Thanks so much for having me! I thought I’d talk about my writing process today because it’s a doozy. LOL. And I have learned NOT to mess with that process lest I bring the wrath of the gods of writer’s block down upon my head. Here is my step-by-step to creating a book. (Pantsers [aka, people who write by the seat of their pants] might want to skip this part. It could give you hives.)
Just for the record, I plot like there’s no tomorrow. I barely start a book without three distinct outlines.
- The Skeleton Key: This answers four basic questions: Where are we? What time of day is it? What major event happens in this scene or series of scenes? And in what order does the story unfold? (I like this because it helps me quickly find where I’m at in the story.)
- The Outline: This is a brief synopsis of the entire book. It is usually about 5-9 pages long and is what I send my editor for approval before actually starting the book.
- The Detailed Outline: This is where I take the skeleton key, plug the outline into the appropriate areas, then add any details I’ve come up with including specific scenes, little extras I want to reveal here and there, funny lines or situations I want to use, and even internal and external motivation. These outlines usually run between 40 and 60 pages, but remember that part about adding scenes? Yeah, by this point I’ve already written a nice chunk of the book. (I now use Scrivener for this part and I LOVE it!!! I highly recommend at least giving it a chance. They have all kinds of tutorials on their site, so check those out because there is quite the learning curve. And there is a great book by Gwen Hernandez on Scrivener called Scrivener for Dummies. It’s an excellent resource!)
Next, I take the final detailed outline (my compiled notes and texts in Scrivener), copy and paste it into my manuscript (I write in Word), and delete as I go. This way I never stray far from the conceived story. I don’t wander around aimlessly, wondering where I’m going. I know exactly what is coming next, and very often, if it’s a “hard” scene (meaning I’m too lazy to write it at that moment), I’ll jump to another scene. I don’t get bored and/or stuck very often and I rarely pull my hair out by its roots. I’ve tried pantsing it. It wasn’t pretty. I had writer’s block by the time I got to page three.
And just for the record, I don’t stick to this outline 100%! I add and take away scenes and story threads as needed. I’m always coming up with fresh twists I didn’t see coming as I write, so I incorporate those. Having an outline does not in any way inhibit creativity. Just the opposite, IMHO.
NOTE: Let me just say that I write ALL over the place. I do not write linearly in any way, shape or form. By having such a detailed map of where I’m going, I can write on chapter two one day and chapter nineteen the next. Another (possibly more important) advantage to this technique is that there’s never a dull moment. Each scene has a purpose. Each scene moves the story forward. This makes the book tight, the pacing strong, and the story smooth. Just sayin’.
BIO — NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious Golden Heart®, a Rebecca, two Hold Medallions, a RITA ®, and a Daphne du Maurier, and she has received stellar reviews from dozens of publications including starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and the Library Journal. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike, and she is ever so grateful for the opportunity to carry on that tradition. She currently has two series with St. Martin’s Press: The Charley Davidson Series and the Darklight Trilogy. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of almost 30 years and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. She can be found at www.daryndajones.com.