My 10 Step Novel Writing Process

In my opinion the most important thing for an author is to have a consistent project process. This process is likely to be different between each author. This month I thought I might share my process.

Step 1: Idea Formation

Before you can start writing a story of any kind, you need to at least have an idea for what you’re writing. Formulating the ideas after first having them and working out if the ideas are viable enough to turn into a story. I often find that my ideas come from dreams. I then spend time the next day going over the ideas and stretching them until they become something more. Once I have worked out if they might work as story ideas then I move onto the next step.

Step 2: Research

After formulating my ideas into a novel/series idea I begin researching the topic and start building the scene for it. If the project is set in a specific time period, this means I need to research the time period, the way people dressed, the way they talked and the various social statuses involved with the time period. Through this research characters can be made and worlds created.

Step 3: Storyboarding

After Researching, it is important to start storyboarding your ideas. Formulating a basic storyline for the novel at the very least. I am not much of a planner so I usually only start with a story premise and a few milestones. Everything else I leave up to in the moment creativity.

Step 4: 1st Draft – The Skeleton

This is the very first basic draft of the story. I do my best to make sure the general story gets down onto the paper. It doesn’t need to have fantastic character and story development as it is only me shovelling sand into the sandpit. I aim to have this draft at approximately 80,000 words which is more than what I expect my novels final word count to be. The word count is likely to fluctuate as the writing process continues.

Step 5: 2nd Draft – Major Storyline Rework

I usually leave the project for a few months before returning for this step. For the 2nddraft I completely rewrite the story, this time with the original draft on the same screen. Using the original draft I rework the entire novel and restructure the storyline to a point where the major plot points are better developed.

Step 6: 3rd Draft – Minor Storyline Rework

Again I leave a bit of time between these two steps. Maybe a month though as we are only focusing on the minor points of the story and making sure the characters are well developed. This process usually takes 3 times reading through the entire novel to ensure everything is as it should be for the story to either tie up the loose ends and be over or to be tied up enough to be over but also loose enough to continue into the sequel. After this step is finally complete, congratulations you have a finished manuscript… But wait… you still have to edit it.

Step 7: 4th Draft – My Edit

Leaving the manuscript for a while is the best way to ensure you come at it with a somewhat fresh perspective. A fresh perspective is fairly important as otherwise it is difficult to spot grammatical mistakes. I am awful at spotting mistakes in my own work. But going over it yourself first is a good idea, that way you have at least tried to find the more obvious mistakes. Besides there are other people who are more than capable of editing your manuscript for you.

Step 8: 5th Draft – Editor’s Edit

So, you’ve now written your manuscript and have gone over it with editing in mind. Now it’s time to hand it over to a professional editor. I was lucky enough that I had already found Ouroborus Books by this point with The Stray so I was able to get Sabrina to edit my book as part of my publishing costs. But if you haven’t found your publisher yet this can be a bit more difficult. Have a look around your local area and even online for editors of your genre. You can expect to pay several hundred dollars for an 80,000 word manuscript. But it is worth the money if you plan to self-publish. It might not get rid of all the errors, but it will definitely get an objective point of view and the editor will do their best to make sure your story is the best it can be.

Step 9: Final Draft

Usually after you get your manuscript back from the editor, it will be a marked up version. This means they have gone through and made all kinds of notes, whether using the Microsoft Office Suite or pen to paper. It is now your job to go through the mark up and make the changes. Most them will just be an instant yes to change. Others however may ask you to rephrase things or explain something better, more information. Either way, if you have any questions, follow up with your editor and they should be more than happy to explain their intentions. For this I recommend having an editor that uses track changes in Microsoft word, otherwise the pen and paper mark up is such a gruelling process and not one to look forward to.

Step 10: Prepare for Publication

After the entire editing process is done it’s time to prepare you manuscript for publishing. If you have a publisher, they will complete this process for you. However, if you are self-publishing this can include, cover design, manuscript formatting for different platforms, design choices, promotional items and events. Social media advertising. Pretty much everything you can think of that will help you sell your book. You want to be in everybody’s faces, but not to the point where your notifications get turned off.

