Friday, July 20, 2018

Do you have a consistent writing process for completing a book? How has it evolved? (With S.D. Grimm!)

This is the last day we have S. D. Grimm with us. I've so enjoyed her answers. I do hope you'll all add her books to your TBR lists. She is a talented author. Once again, her website is: But you can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

And now for our final question with S. D.:

Do you have a consistent writing process for completing a book? How has it evolved?

Sarah: Thank you SO MUCH for having me here this week! It was really fun! And thanks for stopping by, everyone. Write on.

Yes to today's question. [My process has] evolved dramatically. lol. I used to be more of a pantser: Well, I know how it ends, what would they do now? Is it boring? What catastrophe can I toss in there? Now, I am much more focused on the emotional satisfaction of a book along with those plot elements. So, I plan now. I meet my characters, get to know them and the main story plot point. Then I make an outline of the 8 major plot points and 8 major character arc points. From there, I make an outline of 40 major points, because that's approximately 80k words. And THEN I get to create a playlist of about 74 minutes (because my car plays CDs and I can burn one for the car) that follows the major points in the story. Then I figuratively crack my knuckles and get to writing. Once that's done, I revise twice, send to my beta readers, then revise once more and proofread. Then I send it to my agent.

Stephanie: I do. A very brief summary of my process looks like this:

Brainstorm idea with critique partner
Write backcover copy style of blurb
Research, if necessary.
Write first few chapters
Write 2-3 page synopsis
More research
Write first draft
Take six weeks off
Macro edits, followed by micro edits
Send to critique partners
Eat all the ice cream

I used to pride myself on being a discovery writer, but over the years I’ve found value in planning more ahead of time.

Shan: For the most part. Though I still consider myself a rookie, so I’m ever-evolving.


Brainstorm an idea by listing possible scenes

Discovery write my way through these scenes

If I like where the idea is going, commit to it
Write a working synopsis that will act as my outline
Discovery write my way through the first draft
Step away for a bit
Macro edit, micro edit
Final read through
Send it to beta readers
Try not to second-guess everything while I wait for feedback

Jill: My process is always evolving, but right now it looks like this:

First I come up with an idea or choose which idea I'm going to work on. Then I write a logline and a back cover copy paragraph. Then I start brainstorming. I create some characters. I create a storyworld, complete with a map, names of countries, cities, and important landmarks. I create countries with names for rulers, styles of government, and history of conflict within their borders and with other countries. I go back to my characters and decide who lives where and what their lives are like. I come up with interesting backstory for the main characters and fill out my character charts. 

Then I move into plotting. I fill out one of my plot charts, coming up with three-act structure story elements and a few important in-between scenes. I write all these scenes on index cards and lay them out of the floor. I brainstorm until I've filled in all the blanks. If I need to write a synopsis, I do that here.

Then I start writing the first draft, one card at a time. By chapter five or so, I will be able to tell if things are working or if I need more brainstorming. In the latter case, I'll lay out my cards again and set about fixing the problem areas. Or if I need to know more about a character or a country, I'll spend time fleshing that out more. Sometimes I'll ask writing friends for feedback on my magic system or plot or whatever has me stuck. Eventually I go back and work my way through the first draft until I reach the end. 

When I'm done, I'll take a break from that story and work on something else for a while. If I'm confident with the first draft, I might have some writing friends read it, but I usually wait until after a rewrite to show anyone. 

When I'm ready to rewrite, I scroll through the manuscript and make a list of all the notes I've left myself in the comments. Then I'll add anything else that comes to mind. (And often I already have a list that I started while writing the first draft.) Then I'll scroll through the story and fix everything on that list that is a big picture problem. Like, chapter three isn't working at all. Come up with a new scene. Or maybe I need to change the location of a fight scene. Once I've done all the big stuff and I know that the story is all there, I scroll through and leave myself instructions in the comments about the little things on my list. For example, if I want to remember to remind my readers that Spencer is six foot four, I'll leave a comment at the start of every chapter that says, "Spencer is tall." So when I'm going back in to line edit, if there is a scene where I can naturally remind my reader that he's tall, I'll try and work that in, at least once in a chapter or where it is natural. Like Spencer going inside a short door and needing to duck or getting into a tiny car and having his head touch the ceiling.

Once I have all my notes and reminders in there, then I start at chapter one and read my way through, doing a line edit and rewriting until I'm happy with the flow of the sentences. Here I'll also add description and change said tags to action tags, rewrite dialogue for character voice, things like that.

Once I'm done with my rewrite, I'll go back through and edit for my weasel word list. This is really tedious, but I think it helps tighten the story. I'll also look at first and lasts of chapters and paragraphs to see if I can write better hooks and also to cut and trim. The very last thing I do is spell check, then remove any lingering comments, which are usually reminders for the next book in the series or a place where I could pull out a good discussion question to put at the end.

What about you, writers? 

Do you have a consistent writing process? How has it evolved?


  1. My writing process starts with letting an idea bounce around in my head for a LONG time, sometimes years, never less than a month. If one idea is dominating my headspace, I'll get some of it down--rough synopses, character lists, occasionally some sketches. For some stories I also outline, or make a song playlist--but definitely not a 74-minute long one! When I have time and whatever I was previously writing is done, I'll pick one of the ideas bouncing around and start work on it.

    I guess that's where the actual writing process begins. I write a complete first draft, usually around 20,000 words or so. (I don't do very long stories.) Sometimes I do that step by hand. Then I come back around for a second pass. I've found that I don't do much rewriting if I can just edit on the computer--I change a few words here and there, but mostly just skim it. So instead, if I wrote it online, I'll print it out and delete the old file. Either doing this or writing by hand forces me to type it up all over again, so I find myself rewriting entire scenes to work better.

    I publish on a website, so I don't have to have incredibly high quality or edit intensely. After I type it up again, I start publishing, a chapter or two at a time. Occasionally one of my sharp-eyed readers will catch a typo, which I go back and fix, but as a major grammar nerd I rarely have to worry about mistakes. So I guess I do the 'macro edit' and mostly skip the 'micro'.

    1. What an interesting process, Christine! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. Wow! Jill, you are amazing! I skimmed your process and I am in awe! Will read this later.

    My process is pretty basic :
    Charter development , Mbti, playlist, picture board
    Outline story
    Divide into points / months / chapters
    Scene by scene
    Revise as much as needed
    Color code edit
    Read through / macro / micro edit
    Give to my editor
    Tester readers
    Final edit

    1. Nice! I'm curious about what "Divide into points and months" mean. Chapters makes sense. And also, I'm curious what you mean by "color code edit."

  3. Basically, just my plot points, like call to action, climax, etc. By month: I write historical fiction, so I make a calendar of historic events and fiction events.

    Color coded editing is something I learned from Victoria Minks. Here's a links to her blog post. It's so helpful!

  4. "Eat all the ice cream." Mrs. Morrill, you are too funny! Really, though, ice cream does deserve to be part of the official process.