I’ve just finished writing a book. It was a book that ended up consuming most of my waking moments – and a few of my sleeping ones too.
And now I’m emerging, blinking into the light – and back on to this blog – I thought it might be useful to write a behind the scenes look at my writing process.
It’s a process I’ve honed over many years and many books so I hope it helps anyone new to writing who might be reading this – or anyone old to writing but feeling a little jaded or in need of fresh inspiration.
The first thing I do when planning a new book is take myself out for a brainstorm. When I’m writing I like to stay at home but I seem to brainstorm much better away from home: in a park, in a cafe, on a walk. When I was brainstorming Tell it to the Moon I took myself to a local cafe for the day to flesh out the characters and come up with a basic plot outline. (TOP TIP: Fleshing out the characters first gives you loads of ideas for the plot.)
Finding the fire
Once I have the basic outline I ask myself: Does it fire me up? Does it have me itching to write? Will I be motivated to write upwards of 70,000 words? When I asked myself these questions regarding my initial outline for Tell it to the Moon, the answer came back, ‘Erm, not really, no.’ The idea was interesting to me but not incendiary. So I asked myself another couple of questions:
What are you really passionate about at the moment? What, if you could work it into the plot, would have you burning to write this book?
I got the answer immediately: I feel really passionately about the pressures facing teens which result in ten percent of them experiencing mental health issues. And if I could create a storyline that would hopefully empower and inspire young people to demand positive change then I’d definitely be fired up to write.
I changed my plot accordingly.
Schedule your word count
Once I had my characters fleshed out and my plot outline nailed down I worked out a schedule that would enable me to deliver my first draft on time. For me, this was to write 10,000 words per week. Every week I’d look at my diary and schedule in smaller chunks – 3,000 words on Tuesday, 2,000 on Wednesday, 3,000 on Friday, 2,000 on Saturday etc.
Finding your pace
I never rush the beginning of a book. I take my time to find the voice and the rhythm and I reassure myself that it’s fine to write badly at first; at this stage of the process it’s all about getting into the flow.
Making course adjustments
Inevitably once you start writing, you’ll discover things that don’t quite work when it comes to your plot outline. That’s OK – adjust away. Ditto, characters. Be open to tweaking and changing. I made several course adjustments during the writing of Tell it to the Moon and the book’s a lot stronger for it.
Hitting a block – or two
I always hit a block at some point during a book when something isn’t quite working and the solution isn’t yet apparent. Here’s what I did this time round – I wrote TO the book. And by that I mean, I journalled about the issue. I wrote about the block I was encountering and I wrote about how I could fix it. I kept on writing until the solution appeared. It’s so much easier to write your way out of a block than think your way out. I highly recommend it.
Another great way to brainstorm your way out of block is to jot down potential ideas on post-it notes or index cards, then move them around until a way out begins to take shape.
In for the long haul
Writing a book is the literary equivalent of running a marathon. It makes sense therefore that you take good care of yourself throughout the process. When I was deep into Tell it to the Moon it was the fag-end of winter and everyone around me were dropping like flies from the latest flu or cold virus. I couldn’t afford to get ill and take a week out of my schedule so I upped my intake of raw food and green juice and I sailed on through, blissfully snot-free. I also made sure I got outside loads and did plenty of physical exercise. Personally, I find yoga, walking and dance really conducive to creativity.
Focusing on the finish line
When I get to the final quarter of a novel I find that it takes on a momentum of its own which requires my undivided attention – and Tell it to the Moon was no exception. In the last three weeks of writing I hunkered down and became a real hermit. The only way I could focus on bringing all of the different plot strands together was to make my life as distraction-free as possible. My friends barely saw me, I lived and breathed the book, I didn’t even go on Netflix! But it paid off. I got the job done. I was able to type those magical words THE END knowing I’d given the book my all … and let me tell you, there’s no better feeling.
Tell it to the Moon is the sequel to my novel, The Moonlight Dreamers, available to pre-order on Amazon here.