How I write my novels

How I Write

Every one of my novels is a different beast to write.

Some of them share aspects of form and style, and they all share the same planning method and way of creating a synopsis. But when it comes to actually writing the story, they’re individuals.

My ideas tend to start with an interesting character or two in A Situation, usually a single vivid scene that grows in my mind.

I live with that for a week or two, and if it still excites me I start worldbuilding in my head.

As soon as I have enough to make an outline, that’s what I do. This is when I start thinking of it as a project rather than just another idea bubbling away on the back burner.

The outline is also the bones of what will ultimately become my synopsis.

If there’s one thing I detest about writing a novel, it’s having to compress a 90k-word manuscript into a 500-word synopsis after I’ve written the book. Makes a whole world more sense to write the thing as I go.

This is my writing method:

  • sketch a skeleton outline of the story from start to finish, with one or two sentences per chapter
  • develop Chapter 1 into scenes, with one or two sentences each
  • research specific requirements from those outlined scenes
  • write and edit Chapter 1
  • start the synopsis, consisting of Chapter 1 from the outline with added detail from the manuscript
  • develop the outlined Chapter 2 into scenes
  • research Chapter 2 specifics as required
  • write and edit Chapter 2
  • extend the synopsis
  • Etc.
  • when the novel is finished, edit and polish the synopsis
  • send novel out to crit partners
  • edit and polish with their remarks and suggestions in mind
  • send novel out to beta readers
  • edit and polish with their remarks and suggestions in mind
  • submit novel and synopsis to selected industry professional(s)

If I’m writing a proposal, I move the full story outline to the front of the process. If I’m writing a short story or a novella, I’ll probably pants it.

Otherwise, what I’ve described here is my writing method. Nice and simple, existing on just three Word documents per novel:

  • outline
  • synopsis
  • manuscript

So that’s me. I believe the simplicity and consistency of my method allows me the freedom to focus on story and make every novel a different beast.

How about you? If you write, how do you do it?

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4 Responses to How I write my novels

  1. Thank you for sharing your process! I’ve been taking on the National Novel Writing Month challenge for a few years now. While I always manage fifty thousand words written by the seat of my pants, I unfortunately haven’t been interested in furthering the results. ~sigh~ Maybe I’ll just stick to short stories for now.

    • David Bridger says:

      You’re welcome! 🙂

      NaNo isn’t for me. I have nothing against the concept, and many people love it. But having done it twice (2005/6) I know my best process is to plan a book then write it at my efficient rate of 1k words per day. An extended sprint like Nano guarantees I will crash.

  2. Grace Kahlo says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your process, David! I’m in awe of how you approach story in such an organized way. I’m so scattered, I always struggle to pull the pieces together as I pants. But I’m working on learning plots better. 🙂

    • David Bridger says:

      You’re welcome, Grace, and thanks for your kind comment. We all have different processes that tend to continue developing over time. This one I use didn’t arrive fully formed by any means. 🙂

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