I don’t believe in long introductions, so here it is:
- Pencil and Paper.
Scrawl down outlines, notes, dialog chunks, scenery, lists of action beats, stream of consciousness, thoughts about the novel, whatever. This is often right before bed.
- Rewrite in word processor
(Scrivener for me). Organize by Chapter > Scene > Scene Notes. Record from paper into more organized scene notes files. Set the scene color to yellow. As I record, embellish, clean up, or write new content if an idea spins off which happens frequently. Follow the thoughts wherever they lead. Strike through paper as it’s recorded so nothing gets lost. This is often done the next morning.
Build scenes from scene notes with two files open side-by-side, copying in and filling in gaps. These three steps may get repeated several times on a single scene. This part is the most thought intensive so it should be done early afternoon, at my mental prime. But it can happen whenever
Do a quick read through as I complete each scene. Change the scene color from yellow to blue when it’s complete. Then compile to MS Word, do a read through track changes and edit. Then go back to Scrivener to put my edits in.
Put each chapter in a Google Doc (yay extra backup) Listen with Natural Reader. Pick up more stuff. Edit and Compile.
- Chapter Critiques
Send to a local group, post to a site like Scribophile. Don’t solicit critiques or focus on them. Whoever finds you is fine. I want motivators mostly. Cheerleaders.
Fix glaring spelling, grammar, and emergency issues but don’t spend much time on it. Don’t over think and don’t try to perfect sentences. Keep going forward to the next chapter
- Full Beta Critiques
Finish the book and do full beta critiques, not per chapter. Use Natural Reader to read novels quickly and give broad advice. Don’t zero in on line edits unless requested.
Also it is advised to take about 3 months away from your manuscript. You deserve it. Finishing a novel draft is a huge accomplishment. Also, you need to step away to gain perspective.
After half a dozen beta critiques, look for common issues. Major character flaws, areas where the pace lags, or large loop holes
- Structural Changes
Get the large pieces in place, outline new scenes and what scenes will get cut or overhauled.
Start the whole process over for the next draft. Don’t try to fix everything or you will never begin. But aim to fix 80% of the issues.
Now we want to fine tune. Do chapter critiques. Get people scrutinizing every line. Make sure the voice of the character is consistent. Make every word count.
- Send to professional Editor, Query an Agent and Publish!
Ok so that’s a whole process that requires its own system, but I’ll summarize here. Only 1 in 1000 novels get this far. Best of luck!
Yes this makes it sound too easy. I skipped the nights of fussing over issues, months of rearranging scenes, struggling with plot holes and character flaws, and I haven’t even gotten to the rejections. But hey, let’s stay positive!