In this episode of The Writer's Hive, Amber, Julie, and Katlyn talk about taking book ideas through the drafting process.
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Transcript of video
Hi, everyone, welcome back to The Writers Hive, where we are demystifying and debunking many different processes of the writing process. My name is Katlyn Duncan and here we have Julie and Amber. I'm going to let them introduce themselves.
Hi everybody. I am Julie. I can be found over at Pages and Pens. I am an aspiring traditionally published author currently working on a women's fiction novel and getting ready to query.
I'm Amber from Amber's Books and More on YouTube and Amber LaShell on Twitter. I'm sure there'll be linked down below for you can find me. I'm currently working on a first draft of a horror adult novel featuring a haunted house and I'm in the, you always say query trenches, but I'm in the drafting trenches.
This is the second episode of The Writer's Hive. And today we are talking about the writing process. As you know here, I love talking about the writing process and I love digging into the minds of other writers and talking about it as well. So we're going to discuss our writing process from idea through first drafts today. So I'm going to start with Julie and go through your process.
Fantastic. I am not somebody who has a ton of ideas living in their head. So when I land on an idea, I usually sit with it for a little bit. And as long as I feel like it is feasible to see it through a first draft, I will go ahead and write it. I don't usually have like a giant bank of ideas to pick from, so that makes my beginning process pretty easy. I usually weed out very quickly just within my own mind, what I think will and won't work. So I don't end up with crazy shiny new ideas that distract me or a ton of things to try to whittle down to one idea that I want to write. That makes that very easy for me personally. And then I usually start off with a writing notebook. So what I do for every single one of my stories is start a notebook.
Once I'm certain that I have something that I can see through a first draft that I think will be marketable and enjoyable for a reader, I start a notebook for it. And in the beginning of the notebook, I begin with character, plot, overarching, just grand scheme of my story, and it all goes into here and that's where my process begins. So I do begin my process on paper, handwriting out what I know about my world, my plot, my characters, and that's where it starts. And then once I feel like I have a really solid idea of where I'm going and my overarching story, I usually take myself over to Scrivener. I am a Scrivener writer. I adore Scrivener. If I could manage my whole life and organize my whole life in Scrivener, I would. I start off there and I structure my Scrivener doc and my new novel, according to a Save the Cat outline.
And I will lump scenes together into chapters, according to that structure. And then I will take my notes from my notebook and move them into the according chapters. And I will structure my novel loosely in an outline within Scrivener. And then from there, I will begin drafting also within Scrivener. So once I'm done with my paper brainstorming, everything else goes into Scrivener and I will take different notes that I have in here of characters. And I'll do character sheets. I'll do setting sheets all within Scrivener, and I'll just take everything that was in here, move it over to Scrivener. And then that's where everything lives for a while. And I don't normally go back to my notebook until I'm done with the first draft, which is another video, but that's essentially what my process looks like from kind of inception of idea. Once I've settled on it, it goes into my notebook and then from notebook into an outline on Scrivener.
And then my first drafts tend to be pretty fleshed out. I don't consider myself an underwriter or a bare bones first drafter. I typically have relatively close to my finished word count after edits, et cetera. At the end of my first draft, I'll pretty much have everything that I need to have and then just home from there as I go through with edits. So my first draft process tends to take, I want to say it tends to take a little bit longer. It, sometimes it doesn't, it depends on the story of the characters and my outline. I feel like I'm kind of honing in on what works for me in my planning stage so that when I draft, I come out a little faster and a little cleaner, which is really fun for me, but that is my beginning process.
Great. How about you, Amber?
So I'm the opposite. I have tons of ideas just like floating around in my head all the time. So I have an overall idea notebook that I brain dump an idea when I have it and then leave it. And I just come, if it it's one of those ideas that keeps just like nagging me in the back of the head, I'll look at it and see, does this seem like something that could actually be a full book? Once it's a full book, it gets its own idea or own notebook, which this one's my lefty notebook. Because I'm a left-hander and this is my haunted house project in here is synopsis. I grab Save the Cat and I find the genre that it belongs in. And I kind of get a roadmap based on save the cat for the whole book, like the big plot points that I want to hit.
