There are many ways to write a book. Some people prefer to start from the beginning, others the end. Some people like to start at the peak of the action, others prefer to get the nitty-gritty details out of the way. Whether you rush out a rough first draft to slowly edit it or attempt your best to methodically pace yourself, there is no right or wrong way to write a novel. You just have to write – all writers know this is easier said than done.
However, I have a thing for analogies. So much, in fact, that I’ve crafted my process of writing into a simple one: that of the human body. I break my writing process into four main stages.
The Skeleton Stage
This is where I start. It’s the foundations of the novel itself. This is where I just write without thinking. I don’t focus too hard on the quality of the dialogue or the prose or the word count. I just simply write fast, to get the story out into it’s physical form. I need something to work with, something to build layers upon and the skeleton phase does that. From here I can edit, add and delete things, but without the basic form of the action set, I can’t begin to focus on the writing and storytelling itself.
By the end of this phase, my manuscript should be half to three-quarters of the desired word length. I usually stash the manuscript away for at least a month, possibly more, to see it again with fresh eyes for the next stage.
The Muscle Stage
This is where I start paying attention to the dialogue and prose. I take more care at this stage than the previous one, going over the rough manuscript I created in the skeleton phase. I extrapolate on areas that I rushed through before, making my writing denser and less rushed. I delete unnecessary, distracting waffle.
This stage too is one for research. I make sure a real story is being told, eliminating as many factual flaws as I can. I do a lot of reading, get as many influences as I can, and add them to my own work. This stage is a painfully slow one, that takes many read-throughs and full edits.
However, it still doesn’t have to be perfect. This stage is more about adding volume and sense than finishing with a publishable manuscript. This brings us to the next stage.
The Brain Stage
So, this stage is where you put on your thinking cap and focus on the action. Again, you let the manuscript mature for a few weeks, for your mind to refresh. The first thing you do is read it like a normal novel, without editing anything and trying to be as objective as you possibly can. Do this as many times as you think is necessary.
This phase is one of contemplation. Is this the story that I want to tell? Is this the brain-child that I worked so desperately for? Does all the action tie in well together? If there are other books following this one, does this novel lead well to them? If not, this is the time to revamp and re-structure and revisit the Muscle Stage.
After you’re happy, yes you guessed it, you let it sit in a dark desk drawer to rot.
The Skin Stage
And now the final stage. The Skin Stage. This is where you make the manuscript pretty. You focus on every minute detail, making it as flawless as you can, making sure you have no typos and no grammatical errors. Make sure you’ve followed the guidelines set out by the publishing houses you’re sending your work too. Any ignorant mistake in your manuscript will do you no favours.
In this stage, it’s a good idea to get a critical eye to review it. Not a friend, or family member, but a professional outsider that has no qualms popping your writing ego bubble. This stage is basically, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.
And wholla! By the end of this process, you’ve delivered a well-thought and sound manuscript.
Do you do something similar? Why not share your writing tips below?