SARAH SUNDIN IS HERE!!!
Okay, that's out of my system now, and I'll try to behave like the professional I am. Sarah and I are both members of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). When her first sale was announced on the email loop, I noticed it was with my publishing house, Revell. So I shot her a note saying something about congratulations and welcome to Revell. A very well spent 30
seconds because it means I'm now friends with an incredible author. Seriously, the whole time I was reading A Distant Melody (the first in the Wings of Glory series) I kept thinking, "This is so stinking good! And I know her!"
Anyway. Sarah's books are unbelievable. Today she's giving away Blue Skies in the Morning. If you don't win, you should still totally read it.
Today Sarah is sharing her writing process with us. To get yourself entered to win Blue Skies in the Morning, leave a comment either asking Sarah a question or answering hers, which is at the end of her post. (Contest closes Tuesday, August 16th. US Residents only.)
One of the cool things about meeting other writers is seeing how different we are. Some can’t function without an outline. Some can’t function with an outline. Yet we all create novels!
I’m an outline-oriented writer. The thought of writing without a destination makes me hyperventilate. Yes, I also color-coordinate my family’s schedule and alphabetize my spice rack. So, I’m a nerd.
Before I start the rough draft, I go through a process of percolating, researching, character development, and outlining which can stretch for years while I’m writing and editing other projects.
An idea comes—from a movie, a “what if” question, a dream, historical research—wherever. Then it percolates in my head while I’m doing other stuff. Characters flesh out. Scene ideas float in. A story structure forms. At some point, everything gels and I know this is a Book. During this stage I take notes—dialogue, scene ideas, and character sketches. These go in a file folder. The percolation stage lasts several years for me.
Since I write historical romance set during World War II, research is vital. I do research from the percolation phase through my final edits, but the bulk of it comes pretty early. When my basic story idea is well percolated, I need to make sure it works historically. I take lots of research notes and reference everything carefully so I can find it when I need it. Don’t make that face—I told you I was a nerd. Research also brings out more story and character ideas, so I keep adding notes to my file.
My novels tend to be character-driven rather than plot-driven, so this is one of my favorite phases. And yes, it involves charts. Because I like them. My master chart for the hero and heroine has questions about appearance, health, family, friends, education, career, romantic history, home, talents, religious history, goals, and secrets. Then I give them personality tests. I also scribble down important incidents in their pasts. It’s kind of like hanging out with a friend and getting to know them. Then when I start writing from this character’s point of view, it feels really natural.
You’d think this would be my favorite part, but it’s not. This is where I wrestle and squeeze and grumble at the computer monitor. And I make more charts as I stretch my story ideas onto a solid framework. I like the Hero’s Journey analysis described by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. Read it! Knowing good story structure helps me see where my plot works, where it stinks, and how to fix it. Last I make a chapter-by-chapter outline, and then finally, I get to write!
How about you? Do charts and lists give you a blissful sense of fulfillment? Or are you planning to come to my house and de-alphabetize my spice rack?