I’ve been asked to talk about my writing process, so for those who are interested, here it is!

I maybe don’t have a ‘process’ like many other authors. I don’t have a dedicated workspace – I generally write on the train. I don’t have writing habits – no coffee, no food, and no particular habits. As I write on the train, I have essentially made myself my own captive audience, and due to patchy mobile reception on my train line, I don’t even have the distraction of social media much. 

What I do have is a series of habits that might be useful for writers who consider themselves plotters.

A significant portion of my writing process occurs before I even start. I write character profiles. For the current WIP I even did Myers-Briggs personality profiles for the two protagonists. I world-build, including a map and profiles for each of the main kingdom/countries with details of people, clothing, currency, trade, politics and architecture. I plot.

Yes, I plot a lot. If you read my post How To Use GMC Charts to Plot you know about that part of it, but it’s not the whole. 

Before I start writing, I outline the entire plot from start to finish. The GMC charts help me to find plot details to add to that outline, to make sure the motivations and conflicts make sense, but some plot details are inputs into the chart where others are outputs. Before I start writing I know the start, the finish, and every intended major plot point along the way. 

Plenty of minor details get made up as I go. In the current WIP, unplanned events included the unexpected shooting of a protagonist, a mercy killing, sapping of the castle wall, and explosions. So I certainly don’t allow my outline to strangle the story. It’s a road map, and one that helps me to ultimately get where I am going, but nothing stops me taking the scenic route – and I frequently do. 

Once I have my major outline done, I do a chapter by chapter outline. This helps me to know what main plot points to cover in a chapter, where to break chapters and scenes and what hooks to include to keep the reader reading. I won’t stick to this either – I’m currently several chapters behind where I’m supposed to be because of new plot points I’ve added, but it’s still a good guide.

The advantages of heavy outlining in the beginning are:

  • Improved logical consistency – it’s much easier to make the story hang together if you know in advance where it is going. You can fix this in subsequent drafts, but it can be harder to do it that way, and which you prefer will depend on how your brain works;
  • It serves as the basis of your synopsis;
  • An outline can allow you to more easily condense your story to one line in the beginning, which can help you to better understand your own theme and the main plotline;
  • Reduces the risk of writer’s block;
  • Helps you to plan the novel’s expected length and know if you will or won’t hit target – this can be important for certain genres that are sticklers for word count;
  • Able to better plan chapter breaks and hooks to hold reader’s attention.
A writer may be too….

Once I’ve done all this planning, I can generally sit down and just write. I rarely spend much panning time after the initial phase – if I’m writing, I’m typing. Very rarely will I appear to be just sitting and thinking – I’ve already done it all! If I need to refer back to my outlines, I do. Hmmm, what am I writing today? Oh that’s right… and away I go. 

The only thing that really stops me after I start writing is if I suddenly need unplanned research. Check out my upcoming post on the weird and wonderful things I’ve unexpectedly needed to research mid-book on April 24. 

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