Writing doesn't come easy. It should, shouldn't it? It looks easy. Just put some words on a paper that make sense, a voila! A story!
Oh, how I wish it were that easy!!
So we each create a process to get us from Point A (the first glimmer of a story idea) to Point E (for End as in the End of the Finished Book). It can take years to get a complete process, and even then, it manages to need some changing at times. A little tweaking to make it better or get through a particularly rough spot.
I'm a plotter. I wasn't always a plotter. In fact, some years ago, if anyone even suggested I might want to try plotting, I would put my fingers in my ears and La la la la la, until said person went away. Long story, but in the end, I learned how to plot. My way. It isn't anyone else's way. It isn't right or wrong, it's simply mine.
Step One: The Spark of an Idea
This first step often happens while a few chapters away from the current WIP. Terrible timing, and it could be ignored, but I've discovered if I do that, I'm going to wish I hadn't. That spark will run and hide, and it will take every trick and prayer to drag it out of hiding. I was lucky. I was smart. Why? Because I didn't ignore that spark when writing the last half of DESIGNS ON THE COWBOY. In fact, I was several rounds into my morning walk at a local park, thinking of virtually nothing---those morning walks were for exercise and letting the brain take a rest---when a picture popped into my mind of a naked man in a pond, his back to "me" (the character and heroine, of course!). Afraid I'd lose the image before I finished my walk and went home, I burned it into my brain. The moment I walked into the house, I sat down at the computer and wrote the beginning of the opening scene. And then the real work began.
Step Two: Decide What the Story is About and Who the Characters Are
I mean, let's face it. With a naked man in a pond, anything could happen. I had another flicker of an idea and realized that the heroine knew the naked man, although she didn't realize it at the time. Aha! A reunion story! I needed a backstory.
Step Three: Letting the Right Side of the Brain Take Over
Sometimes it takes a little pushing, sometimes it just takes letting the imagination take over with no parameters, no rules, just ideas gone wild. Most are discarded, those special few that have some merit will be weeded out and saved.
Step Four: Putting Together a Plot
I've never completely figured this one out. By the time I get to this step, I know and have probably written the first few pages of the story. I have a clue what the black moment will be, and the turning point. I also know what will be in the first three scenes aka the first chapter and then end or hook at the end of the third chapter. Everything in-between takes a lot of what-iffing, some of it good, most of it... *shrug*
Step Five: The Story is Plotted
This point could be only a few weeks after Step One or months later, depending on if the brain is work and if I'm writing to deadline on something else. But at least I know the story. Not every detail. That comes with the real writing. But a good idea of how this story and these characters are getting from Point A to Point End.
The rest of the steps are the actual writing. I follow the plot, which usually works out as it should, but I've had to teach myself and my characters to be flexible.
And then comes the point where the first draft is written. The story is there, and it's time to edit. The number of edits depends on a lot of things. How much time to I have before I have to turn this in? How many places need to be not only tweaked but rewritten because I went off on a tangent I hadn't planned.
There's a final polish, a knot in the stomach, and a moment of panic as my finger hits the SEND key in my email program to shoot the manuscript to my editor.
And then I wait.
And I hope I have a new idea to work on, so I can stop looking at the calendar every day, waiting to hear from my editor.
That's my Process. But it's only mine AND YOU CAN'T HAVE IT. You get to create your own that fits only you. But you can borrow ideas from others and make them your own.
The final word on The Process is to tweak whenever needed...because sometimes the writing flow hits a damn, and we need a little dynamite.