So last week we went quickly through the nitty-gritty of all the different things that make up my complete outline and how I go about filling them out. Now we’re going to end the writing process with how I bring it all together. Actually writing a book is a marathon, it takes endurance, patience, and a willingness to accept when things are not working and scrap parts of the project. One the great Stephen King says in his book On Writing, is that you have to “Kill your darlings.” and he’s absolutely right. As a writer we tend to get very attached to what we have written, even if its bad.
So we have our notes, our outline, paper, pens, laptop, and of course our coffee. Where do we begin? Well first I like to star by reading over everything I’ve written thus far. This includes all the character notes, the outline, timeline, and any scenes I have written. Then I organize it in a way I’m sure makes only sense to me. After a few mental check lists and probably another cup of coffee, I write. I try and stick to a beginning to end way of writing. Starting from chapter one, I glance over any notes or scenes I have for chapter one, double-check my outline to see what all I want to include in the chapter and I write with those ideas firmly in my mind. I would love to say that I always follow the outline and notes to the end, but I don’t. As early as the second page the story and the characters start to dictate where the writing is going. Its great fun, if a little weird. Yes, I normally cover all I want to cover in the outline, but so much more starts to emerge. That human element that makes you feel as though its alive.
I continue in this way every day. Doing my best to cover at least one chapter. When I get writers block ( and I do get writers block.) I simply move on to a different part of the story and then return to where I was the next day. This does cause a few problems with consistency, but its nothing that cannot be smoothed out in the editing process. Sometimes I do need to step back from a project though. As was the case with Black Thorn. I was going through a lot at the time, my job was changing, I was moving away from my home state, and I was training in a state that was a five-hour flight away from my wife and kids. The training lasted a little over a month (six weeks if I remember right.) and so for about four or five months I didn’t work on Black Thorn at all. However when I got settled in Utah writing became my escape from depression and the words flowed like water and I was able to finish the first draft in less than a month. I’m not saying that in order to write a book you need to be wallowing in depression, on the contrary I believe we do our best work when we’re happy. It’s just how it happened for me that’s all.
Once the first draft is complete I set it aside for about a month. Give myself time to cool down and think about other things. After my month has passed I read the first draft. I pour myself a cup of coffee, grab a legal pad and pen, and read the book in one sitting if I can. Marking the page numbers on the legal pad of things I need to revisit after I finish. I also send out a couple of copies to friends and family that act as beta readers and ask for their input, but not before I have had time to look over the story myself.