I'm loving having all these authors on here to talk about their writing process! I think it's so important for writers to be able to learn from each other.
Today our guest is Liz Johnson. After graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations, Liz Johnson set out to work in the Christian publishing industry, which was her lifelong dream. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working as a publicist in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream-being an author. Along the way to having her novel published, she wrote articles for several magazines and worked as a freelance editorial consultant.
Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys exploring her new home, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nephew and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings.
Liz is the author of Code of Justice, and has graciously agreed to giveaway a copy to one lucky commenter. To be entered, you must be a Go Teen Writer follower. You may either ask Liz a question or remark on something you find interesting about her process. (US Residents only.)
Enough of me talking. Onto Liz:
Pantser. SOTPer. Wild child.
There are lots of names for someone who writes a book without an outline in place first, but the generally agreed upon term is seat of the pants writer. And I used to be one. When I first started writing, I just dove into the story, not worrying about where I’d end up or how I’d get there. And I wasted a lot of time and energy fixing bad plots because I didn’t plan ahead.
As I’ve written more books, my process has changed in big ways. Here’s a sneak peek into the way my books come together.
Inciting idea: Every one of my books has an inciting idea that starts small and blossoms into an entire book. The ideas can come from a trip I’ve taken, a lesson that God is teaching me, or even an article I’ve read. Usually it takes the form of a “What if?”
For example, I recently wrote a novel based on the special bond between sisters. I began to wonder, what if two sisters shared a really close relationship that was severed.
Developing the idea and characters: Next I build around that question, giving the characters names and histories, exploring their fears and goals. In our example I discovered Heather, a tough FBI agent, who was the only survivor of a helicopter crash that stole her sister’s life. Heather’s quest for justice and struggle with vengeance became the heart of the book. I also knew she needed a sidekick, Jeremy, who turned into her love interest.
Picturing my characters: Once the characters are in place, I have to give them faces to picture them in my mind. So I begin a search on Google Images to find actors or well-known faces that match what I have in mind. For Heather I picked out Hilarie Burton from One Tree Hill. Jeremy went through several matches until I landed on Michael Trucco from Battlestar Gallactica, the perfect fit.
Plotting the key events: Next I write a summary of the key events. This usually ends up being a five to seven page outline highlighting the important events that lead to the characters achieving their goals … or not.
Actually writing: This is the hardest part for me—sitting in front of my computer and actually writing the whole story based on that summary. It’s months of being disciplined enough to have my seat in a chair and get the story down. All the way through. I hardly edit anything during this time.
Editing: First, I read through my story and fix those glaring problems before sending it off to friends to get their feedback. Then I read through it again, keeping those suggestions in mind. And I keep doing that until it’s time to submit it to either my agent or editor.
It’s not always easy … in fact, it can be downright painful to write a book. But it’s definitely worth it to hold that finished manuscript in your hand. So keep at it!