I devised the following list of guidelines to help me work on my next novel. It’s not a perfect process, but it seems to be the typical way I write a book. I find it interesting that the actual drafting is only about 25% of the whole process… It’s all about the revising and rewriting.
Novel-writing Strategy: Multiple-stage Approach
1. Note-taking and free-writing (one month)
- Write down anything you’d be interested in writing about (or add to list)
- Jumble together as many cool ideas together as you can
- Come up with some characters with interesting backgrounds and baggage
- Create a 2-3 page proposal, written like the back cover copy you’d see on a published book
- Create a rough outline of the book, chapter-by-chapter if possible
2. Drafting (three months)
- Using the rough chapter outline, begin filling out scenes, researching as needed
- Using Delany’s process, be as detailed as possible without slowing too much
- Remember — in this draft, you’re telling yourself the story (in the revision you’ll tell it to the world)
- Line-edit previous day’s work, then move into new stuff
- Try to get four new pages a day (1,000 words)
3. Pre-revision pass: (after waiting one month, one weekend)
- After waiting three to four weeks, read the whole book again, as a reader
- Mark up the manuscript and find the holes, the good spots, the rough spots
- Try to read the whole thing in a day or in a weekend
4. Second draft (two months)
- Incorporate notes and fill in holes from reading entire novel
- Send to first readers, if you dare!
5. Plot pass: (one month)
- Ask yourself: Are all the dots connected in a logical way?
- Do all sub-plots fit into the overall plot and theme? If not, cut them
- How can I raise the stakes or twist the plot to temporarily fool the reader?
- Write a draft synopsis, one-paragraph summary, and one-sentence pitch
6. Imagery and pacing pass: (one-two months)
- Delany’s approach: Did I notate my unique vision of the story completely?
- Can I rearrange a scene or move a chapter for better pacing and effect?
- Is there enough tension in each scene?
- If not, how can I raise the stakes?
7. Language pass: (one month)
- Read each scene out loud! Record it if you can.
- What can I cut to make this read better?
- Am I using the best verbs and adjectives (and not just what I thought of first)?
8. Wrap-up: (one week)
- Write the final draft of the synopsis and cover letter, and then send that mofo out
9. Start all over again with a new novel!