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The Writing Process | Write:Talk

WRITE:TALK is a blog series about the craft of Christian writing.
Click here to see other posts in this series.

There are so many ways to write a novel, and your approach will be directed by what kind of writer you are. One theory is that in the writing world, there are PANTSERS and PLOTTERS. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. In other words, they work with very little planning and let the character stumble through the story. Pantsers are often surprised by where their MC (main character) ends up and what he/she says. One writer said,

"I'm always excited in the morning when I get started to see what my characters will do today."

Plotters, on the other hand, map out a very careful outline for their stories. That includes a lot of writing about character traits, goals, themes, image systems, and a point-by-point, chapter-by-chapter list.

Jerry Jenkins, the famed author of the Left Behind Series, is a PLOTTER. He very carefully outlines his story and puts in a certain amount of words each morning around six to eleven a.m. He has 12 steps with seven-story elements in his plan for a great novel. His methodical approach includes reading what he wrote the previous day and editing it before writing that day's 2000 words. His twelve steps are:

  • Settle on a Winning Story Idea
  • Determine if you are a Pantser or an Outliner (Plotter)
  • Make Unforgettable Characters
  • Conduct Thorough Research
  • Choose Your Point of View
  • Begin the Story in the Midst of Things
  • Trigger the Fear in Your Reader's Mind
  • Ramp Up Your Character's Troubles
  • Make Your Hero's Predicament Appear Hopeless
  • Bring it all to a Head
  • Leave Your Reader Wholly Satisfied
  • Separate Writing from Editing

In the book On Writing by Stephen King, he gives some interesting advice. He says that you've got to go to the pain. That means that you must avoid solving your little darling's problems too quickly and let them have trouble. Fights, divorce, cuts, bruises, arguments, failures, and enemies are all on the menu. He describes his process as making interesting characters and seeing what they do. He is a PANTSER. He flies by the seat of his pants. He is never sure what his characters are going to do. That's part of the fun of being a pantser. You can surprise yourself when a favorite character decides to take a left turn instead of following the plan.

I've been told that I'm both and pantser and a plotter. That might be a problem. In the movie, The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi says:

"Man who walks down middle of road get squished."

Be that as it may, I have elements of both a pantser and a plotter in my technique. So let's take a look at the way I write. First, I start with brainstorming concepts.

  1. Concept - I thumbnail ideas, and list possible stories in a sentence or two.
  2. Pick my Theme/Story. - I have asked myself If I could only write one story, where and when would it be, and what would it be about?
  3. Outline - Using the general hero's journey from Save the Cat, The Last Book On Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Synder, I scribble on paper, then type out the skeleton of the story. (Later I will do a post on his outline)
  4. Catch Characters - As my outline progresses, characters show up. I have a separate list of those, with a description.
  5. Check the Arc - The story outline and characters are reviewed for the arc. The plot must circle back around to a normal day where it started. Also, the character's flaw must have improved.
  6. Dirty Copy - I start writing on paper, or type in Scribner, Google Docs, or Atticus. I use the outline headings as chapter headings. I try not to do much re-writing at this point. Just get it down on paper.
  7. Content Edit - I re-read my dirty copy, making some revisions. Then someone else has to read it and advise me. My son Lucas is a great adviser/editor. He reads and gives me notes that challenge my mistakes and plot point errors. The last set he sent me had 38 full paragraphs. Now that's an editor that really cares about improving my story.
  8. Revisions - Writing is re-writing. There may be several editions and copies of the book. Reading it over and over is part of the process.
  9. Beta readers - I give the manuscript to three or so people for comments. Printed papers work best for me.
  10. Final Repairs - I make changes to the final version, and then it gets proofed.
  11. Atticus - a brand new software works well for book formatting. I have used InDesign before that. Taking the file from Scribner to Google Docs to InDesign was problematic. I'll do a blog note on that.
  12. Submit to Publisher or KDP - The Manuscript is sent in a publisher's prescribed package, or build it in Amazon's answer to getting a book online: KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Ta-Dah! That's the general idea. I'll have more on that in the next BLOG, about beginning the process of writing your story.


In your journal create 5 different concepts for a story. No more than a paragraph for each idea. Send them to me if you want some feedback.

WRITE:TALK is a blog series about the craft of Christian writing.
Click here to see other posts in this series.


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