Have you ever wondered what goes into writing a book? How do we as authors actual take it from idea to published novel?
Every author is different, but I thought I’d give you a bit of a behind the scenes look at my process.
One thing that is a bit strange for me is that I choose the cover and title first. Those often spark further ideas for the book itself. For example, I chose the title “Dancing with Dandelion” almost 3 years before I ever thought about writing the book. But the title gave me the idea for dancing to mean sparring, and the idea of sparring led me to want to write the story as a “hate to love” storyline!
I’ve worked with several cover designers, and I love seeing them bring my future book to life! It gives me all kinds of motivation to write the story.
Once I have a title and cover, though — I let the ideas marinate. Sometimes for months and months as I’m working on other projects. Then, by the time I’m really ready to tackle the writing of the book, I’ve got lots of thoughts and impressions about how the story will go.
Some authors make detailed outline. And some write with no idea what will happen. I prefer the latter… For me, it’s more fun to write and discover the story along the way! But, because many of my stories are (mentally) in process while I am writing the previous books in the series, sometimes I leave myself bread crumbs in previous books of the series.
For example, this week, I am beginning the process of writing “The One She Can’t Forget”, book 2 in my Second Chance Fire Station book.
But… we already met these two characters in book 1 of the series, and I already knew there was *something* going on between them… it wasn’t until I wrote the ending of that book that I knew what it was. Now… I get to write the rest of their story. And I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen!
First, I’m going to spend some time inside Jake and Monica’s head and get to know them. I need to know their wants and fears and backstory before I can figure out how they are going to grow through the story. I have a spreadsheet I use to write down those various aspects of their character. I don’t spend long on unimportant things like detailing their favorite color or food. But I am going to dive into that deep, dark thing that happened when they were a teenager that has shaped them into who they are today. I’m going to figure out why my characters need each other, and then why they insist they can’t possible be together.
Then, as I write — even though I don’t plan the story of the book ahead of time, I know where my characters need to end up emotionally and spiritually, and I can get them there as the story goes on.
Now for the writing: My first draft is bare bones. I’m telling the story, getting the conversations down on paper, and figuring out the journey. It will take me about 40 hours of writing to get the story down, sometimes in 10 or 15 minute segments or by talking into my microphone while I walk.
After I finish the first draft of this book, I’ll go through and make my major edits. I’ll adjust the character arc as needed, deepen the emotion, improve the setting and detail of the story. In this phase, I often add about 10-20% to the story’s length. I layer in sensory details, spiritual nuggets, character thoughts or actions, and really make the story come alive.
Then, I’ll send it for some additional feedback. Sometimes, I pay an editor for a manuscript critique. Other times, I’ll ask some writer friend or two to read it and let me know how the story hits them. I also have (believe it or not!) an automated manuscript evaluation tool that will help identify issues with pacing or emotion in a five minute scan!
After I get that feedback, I’ll make any changes I need to. This might mean strengthening or adding scenes, clarifying places where what I was imagining didn’t translate to words how I wanted it to. Often, it is adding visual details! Strangely enough, I don’t see any of my book in my mind, and I always seem to forget to describe what my characters or settings look like!
After it is done, I send it to my copy editor. She is amazing and works fast, so I usually have it back 1-2 weeks later to make any final corrections she sent me. Then I format it with some fancy author software before it goes to two more proofreaders as well as my review team who all hunt for typos!
I’ll fix the typos, and get it uploaded to Amazon before the pre-order deadline. Phew!
On release day, I buy myself flowers and order dinner from someplace local to celebrate the whole process being complete. And then, pretty soon I start on the next book. :)
Like I said, I’m currently working on writing “The One She Can’t Forget” but I’ve made Book 1 – The One Who Got Away free for my newsletter subscribers!
I’d love to know — what part of the process seems the most interesting to you? Did anything I said surprise you? Let me know in the comments below! I’ll be checking in through out the day and responding.