How do authors write the first drafts of their novels? There must be a thousand and one ways, aren’t there? Let’s find out. I asked InspyRomance authors how they write their first drafts, and here is a sampling of what they say.
“I do all my writing on a computer. I write best there because I can write a sentence, delete, and write write it again. I don’t write in drafts. I don’t outline. I have a set of characters and a situation and go from there, wherever my characters take me. I edit as I go. Each day when I start writing I reread what I wrote the day before and edit. It gets me back into the story, and I makes for less editing when I’m finished. When I am done, I usually have a pretty clean manuscript. I still read through it a couple of times, at least once with a text to speech feature. It helps me catch typos, etc. Then it’s off to my editor.” – Merrillee Whren, author of Homecoming Blessings
“For me, I type and I start with a basic plot and general chapter outline for about the first half of the book. After that I end up pantsing the story based on how the characters develop in my mind. I tend to think through a chapter before I start writing and I usually write fairly clean first drafts, so there’s not much editing to do (unless my critique partners point out a major boo boo). So I spend more time on writing than on editing/proofreading. This is what I’ve been doing for my WIP which will be releasing September 19th.” – Liwen Ho, author of An Extra Spark
“I start with an outline, about a sentence for every scene, that I may have developed over a few days or as much as month. I don’t spend that much time on the outline, but it often gets done in little bits here and there. Then I write the entire book as fast as I can. Usually a full-length novel takes me six weeks. I write on the computer in a program called Scrivener. I start first thing every morning and work until I meet the day’s word-count goal, usually 2500-3000 words. I end up with a very messy first draft, sometimes with a scene or two that are only a sentence because I need to do some research. I absolutely love writing first drafts and find the process energizing. The next step, where I have to fill in the missing parts and make it all make sense, is the hard part.” – Sally Bayless, author of Love at Sunset Lake
“Before I start a series, I plan out the setting, characters, titles, and story themes for at least the first few books. I think about the kinds of characters who’ll wrestle with the concepts in the title or theme and get to know them using Myers-Briggs personality tests, interviewing techniques, finding photos that represent them, etc. At some point, the opening scene comes to me and I start writing. I write romance, so I know (roughly) how it will end, and I have occasional glimpses into future scenes, but, for the most part, every morning when I sit down to my computer, it’s a journey of discovery! I ask God for the next piece of the story and get to work. I write a chapter most mornings when I’m in writing mode, but I don’t work on my husband’s days off, so a first draft will take about 6-8 weeks. I often massage the previous day’s work (or even the previous week’s), so by the time I’ve reached the end, most of it is fairly solid. From then, the story works its way through beta and editing for another 4-6 weeks while I’m writing the next one! Dancing at Daybreak releases in mid-September. I wrote it in May – July with a couple of weeks off for vacation in June. It spent August in various levels of editing and is now almost ready to release!” – Valerie Comer, author of Dancing at Daybreak
“I use a giant whiteboard to plan out internal and external motivations and conflicts, then the spiritual arcs, romantic arc, and if needed, suspense arc. Then I go into Scrivener and say, “in this chapter, this happens, etc.” through all the chapters using the notecard view. That allows me to see if I need any filler chapters between plot points. Once all that’s done, my entire first draft is basically action and dialogue. Scene setting, thoughts, and feelings all get layered in as I pass through the project after the first draft is complete.” – Hallee Bridgeman, author of Courting Calla
As for me, I’m old school and write long hand on paper to begin with for all my books. I outline on paper and write the first drafts on paper. One of the hazards of writing first drafts on paper is getting paper cuts! Sigh. However, I am recycling old paper that we didn’t finish using in grade school, so I am finding use for them. Once I am finished with the outline and draft, I then type them all in on my laptop, revising as I go. Once I’m on my laptop, I don’t go back to paper unless I need to rewrite an entire scene. When I am done with my book on my laptop, it’s ready for my copyeditor and proofreader.
I did that too for my latest novel, Wait for Me, which I outlined and drafted on paper back in 2016. It sat in my bookshelf for two-and-a-half years, including throughout the sabbatical I took in 2018. In 2019, I finally got around to the final revisions and edits. It’s on preorder for only $0.99.
Wait for Me is the story of a single dad, Logan, who made a promise to take his son on a cruise in Alaska as his fifth birthday gift. The only catch is that the boy wants his mother on vacation with them. Logan and Marie have been divorced for three years, and there is just no way he wants to relive their failed marriage. Then again, it’s only for seven days. What could possibly happen in seven days?
I hope you will check out all the books mentioned in my blog post today. Click on the book covers or the title links to go to Amazon to buy or borrow your ebooks. Happy reading, everyone!