Happy Sunday, everyone! Today, I thought I’d share with you my writing process, how I go about when writing a story, plus some secrets into how I world-build and archive the information. So let’s not waste any time!
Pantser vs. Plotter
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a panster, someone who jumps into the river and sees where the current will take me. But even the ride wasn’t always so smooth. I was hit by many large boulders. I’d try to find ways around the boulders, but most of the time I failed. But there were times where I found a way to get around them, and finished riding the river.
If you didn’t understand any of that, I’ll be more specific. I usually jump straight into a new story, only knowing the name of my main character and a rough idea in my head about what the story is about. Writer’s block often hit me in the head. Sometimes I found a way to overcome it and other times I gave up the story altogether.
I pantsed book 1 – The Heir, the Prince, and the Traitor – and it was fun but torturous when Writer’s Block came knocking. I’m still surprised I wrote a whole draft.
Today, I’m a bit of a pantser and a plotter. When you’re writing a series, a bit of planning is kind of needed, according to my recent experience. I just couldn’t pants book 2. So, I wrote up a 14-page outline/synopsis as a guide for when I went to write it. But the pantser in me would follow my characters when they drifted away from my outline, and they led me into some horrible and amazing situations.
Whether you are one or the other, it doesn’t matter to me. Write in a way that works for you:)
When I write a new story I don’t think about chapter length, specific details like description, or even describing the setting. I just write to get everything out, even when a chapter ends up being 20 pages long. Sometimes I’ll skip a scene and move onto one that I really want to write and then I’ll come back and fill in the gap between the two scenes.
How I have learned to beat Writer’s Block, in my experience, is to backtrack to the start of the scene that I was writing and delete everything from there. I kind of think of a new draft as a maze. I’ll hit dead ends, so I need to go back the way I came and try another path. So far, it’s been working for me.
Every writer you’ll meet will say this, so I’m going to say this too, after you complete your first draft, step away from it for some time. Some writers might tell you a few days, months, weeks, but what specific length of time am I going to suggest to you? Nothing. Go back to it when you feel like you’re ready. With my first book, I think I was away from it for a few days, or maybe even a few hours – I was excited to start fixing it. With my second, I waited about two and a half months. So, really, it depends on when you’re ready to tackling the horrible business of editing. Speaking of the devil…
Why can’t we just write perfect drafts that need no editing? It’s a requirement, one that I’m never thrilled about to tackle. But strangely enough, I was really excited to start editing book 2.
Now, I know there are tons of different ways a writer will edit their work. They might start by reading through it and correcting all the little grammatical errors, then go through it again and focus on the character development, and then another read through for story development, etc.
I don’t do that. I do all of it at the same time. I know, crazy, because I’m bound to miss something, which I usually do, but hey, it works for me. How I usually go about it is by chapter. I’ll slowly read through the chapter, in my head or out loud if I’m alone, and I’ll edit as I read. Sometimes I’ll make comments like, “Important for later in the story,” “Foreshadowing this scene later in chapter so-and-so,” or “Remember this description!”
And then, after completing that first run through, I’ll go back and do it again, but focusing on the comments, which leads to me jumping around my story. Also, a little tip if you don’t already do this, if you’re using Word, take advantage of their Bookmark feature. If you don’t know where it is, open up your document, go to Insert, in the Links section is Bookmark, highlight your chapter title, click Bookmark, name the Bookmark, and click Add. This saves you from having to always scroll through your manuscript.
After completing a second read through, I will read it again, mostly out loud to see how the story flows, and then I call on beta readers and send it their way.
Then the process more or less repeats itself when my betas return my story.
I prefer revising over editing. 1) because I am writing, and 2) because I am editing as I write, and 3) I get to write new stuff. Book 1 has gone through about 5 revisions – currently working on the last one. When I revise, I’ll start a brand new document, and I’ll have the older revision next to it as a guideline.
How the story starts is always different, but as I reach the middle, I’ll grab certain lines or descriptions I wanna keep from the older revision.
Cutting chapters suck. If you’ve been following me for awhile you already know the emotional trauma I go through. And don’t even get me started with cutting characters.
I always have to ask myself “If I cut this, would the story be any different?” And sadly in some cases, I had to answer no.
I always see revising as sculpting from marble. With each pass the story gets better with sharp scenes and details, everything becomes smoother and precise.
I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped the other sections and just jumped to this one. I love world-building. It’s the best part about writing. There are no limitations with fantasy. I love origin stories. And I get to create!
My world Coran has slowly been developing over the years. It was never something that took a few days to come up with. At the beginning, everything started with Caledonia, and just grew from there.
Now, how does one keep track of all of their kingdoms? With Microsoft Excel, of course:)
Yeah, I’m that kind of writer. I know each ruler that reigned over Caledonia, when they started and when they ended, how many children they had, created the kingdom’s crest, and any and all information that I needed.
Also, Pinterest is a god send. I’ve been collecting pictures for each kingdom and it definitely helps when I need to describe clothing, the city, towns, or the kingdom itself.
Also, I’ve drawn out a couple of my major cities from a birds-eye view. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but simple enough to where you know where everything is and all the important landmarks. For these I used Affinity Design to create them but you can very well create something like this with Microsoft Word.
Now, for those who don’t know, time is an important element in my story. My chapters begin with the POV it’s in, followed by the date, and location. Coming up with a timeline or time system for my world has been difficult since I didn’t want to copy Earth’s. So, this is what I came up with, again using Excel.
None of these events are mentioned in the story, they’re just random fillers I added in because I didn’t like how there were sections of blank events until I got to my story’s present date. But again, more world building!
With my characters, each one has their own folder. I’ve made character profiles for them, and even did a post on it ~ Character Profiles. Within each folder are pictures I’ve collected of someone who looks like the character in my head as well as other photos showing their childhood, pictures I’ve drawn of them, things they like, basically a non-organized aesthetic.
A couple of things I have not done yet is draw out all the main cities and write up some history texts. I’ve got documents of details that I might need to remember for a later story, I’ve got dozens of sticky notes with side notes. My ultimate goal is to build a world as complex as the world of Dragon Age’s Thedas. It probably won’t ever reach that level but it’s a goal.
Well, that’s it! If you have any questions, ask away!
Have a lovely week, everyone!