Seriously, people ask me this question all the time. For many individuals, sitting down to write a five page paper seems like an incredible task, so sitting down to write a novel is near impossible. But, for those people who live and breath for writing like I do, all you need is a plan.
Every writer's been there - you sit in front of the computer, sweat dripping down your forehead, moist spots gathering in the palm of your hands, your heartbeat racing, and it's all because of the dreaded blank page. Sometimes, I will just write gibberish for fifteen minutes to fill up the white space and beat that anxiety, but really, there are three steps I follow when writing: 1) Brainstorming 2) Outlining 3) Keeping Creative.
First, before you name your characters or even write a word, you need to brainstorm and create a coherent storyline. I knew I wanted 'Midnight Fire' to be a four book series before I even started outlining the first book. I knew the general plot line each novel would have, the character arcs I would pursue and some shocking moments to include. But, this didn't happen overnight. As soon as the first idea for 'Ignite' came to me, I started thinking about the entire series constantly - while eating, showering, walking around, and I even had a few dreams about the plot lines. The best part about brainstorming is you can think of any event, no matter how crazy, because brainstorming is pure creativity. You should literally think of every possible scenario your characters may experience, think about how they would respond and forget about whether it is a practical scene to be included in a book.
Outlining is hugely important because it's when you take the outrageous brainstorming and start to form it into a cohesive storyline. As a writer, even in paranormal fiction, the hardest thing to identify is what is realistic, within the natural world or a world created in your story. There is always a line that can be passed, pushing a book into a realm that is too unbelievable to read, and outlining will help you decide which crazy brainstorming ideas are just too crazy to be included. Before I started writing 'Ignite,' I wrote a chapter by chapter outline, and then wrote briefer outlines about the next three books. This technique also helps build plot lines that span a series, so you can hint at them briefly in the first book and use foreshadowing. The best books have drawn out and well thought out plot lines. Just think of Harry Potter - the very first scene in the very first book, the chapter titled 'The Boy Who Lived,' gave you clues to the last scenes in the last book. That is seriously foreshadowing at it's best, and J.K. Rowling does this extremely well throughout the entire series.
3) Keeping Creative.
This may sound strange, but its incredibly important to keep brainstorming while you write and to change the outline as you go, because if you are a writer, you are creative by nature and will always be adapting your work. When I wrote 'Ignite' I added new characters and story lines as I went, because I started getting so engrossed in the world of my characters, that more and more ideas started coming to me as I wrote and got to know the world better. You always need to be open to adapting your outline and continually updating it, because your best ideas might happen in the heat of the moment. In fact, in 'Simmer,' I adding a serious twist with Luke that I hadn't come up with until the last few chapters of 'Ignite.' But, as I outline 'Simmer' now, I realized that this book needed the extra Luke-centered drama (I won't give it away, but you'll never guess it!). The worst thing I can imagine is writing chapters you don't fully believe in, so if something you had in the original outline doesn't fit the direction your story has taken, just remove it and adjust it to fit the new story.
So there you go, my writing process - brainstorm crazy ideas, narrow them down into thought-out scenes, then keep adjusting everything as your creativity takes over. Oh, and don't forget the best part, editing! I know, every writers worst nightmare, but grammar is essential and editing is the most important thing. Once I finish a chapter, I will put my manuscript away for a few days, and then take it out and reread the chapter twice before continuing to write. If you keep editing as you write, the task of line editing the completed novel is much less daunting.
I hope this helps some aspiring writers, or at least gives you an eye into my process. I'd love to know how other writers go about creating their works - please comment!