“What is your writing process?”
That’s one of the most common questions authors receive, especially from other writers. Many seasoned authors have their process down, and some strongly believe their way is the best way. I’m here to share my process and tell you how they’re wrong.
True, their way might be best for them, but that doesn’t mean it is for everyone. Because I’ll tell you a secret… there isn’t a single correct way to write. I’m not talking about grammar or anything like that; I’m talking about the process of taking an idea and creating a story. There are countless ways to write a book.
“I tried starting from the beginning because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. However, after three chapters, I was completely stuck.”
Let’s start with a couple terms often used in the writing community: plotter and pantser. A plotter is someone who, you guessed it, plots out their story or series. A pantser is someone who just starts writing without a set plan.
But here’s the thing, it’s not completely one way or another. There are varying degrees and combinations of each. For example, one plotter might be extremely organized, planning out every scene and detail, building up the world and developing the characters before they ever write the first chapter. Another plotter might create a chapter-by-chapter outline, character list, and take notes about the world as they go.
I’m more of the latter, but it depends on the book and genre. For my contemporary romances, it’s a lot more pantsing. I still create a chapter-by-chapter outline, but it isn’t super detailed or set in stone. As I write and learn more about the story and characters, it often changes. Whereas my fantasy outlines are a little more concrete because I write series, and changing one book affects the rest.
“For me, creating that outline helps the most. It allows me to see the bigger picture and have an end goal in mind.”
There are some who follow templates, like the three-act structure. There are others who just go for it and hope for the best. Some write in order, beginning to end, and some jump around.
While writing The Lost Legends, I jumped around a lot. The story idea came from a dream, and the part most inspired by said dream is about three-quarters into the book. I tried starting from the beginning because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. However, after three chapters, I was completely stuck.
At that point, I had no idea what to do or how to move on. So, I took a metaphorical step back and started a chapter-by-chapter outline. Once I had the outline in place, I was able to see the story as a whole, and then I could jump to the part I was most excited to write. I started at that spot from the dream and wrote the entire end of the book, 30,000 words in one week, because I was so inspired that I just kept going (at the time, the story was only one point of view—a topic for another day).
For some of my other books, it is more necessary to write in order because I don't fully know the story yet. But for me, creating that outline helps the most. It allows me to see the bigger picture and have an end goal in mind. I can change it as needed; it’s more of a guide. It helps me avoid writer's block because if I am not feeling a certain scene, I can skip it for the time being and write something I'm more inspired to focus on.
But the thing is, many authors I have talked to about this have said that they could never do it that way. A couple have even tried to convince me not to do it that way. They have told me that it leads to more issues down the line and that it can make things more difficult when trying to revise.
However, storytelling is more instinctual for me than a practiced skill. My interest in writing came from my love of reading, and I’m still fairly new to it. In general, I know the story I want to write. The details might change, but I typically know the end of the book at the very least. I know what the major twists and plot points are; it's just a matter of getting it on paper.
So, don't let anyone tell you that how you write is wrong. Don't let them tell you that there is a correct process to write a book. Because there's not.
Do listen to other authors perspectives and processes if looking for ways to change your own. After all, experimenting a little might help you find the best process for you.