About six or seven weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Write From the Heart”. Of all of the blogs I’ve ever written, I had the hugest response from that one. So here we go for round TWO! I’m going to get personal about my writing process.
Night before last, I sent my manuscript to my editor for its developmental edit. I’ve completed five drafts in the past year, and I have to be honest—it’s time for another set of eyes to alert me to how it’s reading. Writing is a team-sport: editors, cover-designers, formatters, marketers… need I go on?
Actually, maybe I DO, because this week’s blog is about how I develop a novel—Brook-style. Because, for those of us who love writing, there’s great news: NOBODY does it the exact same way. We authors all develop our own routines that help keep us on track and sane—well IF you can call writers sane!
I tend to approach the writing process methodically. The first thing I use is an outline. There’s some amusing lingo in the writing industry: plotters and pantsers. A pantser flies by the seat of their pants and just writes whatever comes, however it comes, and in whatever manner it comes. I know people who flow this way, and I say GO for it! However, I’m more of a plotter, meaning I outline what I’m working on.
Last summer, I “attended” the virtual conference offered by the Historical Novel Society, of which I’m a member. One of the presenters in a session I attended was author Libby Hawker. She wrote a short, sweet, and humorous book called Take Off Your Pants—all about HOW to plot a book so that every scene has tension and relates to the direction your novel takes. (just click on Libby's book to order it!) It’s a short, easy read, and I finished it in about two days, then went through the process of outlining my novel to the specifications she suggested. And let me tell you, Libby is ON to something here! It made the initial first draft of my work really move along and kept me on track with my plot. I’m not exaggerating when I state that I completed my first draft in less than seven months. Compared to the drafting of my Antonius Trilogy novels, I was working at warp-speed.
This summer, I’ll finish revisions from the developmental edit that I receive back in a few weeks, and then it’ll be time for me to have my copy edit, which will clean everything up, make the work truly presentable, and prepare it to jump through its next big hoop. And the photo on the right is me with my awesome editor, Jenny Q!
THEN what happens?
I’m a big believer in beta-readers: hand-selected people who read over my manuscript with a critical eye. Most of these folks are authors (I even have a NYT best-selling author on board!) or specialists in the historical period/people I’m writing about. Any input they send back to me is scrutinized and weighed against what other beta readers are voicing. And if necessary, I make changes. One thing that makes a great book: LOTS of experienced eyes. And that’s what every author should want—constructively based criticism that influences the final product.
Then comes the fun stuff: querying (if one so chooses), cover-design, formatting, and then sending that final manuscript in for actual publication.
Lots of people ask me, “What’s your favorite part of the process?”
For me, I LOVE the developmental edit. Once I get that manuscript back and there are all sorts of problems for me to solve, historical mistakes, and changes I’ll need to make in character or plot—THAT is what brings out my best stuff, I think. It challenges me and forces me to really make tough decisions. NOTHING in a manuscript is precious. Everything must be subject to change. That’s how great books are written.
Now, you may ask, “What’s your LEAST favorite part of the process?”
For me, it’s a tie between laboring through that first draft until I type those fabulous words: THE END. Or, the formatting, which is pretty much the last thing I have to do. Because of that, when I proofread through my newly formatted draft, I’m always stressed, because this is the last opportunity to catch ANY mistake prior to the work going to print. It puts me on edge, makes me exceptionally grumpy (ask my husband!), and let’s just say, GIVES ME ANXIETY!!!
So that’s it, in a nutshell. My writing process is still developing, so I won’t sit here and state that it’ll never change, because it might. But this is how Brook Allen typically writes at present—the process I use to get the job done and hopefully, bring you a story you find exciting, rewarding, and worth your time and expense.
I’m looking forward to a summer ahead of reading and revisions, so in the meantime, READ ON!