May 02, 2022
9 mins read
A little birdy mentioned to me that this generation absolutely adores watching and learning about the daily lives and routines of others. Whether it be on Instagram or Youtube, we love to see what someone has for breakfast, or how they go about their work day, or what organisational structures they use to tick off everything on their to-do list and embody the life of someone who seems to just ‘make it happen’.
With that in mind, or perhaps it’s a true Leo urge, I thought I’d share my own writing process in hopes it might spark some kind of inspiration for you to get cracking on your writing, or shift yourself out of that dreaded writer’s rut…that you’ve likely been in for the last 23 years.
Coming up with ideas:
→ I don’t really ‘come up with ideas’ in the conventional form of the concept. My ideas choose me. I know that might sound a bit cliché or something that you didn’t want to hear, but don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging.
Here are some of my favourite ways to ‘prompt’ these ideas to come to me:
→ watch films & series (99% of my ideas came from this)
→ observe people
→ talk to your relatives
→ listen to music
→ watch Youtube travel videos
→ learn about different historical events (and keep up the practise)
→ not focusing on coming up with said idea (minor detail but the more you force an idea, the more likely no idea will come to you)
→ cleaning out the cobwebs (get everything out onto the paper to make room for THE idea)
→ gardening/house work
→ exercising (I got an idea for a scene in a crime novel I was writing whilst in the gym- yes, dumbbells were the self-defense weapon of choice)
My #1 tip for when you do come up with ideas is to write it down straight away. Carry a small notepad with you and jot it down. Write it in the notes section of your phone. Use lipstick and a serviette if you need to. Just write the darn thing down. This ‘exercises’ your creative muscle and sends a signal to the mind that you’re open for more of these ideas. Give this one a go and let me know if you see a difference in the inspiration you get.
Personally, I don’t have a strict planning style when it comes to my writing process. For One White Flower, I spent 2 years planning (on and off). It’s quite funny seeing where it started and where it ended up (once you read it, I’ll let you know the original plans). I plan out all my character profiles and who I ‘picture’ as them. My next step was writing out a rough scene-by-scene plan of the story. I’m not a pantser (that will come back and bite my butt in a moment, though) and I wouldn’t consider myself a plotter. I’m a get-a-general-idea-down-and-see-where-it-goes kinda gal. I don’t strictly say this is chapter one, this is chapter two and three and so on. For me, the regimented nature of that totally annihilates my creativity. I write down dot point by dot point explaining the core parts of the scene. Sometimes I combine them, sometimes I split them up over two or three chapters. It all depends on how I feel when writing.
As One White Flower is a historical fiction set during the Homeland War in Croatia, there were a lot more facts and historical accuracies I needed to take into account. I created a section of my ‘planning bible’ dedicated to these details which often prompted scene ideas. If I saw something in a documentary that was interesting, I’d add that in too. This wouldn’t necessarily always be facts, but rather little details like what people wore, how they acted, what they did and so on. And yes, there will be details in One White Flower that have you narrowing your eyes like ….is that…accurate? - the answer is yes, and I more than likely came up with it first, and then saw footage or read a snippet of a book or article that said that yes indeed, what you wrote there is surprisingly accurate.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum sits my Copenhagen set rom-com drama, Synth. The time from the conception of the idea to when I finished the final draft and started querying was five months. The idea came to me at 1am on the night before an eclipse when I couldn’t sleep. Within a few days, I wrote up a Google Doc with the key character profiles and some scene ideas I had. Nothing major- just a note here or there. And then I just wrote.
Oh oh oh, and I should also add a very important aspect of my writing process: my playlists.
I literally cannot write without a playlist…yeah look, I read that back and realised that’s a low-key (alright, high-key) procrastination thing. Anyway, not the point. Personally, I create a playlist for each of my books. For One White Flower, it was a mix of patriotic Croatian music and iconic songs from the late 80s and early 90s. For Synth, it was a LOT of Eurovision.
For the past few years, my dedicated writing time has been in the evening after dinner and before I go to bed. Whilst I might be defying a number of sleep hygiene rules, I’ve found this is what works for me as a writer and for my sleep. I relax by writing. I usually spend around 90 minutes every evening getting that writing in.
For One White Flower, I hand-wrote the story across 4 A4 notebooks, and then typed it up into a Google Doc before I invested in Scrivener and put everything on there.
For Synth, I went straight to typing it all up.
I love using Scrivener because 1. It’s so aesthetic (sorry, not sorry) but 2. I love the features. They help you organise everything into concise chapters and it makes your life so much easier.
When I write my stories, I go all in straight away with structure from start to end. I’m not a fan of writing a scene here or there because my brain just does not compute.
Remember: your first draft is for you to get everything out. Write down all your scene ideas. Add all the dialogue and wild moments- and then when you edit, you can see whether you were a literary genius, or a delusional numpty you don’t even recognise.
I might be the only writer that doesn’t hate editing. I actually really enjoy it…until I hit a moment where I can’t decide whether to keep a scene, or when I have those doubts that are like ‘this sounds like absolute trash’....which, of course, is normal when you’ve read the darn thing 46 times.
From what I’ve read on ‘how to edit’, I have a rather unconventional way of editing apparently- but oh well. You have to do what works for you. I don’t have a strict structure for how to edit. Each project has their own set of needs.
My first read-through for both One White Flower and Synth were focused on just seeing how it flowed and adjusting anything grammatical or anything that stood out to me. With One White Flower, I actually don’t remember the first read-through because it was so long ago. With Synth, it was an absolute dream. The flow was next level and I was so proud of myself.
I’m going to talk about Synth first because the editing process was far quicker and ‘easier’. The extent of editing included cutting out some scenes that just didn’t fit quite right, adjusting some dialogue and descriptions, and making sentences more succinct in meaningful.
One White Flower, however, has been a different story. Task number 1 was to get my word count down- which I managed to do. I went from 247,000 words down to 159,000 words (disclaimer: this has been over multiple edits- the first time around was down to 175,000 words).
Task number 2 was deciding on which dialogue would be in Croatian and which would be in English. I had to ensure that the translations were there to avoid readers going: that’s nice, but I have no idea what that means.
Task number 3- and undoubtedly the one that was the biggest pain in the gluteus maximus- was trying to find a chapter one that I actually could get behind. I hated the original few chapters. I edited them and thought this will do. I then received an agent’s response saying that they were intrigued by the premise, but the chapters I sent weren’t engaging. After a discussion with dad on what he thought, I FINALLY found the first few chapters I had been searching for…and yes, you’re welcome for the emotional turmoil you’ll be put through.
The final task for me was to adjust the scenes that I wasn’t 100% YESSSSSS about. There were scenes where I liked but didn’t necessarily love, so I went back and tweaked them. The present me has grown astronomically since the me of 2019 who first wrote those scenes, so it was important for me to be able to be open to adjusting these scenes to be more aligned for the vision I had.
Something else both One White Flower and Synth had in common was that my editing process saw the addition of more finer details. There were parts I highlighted whilst writing that said ‘research this’ or ‘add more detail’ to this. I found this was helpful to maintain writing momentum. Use your editing time to fine-tune the ‘tiny’ details that will take your book to the next level.
Now it’s time for the elusive book number 3 which I have finally found the stability to start writing. I’m sure this new book will be a whole set of lessons in itself that I am so excited to share with you.
What does your writing process look like? Is it similar to mine? Or is it worlds apart?