Someone asked what my process of writing novels was. Here is what I said. This how you manage to keep track of 60-90.000 words without getting lost.
I first come up with an idea. Why do I want to write this story. Without an idea, you won’t come very far and you’ll get lost. A novel without an idea or message won’t work, in my opinion.
Then I come up with place and time. My first two novels were Iceland, present time and Barcelona 1937. My third, still in progress, will take place in Amsterdam in 1939. Place and time is important as it dictated what kind of characters you have and how you bring your idea across to the reader.
The comes the fun part. Research. I dive into the world I’m about to create. For Blood and Rain, I read books and watched documentaries on the Spanish Civil War, for Mont Noir, I did the same for Amsterdam in the months leading up to the Second World War.
Only then do I create characters to tell the story.
When I have the place, time and major characters in place, I use Save the Cat or similar to roughly plot the story. This helps me avoid slow or boring mid-section and tie the end to the beginning.
Then I write the first draft. I don’t worry too much about lame dialogue or plot holes. If I see them, I make note of them and fix them in draft 2. Between draft 1 and 2, I look at what isn’t working and come up with solutions and implement those in draft 2.
It is not uncommon to see characters go their own way and that creates plot holes as they refuse to follow the outline. Therefore, draft 2 becomes a compromise between my initial plot and where the characters want to take it.
Draft 3 is where I polish things and tie them up. Only then do I let others read my story and give feedback. If needed, I use that to create the final and fourth draft.
This is ideal. I try to make it happen this way but this is writing and sometimes you have to alter your strategy.
As for chapters. I let the story define those and usually split things up into chapters after I’m well into draft 2.
The software I use has enormous influence on how I work. Stories are plotted and written in Scrivener. When they’re done, I export them into Apple Pages and create a layout for the printed books. Photoshop is used for the cover. Only nag is that most eBook vendors can’t work with Pages files or Word documents exported from Pages, so I have to borrow a Windows machine for a final export. Hopefully, I’ll find a solution to that soon.