Review of Akarnae by Lynette Noni

Lynette Noni is an Australian author that has written a fantasy series titled The Medoran Chronicles it is a five part series that follows the journey of a young girl that falls into another earth like world called Medora. The following blurb is on the back of the book.

With just one step, sixteen-year-old Alexandra Jennings’s world changes – literally.
Dreading her first day at a new school, Alex is stunned when she walks through a doorway and finds herself stranded in Medora, a fantasy world full of impossibilities.
Desperate to return home, she learns that only a man named Professor Marselle can help her… but he’s missing.
While waiting for him to reappear, Alex attends Akarnae Academy, Medora’s boarding school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts. She soon starts to enjoy her bizarre new world and the friends who embrace her as one of their own, but strange things are happening at Akarnae, and Alex can’t ignore her fear that something unexpected… something sinister… is looming.
An unwilling pawn in a deadly game, Alex’s shoulders bear the crushing weight of an entire race’s survival. Only she can save the Medorans, but what if doing so prevents her from ever returning home?
Will Alex risk her entire world – and maybe even her life – to save Medora?

I purchased this book from Supanova on the Gold coast earlier this year, I had heard a lot about the book and have met the author on a few occasions and writing conferences here in Brisbane so I was keen to give it a chance.

In the beginning of the novel, it is a little slow to move as it brings you into the world of Medora and starts explain what is different in this world compared to our Earth which is where Alex is from. As the story progresses I found excellent character development between the three heroes you will come to know if you choose to embark on your Medoran journey. If you are an avid fantasy reader and enjoy the books we have to offer at Ouroborus Books you are sure to enjoy this series as it progresses.

The bonus side to starting this series… there are 5 books with the 5thcoming out in February 2019 so it is a ready to read series and you don’t need to wait long for the concluding novel. I finished the 1stbook early last week and have almost finished the 2ndwhich is still very good, I am interested how this one ends as I near its closing chapters, thankfully as of last Saturday I have the 3rdand 4thbooks on my shelf and ready to read.

The only negative I have to say for this book is that I have managed to guess some plot points before they presented themselves and I usually prefer novels that surprise me with their hooks. That said, there are also many plot points that I didn’t see coming or details that I didn’t expect along the way to a part that I suspected.

Overall and without giving away any spoilers I would rate this book a strong 4 out of 5, with the mark down being because of the instances of being a bit predictable. Maybe this is because I write as well and I’ve spent so long analysing the hows and whys of an author’s work to help improve my own abilities.

Useful Links:

Dymocks (Image used in this post)

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/akarnae-the-medoran-chronicles-book-1-by-lynette-noni-9781921997501/#.W4ylmugzaUk

Lynette Noni’s Website

https://lynettenoni.com/

Writing Programs – Scrivener

Writers and authors use a variety of ways to plan their projects. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I’m not much of a planner, I do however have my research and I have tried a few different programs to help me sort through all of my notes.

As far as programs go I give it a solid 9/10.

This program has a lot of uses in it that makes it worth the $45AUD one off cost. It updates your program and as far as I’m aware it is a lifetime subscription. Once such thing I came across while playing with the program was the name generator. You can put in a variety of different settings and it will provide you with names that fit your description, you can even look up name meanings.

The basic layout for a fiction novel set up is relatively easy to follow. It has a manuscript section where you can make a tab for each of your chapters then you are able to export the file and it will hopefully come out as a fully formatted novel. I haven’t tried this part of the program yet as I prefer to complete my manuscripts in Microsoft Word for easier reading and editing.

You can also create character profiles within the program which I found extremely useful, especially now that I am gaining more characters and venturing into the second book with them, it is important for me to remember who is who and how they are related to the main plot. Without this section of Scrivener I would be lost, I would be constantly reading through The Stray to make sure every thing is correct. Similar to the characters section of the program you can create places. Describing a new place and need to know all the information later on, the best place to store it is in that section. For both the characters and the places Scrivener provides a basic template that you can edit to suit your project needs.

