For the first two years of learning to write stories for children, I labeled myself a proud pantser. I wrote on the fly, creating plot lines as I went. Free and happy, that was me, until it came time for revision. A single read-through showcased plot holes and character inconsistencies. Revising my work took twice as long as writing that first draft, proving a terrible waste of time.
Wanting to be a successful commercial writer, I needed to speed up the entire process. The faster you can publish books, the better these days. Learning from other author’s strategies, I developed a plan that tackles the completion of a book in half the time.
Get to know your characters
Yes, characters will sneak into the story, but the bulk of the main characters need to be fleshed out. Make a chart of their quirks, speaking style, or whatever qualities are important to you.
Do the research
Photographs, music, and first-hand accounts are helpful to have on hand. Learn about the weather and time of year for accuracy in your descriptions. Group items by location and keep them close, whether on the computer’s desktop or taped inside a spiral notebook.
Make a skeleton outline
When I say outline, I mean chapter heading and a bulleted list of how the scene will play out. A simple sentence will suffice, though I write out the dialogue. This helps to organize the plot points and the setups for the next chapter.
Open your outline. Copy and paste the chapter onto a blank word document or writing program of your choosing. The simple part takes each bullet point and creates a striking sentence that delivers setting, character, and theme. Take one at a time, and when you’re done, read over them. Are there simple edits you can make? Can you correct the grammar mistakes before moving on to the next chapter?
Each of these steps contain fundamental parts of writing. I find by completing them in sections keeps me more organized and creative during the first draft. Cleaner drafts make for shorter revision times.
Do you have a favorite process for writing? How does it help you grow as a writer?