Let’s be honest, there’s no one right way of doing this. We find what works for us and whatever it is becomes our process. We’re always refining it. But if you’re just starting out and/or struggling, it can be useful to hear what other writers do. Like finding a map when you’re hopelessly lost.
Step one: Have an idea
Honestly, this is easier said than done. No one knows where ideas come from because they come from everywhere. Books we read, films we see, song lyrics, dreams, a random comment someone makes. I have lots of ideas, but I can’t always see how to develop them into a full-length novel. What works for me is to pick whichever idea has the most details sticking to it. For me, that means I see an image on Pinterest (or somewhere else) and it makes me think about my story. Maybe it’s the face of a character in an old painting. Maybe it’s an antique chair I can imagine them sitting on. If details start to stick to your idea, it’s a sign it might be the one to focus on.
Step two: Start writing
I write two drafts at once. Sort of. For example, I write the first draft of scene one in longhand. When it’s finished, I type it into Word, developing, expanding, and fixing as I go. The end result is the second draft of scene one. I repeat this process for every scene.
What happens if you get blocked?
If I’m stuck and the words won’t flow, I make myself write 100 words every day. 100 is hardly any but, by the time I get that far, I often find I can keep going. If I can’t, I let myself stop for the day, patting myself on the back for hitting the minimum amount. I keep doing this until the block goes. I use the free time to work on marketing, research or just reading.
But what if you’re still stuck with no idea how to progress the plot?
I print off the entire manuscript so far and go through it with a red pen. Usually by the time I’ve typed up the changes and rewritten sections, I’ve figured out how to go on. If not, I go through the entire document again. And again. And,if necessary, again.
Step three: Revising
Once I have a complete second draft, I reread the entire thing. Sometimes I print it out and use red pen. When I have a complete draft I can read out loud to myself without wanting to change anything, it’s ready to show my agent and my editor.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.