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As for every novelist, my writing process is deeply personal and in my case, it has become somewhat traditional because I write everything by hand first. Yet, my entire process is peppered with strategies and resources that help me once the first draft is on paper. In this article I want to share with you the resources I use.

Outlining with ‘Save the Cat’ & Scrivener

Before I get started on the actual writing, I’ll do a pretty detailed outline, for which I use three different writing resources:

  1. The Scrivener Software I’ll use this to build the skeleton of the novel with the Save the cat Structure (see below). The great thing about Scrivener is that you can make folders for your book’s chapters. Usually, when I start a story, I’ll already have pieces of dialogue in my head which I “dump” in a chapter folder so that I don’t forget them. Click here to check it out.
  2. The “Save the Cat Structure Book. This book by Blake Snyder offers a beat sheet that’s invaluable for plotting stories, ensuring they hit all the emotional and narrative beats that resonate with readers. It’s a resource I highly recommend for writers looking to refine their understanding of story structure.
  3. The Website ‘Helping Writers become Authors”. Created and run by K.M. Weiland, this treasure trove of writing advice offers articles, podcasts, and books that cover every aspect of storytelling, from structure and plot to character arcs and theme. Weiland’s approach to dissecting the anatomy of a story has profoundly influenced how I understand the intricacies of writing. Her insights into classic story structure and character development have been especially helpful, offering clear, actionable advice that I’ve been able to apply directly to my work.

My Hand-Writing Approach

My first drafts are always hand-written. There’s something about the physical act of writing that connects me more deeply with my story, allowing the words to flow more naturally and not get distracted by a) the internet or b) what I call “pretty writing”. Writing on the laptop, I can get caught up in finding the perfect word and spending hours crafting the perfect sentence. However, when I hand-write, that does not happen. You might think it’s a slower process, but it really isn’t because you’re cutting out all the distractions. Plus, I find it fosters creativity and keeps me engaged with my work on a different level. During this stage, I don’t let research interrupt my flow. Instead, I use [brackets] to mark spots where details need to be fleshed out or verified which I’ll do later.

On average, I will hand-write one chapter a day (but note that I don’t write every day) and then I use the software “Otter.ai” or even just the notes app on my phone to dictate what I’ve written. This dictated text will usually have quite a few spelling mistakes in them but that’s a good thing, as this is what will trick me into polishing the chapter and adding the empty spaces I’ve left in [brackets] before. By the end of the day, I’ll end up with a pretty polished chapter.

It typically takes me about a month to complete a 60-80,000 word first draft. I will let this one rest for at least two weeks and then go back in with a fresh mind to edit and rewrite. Once the second draft is done, I’ll send it over to my editor who will then do a content edit which will take her about 2 weeks. Once that’s done, she’ll give it back to me and I’ll need between 4-6 weeks to rewrite and implement her suggestions. Following the content edit is the copy edit which will look at language and grammar. Lastly, a third person will do the proofreading with a fresh pair of eyes.

Essential Craft Books

Over the years, I’ve found several craft books to be indispensable in refining my writing. Here are some that stand out:

  1. The Emotion Thesaurus: A fantastic guide for understanding and conveying emotions through writing.
  2. Intuitive Editing: This book offers insights into self-editing that can transform your manuscript.
  3. Stephen King: On Writing: A blend of memoir and master class, King’s advice is both practical and inspirational.
  4. Deep Work: Cal Newport’s book has taught me the value of focused work sessions, immensely beneficial for writing.
  5. Romancing the Beat: For romance writers, this book breaks down the formula for successful romance storytelling.
  6. Story Genius: A guide to developing a compelling narrative that keeps readers engaged from start to finish.
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction: This book delves into how to write emotionally impactful fiction that resonates with readers.

And lastly, a classic for anyone struggling with doubt when it comes to the writing profession in the first place: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron belongs on every writer’s bookshelf.

Navigating Self-Publishing

For me, the journey doesn’t end with the final manuscript. Self-publishing is a viable route that offers control and flexibility, but it comes with its own set of challenges. For those interested in this path, I recommend the following resources:

  • Joanna Penn’s Podcast: An invaluable resource for any self-publishing author, offering tips on writing, publishing, and marketing.
  • Mark Dawson: His insights into the business side of self-publishing, especially advertising and marketing, are crucial for authors.
  • Jericho Writers: Offers a wealth of information on all aspects of writing and publishing, providing support for authors at any stage of their journey.
  • For Software I use to self-publish, check out Vellum and Bookfunnel.

Each of these resources has contributed to my development as a writer, offering different perspectives and insights that have shaped my process and my stories. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refine your craft, I hope these resources will be as valuable to you as they have been to me.

I hope this helps, friends! Drop me a comment if you have more questions 🙂