionate about and that’s already in the process of being Profiled (see #4), I take to Pinterest and create a Storyboard. Again, I’m a very visual person. I love Pinterest. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what that is, I highly recommend giving it a try! (You can follow me @thisirishwolf.) Basically, it’s a digital bulletin board.

Anyway, I create my Pinterest board and immediately search keywords that are relevant to the plot or themes of my story. And I pin like a mad man. Character visuals, locations, settings, quotes, weather, a e s t h e t i c… anything and everything that can keep the fires of this story burning in my Inspiration Factory.

6.     Getting the Ball Rolling (aka Drafting)

Now for the fun part! I’ve got my title. I’ve got my working synopsis and various nuggets of story material. I know what my characters look like and what makes them tick. It’s time to set my nose to the grindstone. Figuratively speaking. My writing process is pretty straightforward. Whenever I feel like something I’m writing is garbage, I remind myself that it’s just the first draft. I’m just trying to get the story out there.

To my fellow writers who currently feel like their first draft is trash. That’s okay! Following the trash analogy, I use Draft 2 to basically “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” 😉 During the first draft, just put it out there. Whatever it looks like. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty. And don’t treat your story to harshly. During the first draft, it’s still just a baby. There are plenty more drafts that will turn it into a mature story.

7.     Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (aka Editing)

After I finish the first draft of my story, I label the MS Word document containing that draft as follows: Sons of Slaughter – D1. I’m a very organized individual (sometimes) and like to make sure the meats and the cheeses don’t touch. 🙂 Anyway, so I copy/paste the contents of D1 into a new document for D2 and so on.

D2 is for content edits. Following the RRR method, I Reduce fluff and scattered or irrelevant sub-plots and themes; I Reuse the bits that I liked and that are important to the story; I Recycle everything else by fleshing out the characters, the dialogue and monologue, and the themes to basically make them better than they were before. After finishing D2 I typically send it off to my Beta Readers (if you don’t have a group of trusted beta readers, I highly recommend getting one! They’ve been a critical part of helping me write the story I’m meant to write.)

D3 is for a second round of content edits after receiving feedback from family and my Betas.

D4 – D5 is for line edits. This is where I make sure each sentence and paragraph is readable and comprehensible. I also check for typos and discrepancies in the story.

D6 is for a final read-through and any final changes before moving onto production.

And that’s it! That’s my novelling process from beginning to end! I hope it helped you in some way. If so, let me know in the comments! And make sure you come back for part two sometime in the future where I will discuss my publication process. And then part three where I’ll discuss my marketing process. 🙂

5 thoughts on “novelling: my process, part one

  1. Oh, this shall be a fun series! I have a notebook for ideas and titles, too. I don’t think I better take anymore. Sometimes I stress over whether or not I’ll be able to write them all or not – but then I stress over, “what if I do write them all and then no more ideas come??” haha. I, too, have to have a title before writing my story. But past that, I’m a pantser. No plotting or outlining. And I don’t like pinterest and I don’t understand storyboards, so I don’t do any of that (and I guess you’ve finally met someone who doesn’t do them!). I write my first draft knowing my basic story in my head with an ending pictured in my head which I push toward as a goal. Though it’s not rare for the ending to change by the time I actually reach it. I allow my first drafts to be trash. My second drafts are to make the trash into art. And then like you I find betas. I don’t really do much more after that – I do some rewriting and applying of beta critiques, and as I’m pursuing traditional publishing I might do that a lot. But I’m mostly working on how to submit to agencies and publishers. I’m currently working on drafts 2 of my third and fourth novels. And then off to agents and stuff! My first two novels I’m currently pitching, too.

    1. Thanks for reading! 🙂 TBH I used to be a huge pantser. I couldn’t plot to save my life. But then I discovered that using that method I rarely got past a few chapters with any story I started writing. 😦 Because of the absence of an rough outline or at least a depository of story notes, I also got super confused about smaller elements of the story like characters’ ages or middle names or key locations. Stuff like that. It was super easy for me to lose the core of the story, which meant the story rarely got finished. Now I’m sort of halfway in between a plotter and a pantser because I don’t outline every chapter. (Though, for draft 2 of EBABT I did do a thorough outline so I could keep Liam and Ezra’s storylines in order.) Pinterest is so fun! But it can also be a time-waster when I start spending more time storyboarding than writing. Haha!

  2. I have a small notebook that I carry with me everywhere to write down ideas, plus a notes folder on my phone that’s also filled with snippets and ideas. The biggest problem I face is always forcing myself to put my butt in the chair and actually make something out of them. Great article!

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