Erin Green Author - blog
I'm regularly asked how I start writing a new book? So given that I've just started writing a brand-new sparkly idea, which I hope will be my thirteenth publication, I'll outline my process. Every author has their own routine and preparations, but this is mine.
I keep an ideas book, I have done for years, in which I jot bits and bobs when they come to mind. I've stopped pretending that I'll remember them all so I save when they occur, so it's like a treasure trove of ideas. I mull over my notes and see if anything grabs my attention or can certain ideas be merged together. I'm looking for a golden nugget of an idea, like a seed - which can grow. Once I have a basic idea, I create notes and mind-maps about potential conflicts or opportunities that can occur around that subject. If I'm struggling at this point then the topic has no legs and is probably a non-runner - but that rarely happens.
Once I've got ideas, I start thinking about the kinds of people I would throw into that situation. We all react differently given the environment we're dropped into, be in physically, mentally or socially, so I begin to ask questions and create people based on potential reactions - sounds weird, I know.
I have a working book, a manuscript bible, in which I keep every detail of a new book. So I create a page for each of the character and add details of their likes dislikes, secrets, back story, physical appearance, career, family, dreams, hopes, downfalls. I often nip to Pinterest and choose photographs of people who contrast with each other ensuring I have a visual prompt when describing. I often do the same with properties, street locations, shop frontages and clothing - but from real life as it makes it so much easier choosing a specific cafe which you can fictionalise. Though it does mean your hometown or local properties get included in your books albeit heavily disguised. My manuscript bible becomes invaluable with each piece of information - for me it literally is the back bone of my planning.
When I'm happy with my cast of characters, I sit for hours with a baby naming book picking and choosing names. I love names - their meanings, origins and spellings all add to the overall effect for me. For example, a Jenni is very different to a Jennifer or Jen, in my opinion. I tend to choose names which reflect the themes of my books - I do have a list of lovely names with I collect as I wander through life, so those come in very handy. Having selected names, I ensure they fit together as a group - you don't want too many beginning with the same letter, or the ending or the phonic sounds. I try to think about ages too and adjust the spelling to reflect, if needs be.
I then assign my three leading ladies, a colour code (pink, blue or green) this will relate to her post-it note during planning and her typed font on my manuscript. I never write in black. I change the document font to black about an hour before I submitted to my editor for the first time. The reason being is that my books are written in first person view point, so if I type in a coloured font I provide a visual reminder helping me to remain in that character's world and mind-set. It avoids head hopping and costly time trying to unpick a story line when you've forgotten to switch viewpoints. When I flip through my manuscript, I can see if one character has too much of the story lines based on the sections of coloured typing and the sequence order they appear on screen. It also looks pretty whilst I write.
I use a standard excel sheet for recording each scene, again this is colour coded to the women, making it easy for me to navigate the plot points and action. I keep a running total of the word count for each section so I can slice the manuscript into sizeable chapters later on in the process.
I have a template manuscript which I created years ago, which is my working document but which has to change to meet the general submission guidelines of any editor when submitted. I try to have the manuscript to my liking for the months that I'm working on it and then switch font colours, alignments, spacing options and headings prior to submitting. I tend to use dates alongside chapter headings so I take time to study the calendar/seasons and fit the story to the correct time frame. Though I'm usually a year ahead date wise, so mistakes can occur during the writing, if you aren't careful.
I like my dedication and a quote in place before I write chapter one. That's just one of my quirks, as it makes me smile to think I wrote the whole book with those in mind. I find they help to focus me on days when the mind is starting to wander towards new shiny projects or cake.
And finally, I write Chapter one.
I always have a self-imposed deadline regarding draft one so I know what I'm aiming for. In the past when I didn't do this, draft one would stretch on and on and on. No more, deadline date and done!
And that's it, apart from writing Chapters two , three, twenty-seven and forty - until you reach my favourite two words 'The End'.