I have a love-hate relationship with writing. It has been that way from the very beginning. I grew up having fantastical stories in my head but not understanding how to develop them or to correctly articulate them into a story. Having ADHD and Dyslexia can make writing hell sometimes, especially if you don’t have the right coping mechanisms to succeed in your projects. Then add my crippling anxiety and depression on top of my becoming physically disabled. It is a constant struggle to finish things, and it took me a long time to find the right things that help me succeed as a writer. In that spirit, I wanted to share my writing process hoping it might help other Neurodivergent authors who struggle with all of this.
When I outline, I store all of this in the cloud notebook software ‘One Note’. You can find more about this here.
1) The Seed
When I have a flash of sudden inspiration, it’s always based on another thing. I’m a fanfiction writer through and through. I always think of things such as ‘what would happen if Bruce Wayne met Harry Potter, Or Finn met Poe at a coffee shop’ Then I take that thought and I remove all the details that are copyrighted and when I’m done, I have a core concept. I take that core concept and I flesh it out. The main characters often emerge from this process and voila! I have the seed or the basic premise of my story.
2) The Blurb/Premise
For me, writing a blurb is like writing a mission statement. When I’m deep into the writing process or on my dozenth draft I can go back to the blurb and remember why I’m writing the story. I usually write my blurb and then I make the cover. Those two things along with my breakdown are my north star in my writing process.
3) 7 Plot Point Overview
I learned early on that I need a map when I’m writing otherwise, I will end up getting lost in my own writing and end up making word soup. Last year when I was writing my fanfic novella ‘Playing Hero’. I found the ‘7-Plot Point Structure’ and it changed my life. I call this my ‘breakdown’ or my ‘overhead view’. I spend a few days or a week on it. I also use this structure to write out subplots and character arcs.
4) Character Bios, Settings, and More!
In OneNote, this the point when I create tabs. However, you can have categories or headings instead on regular Google Docs or Microsoft Word Page. I create tabs for such things as Characters, Settings, Research, and Misc. Each tab is color-coded and easy to find.
I start with the Characters and since I’m a very visual person I look for photos for my ideal representation of my characters. This is usually a model or celebrity. For original characters, I personally like to look through Adobe Stock for stock models. I use that photo to write my first impressions of that person on that photo. Think of characters like people you meet for the first time, you get first impressions of a person and then over time you get to know that person and figure out if your impressions were true or not. I never create a full bio until I finish writing my rough draft (zero drafts), because for me this is when my characters tell me who they are. Then I go to the Setting tab and start creating pages and putting together images that remind me of the settings in my book. Research is where all my research goes, they are neatly divided in subcategories based on the subject of my research topic. The Misc. tab is for anything that doesn’t fit in the other tabs or categories.
5) Rough Draft
The rough draft differs greatly from my first draft. It’s basically the beta test of my writing. Without worrying about things like grammar, or consistency I write out about 10k of the rough draft and then I stop. By then I have a good clue what will work and what’s not. I also have a clear picture of who the characters are as people and their individual character voices. Although, admittedly sometimes that voice won’t completely come through until the first draft.
Once I’m done with the rough draft, I will go back to breakdown and rewrite it. I will also take this time to write up a full Wikipedia style character bios for my main characters. During my rough draft, I got to learn enough about the Character’s background and individual voice for me to do this. Now, you guys may think treating my characters as real people is insane but honestly, once I have the basic construct of a character built you can only force them to adhere to the outline and your wishes so much. It’s my opinion that you force a plot or character bio or arc at your story’s peril. Things should evolve organically. Readers noticed forced storylines and it can come across as you trying too hard.
Now, that I have that rant out of the way, I want you to go back to your chapter by chapter outlines and throw them out and rewrite those from scratch as well. The thing I had to personally get over is that your outline is set stone and that it should never, NEVER, change. In reality, your outline should change and evolve as your story and characters do!
7) First Draft
Now, I write the first complete draft without stopping. This can take me from one to three months depending on the length. Every time I write I record the word count and the dates. With my ADHD, I find that recording my progress and publicizing in a way to hold me accountable is added outside pressure to finish what I start. They are also times where I can delude myself that I haven’t been working as hard as I have and going back and reading the data bolsters my motivation to write. Now, this is not %100 because I’m disabled and even with medication, I’m going to have an occasional bad day.
Unfortunately, with the first draft, I had to let go of the perfectionist in me and just accept that it’s going to be horrible. I think for a lot of writers this can be the hardest part to get over. Lucky for me, I’m a rewriter to my core. My writing doesn’t get really readable until 2 or 3 drafts down the line. I personally just wince and ignore the word vomit on my page. I take my writing day by day and I celebrate the small victories because the road to publishing is long as hell.
After I’m done rewriting the first draft, I take a break. I’m too much of a workaholic to walk away from my keyboard for too long so that break lasts about a week or two. Then I work on another story. My goal for 2020 is to publish two novels this year an M/M and F/F romance book. I plan to switch off between books off and on between drafts. I think this is a great plan to accommodate my ADHD. When I rewrite, I just press enter until the old words are pushed to the bottom of the page and then at, I head back to the top of the page then I write. Having my old draft in front of me during the rewrite helps me to focus on the new draft.
Now, it’s time to revise! It means I proofread my draft and correct it based on what I find. This is the time to polish up all the mistakes you have been pushing aside in the rough and first drafts. You also have to make sure that everything is consistent, everything makes sense, to cut scenes that need to be cut, etc. I have many methods that work for me. 1) I download it and read it on my Kindle. 2) I change the page and color and text size. For me, the best font to do that is the free font Open Dyslexic. 3) Read it out aloud or have it read via text to speech reader. As I finish each chapter, I send them to my Alpha readers who get the first crack at my stories. I usually correct things based on their feedback but the hardest part for me is to come.
10) Review Process
I will ask for feedback and constructive criticism all day every day. I truly feel without constructive criticism an artist (no matter the medium) will grow stagnant and mediocre. So, I will beg to the high heavens for Beta Readers and Editors. Beta Readers (unlike their fanfic counterparts) are not grammar, spelling, and style editors. They take a good look at the big picture and tells you what is wrong with your plot and your characterization. After I adjust the manuscript based on beta feedback, I will FINALLY hand my book to my editor. I plan on handing it off to a freelance editor to do a final sweep of the manuscript and correct grammar and spelling fail. Once that is done, my book or story is ready for public consumption.
Now you got a sneak peek into my writing process. What is your own process? Let me know down in the comments!