One question I’ve been asked repeatedly is how do I write the book? Not necessarily how I came up with the idea, but the actual mechanics of writing the novel. People look at the sheer length of the book and just shake their heads. I can’t say I blame them. My books are my children and sometimes even I look at them and wonder how I made them. I didn’t have nearly as much fun making them as you did your children, I can tell you that. But my kids are probably more well-behaved and give me a lot less problems 😉.
The best thing I can say is that I actually used what I was taught in school. Yes kids, the stuff you learn in that boring English class might actually be of some use later in life. I pre-plan all my work, including the use of Venn diagrams, outlines, and such. First, I start with the theme of the book. What do I want this book to say? What do I want the characters, and by extension, the readers, to learn by the end?
Once I come up with that, I create the characters. I start with the main characters. That means, I start with the protagonists and antagonists. For The Witch’s Curse, that would be Derek, Tre’Vell, Matthias, Omar and Mayor Angela Wright. Especially for the first book of the series, I have to flesh out the characteristics, backgrounds, and motivations for each one. Once that’s complete, I start to fill in with the main supporting characters. I leave myself room to create characters as I’m actually writing to give myself flexibility. The pre-planning stage is just to give me structure, a North Star as I’m writing.
Ok, now that the main players are created, I have to construct a plot surrounding those characters that support the theme of the novel. Making a compelling plot is the most difficult thing for me to do. I tend to start at the end and work my way back. How do I want the story to end? Where do I want the characters to end up? What’s an interesting way to get there? How should the characters be structured in the story? How do they interact? How should the story itself be structured in a way that makes sense with so many characters to service? I found it easier to think of the story as a solar system. Strange, but follow me. I choose one character and their story as the sun. In the Witch’s Curse, that character is Derek. He is the central character. The other main characters are planets. Those characters have their own stories, like planets have their own systems, but they encircle the sun. Their stories support the journey of the central character. Then the supporting characters have journeys that support the stories of the main characters. They are the moons to their planets. That’s how science helps me write a story about magic and monsters!
Once I have the general plot and characters down pat, I start to work in the different settings. After the settings, I work on the magic. How does the magic work in this world? What new supernatural phenom is being introduced? This is the last part I develop. The most important things are the characters. No matter if a character is a warlock, witch, monster, or Mayor, these people have to be relatable from a human perspective before the magic comes in. If I can’t get that right, all the bells and whistles the magic provides won’t mean a thing. These are first and foremost young men and women who just so happen to have supernatural abilities. They deal with issues that many people their age deal with. That’s the secret sauce.
Now that I have most of the details laid out, I outline them in order and separate them into chapters. Once that’s done, the pre-plan process is over and I’m ready to begin actually writing the book. This whole process probably takes about four to five months. Once I start writing, I never take a day off. I literally write something every day until I have the rough draft completed. Even if it’s something I know I’ll change later on, I still write it. This helps me combat writers block and also keeps me in the habit of writing. I try to write at least a page and a half every day. Sometimes, I may write much more if I have a burst of creativity that day. Mostly, I try to stick to no more than three pages, just so I don’t get burnt out and give my mind time to breathe. This part of the process takes about eight to ten months, depending on the length of the story. The rough draft is now complete. I spend about a month self-editing the draft until I’m satisfied, then submit it to the publisher for their round of edits. They send me back their feedback and I hold final approval on any changes. Now the manuscript is complete!
That’s a general overview of my writing process, but it’s not set in stone. Tweaks happen all the time and there are specifics that I didn’t go over in this blog post. I’m sure I will in another post sometime. Next month: Character Breakdown of Derek James.