Every writer loves to type “THE END” on their latest work-in-progress, but that dreaded flashing cursor on a blank “Chapter One” page sends tremors down our spines. Can I get an Amen? However, starting a new manuscript doesn’t have to be daunting. Authors can make it fun. How, you ask? Here’s an overview of my writing process.
Storyline – Before I get too deep into my process, I brainstorm with my author friends on the basic storyline. I determine the main plot, hero and heroine conflicts, and ask that famous “What if” question.
Character sketches – I have to admit, building the characters is my favorite part of the writing process. I love to delve deep into their pasts and find out exactly WHO they are. To do this, I choose their names—first and last. It’s important to me to get it correct. Sometimes I ask for suggestions on social media or browse through an online list of baby names. After I’ve named them, I choose an actor and actress I picture my hero and heroine to look like. I’m all about the visual! Next up—grilling them with a list of questions. What’s their worst fear? Favorite vacation spot? Coffee or tea lover? What happened to them when they were five years old…and the list goes on. This all helps me build their backstory.
Research – After the main storyline is chosen, I create a list of what I need to research. That can be anything from law enforcement duties to medical issues to the town I’m trying to create. It’s important to get the facts straight. Yes, this is fiction, but we still need to keep it believable.
Outline or Not to Outline (that is indeed the question!) – This will depend on whether the writer is a plotter or pantser. When writing for Love Inspired Suspense, you have to include a synopsis, so that is this pantser’s extent of outlining. ;-)
First line – Move that cursor and begin Chapter One. Most writers struggle with that dreaded first line and will probably re-write it ten times. Why? Because they know a reader will either be hooked and buy their book, or put it down. We don’t want readers to set the book back on the shelf, do we?
Write, write, write – Now that I’ve gotten past that first line and paragraph, it’s time to take my hero and heroine on an action-packed adventure filled with switchbacks, surprises, and twists they don’t see coming. To keep me on my deadline track, I add in Scrivener (my writing tool) my end word count and the date I want to finish my draft. Scrivener calculates my word count daily, depending on how much I write on that day. I write until it’s time to type “The End.” After this, the fun begins.
Editing – Most writers have a love-hate relationship with editing. I’m no different. Once I finish the first draft, I print out the entire manuscript and let it sit for a few days. After a break, I read and mark it up with—yes, you guessed it—a red (or maybe pink!) pen. I take many editing passes during this process. First is the storyline—are there any holes that need to be plugged? Then I add in more emotion, search on words I know I repeat too much, then the last pass is through a tool called ProWritingAid. I print the story out again and use the “Speech” option in Scrivener to do another read-through.
Beta Readers – After I’m happy with my story, I send it to a few readers to get their thoughts. They check for typos, story holes, etc. After they’re done, I do another editing pass and read-through before sending to my editor.
I’m almost ready to hit “Send” on book five for Love Inspired Suspense (#feelingblessed). After I do, I’m looking forward to a fresh start on the next manuscript.
Writing full time is a dream come true for me. While the process can be terrifying, I love what I do—creating inspiring stories.
Darlene L. Turner is an award-winning and best-selling author. She lives with her husband, Jeff in Ontario, Canada. Her love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into her writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and moved by her inspirational message.