You do also have the option to make extra areas, which is what I do. I make extra folders and corkboards that allow me to put my mythologies and species histories and connections into a database of some kind. You can also create extra template sheets for later use if you require them in other projects.

Scrivener is a very useful program for me and I’m not even using it to its full capacity. I think this program is fantastic for its price and would be useful to almost any writer beginning or published. I’m looking forward to giving Scrivener’s sister program, Scrapple, a try whilst I plan and write the rest of the White Wolf Trilogy. For only $15AUD it’s worth a try.

Choosing a History and Digging into Research

For a story like The Stray there is a lot of research involved when it comes to the folklore of it. There are werewolves, vampires, gods and many more creatures yet to be introduced further into the series. It takes time to shift through all the history and folktales to create a history for each set of creatures. I know in the second book The Lost there is going to be more information about the history of my different creatures so I won’t be going into detail in this blog as I don’t want to spoil the storyline. But I can explain to you how I chose my history.

First I looked up the different histories, such as French, Greek, Native American. Each of these have very close ties to the werewolf and shapeshifter myths. To me the French myth is a little over done but there is still a bit of mystery in it where you can create your own origin as the origin of werewolves isn’t fully clear where they came from of how they became werewolves.

I also considered Native American folklore, however it is difficult to accurately portray the Native American skin walkers and it is important to get the history correct or risk causing an unintentional upset. I also decided that since I am an Australian living in Australia and have never been to America I can’t accurately portray such a culture. Then I came to Greek mythology, it provided an origin and reason, it was open to interpretation and was not used as much as other werewolf mythologies.

I believe that the most important thing to think about when choose the history for a novel is to make sure it works for your story, if it is mythology, not real history then it is easier to alter and give explanations in the story for those differences. I have another series of books that I plan to write which will require just as much research as the White Wolf Trilogy, maybe even more.

I use books and the internet. First of all get the common facts about that mythology. I literally have a copy of “The complete idiot’s guide to werewolves” in my desk. I spent hours viewing websites such as Wikipedia, and forums of people who love werewolves and started up a chat with questions. Watch movies read other novels, work out what you want and what you don’t want to include. But always make sure you have an explanation for the change in the mythology, otherwise you could have people questioning your research skills.

Make sure you write down everything and where it came from as well, this way you can refer to it later if you forget something or are running a consistency edit. I’m a big fan of browser bookmarks, I have so many of them that it became a big task when I got a new computer in the last few weeks.

When it comes to implementing the information to your story make sure you stay true to the history you created otherwise the story will become a mess and there was no point to all that research.

The Book Launch

So I just made my way through the official launch of The Stray. It actually wasn’t as much of a whirlwind as I thought it would be. Instead, it ended up being a celebration with my family and friends over this big achievement in my life.

The photo to the right of me and my partner Kieren at the launch is courtesy of Phoenix Joey a long time reader and supporter of Ouroborus Books.

The question that a few people have been asking me is what am I up to next?

I am actually up to a few things at the moment;

  1. I’m planning a little writing getaway for 2018 with my best friend and fellow Ouroborus Books author Annalise Azevedo. We are going to spend that weekend or week (we haven’t decided yet) working on our next projects. For me that will be The Lost, book two of The White Wolf Trilogy.
  2. I am working really hard on my university studies so I can graduate in this lifetime and start teaching. So unfortunately for me my writing life often takes a back seat to my university and work commitments. So unfortunately for now there is no confirmed publication date for The Lost as I am unsure when I will be able to work on it for a committed length of time. On the plus side the first draft of The Lost has already been written I just need to go through it and make sure it works for what I want now that The Stray is a physical novel out there in the world.
  3. I am going to publicise The Stray and try and get it into as many shops and homes as possible. So please share my work with as many people as you can. Today I’m off to my local Dymocks store to see if I can get a few copies on the shelves in there.

In all I have a lot of things planned for the fast coming 2018 and I’m happy to be on this journey with everyone.

