Behind the Scenes

I often get asked about my writing process. Some of you already know, or, at least, have a broad overview of how one of my books comes to be.

Well, I’m about to give you a more in-depth look.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers from The Tainted Soul.

After my muse hits me over the head with the general idea, which sometimes just consists of the title, I start the plotting. I ask myself questions such as: What is going to happen? Who’s going to be in the novel? When is the novel set? Where is all the action going to happen? How are the characters going to overcome the challenge? Why do these events have to happen?

At this stage, I compile some basic research (if needed) and start character builds. The characters are the easy part, especially since I use my modified D&D build sheet. Quite often, when I’m building a character and filling in the background details, I generate more ideas for the story. Other times, the finer details come only from writing the first draft.

I usually write the outlines out by hand in a composition notebook because spiral notebooks and looseleaf papers fall out or get lost. I typed up today’s example to make it easier to read (my handwriting is terrible because I think faster than I write).

This is what just a single chapter outline looks like:

From: The Tainted Soul

I write outlines like that for each chapter that will be in the book. In the case of Dragon Diaries, an entire composition notebook was filled with the outline of just one book.

Once I actually start outlining, I usually end up doing even more research. In the case of The Lycan Pharoah, I had to look up all sorts of information on Ancient Egypt and King Tut. I incorporated a lot of what I learned – such as the fact that copper was more valuable than gold or chocolate or salt – into the tale. For Dragon Diaries, I delved into astronomy in order to accurately build the bi-solar system in which the saga takes place.

After I have the entire outline down on paper, I begin the novel’s first rough draft – still writing by hand. Sometimes, while writing the first draft, the characters run away with the story, and quite a few things from the outline get changed.

As an example, Dracen “Omen” Black, who was first introduced in Case 3, The Lullaby Shriek, was originally supposed to be Jinx’s and Sin’s half brother. But he threw a wrench into that plan when he proposed to Jinx. With that little action, a whole new character arc that I hadn’t even thought of came into play.

When changes like that happen, it tends to reverberate through the rest of the outline. So, in the second draft, which gets typed up, I incorporate those changes.

Once the 2nd draft has been completed, I send it to a few volunteer Beta Readers. They review the story and offer suggestions for edits and flow and development. With their notes, I start the third draft, which sometimes turns into a fourth draft or even a fifth.

Eventually, that little bit of stuff from the outline (above) evolves into:

This was my submission for Patterson’s Co-Author Contest.

This is how I have succeeded at each of the NaNoWriMo challenges I’ve faced. And the next Camp NaNo kicks off April 1st. I’m still arguing with myself over whether or not to participate this round, or if I should wait for the one in July.

I’ll admit to having some trouble remembering what I wrote in the previous novels of the series. That’s why I keep a record of the key events that take place in the individual chapters as well as in the book.

Perhaps, the hardest thing about all this writing is trying to recall my train of thought when I’m interrupted again and again. There’s no cure for that.


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