I learned a lot about the writing process while writing my first novel, The Field, but learned even more from writing Midnight House. Over the next several weeks, I want to share my writing process, the publishing process, and the marketing process to help you succeed in publishing your book as an indie author.
While working on The Field, I initially had no intention of turning it into a series. After all, if I was going to publish the book myself, maybe one book was enough—something to check off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do.
And then, I let a few people read it.
It wasn’t the published version, but those who read it liked it and offered their notes. When I met Kathleen, who became my editor, she read it and encouraged me to turn it into a series.
So, I started to think about how I could do that, and a few years before The Field was a published novel, I began to work out possible story ideas for a second novel.
I knew that I wanted the characters to be older, but I was unsure of the second book’s storyline. But I wrote down several ideas. Like all brainstorming/pre-writing sessions, some of it was worth keeping, but most were ridiculous and would eventually be left in the dust.
The big question I had for myself was if I should continue the story from the first book or do a standalone with the characters doing something unrelated to the first story.
I wanted to do something with Kyle that was sports-related, which ended up happening, but Daniel at the early phases had no real place or direction in the story. He was a school newspaper reporter. He was in ASB. He was this, that, and the other thing, but he didn’t feel grounded in the story.
That’s when I decided to dig deeper into the minds of my two main characters. Who were they before the events of The Field? How did those events change them not just externally but internally?
Doing a deep dive into who your characters are, what makes them tick, and how traumatic events can impact them going forward can help you shape more dimensional and grounded characters. So, as I sketched out Daniel and Kyle after the first book, I discovered things that would give Daniel and Kyle stronger story arcs in the second book and give the other characters material to work off of.
I had to decide how old they would be in the second book, which would inform what they were able to do and not do in terms of their ages, and I also started to brainstorm ideas for new characters they would encounter in their new story. I also had to decide who from the first novel would carry-over to book two and what they would be up to at that point.
Now that I started to flesh out character arcs, I developed story ideas that would be interesting and provide the needed elements of action-adventure that are key elements of the series. This is where things get fun for any writer since, at this stage, anything and everything is a possibility. I chose Redding locations where I felt different action pieces could take place and worked through various scenarios. Some over-the-top, some less so.
All the while, I’m thinking of how the main characters, other characters, the overall story, and these action moments will all come together in a clear and compelling narrative.
But I was nowhere near that stage yet.
Notes, Notes, and More Notes
Part of the early brainstorming and development process is writing down your ideas. All ideas. I have my Notes app on my phone filled with snippets of dialogue or scenes that I thought of while I was at work. A legal pad by my bed in case an idea strikes me at 3AM. And a file on my laptop for ideas so I can type furiously as the ideas flow.
I’m a writer that has a hard time just sitting and waiting for ideas to come. I usually am doing something when they hit me, so having a way to jot down ideas on the go is much better than saying to yourself, “This is a great idea. Can’t wait to get home and write it down!” (SPOILER ALERT: The idea will probably be gone by then.)
Dozens of Note app files. Lots of legal pad pages. More than one Word document (I started breaking ideas into separate files by character). Somewhere in all these places was a complete story. Now I had to start taking these ideas, these fragments, these notes, and crafting them into a narrative.
Next week, I’ll take you through the outline process and the first draft’s early stages. See you then!