So then I'll put a synopsis and my save the cat. And then once Save the Cat is done, I'll start to plot out chapter by chapter, but just for like the first act. So that first few chapters see how that goes. And then I start once I start to draft it, I see how the characters react. If they, once I get through that first act, I go back and then I start to plot out the next I take the second act and I split it in half, so that I hit to the second to the halfway point. And I've pulled it out that I, I get frustrated if I've have everything plotted and then it changes and I have to re-plot everything. So I do it like basically in four chunks before I get to the end of the first draft, but I mostly just use the notebook and I also use Scrivener to write and then Save the Cat and notebook. That's it. That's the only thing I do.
Awesome, I'm sort of in between you two, when it comes to the amount of ideas that I have, I don't have an idea notebook, but I do have an idea piece of paper in my desk. That's whenever ideas come to me, I write on it. So I think there's maybe about 10 ideas for different books currently. So when I do decide on a project, I will outline I'm an outliner. So I will jump into Scrivener or Google docs, depending on if I am. I don't really know what it depends on. Sometimes I just feel like writing in Google docs. I don't usually go into Word until later in my process, but I will look at Save the Cat Writes a Novel. I will plot out all of my beats. I find that those beats really help me shape the story.
And as a linear writer, I don't really move through the outline as linearly. I'll jump around and just pull out ideas. And then recently I've added to my process, Mastering Suspense Structure and Plot that way of structuring my outline based on the pace, the pacing of the story. And then usually I will do a narrative outline after that. And I sort of start to get all of these characters in my mind, start to hear their voices and know their story. And then usually around that time, I will find some visual representations of the characters and the settings. If something pops in my mind that I'm really not sure what the character looks like, or I really know what they look like or know what the setting is. I will do a little bit of a dive into stock images usually, or sometimes with characters.
I'll just pick a celebrity that they look like, add that into Scrivener. One thing I love about Scrivener during this process is being able to compile everything into one document. I'm not the type who appreciates clutter in any sense. So having to look at these resources in different areas, like in my bookmarks or in a notebook, I really like having it all in one spot that I can quickly access. So then after that, after I have my outline ready to go I'll break it down into chapters, as Julie said with her process as well. And then I will just, I'll just write from there. And then I do reference the outline, but if I do go off on any tangents, I'll make quick notes on the side. One thing I learned over the past years, I forget who told me this this idea, but I thought it was so interesting is having a document within Scrivener at the very, very top and any questions that I had that I wanted to research later, because if I do research during my drafting, I will go off in a complete hole.
So I put them in this document at the top. That's always at the top and it says, read me. So I know I'll just put all my notes in there while I'm drafting. And then in subsequent edits, after my first draft, I will reference that document as well as the original outline. That's my process. It seems like a lot when I say it out loud, but yeah.
It definitely can be, and I want it, you actually sparked something in me. And I will also mention that, like you, I do have picture components to my Scrivener. So I do for each section of my book, every chapter actually I will have photo inspiration of setting, of mood, of vibe. And I will do that for each chapter just because it helps me to have a physical, visual representation of what my scene looks like. I don't have pictures in my head. So for me seeing a character, seeing maybe the room they're in, if they're in their bedroom, if they're in their house, wherever the scene is taking place, I will have an actual photo inspiration for that scene, so that as I'm writing it, I can kind of picture it in my head and I don't end up with that white room syndrome.
So that's a very, very important part of my process that I did skip. And I also am someone who writes to music. So I will always have a playlist for a book going at the same time and I can do lyrics in my songs. So I'll have either on Spotify, sometimes on iTunes. It depends on where I want to kind of have it gathered, but I will always have some kind of playlist or, you know, music for my novels as well. But that's a very large part of my creative process that I definitely skipped over. So thank you for reminding me.
Yeah, for sure. I definitely have a playlist as well. I write to music. I write to music and I edit to rain, which I know we have discussed before that you guys would say you would fall asleep if you edited to rain sounds. Also I did want to mention too, as we're talking about more digital things is that one thing I had this in my process previously and then hadn't for a while, mostly because we're currently, you know, early 2021 where we're still stuck at home in a lot of instances, not able to leave. So what I did when I was able to leave and, you know, waiting at the doctor's or whatever I do take Scrivener on my phone. I believe you can have it on the iPad as well. And I'll just quickly write when I have 10, 15 minutes.
I'm able to do that, knowing that I have everything in Scrivener on my phone at all instances. So if I have, you know, some time I can quickly draft or if I need a reminder of anything, I can access everything within the Scrivener app, which I really love. I know that's more of a newer it's a newer thing over the past few years. So mobile writing, when you can be mobile.
