First of all, I’m using Scrivener as my drafting tool. It allows me to have notes at ready hand. I still find myself scribbling references out, but that’s only because I’m an undisciplined son-of-a-gun,
Step 1: It all starts with a concept. The concept for Shattuk Downs was the setting. I wanted to write something of a departure for me… more of a woman-oriented story. I thought of the television Cranford and Lark Rising and decided I’d create a fictional place that was the equivalent of 1800 England. So I started with a setting. You can start with a character or a concept. It doesn’t matter, except I find I have to have some kind of solid trigger to get the creative juices flowing.
Step Two: The next step is to write a treatment. Perhaps not for the entire novel, but it might be a character sketch. Something that is set in world.
Step Three: I found it useful to do a little ‘Snowflake’ action and wrote a book blurb and then a quick plot description of maybe a couple of paragraphs. This exercise provides a direction.
Step Four: I wrote out scene descriptions. This is where the creative juices really start to flow. The descriptions are a sentence to a short paragraph. The characters enter and leave within these descriptions. I write them down in a separate file as they introduce themselves to me. I’m horrible at names, so I need to document them.
Step Four A: At some point, the setting matures and I find that I have to stop writing my scene descriptions and continue to build the world. If your concept is a setting, as mine was, I end up getting a firm grasp of world and then I will write a world description. This is a living document that will change and be added on as I continue to develop scenes. I’ll end up with a Character sheet, a World Building sheet.
Step Four B: Finish out the scene descriptions and let sit.
Step Five: Go over the scene descriptions and see if they still hang together. Modify them as you think necessary. My scenes are all numbered. I talked about some of the scenes with my wife and decided to change a few elements before I began to draft the manuscript.
Step Six: Write, Write, Write. The scene descriptions act as an outline, but they aren’t as rigid as an outline as I write. They are sort of guideposts. I find that I may end up writing scenes out and go down other paths… however I will ulitmately write my way back to the plot line in the scenes. Now characters pop up and key scenes somehow don’t materialize. So the writing aspect isn’t just fleshing out the scenes. It’s where the true fabric of the novel comes to life.
Step Seven: Let it sit. Take it through a grammar/spellcheck. And then let some first readers have it.
Step Eight: Edit, rewrite, edit. Do all of the post-draft things that you have to do to get the novel ready to go including writing book blurbs (with a revised plot) and a cover.
Step Nine: Publish.
I’ve used variations of this method for six novels now (two were NaNoWriMo efforts which I finished in two weeks at 85,000 words and 105,000 words.) It seems to work for me. It’s not quite as rigid as a true outline or even as rigid as a Snowflake, but when I write with a goal in mind, the words seem to flow.
For my current WIP, Her Mother’s Daughter, I had gotten through 25% of my scenes that I had outlined and the writing wasn’t working. I moved on to other projects. When I came back to it, I rewrote my scene descriptions from the point I had the block and then it was relatively smooth sailing after that.
Now this doesn’t mean that the book comes out finished. Already my first readers have caught something that caused me to rethink a character and it changed the rest of the series. That’s a good thing. You need to be flexible with any method that you use. It is a creative exercise, after all.