Like other authors, I’m often asked about my writing process, what my writing day consists of and where I get my ideas. Well, this is how it works for me. I usually do my best writing first thing in the morning so I get up at 7am or earlier, especially in summer, and I’m at my computer by 8am. I check my overnight emails, Facebook and a few other things, grab a cup of coffee and sit down at my desk and work on my book until about 1 pm, when I stop for lunch. I’ll return to my computer for an afternoon session, but I get up often to take little breaks, like housekeeping and a thousand other little jobs. When writing the draft I average around anything up to about 3,000 words a day. Sometimes I’ll struggle to write one thousand, but have been known to write 6 thousand on a really good day. With my secretarial and office studies teaching experience, I’ve become quite fast on the keyboard and can type in around 120 words a minute, which is about as fast as you can talk.
There is no specific place I find my ideas. Mostly, they find me, especially when I’m quiet, or mulling over the next chapter, and not necessarily while sitting in front of the computer. I’ve had to stop while brushing my teeth on occasion to jot down notes. I find listening to music stimulates the free flow of thoughts and images inside my head. I have a big window in my office and double glass doors beside my desk that look out into a forest backyard, which is very conducive to writing. I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by family members who love to read and write. Both my daughters are writers too, and our conversations are always inspiring.
There’s also nothing like a good walk to get the creative juices flowing in the brain. I live on a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley and coastline in the distance with a multitude of forest and creek walks. I find walking works brilliantly to generate ideas, especially if I’m with someone I can bounce my ideas off, someone like my husband, for instance, or my puppy Pixie (a six-month old Pomeranian x Chihuahua) when she’s not chasing birds, turkeys, lizards and other wildlife into bushes, up trees, inside hollow logs (logs with something dangerous inside) or eating flowers and rat pooh, or doing her business in the middle of someone’s driveway.
I always work from a plan, starting with Character Studies on each of the main protagonists, with only slightly briefer profiles on the other sub-characters. After these I will flesh out the plot, work on setting details, do some research on where, when and why. The why’s are very important – why this setting? Why at this time or place? Why is she doing this, or not doing that? What happened in her childhood to make her react the way she does in my book? Why does this or that event happen, and why is it important to the story? I then work on the Chapter Breakdowns. These can be as short or as long as you like, depending on how much imagery has come to mind by this stage, and they can and should include dialogue, like the conversations that have occurred in my head between characters. I’ll work on the chapter breakdowns for at least a week, or however long it takes to get the storyline and timeline right. The entire researching and developing characters and plot from beginning to end, can take a few weeks to a couple of months. It’s not good to rush this part. In my experience, the more thought I put into the planning stage, the less likely you are to have problems later when you’re writing the first draft. With good planning you’ll know where the books is going, you’ll have developed the conflicts and the fears your characters will experience, and you won’t end up at a dead end and not know how to keep going.
When I’m reasonably sure my planning is enough, it’s then time to take the plunge and start the first draft. I usually have a clear idea of what I want in the all-important first chapter. Sometimes it’s a sentence that’s been circling in my thoughts since the beginning, or a scene between my main characters I’ve had a clear image of for weeks. My books are character driven and I spend a lot of time giving them in-depth profiles. I’ll work on the first draft until it’s finished, re-reading the work from the previous day first thing the next morning, cleaning it up a bit. But mostly I leave polishing until the first draft is out of my head. No one gets to read the first draft, which gives me the freedom to write whatever feels right. This draft can take about eight weeks to write. I always exceed my final word count by thousands. I could end up deleting two hundred pages, but at least by then I have a thorough understanding of my characters, who they are, why they do what they do, and most importantly, where the story should actually begin and end.
After the first draft is complete I will go through it and select specific areas that need further research to make the settings, themes and plot lines sound authentic. The small details are important to get right. Then I’ll go back to the draft and rework it over and over until I’m ready to pass it on to my first readers, which are generally my three children, Amanda and Danielle and Chris, who are not “children” anymore but range in ages from 28 to 32. They give me their honest feedback knowing that false praise is useless to me at this stage. (I’ll take it in bucketful’s later, once the books is published!) Their feedback has become invaluable to my writing. The writing process for me from the very beginning to the day I send it to my agents takes about 12 months.
Self-discipline is a huge factor in the writing of any novel because for the most part we writers work alone and naturally crave contact with the outside world, so, a few phone calls, a quick visit to the store, or lunch with friends, taking in an afternoon movie, gardening, catching up with friends online, or… the list of distractions is endless and can take up a major part of a working week. It’s a good idea to keep track of how much time you’re not spending on your novel and decide if you’re serious about your work. My main distractions are phone calls, and I need to make sure I’m not spending too much time on pointless chatter (though sometimes that can be nice!) My calls are usually to family members and close friends, and honestly, these are vital to me. I live in a different state to one of my daughters, my sister, my two brothers and all my nieces and nephews and don’t see them regularly. Did I say regularly, or ever? So anyway, I wouldn’t be without my phone calls, I just need to watch the length of time I might spend on them. And if you find yourself writing full-time, it’s something to keep in mind.
And there you have it. Well, I’m sure there’s a lot more I could say but will save it for another time. How I write may not necessarily work for you, I can only tell you what works for me and wish you all the best. Feel free to write to me if you have a question on writing, on any of my books, or just want to let me know your thoughts and how your writing project is going. And I’ll try to motivate you and help you achieve your dreams of becoming a published writer.