Write Life: Stages of a Novel

So, most people think that all they need to do is just sit in front of their laptop and they will automatically come up with a best seller. EEENNNKKK! WRONG! Oh, how we wish! We’ve all had the delusions of grandeur that never quite pan out. Yet, the ones who make it, the ones who actually realize their dream on the big screen, they stick with it. They pluck away even long after they’ve given up hope, and voila! A new masterpiece.

As one, who has gone through the tantalizingly abhorrent pain of writing a novel, can attest, I have some insight to offer you. Before you go in make sure you understand the different phases of writing (i.e. the different drafts). It will save you a lot of heartache. Trust me.

 

PLANNING (duh!)

You never want to go into a task unprepared. Never. And usually, you already have some ideas swimming about in your head. This is the stage where you begin to write them down. Did you only come up with your MC’s first name? Now is the time to brainstorm a few ideas for the last name as well. Lay out every detail of your character development you can think of. Name, age, ethnicity, background, likes and dislikes.

This is the stage you also come up with the main conflict and the extenuating circumstances. This is the stage where you can also come up with plot twists and driving action. Usually, a visual planning tool can help you in this stage.

My favorite planning method is to make a simple outline. I simply write an outline, chapter by chapter of the main events I want to happen. I find this way of planning to be the most efficient for me because I like flexibility. I’m a bit of a pantser (i.e. fly by the seat of my pants means I make things up as I go along), so therefore, I’ll come up with a new plot point as I’m writing. So my planning method has got to accommodate for that.

 

FIRST DRAFT

Now the fun begins. The first draft is oft the most intimidating because we want everything to be perfect. We are perfectionists and hate the very insinuation that we can make mistakes. But, reality check. We do make mistakes! And that’s ok. Roll with it. Play with it. Have fun with it.

At the end of the day, writing your novel should be a passion project that births forth its joys within your soul. I know I’m waxing poetic here but you get the drift.

Don’t get so hung up and getting everything right the first time.

Don’t agonize over word choice so much that it causes sporadic soul bleeding from you.

The first draft is NOT the time for that. Its coming. But, not the first draft.

PRO TIP:

This is the time to really unleash. Revel in your writing and verb tense be damned. LOL.

TURN OFF SPELL CHECK

I can hear the collective gasps already. LOL. That’s right, you heard me, turn off spell check. Don’t worry about perfection and getting it all right, right now. Just focus on writing your story as freely as you wish. Forget about complete paragraphs, forget about consistency, forget about life, really.

JUST FLOW!

I kid you not, my first manuscript of my current WIP was all of ninety pages. Yup. That’s it. I simply told my story in the basest form possible without all the extra fancy-shmancy-ness. I kid you not, check out a sample below:

 

Then Tyah rolled her eyes and was all like, “nuh uh, oh no she didn’t! I know she wutn’ talkin’ ta me.”

And Khepri was all like, “you the princess and all but, guurrrlll, you my friend first and ain’t nobody got time fa dat, you needs to get it together, honey.

Tyah looked at her like she was gonna rip her head off, how dare she. Then she was all like, “you betta be lucky you my friend, cause you wuz bout to catch these hands.”

 

Don’t hate. LOL The point is to just go with it. In later drafts you’ll see how this was cleaned up. I recommend you take a break from your novel for at least two weeks before continuing onward to the next phase. This gives you time to relax and clear your mind and come back to your work with a fresh perspective.

 

SECOND DRAFT

internal conlict

This is the part where you can begin to refine and improve prose. Go back over your first draft and have a little giggle. Or a little cringe.

DO NOT FIX SPELLING YET!

DO NOT TURN ON SPELL CHECK!

At this phase, I still want you to free form. Still flow and write what comes to you naturally. This is the stage where you begin to build upon your original concepts and tweak them.

Offer better descriptions of people, places and things

Clarify concepts

Tighten up your prose

Expand your dialogue

Tighten up your transitions

Expand upon character motives and introduce subterfuge

On my current WIP, my second draft took me from ninety pages to four hundred and ninety-four pages! And all I was doing was free handing, no care in the world. I just wanted to tell my story the way I wanted to tell it, free from judgement.  Below, find the draft two example of the previous excerpt:

 

Tyah rolled her eyes, “I know you aren’t speaking to me that way.” 

Khepri shrugged, “forgive me Highness, but you need to get it together, honey.”

Tyah looked at her like she was gonna rip her head off, how dare she. “You’re my friend, but you will know your place.”

Then after I had all my writer’s fun, onwards and upwards! Again, I recommend a minimum of two weeks in between drafts.

 

THIRD DRAFT

You love to highlight and underlineNow, after your epic expansion in draft two, you can move on to polishing your work. Now you may TURN ON SPELL CHECK.

I like to wait until the third draft to do this, because after draft two, that’s when I feel like I have sufficient material to agonize over. I’ve had my fun, I’ve told my raw, unfiltered story and now all I have to do is clean it up and make it palatable to others. Once spell check is on, I use it to go through the entire manuscript and fix the required mistakes.

Using spell check is also another way to mentally take notes on the scenes that you will need to cut. Third draft is also about cutting and editing and polishing. Currently, my WIP is down to approximately four hundred pages! By the time third draft is complete, I’ll probably be between three hundred and sixty pages and three hundred and ninety pages. Depending. But, that is a far cry from four hundred and ninety-four!!!

As mentioned before, you’re also polishing your work in draft three. Example of the excerpt:

 

Tyah’s brow arched, her nostrils flaring, “you will bite your tongue.”

Khepri shrugged as she bit into the grape, “gods strike me if I lie.”

Tyah’s eyes flashed, “and what say you of the daughter of Amun, you insult?”

 

Cut and/or combine as many scenes as you need to in order to get the best symmetry and flow for your story. Take a break and then dive into the next phase…

 

DRAFT FOUR

This is where you do your final tweaking. Check for plot holes and inconsistencies. Be sure to keep a keen eye out for subject verb agreement and tense issues. I personally struggle with this so I know exactly how hard it can be. This where you get your book as editor/publisher ready as best as you possibly can.

Solicit your writer friends

Recruit Betas

Get outside opinions and tweak as necessary. Once you are confident in your work, then its time to move on to the final stage. Note: you can stay in this phase as long as necessary to ensure you’re signing off on the best possible version of your book.

Tweak and polish your work into eternity, if you must, but at some point, you will need to step away and call the work complete. If you can’t do that, assign an accountability partner who will literally pry it out of your fingers if you must.

 

Unless it was a passion project, solely, what use is it sitting in a desk, collecting dust? Get it out there for others to enjoy. I know! I know! Its literally like a piece of your soul you’re laying bare for others to see but, its so worth it! Get out there and do it champ!

 

Can you think of anything else I may have left out? Drop me a line below! Let’s get the discussion rolling! Until next time G-Nation! GENESYS OUT!

 

WORD!

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