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.