Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The 7 Stages of Writing a Novel

By Sarah Ballance

Authors get a lot of questions. Where do you come up with your ideas? How long does it take to write a book? How does it feel to be a published author? Well, guess what. I'm probably the last person to address these questions because (a) I'm new here and (b) I'm just not normal, but I'm going to tackle them anyway. Here's a look at the stages of writing when you're, uh, me.

Stage 1: Inspiration

Inspiration is a crapshoot, but it can come from some rather unusual places. Take this lovely photo, for example. The kids and I had just finished our three mile walk Tuesday morning when the ditch started to boil—major geyser action, only we don't have those here. And the water turned bright red in seconds. I found this alarming. My first thought was someone had cut up a body and stashed it in the ditch pipe. (Fortunately I did not voice that concern to the park ranger, who calmly responded to my epic WTF by saying the discoloration was due to backwash from the aerators they use in the lake.) But am I inspired? Oh, you better believe there's a plot in all that "bloody" water!

Stage 2: Excitement

Post "inspiration," I've got a brand new idea and a shiny new doc file to match. I spend a good thirty minutes telling everyone how excited I am to start a new story, then three or four times that looking through various themed baby and surname lists so my characters won't have to go by "Hey, you!" for the entire manuscript. I am on the cusp of something big. I am … not writing yet.

Stage 3: Wordage

This elusive period of writing occurs in the first one to six paragraphs (or, if I'm really lucky, I get that many pages out of it). It's the point right before excitement is ransacked by reality and I realize my great idea is going to have to get down somehow, and nothing is looking as good on virtual paper as it sounded in my head.

Stage 4: Le FAIL

My characters hate me. My words hate me. I don't know what I was thinking. Le FAIL.

Stage 5: Progress

Some authors move past stage 4 into smooth sailing and actually feel good about their accumulating wordage. Me? I think I ride Le FAIL through to the end. (I have a fast pass—front of the line, unlimited rides.)

Stage 6: The Slump

Like Le FAIL, only when I'm half to three-quarters done with the manuscript. This is the point where I've heard so many authors say they start doubting their stories. You may wonder how I distinguish this from Le FAIL. To that, all I can say is I have no idea, and thank you for paying attention.

Stage 7: The End

I speed up near the end. I can't help it. It's an accomplishment, and I get WAY excited. I don’t know if the novelty of finishing ever wears off, but right now I dig it, big time. And all that nagging and self doubt? Totally makes this moment sweeter! (That's, like, making pessimism optimistic. Now I don't know which t-shirt to buy. WAIL.)

Now, of course it doesn't actually end there. In fact, that's where the REAL party begins, and I am THRILLED to say I'm about to do some partying, Noble-style, with my recently (FINALLY) finished book UNFORGIVEN, which kicks off a series of romantic suspense titles. (I had to throw that in there for those of you who have kindly asked about my progress. And also for the person who keeps finding my blog by searching "Tehcotah, Oklahoma," which is awesome … and also where UNFORGIVEN is set.) All super good, mega-exciting stuff, but I have to admit one teeny distraction. You see, there's just one thing I'd really love to know.

Who the heck was in that ditch, and how do I get him out of there and into one of my books?

Not surprisingly, Sarah's characters tend to be just as twisted as she is. To observe from a safe distance, visit her blog or website. And if you want to know how that next book is coming along, click here.


C. Zampa said...

Congratulations on Unforgiven!

And is there going to be a follow-up blog to tell us what the red gunk in the ditch is? LOL!

Erin Brambilla said...

Le Fail. Yes, I know it well. Congratulations on Unforgiven.

Sarah Ballance said...

Thanks, and LOL! I can't remember any more of what he told me than I put in the post. He gave me the chemical name, but I was so distracted by the thought of body parts down there, I didn't commit that part to memory. * shudder * LOL.

Sarah Ballance said...

Hi, Erin! Thank you so much! And, um, I'm sorry about your familiarity with Le Fail. ;c)

Saewod Tice said...

Great post!

Sarah Ballance said...

Thanks, Saewod! Good to see you. ;c)

Krystal Wade said...

Le FAIL. I feel as though I'm there. Been there since I wrote, "Chapter 1" of my second book. LOL.

Congrats on Unforgiven.

Anonymous said...

Great post! But it seems to me you skipped a part.
What about Silencing the Inner Editor, where you dismember the irritating so and so with a spork? (He's imaginary; he'll be back!)
No editors, inner or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this comment.

Sarah Ballance said...

Krystal, I think Le Fail hogs way too much of the spectrum ... and needlessly, at that. The chapters I lament the most seem to get the biggest raves from my CPs. Makes for an interesting dynamic. "THIS IS AWFUL ... so they'll love it." Um, Le SIGH.

Sarah Ballance said...

Hi, JS! I don't disagree one bit, LOL. However, I poke sporks into objects (my inner editor, my keyboard, my eyeballs...) in Le Fail. That said, I find I am now craving Taco Bell. (I used to eat my Mexican Pizzas with a spork.)

Anonymous said...

Haha, this was great fun to read! I like you run into the "Le Fail" wall head on with blinders then sit dazed as to WTF... It's good to see I'm not the only one. Great post!