This weeks blog post is the last one before the Christmas holidays, I would like to spend Christmas and New Years Eves with my family and friends. I will start blog posts again in late January for a bit of a holiday break.

Review of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

So I watched the movie for this book and decided to read the books a little while ago, since then I have fallen in love with Rick Riordan’s books and I am slowly making my way through all of them.

Cost

I purchased my copy of this book as a box set from book depository for approximately $50. To me $50 for 5 books is a great deal. To be honest these books are worth every cent as I have devoured their pages several times now.

Cover

The box set I purchased was the one to the left/right. I think the cover art was amazing, the letters on each individual book were embossed which added to the effect of the artwork.

For a person that hadn’t read the book the cover with Percy riding his Pegasus could be a bit of a spoiler. Not a massive one, but still something that could be considered.

Plot

The novel was mostly fast paced and exciting, it would keep my attention on most pages until I was practically sleeping. For those that haven’t read this is where the spoilers come in, if you intend to read it.

It starts off with Percy discovering that he is a demigod and he is in danger, also that his best friend is a satyr tasked with protecting him until he makes his way to the safety of camp. When he does come into imminent danger his mother rushes him off to camp halfblood where he starts to train and learn how to be Poseidon’s son. But on the way a minotaur kidnaps his mother and takes her down to Hades. So of course like any adventure, coming of age story he runs off half trained in order to rescue her.

I won’t say much more about the actual story.

Although I loved the story, it is a fairly typical teen/fantasy novel, it just has a Greek spin on it, which is what I absolutely love about it.

Character

The characters in this novel are well rounded when necessary and allusive if needed. Percy seems mostly to me a young, reckless child that keeps getting into trouble, but that’s where his room for growth is. Annabeth and Grover are a bit more level headed and they definitely know more about this world then Percy so they aren’t always so reckless. They quickly become the voices of reason for Percy whilst also keeping the story fun and interesting in their own ways.

Setting

I believe that the scenes were set well, it left a lot to interpretation whilst also getting the necessary information across to the reader whilst using a mixture of real and made up places for its journey.

It was generally an excellent easy read that is suitable for its intended genre. I loved this book and the entire series that followed. The writing style was fun and sarcastic making fun to read, especially when it came to the chapter names.

I definitely give it 4.5/5.

Digging Into Character

Character development is one of the most important parts of story writing, you can have excellent descriptions, dialogue and plot, but none of that counts for anything if you don’t have good characters in your story. This week I’m going to discuss with you’re the different types of characters, their roles and what you need to accurately portray them in your work.

First of all every character needs to have a story of their own, one that is separate from the story you’re telling but is usually important to your piece. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why do they act with these mannerisms? In order for your audience to understand and connect with your character, you need to do the same and know everything about them before you even put them in your book.

Names are often a point of interest for me, I’ve read several novels in the past where the name means something heroic or is a giveaway to some future story development. My suggestion, don’t do this. If any reader is like me and likes to get to know the character, they will look up the name and completely unravel your plot. Instead look to the characters history, where did they grow up? If they were born in America they are unlikely to have a name that is generally exclusive to another country, unless of course it is obvious they are from that country. It’s best to do your homework on names and look up a few baby name sites.

Now that you have a character it’s time to put them into the story. When you introduce them don’t give away all the details at once, keep your reader guessing. Only give them the most basic of appearance descriptions and let the audience fill in the rest, the best part of reading a novel is being able to imagine and interpret the story in your own way. Surprise them with a character quirk or two that they might not be expecting until the situation allows.

There a few kinds of characters in story, not all them are always present though, it depends on the format and plot of it.

Narrators – The first kind is a narrator; unless your story is in first person a narrator is presenting your story. This narrator is still considered a character even if they never actively participate in the story, this makes them the fly on the wall. However some narrators do interact with the story and are very much apart of it, these types of narrators are reporting what they see to the reader as it happens.

Protagonist – Of course there is the protagonist, without the protagonist there is really a story, however the protagonist isn’t always the character the story is following. The story could be following the character that aids the protagonist in their quest.

