Friday, January 09, 2009

How to write a novel

Truth is, there's no right and wrong way. All I can tell you is how I write a book.

Before I start, I have in my head the following:
  • A beginning.
  • An end (of both the book and the trilogy - although I have been known to change the latter).
  • A few key scenes in between beginning and end for the book I am writing.
  • The main characters.
  • The place(s) - the world, the magic. This bit is quite detailed in how it works.
  • The driving force(s) of the plot - i.e., why the characters are doing what they are doing.
  • What I don't have is a detailed outline or the sub-plots. I am a very disorganised writer.
During the first draft:
  • I may have a non-detailed synopsis but I don't stick to it all that strictly.
  • I have no idea how many chapters there will be or how long they will be.
  • I write about one third, then go back and reread it and maybe change some stuff.
  • I write another third and then go back and read from the beginning again. And maybe change some stuff. About now I have a good idea of how long the book will be.
  • Write the last third.
The second draft:
  • Time to do the big stuff - reorganise the plot where it doesn't work. Change chapters around if necessary. Redefine characters if they don't work for me. Correct the plot holes I see.
The third draft:
  • Get down to the small stuff, sentence by sentence.
  • Send to beta readers.
The fourth draft:
  • Work on the weaknesses as suggested by beta readers.
The next twenty (that's what it feels like, anyway) drafts:
  • Polish, polish, polish.
The last two books of mine did not work out quite that way. Both of them just wouldn't come together properly for a long, long while. I could feel there was something fundamental "off" and it took my beta readers to put their fingers on what was wrong, which necessitated quite a big rewrite at the fourth draft stage.

I am hoping that does not happen this time. At the moment, more than 40% through the second draft, I have not got that sinking feeling that there is something "off". So far, it feels good. Fingers crossed it stays that way as I read on...

People ask me how many revisions I do - honestly, I dunno. Some parts that don't work well have too many rewrites to count. Other scenes hardly change at all from the moment I wrote them.

One thing I can tell you - for me, writing is not easy. Nor quick. And everybody is different.


Jo said...

It may not be easy or quick but once we get to see it, it is certainly GOOD.

Satima Flavell said...

I'll second that:-)

Anonymous said...

And I'll third it! ;)

Glenda Larke said...

Thank you...*blush*