By Yvonne Knop
Today, someone asked me: “How do you write?”
To which I replied: “With my computer.”
You might guess that this was not the answer my friend expected. So, I will try to pin it down here - in case anyone needs some inspiration. I say inspiration because there is no exact step-by-step guide to the writing process. It’s unique for everyone and every writer I know has a different approach. Here’s mine:
The first step for me is an idea that just suddenly pops up in my head. I don’t write those ideas down. Almost never. I let them sit, like a Bolognese. Because only then they can get the best taste. I wait. And if the idea stays for a longer period of time, I know it’s worth exploring. One major sign here is daydreaming, which I do extensively. I go on daydreaming my story and start to dwell on which genre would be fitting. This is a point of no return.
Sometimes, as happened with my current project, this “daydream phase” takes a couple of months and I only start writing when I cannot hold back anymore, when the story screams to be let out. Otherwise, it’s just nothing than a daydream. And, oh, how many I have. But not all great ideas make a novel*.
At this point I usually draft an outline and think of major plot points, and about where I start and where I want to end. I’m very strict with that, even noting down page numbers where I want this scene to be.This has to do with genre and pacing. It will get messed up sooner or later by revising the bits and pieces, but at least the pacing will not be THAT off.
Then I just write. Yes “just”... no, it’s hell. A fun hell (sometimes). *Nervous laughter*. At this point I don’t know all that will be in the story, just the essential points I’ve scribbled down because I want the story to tell itself. I get to know my characters while writing and, again, daydreaming.
I usually write down 2000-3000 words per day and I revise while I go. You will read different opinions on that online, but my writing day starts with revising what I have so far – at least the chapter I finished before this new one. Not only does it get me back into the story, it also allows me to deepen my writing while I write the first draft. It’s time consuming, yes, but it works best for me. Once a chapter is good enough during this process, I won’t include it in that routine anymore. So, my work gets fatter and fatter with each writing session.
With this my first draft is ready for my first round of revisions. I say mine because it’s only me, my tea and my manuscript. After that it’s time for beta readers, whose opinion will help me to edit my work. I usually ask for the character’s agency, major plot lines, tension, and pacing. Once this is done, I have my second round of revisions. And then – drumroll, thunder, children fleeing into their parent’s arms – it’s time for the professionals to give feedback, rip your dream apart and shatter your heart.
All this takes between 10 months and a lifetime.
*find a way to sneak theses great ideas into your finished manuscript.