Antagonist – Then there’s the antagonist, the problem causer of the story, usually the reason for the protagonist’s character arc. These guys need just as much attention as your main characters, if you don’t know why they’re doing the big bad stuff then you need to do some more character development, otherwise the reasoning portrayed in your story will make them kind of two-dimensional.

Main Characters – The general idea about main characters is that they should be acting like the story is about them, main characters are constantly in the story, making ripples or offering support for the protagonist. The need as much development as possible as these characters are usually the ones moving the plot along.

Minor Characters – These guys don’t get a lot of the spotlight and are often only in there to make a point before they move on again, usually not hanging around for scenes at a time. They have their own lives and agendas that only somewhat brush against the main plot.

Extras – the extras are the characters who don’t have names or faces, they are there for one purpose before they are quickly ushered away again, a taxi driver for example. They don’t get any names either, that’s one more name you get to keep for later.

The final thing I’m going to discuss with you this week is their progress in their story. Did they change in some way? Did they question themselves? It is extremely important that each main character receives an arc. That is they come across some kind of obstacle that may or may not change the way they think about certain things. You also need to make sure that the reader knows where they came from and how they’ve changed.

Writing As A Career

I found out that I wanted to publish novels when I was about 13. All I wanted to do was publish a book, be the next J.K Rowling. This was around the time I started working on my first “novel” that story I wrote became The Stray It was completely different, the characters, the setting, the plot. But when I finished writing that story I thought it was the best thing ever, because I wrote it, I shared it with my friends and teachers.

Looking back now, that version, called Moon Shadows at the time is the absolute worst thing I have ever read. The characters were flat, there was no sense of scene in my descriptions. But that was my starting point. When I realised that it needed work, I rewrote it. Continuously. And I kept getting better and better each time. work through different plots and characters until the story became more solid and I was keeping parts that I liked and changing things I didn’t.

I didn’t focus on another career option in school because this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to make teenagers feel the way I did when I read Harry Potter for the first time, or Eragon, or Percy Jackson, just a few of my favourite series. I might never reach their level, but I want to try.

Once high school crept up on me my parents would ask what I want to do at uni, if i was to go to uni. they kept asking me, until it drove me insane. But I understood, writing is not a viable career option, most of the time. Especially not in Australia, we have a very small publishing industry and most of it is in Sydney, I live in Brisbane and I’m not prepared to move without reason.

I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to make enough money from writing, but I’m a novel writer, even these blog posts are a little outside my area. So I searched for another career option. I’ve ended up at teaching. It’s my intention to teach the value of English and Literature to my intended audience.

There are ways one can make a career in the writing and/or publishing industry. You could become a ghost writer, writing down the words of other authors who may have difficulty doing so themselves. There are transcribers, your job would be to sit in meetings, court or another professional setting and relay everything being said. One a chance you could submit short stories into competitions all over your country and hope you earn one of the prizes.

To be honest there aren’t very many options unless you have written the next bestseller, even then in might not be enough to live out your life. My best advice in this regard for any new writer, is to find something else you’re passionate about, and make that your day job, if you end up becoming the next J.K Rowling then by all means quit your day job. I however would drive myself nuts with that much time on my hands. Good Luck.

Writer’s Block

So this week I’m talking about writer’s block, and also some tips to get past the block you’re facing. There are two sides to this topic, there are those that believe writer’s block is real then those that believe it isn’t.

Writer’s block is a condition a lot of writer’s have when they are unable to move past a certain point in their story. To published authors writer’s block can be one of the worst parts of writing, especially with looming deadlines.

In the nearly nine years that I’ve been writing I have faced times where I was unable to move forward with my story. At the time I thought it was writer’s block, and maybe it is. But I believe that writer’s block is just a lack of inspiration or that your subconscious isn’t happy with what you’ve written.

Whether writer’s block is real or not I can give you a few tips about how to get past the blockage in your creativity.

