Since I began to write professionally way back in 2014, I have encountered some truly phenomenal independent authors. Along the way, I had the good sense to pin back my luggies and listen, to benefit from their wealth of experience and indeed, experiences of the indie world.
I know brilliant writers who create stories in sections, those who have maps, props and even robotic voiceover machines to narrate their work to them, so that they get a feel for the feel, as it were, of their creation. I have none of these, nor, it seems have I needed them thus far. Instead, the tools of my writing process are quite simply a notepad, pen or pencil, a little time and a whole lot of daydreaming.
If I try to focus on a story, try to hash it out beginning to end I’d produce x amount of words of indecipherable rubbish. No, it doesn’t happen like that with me. There is a process which usually entails unloading a massive amount of junk into my word doc. From there, it is more a case of precision sifting than actually writing. I’ll be happy with some of what I’ve first etched, disgusted by some more. My process is filtering out what I think cuts the grade, and what I think falls below par.
First off, I’ll write a story beginning to end. I know there are programs that allow the writer to create individual personalities of each character away from the story, to be added later, along with scenes and the like. That boggles me. I need to be able to see the complete story unfurl as I write, only then will it take over and tell me where it wants to go, which isn’t always where I first anticipated.
Once I have the clutter of junk out of my head and onto my document, then I can begin the real writing process. I’ll enhance, cut, chop, expand upon and rewrite line after line, a process I do at least twice through the entire manuscript. Sure, I cheat a little in that my page sizes are set to print size, my drafts are numbered and I use the correct headings menu in word as I write – even the rough draft. In a way, I’ve EVOLVED – much the same as my writing has since I wrote Salby Damned, or I’d like to think it has. As I began Salby Evolution back in February, there were many times trucking in the night when a line, a thought, or an entire scene popped into my head, really quite randomly. I spent many hours tipping cages full of food, acting like Simon Lloyd, experiencing the weight of the world on his shoulders and seeing the world through his eyes.
I believe that if you’re going to write, to convey something to a reader, then you shouldn’t take a picture of what you want them to see and present it to them. Instead, begin with a blank canvas, sketch, colour, paint, and shadow your work to INVOKE what you want them to see. If you can do that, you’ll write in any genre with some success.
So I’ve got my story written, I’ve tweaked it here and there and back again. The next thing I do is read the whole document out loud. If you have a voice recorder, use it. Play it back to yourself and listen for the natural breaths. That’ll tell you where most of your commas should be, and stray ones should not. As a secondary, download Grammarly from www.grammarly.com It’s a free program, but be aware that it doesn’t recognise all local variations or tone, so it’s worth looking at what it suggests and again, reading out loud before and after to be sure it makes sense. When I’ve run my manuscript through Grammarly, I run it through word spell-checker, removing excess double spaces and the like.
That’s edit stage one. Next, I’ll make a note of each chapter, pick one at random and edit the bejeesus out of it, removing superfluous words, lines and anything that I think doesn’t need to be there. You’d be surprised how much junk a story can accumulate, a little like my spare room. In the process I’ll take the time to enhance or re-word lines that come across as clunky or too basic, depending on the mood/scene in the story at the time. I spend my days listening out for great lines, conjuring them up. I repeat the same process for each and every chapter until I’ve a tick next to each one. Then I’ll read the whole thing out loud again. Even now, I can see the difference from the first draft, a rhythm and flow begins to trickle, yet still more polishing can be done before it goes to the editor. I look at my characters then, giving and taking little bits here and there to bring them into 3D rather than tiled, a little shading, emotion and conscience.
When I’m happy, I’ll spend hours touching up until I’ve nothing left to give, and I mean nothing. I’ll look at the manuscript before me and in my heart, I know I’ve reached my end. Then it’ll go to an editor and Beta readers for their views. Use your Beta’s. They’ll pick up things you missed. Take heed of their remarks, however cutting you might think them. Act on them. You think you’re done, but you can do better yet.
I’m lucky to belong to a fantastic group called the IASD – Indie Author Support and Discussion, which does exaclty what it says on the tin. It is a place where I can go for help if I get stuck, bamboozled by a renegade character, or just need inspiration to keep going, as we all do sometimes. My advice, if it’s worth a dime… go find yourself a good support group. Listen to them, use and learn from their experience to become a better writer yourself.
I’m two novels and an anthology into a new writing career, that makes me wet behind the ears still, of that, I’m fully aware. But I’ve graduated since I began, come a long way from where I was. I’m surfing the learning curve and I have to say, it is one hell of a satisfying ride.