Getting the Idea Phase – Usually if I want to be inspired, I have to reach for it. I read, listen to music, watch movies, examine faces, listen/read about passionate people, dream, but most of the time, I have to immerse myself in my own thoughts. It’s probably why I’m so absentminded; I’m pretty much always absent to some degree. And sometimes, I feel guilty about that, but other times… It’s all worth it in the end, I think. When I come across a thought that I can run with, I feel it in my heart. As an author, I should have the words to describe this, but I don’t. It’s like it originates from a different part of my brain. It’s one of those things that I just can’t let go. This leads to…
Development Phase a.k.a the Walking Phase – Once my brain has officially abducted me, I usually pace. I will walk until my feet ache and then I’ll walk some more as I literally explore the possibilities. Having a house that makes a perfect circle really helps. As I’ve said before, it’s like putting together a huge puzzle. I get flashes of scenes even before I have a real plot. What I have to do is fit these scenes I see into the general, abstract idea. I play with the pieces and try to fit them all together. During this time, I put myself in a character’s place, and then I put myself in the other character’s place, etc. And I replay it over and over until I find something that suits me. While this can be a little piece of hell when I’m feeling anxious or angry, the complete inability to tear myself away from what I’m thinking comes in really handy when it comes to writing. Eventually, this walking leads to seeing scenes. I don’t see every scene, but most of them, if I can’t see it, I will develop the idea when I get to it.
Outlining Phase (optional) – I don’t usually outline, and if I do, it’s not really an outline so much as a bunch of my thoughts that get frantically thrown onto the page like a bowl of spaghetti against the wall. When I see which ones stick, I start drawing arrows and writing down cause and effect. Pretty much, this happens when I’m unable to walk it off. The only time that I’ve ever done a real outline was for Wingless due to the sheer number of characters that I had to keep track of.
Research Phase – This is pretty self-explanatory. If I need to know about something for the novel, I have to research it to make sure that I don’t get certain details wrong or if there’s anything else that could add layers to what I already have. Angels, mythology, religion, and history are what I look up most frequently.
Writing/ Last Minute Decision Phase – I was told a long time ago (I don’t know exactly when) by someone (I don’t know who) that most writers don’t just start at page one and write until they reach the end. I have no idea if this true. I can’t imagine why anyone would write anything out of order, because I always fall prey to my last minute decisions. In almost every novel I write, I make a last minute decision that changes everything. And I don’t just have one. I tend to have at least three that dramatically alter the way that the novel was supposed to go. Oops. Either a character just won’t die or as I’m writing an impassioned scene the character will say something that leaves me going, “Huh… I didn’t know you felt that way”. I tend to think it works out better that way though, because I’m far less likely to discard a great last minute decision in order to accommodate what I’ve already written. This isn’t to say that I won’t or I haven’t gone back and rewritten things because of a surprise (Dammit, Cassius!), but I’d be doing it far more often otherwise. So, I always write from page one to the last page straight through.
Editing Phases – Once it’s done, I do a few editing waves.
1- Edit for structure, transitions, and pacing. This is mostly to assess what I have as a whole. If there’s anything that is missing, or if something seems like it’s happening too fast. This is where I add, delete, rearrange and rewrite certain scenes. Reread.
2- Edit for clarity, repetitive words, and sentence variety. This is also where I add in some more details if I feel like they’re needed. Sometimes, I forget to describe someone or a setting, so here’s where I get to add all the little creative flourishes. Reread.
3- Copy editing. Okay, I am horrible at copy editing my own things. Since I already know what it says, my mind tends to gloss over it. But I try.
4- Edit by friends. So, I have a few friends and relatives that help me. They tell me if I’m being too unclear or too subtle. That’s one of my big things. I think I’m being so obvious with something, when in reality I’m not. Their outside perspective is invaluable.
5- Repeat waves one through three.
Done. Except that I’m not actually done. Start Publishing Phase.