1. Lack of inspiration

If you think you’re blocked due to inspiration my best advice to you is to read books and watch movies. Not just any books and movies, but ones that similar to yours.

So if you’re writing a novel based in a made up medieval type world with magical things, find books, movies and tv shows like that type of story. For that particular novel type I would recommend Tamora Pierce (Author), Merlin (TV Show), and Lord of the Rings or Hobbit (Movies). I usually find that I have ideas by the time I finish a series of books, movies or shows.

2. Unhappy Subconscious

If you’re facing the block and don’t know how to get rid of it, I suggest leaving your book for at least a few weeks. Don’t touch it at all. Why? Because it helps you to become a bit more detached from the story and allows you to see things you wouldn’t have before.

When you do go back to it, don’t continue where you left it, start from the beginning and read your book. Take this time to go through and give it a bit of an edit, make sure you like the storyline, most likely you will come across something you want to change.

I recommend this because I sometimes found that I hit a dead end. The storyline I chose at the time didn’t have a way of working with my book. I usually find that this rectifies the issue and I can continue writing.

3. Other Causes

Apart from my other points above, I believe that your life has to do with your ability to write. For example, if I’m sick or stressed I am less likely to be able to write then if I am healthy and happy with my life.

If your life has been really busy lately then that might be a factor, you’re subconscious might be too focused on everything going on that it’s stemming your creative energy. Take a bit of time to wind down, read a book or watch something for an hour before trying to write or even take a bit of time off and wait to write. Your story isn’t going anywhere.

Ideas, Researching and Storyboarding

So to follow on from last weeks post I have decided to share my writing processes, from getting ideas to the actual writing of the project.

Getting Inspiration

Forcing yourself to get inspiration is difficult, sometimes impossible. I find my best novel inspirations come from dreams. When this happens I usually wake up in the middle of the night just to write the ideas down. Because if I don’t I will forget them by morning.

When I next have time I will go over the notes I made and see if it can become an actual story. I do this by stretching it out, making the main characters and sometimes writing the first 1-3 chapters. This will tell me if it has the potential to become a decent novel.

Losing inspiration whilst writing is definitely not fun. Some writers call it writer’s block. To be honest I just believe that it’s a lack of inspiration or there is something wrong with the story.

To get inspiration during the writing process I will research, more about the creatures I’m writing or creatures I would like to add to my stories. I also read and watch movies and TV shows. This is the best way for me, reading especially.

Research Process

My research process is fairly straightforward. I have my ideas then I read up about everything that I would need to make it work. I do go through a few types of sources though, including; websites, non-fiction books and then fictional books.

I find this process works very well for me. I use websites to look up general information and whatever I can find. I then use that information to locate non-fiction books that will provide me with facts to back up the information. Finally when I have all my facts I try fictional novels that have applied this information to review how the subject was used in a fictional context.

This process can take all day sometimes, but it can also only take and hour, it depends on the topic. I’m not sure if it will work for anybody else, but it definitely works for me, so with any luck it will work for somebody else.

Storyboarding

As a writer I’m not much of a storyboarder. I use a program named Scrivener to lay out my information, but I don’t use it to write. Outside of researched content, I am more of a spontaneous writer, that is, I like to see where the novel takes me. All I need to know is the end game, I like to leave the journey to chance.

Although, as I come to the point of finalising The Stray I am finding a need to storyboard to check the progress of the storyline in each chapter. I have done this by using blu tac on my walls with pieces of paper, one for each chapter. Each sheet has the major and minor events listed on the sheet and the characters that were introduced in that chapter.

The process is a long one, and to be honest it’s kind of boring. Which is why I still haven’t caught up to point I’m writing at the moment. I know that it is now necessary for me to storyboard to make sure everything adds up and is in the right sequence. But I don’t find the storyboarding process all that interesting.

But that isn’t true for all writers, one of my friends likes to storyboard the majority of her story before she sits down to start writing. I might find it boring and tedious, but she loves the process and it helps her to write the novel, whereas I feel that it hinders my creativity if I plan out the entire novel.