This is the one where I share my writing process with you! I hope you find it helpful, useful or at the very least, entertaining! Okay, here goes:
Step One - Choose an idea.
If you're anything like me the ideas won't stop coming. I keep a running list in journals, on my notes app, on scraps of paper and bits of wrappers (basically anything I can write on at the time if journal or iPhone isn't available.) I have more ideas than I do time. As my mom likes to say, "You aren't going to have time for all of those." Maybe if I had started writing when I was six. Well, I did start writing when I was six but didn't keep or or direct it until much later in life.
So. Keep all your ideas close, then choose one!
Step Two - Write down EVERYTHING you know about your story idea.
This includes but is not limited to: names of characters, number of characters, name of location, physical aspects of location, each character's personality, each character's place in the story, the plot, storyline, etc. You may find you need to sketch a map for yourself as you try to work out the location. Maybe you need to create character outlines to keep everyone straight. Get it ALL out of your mind and down on the paper!
Step Three - Create an outline.
This step is controversial and really does depend on the person. The "plotter" thrives on an outline. The very serious plotter may have an outline that has as many words as the final count of my middle grade books. A "pantser" has a vague idea of what the story is and likes to start writing and allow the plot and characters to develop as they write. I would be completely lost if I tried to pants the whole project.
I create a fairly simple outline made up of a bunch of bullet points of what needs to happen, characters that need to be introduced etc. I use the Act One, Act Two, Act Three structure for my plotting, which is basically: Introducing the story/problem, working to resolve it leading to the climax then resolution in the last act.
Step 3B - At this point I start working with a cover designer to create a cover for the book. Never too early, once your story idea has taken some shape, to start designing that cover!
Step Four - Write the thing.
Write it. It may sound simple but it isn't easy. But you can do it! Follow your bullet points and just write it. All along the way keep notes of details for future reference. You want to remember all the features of a person, landmarks of a place, etc.
Step Five - 1st Edit.
This is when I separate my story into chapters and fill in more details as needed. Sometimes I'll even need to correct some inconsistencies during that first edit. That's okay. You move things around and make it a more cohesive story.
Step Six - Let Someone Read it.
Perhaps you have a critique partner, perhaps you involve beta readers. I have both and I depend on them! They are an important part of the process. They help reveal plot holes and imperfections and truly make the book into a much better story. I try to make sure I answer all the questions they have that truly need to be answered. It's such a valuable process.
Step Seven - Edit Again.
After receiving the feedback from my readers I go back in again and apply the feedback that will make this a better story. I don't use all of their advice, not every question should be answered (in a series anyway). I add more detail as needed here as well.
Step Eight - Send to the Professional Editor.
This is not a step to skimp on. You need to have other eyes on your manuscript. For certain there will be things you have missed. You're too close to it and need to hand it off.
Step Nine - Edit Again.
That's right. When your editor sends it back to you with corrections, for me they are usually grammar and punctuation, go back through and clean it up. Make your corrections.
Step Ten - Format.
Your book will need to be in a particular format depending on the size you wish to print it in. It will require a separate format for eBook as well. If you want to publish hard cover, that may require another format. So make sure you know what you need to get the product you want.
Step Eleven - Publish! (FINALLY!)
That's right! There are so many options here and this could be another blog post in and of itself. You can choose to publish exclusively to Amazon or choose to publish "wide" and have your book available in bookstores, libraries, schools and etc. There are pros and cons to both and this is the part where you have to take your writer hat off and put on your businessperson hat. But, whatever you decide, the fact is, you are now a published author!