Getting a novel out of my head and to publication is usually harder than it should be. I don’t have a formalized system and rarely make notes. I also hand write them and have to go back and type manuscripts at a later point. For this example I will show you how I developed the idea for my novel “For Their Sins”.
Most of my novels start out with a random thought or idea that gets stuck in my head. In this case it was the idea of having two types of vampires, some that had children and some that reproduced through a bite. The idea was stuck in my head for days as I asked myself questions like it was a game. Most would call this my brainstorming phase, but I never write anything down; probably because a lot of my thinking is done while driving or in the shower. When you’re a busy mom you take quiet time when you can get it. My questions were things like: Who is my hero/heroine? What was the problem he/she was trying to solve? What is the setting?
Once some of the major questions were answered I tried to think of major plot points. In this case I knew I wanted Alexandria to be my heroine and for her to be fighting the Mordere, which is bite in Italian. I knew the Venandi, which is Latin for hunting, would be charged with finding sinners and sending them to their judgement. But I needed anchor events before I could start. So I asked more questions and eventually came up with her childhood, her affair with Collin, Savas’ fight with the Impaler, and the showdown with Anya. Even though it may not sound like much it was enough to get me started.
I like to write organically and see where the story takes me. That’s exactly what happened with this novel and it led me down paths I had not intended. Alexandria’s first love affair was not planned it just sort of happened. Another character was killed off that I originally did not intend to. Then there were entire sections and a whole ending that had to be re-written. It doesn’t bother me though. When I try to plan every thing I can’t seem to write and even when I do it feels forced, so I just don’t do it. If I have a really great idea I will take notes though and reference it later.
One of last steps before editing is typing. Yes I still hand write the majority of my manuscripts in this day and age. I do so for a couple reasons. One: I can take a notebook anywhere, and I mean anywhere. Most of my lunch breaks are spent in my car or at the fast food joint in work eating while writing or reviewing what I’ve already written. It’s a lot harder to do with a laptop. Two: I love the feel of an ink pen gliding over paper. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to see the notebook pages dwindle away as my writing fills it.
Editing, re-reading, editing, title and cover design are always my last steps. Usually by the time I reach editing I have already read the original document at least three or four times. I never know what kind of last minute changes I may want to make so I always do so again. In this case I rewrote the ending just a day or two before publishing. The original ending never felt right so I changed it. Then I read the last several chapters again editing it as needed and “For Their Sins” was ready for the world.
It’s not a system or a formal process but this crazy method works for me. I’m sure there are plenty of authors and English teachers out there screaming at me now to do things properly. I give those people my sincerest apologies; I simply can’t do it. Perhaps one day I will try it your way. For now I will take the magic when it happens and not try to force it.