We all have different systems for writing our stories. Some like to plan everything out, make charts and story boards. Others write copious notes and character biographies, graphs and guides. Some just start scribbling away and see where their words lead them.
The way we set about our writing is personal preference. If, at the end of the day (or many day’s) we end up with a completed work that we are satisfied with, then all is good.
But some parts, some of the stages of writing are I suggest, common to all. These are; the re-writing of the first draft, the re-writing of the second draft. Editing, beta reading, more editing, proofreading, another re-write, more editing and so on.
This will eventually lead to a finished work which we are happy with, (mostly), except for one or two minor alterations…and a little more editing!
The final polished work, which you are now totally and completely satisfied with (?), will now be ready for publishing.
Your amazing work will then sell like proverbial hotcakes; be turned into a TV series, a Hollywood blockbuster movie and a West End play, which will run for at least thirty-five years.
You will become, a multi-millionaire, live on a yacht when you are not staying at one of your several million dollar mansions, which are scattered around the world in the most exotic locations and have a Lear jet to flit from one place to the other.
Your life will be good.
Yeah okay, I got carried away, so maybe not that last bit, at least not yet!
Back in the real world…
The reason I know that we all have differing ways of going about the construction of our novels is a simple one, I have spoken to many of you, read your posts, articles and followed the threads of a thousand and one conversations.
In general, the stages are common, the concepts are common; it is the application, the mechanics which vary.
It was to address this issue that I decided to write this post. But then it became clear, that to include the many minutiae of variances was an impossible task, unless I was to write an entire thesis. Not something I had intended or actually wish to do, at least not now!
So what I have decided is to give a sketch of how I build my own stories, of how I take an idea, a concept and turn it into a book or a novel.
As with many of my posts I am staying away, as much as possible, from any technical jargon, because I think that will help the novices and uninitiated to comprehend my concepts and explanations better.
So here goes!…
Using the analogy of a human body!
My initial concept is rather like a jumble of bones. I can easily identify a tibia, the radius and, of course the skull. But the others are mixed in with bones from other species. In this case notes, rough drafts and such that belong to other stories.
The first job I have to undertake (see what I did there!?) is to lay out the bones in an order which loosely resembles a skeleton. The second job is to sift through the remains (at it again!?) and start connecting the larger bones with the smaller ones.
At this stage my bones…read story line…is looking basically as intended. The final pieces of the skeleton, all those niggly wrist bones, the teeny-weeny ear bones can be slotted into place. Standing back, (reading through a day or two later) I can judge how well my efforts have been and make any adjustments needed.
The next step is to double check that the arm is in the position I want it; the legs are angled just so. After all I don’t want my skeleton just hanging around like those from the biology lab. I want mine to pose, to attract and captivate the onlooker. Once I have all the sections (Chapters) in the order I wish, I can the start to put some meat and flesh onto those bones.
This is where I start over again.
Carefully layering, word by word the ‘flesh’ onto the bare bones. Taking my time back and forth over each section of the skeleton ensuring that the thickness of the ‘meat’ is correct in relation to the basic underlying structure. For instance, nobody has a fat forehead!
In the same way I do not want to pad out the first sentence or paragraph of my book with a ton of unnecessary bumf. I want my readers to instantly recognise what kind of person this is… (read- what style of book).
I also want my creation to be attractive to that reader. If they like romance then my words must convey that, if it is tension as in a thriller, that must be portrayed too. All this must be accomplished within the first few lines, or at least the first few paragraphs. In this analogy it must be love at first sight.
As I, or you the writer, progresses down the body the same process must take place, adding just the right proportion of flesh to the various areas of you skeleton. By the time you reach its little pinky you should have a basic, rather stout figure laying out before you.
That is the end of that stage, but just the beginning of making your Frankenstein a wholesome human being, or you book into a readable tome.
At this point it is worth standing back once more and regarding the whole. Have a family member or a couple of your close friends inspect your handiwork. Listen to their comments and suggestions. Often two or more pairs of eyes are better than just your own, especially as you will be wearing those rose tinted spectacles.
The next step is to become a cross between Ed Gein (see Texas Chainsaw
Massacre) and Michael Angelo. Your job is to carefully sculpt each and every inch of your work. Ruthlessly cut away all the unnecessary, useless, divergent, misleading crap. In fact, everything that is not in harmony with the premise of the story should go.
But don’t throw it away. Keep it filed for another book, a short story or that twist which will let you escape from the dead-end you will write yourself into at some point.
What you have left will be a mean, lean, fighting machine…or not!
Once again work on the sections and chapters of your book, make certain all the joints connections and move smoothly. That the transitions work. This may mean adding some more flesh, but this time ensure it is lean meat and not fat, unless you need that little extra padding. But be cautious.
Time now to stand back again. Sleep and eat properly and regularly for a day or two. Then review your work.
Happy…No? Then go back and polish it some more.
Happy…Yes? Good. Now it is time to beautify your creature, lay on the outer skin.
This is yet another review, edit if you wish. Tidy up anything and everything which is not sleek and smooth. Dot your i’s and cross the t’s. Change ‘that’ to ‘which’ colons or commas to semi-colons, past tense to present. This is like eliminating the moles and birthmarks.
Next stage. The test run, test drive. Time for your beta readers to see and feel what you have made. What tasks you have set, or asked your beta readers to do, will affect the feedback you get.
One thing is almost certain. Each beta reader will have poked, prodded, sniffed, licked, and tasted your creation. It will have been tossed about and pulled apart. So you will have to go back and patch it up. All those imperfections that you will…note I say ‘will’…have missed before need correcting.
One good thing is, at this stage of the process is that you can now add the final flourishes. The hair gel and the make-up. Dress your work in fine clothing, titivate it. Get your creation ready for the cat-walk, the promenade. The editor.
You see a good editor wants to look at your work with a critical eye. They are the sage, the modern day Maharishi. With blue and red pens, they (the editors) will clutter the margins with various annotations that require your attention. Oh glory be!
Now you can start from the top, once more, working your way down, through each layer of flesh, each rise and fall, curve and dimple until eventually and exhaustedly you reach that little pinky toe on which you have etched those wonderful words….
But as you well know that is not the end, because your editor, or another should take at least one more run through…. just in case!
Only after this should you even consider letting your monster out of your laboratory.
I feel I must say, especially those new to writing and who have read this far! That doing everything above only means that you have finished your manuscript.
I have not touched on the subjects of pagination, typesetting, design, book covers, illustrations, blurb, publishing, marketing, promotion, or anything else at all. I have only briefly covered the very simple bit, the writing of a story for a book.
While I have you attention why not pop over and take a wander around my website?