See I tried that and it doesn't work for me because I am opposite of Julie. Whereas I see a movie in my head that I'm writing to, and if I am mobile or if I'm doing something else, I can't.
like hone into that movie and lose myself in the images. And so I can't like, it won't make any sense once I come back to it, I'm like that's not what they were doing at all in that scene. So I actually do pull pictures, but I do have such a vivid image of the setting and the characters in my mind that I pull images on like, like I'll pull a picture of a girl that has similar haircut or hair color to keep that in mind. Or like somebody like this is the kind of clothes that they wear. This is like little snippets, not like a whole image. And or maybe if they have a piece of jewelry that they wear a lot, I'll have a picture of that. But most of the time it's so vivid in my head that I could not ever pull pictures and be totally fine, but I also write to music most of the time, but I don't like lyrics.
So I usually listen to like instrumentals type stuff. So like glitch mob is one of my favorites and Lindsey Sterling and stuff like that, but I don't have a playlist up anywhere it's just on my computer. So I just like play it, have like a writing list and it's not it's for every book, it's the same, it's never changes.
I was going to see if it was the same or if it was different.
It's always the same.
I have to create a whole new playlist, every single book.
I'm not a really super musical person. So like I could just write in silence and be totally fine. I don't need music. Even when I'm writing, like I said, I'm in this movie, I'm hearing what's in the book, like what they're saying to each other, the music just kinda falls away and I don't even really hear the music anymore. So I really lose myself. And if I'm in the zone, somebody could come up behind me and touch me and I will not know they're there and I will jump and I'll scream and freak out a little bit. So.
Also, I just wanted to point out that that's obviously, these are not the only ways to do this. I know a lot of people that use Notion to outline and to organize their writing. A lot of people that use Google docs as a way to be mobile and do that everywhere. I also know other people that plot out an outline, a lot of their novel with voice memos or speaking to a program that will then type for them. So there's a ton of different ways to do this. This is just what works for us. And I, as speaking back to being on the go and writing, I will leave voice memos for myself constantly. Just like I love, like I'll be driving and I'll just have it set up on my home screen. So I can just click it really quick and be like, I just had this idea for this specific thing. Or I was passing a house one time and they had these like stone guard towers. They weren't lions. It was like some kind of weird structure. And I was like, I love that for this particular part of this novel, when I was doing my contemporary fantasy. So I did a quick voice memo and I was like, make sure this is outside of this estate. And so I can always be a fun thing to do as well, but there's a ton of different ways. It's not always all Scrivener.
Yeah. I do leave notes for myself if I think of some random, like, make sure, make sure it's gloomy a lot, you know, like, I'll just write that down either on a notebook or in my phone or something. Going on what you said, we actually do have a writer friend that does their first draft completely by hand, on paper. They write out their first draft and then they basically their second draft and their first edit phase is transcribing that into like a Word doc. And so they're kind of editing it as they go. And once they have it, there it's a second draft and then they can go forward from there. So every, I could never, whatever works for people. My brain goes too fast for my poor little hand to keep up with. So, no.
And that brings up another good point too, when we're talking about the idea through the drafting process is that it's constantly evolving. It's not just putting butt in chair and writing, you know, when we're out and about, you can still feel inspired. It's not like such a rigid process of just like one thing at a time and doing it every time. I know I feel inspired when I'm like doing the laundry sometimes or in the shower. So it's definitely like an ongoing process, the writing process as a whole. Do we have anything else to add?
I could always keep talking about it, but no, I think that's the bulk of the bulk of my beginning to first draft.
Yeah. And we can, we will, in future videos, we will go through the process, the evolving process that we go through as well. But we wanted to keep these videos nice and short for you so that you can get back to the writing as soon as possible. If you are interested in seeing any of the other videos in this series, The Writers Hive series, I do have a playlist linked in the description and any of the other videos moving forward we'll continuously add to that playlist. So you don't miss out on any of them, whether they are here on my channel or on Julie's channel and maybe future on Amber's channel. So yeah, so let us know in the comments below what your writing process from idea to first draft is. We'd love to continue this conversation with you and support you also in the comments and all of our socials, all of our channels are also in the description. So be sure to give us all a follow. So if you enjoyed this video, do give it a like, and also hit that subscribe button and the little notification bell next to it. So you know the next time I upload and I will see you guys later, thank you, Julie, and Amber for joining me.
Author. Dreamer. Storyteller.