I was thinking about random things this morning, as you do, and for some reason I realised I that I have an actual process when it comes to my writing. It’s not something I’ve thought about before, but I’ve decided to share it here, in case it might be of interest to any of you.
I can get an idea for a novel just about anywhere, and I frequently get several every day. When I do I normally file it away in the back of my mind, unless I’m near my ideas pad, in which case I scribble down the basics of it – the ideas pad is used mostly as a aide-de-memoire, as they say. I don’t like to put too much down at this stage because it takes me away from whatever I might be doing at the time.
When I’m ready to work on an idea I sit down with a pad and pen and start plotting out the idea I’ve decided to go with (sometimes the hardest thing I have to do is work out which of my numerous ideas I’m going to write next).
First off I sketch out the broad strokes of the idea: how it starts and where it’s going to end, and I give names to the main characters. Once that’s done and I have the beginning and the end, I put those sheets to one side and start again, plotting out the book in more detail, and beginning to separate it into possible scenes, as well as deciding on details about the main characters and creating outlines for the more minor characters.
I nearly always (sometimes circumstances force me to work differently) write my first draft by hand, using a fountain pen – I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t feel like I’m a proper writer unless I’m using a fountain pen, which isn’t always easy since I’m a leftie and constantly in danger of smudging what I write.
While I am writing the first draft I’m inclined to scribble on any and all scraps of paper that come to hand, including bus tickets, receipts and loo roll – it all depends on where I am and what’s available when a scene comes to mind. Once I get home and I’m at my desk with my pad and fountain pen I begin to assemble my notes into a proper draft, though at this stage there’s still a strong possibility that scenes will need to be moved around and possibly even removed.
When the first draft is done I go back to the beginning. The second draft is where I start to put my book on the computer; as I type up the handwritten version I make whatever adjustments I need to a scene, whether that means expanding what I’ve written, removing bits or even removing the scene, in some cases I’ve had to rewrite a scene entirely. I also work on ensuring the all the scenes are in the right order and adding any I feel are needed to fill gaps I might have left.
The third and final draft is more about tightening up what I’ve already written than anything else
I have some experience in editing so I’m able to do this myself, which is just as well since I can’t afford to pay for the services of a professional editor, though I am still refining the best process for doing this efficiently without missing any problems.
First off, I read through to make sure I haven’t made any continuity errors, such as incorrect names, places, or times, I also check that the story reads smoothly without any jarring elements. This can include removing unnecessary stuff – padding – and tweaking sentences to eliminate some of the duplicated words and make it all flow better.
The second run through is done with the text set to double line spacing to create a gap between lines make it easier to focus on each line separately while I look for typographical and punctuation errors.
The third run through is the same, except done with the text set to treble line spacing.
When I have completed all three editing passes I print the novel off and hand it over to a trusted family member who reads through it to make sure I haven’t missed any mistakes and there are no continuity errors that escaped me.
This is my writing process. The process is different for everyone, and all you can do is find the process that works best for you – there may be something in how I do things that would work for you, and maybe there isn’t.