Raising an Idea from Infancy

Turning an idea into a book is quite a process.

I’ve had plenty of ideas that can’t make the cut. Some are ill-formed, others merely incomplete. I don’t actually make any claims that I’m a font of good ideas. Three of my four fiction works are set in the same ficton (fictional universe). When you’re writing in an established universe it’s easier to turn an idea fragment into a story. And my other fiction project is based on a true story. Yes, I invented quite a lot in it, but as far as the story went, it was all plotted out for me.

Because of all that, I don’t think I’ll delve into the “idea” portion of tonight’s program any further.

Once you have an idea, you have to have a plot. And once you have a plot you have to make it make sense. For instance, you have to figure out what the character’s motivation are. It’s all well and good to say you want the PTA to be the villains, but making it work is something else.

After I figure all that out, it’s time for the first draft. This is actually one of the faster parts for me. When I write a draft, I devote a few hours a day, every day (well, maybe one day off every two weeks…) until the sucker is done. For all that it passes so quickly (about 5 weeks for me), I find writing the first draft the most fun part of the process.

Cuz after that, it’s time to edit, and I have to figure out how to fix sentences like “I find writing the first draft to be the most fun part of the process”. That’s just awkward.

The thing that drives me crazy about editing is how I miss errors over and over again. They’re like Pokeman, you gotta catch ’em all! So I have a process.

After I finish my first draft, I read through the work fairly quickly and ignore all but the most egregious of errors. Then I typically set it aside for a couple of weeks. When I go back, I read through it again, more slowly, and try to catch the worst of the spelling/grammar/punctuation errors and I start to think about bigger changes. I generally do this twice.

Then it’s time to get to the real meat of things. Let me give you an example:

At the moment I’m editing a book that has a fairly glaring flow problem. My characters set out on a short journey which is followed by a much longer journey. For some unknown reason, I put all the descriptions of life on the trail in the second journey. That doesn’t make any sense! Even if my readers were curious about such things they would probably give up wondering before I got around to explaining. And then they’d be bored when they got to the explanations, because they would have either guessed correctly or come up with their own ideas they are perfectly happy with. I’m going to have to rearrange all that. It won’t be hard, but might be a pain.

If I’ve made major changes, I read the work through again.

Then I print it out and read it on paper. Changing formats can do wonders for your perspicacity. (Did I really just use that word?)

The next step is reading it out loud. My daughters have been very helpful with this! I’m not going to read Help Wanted to them, though. In fact, I may have to read it aloud to myself. Behind closed doors. It’s too icky for story-time.

After I get in all the corrections I find from reading aloud, I generally feel ready to ask for proof-readers. Everybody is so busy these days that I might eventually have to actually pay someone to do this, but so far I’ve been lucky enough to find people with experience and time.

I incorporate my reader’s changes into the work, and then I read it again.

Then I format it for my kindle and read it again again.

At that point, I set it aside and work on something else. In all probability I’ve been working on other things the whole time (except for draft writing. No editing then). With any luck, when I come back to it my eyes will be fresh enough to catch that extraneous comma that I missed the first dozen times I read the freakin’ thing.

And I’m not even going to go into the publishing and marketing stuff here. This post is long enough already! It probably deserves its own post, because for the most part the creative process is over. Oh, you might have to get creative here and there, but it’s a totally different skill set. Personally I’d love it if I could just press a magic button when I’ve finished my part and presto-chango my writing turns into a published work. But I’ve wished that before, and it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Feel free to poke around the site to see what all I’m working on. Thanks for reading!

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