Everyone approaches writing differently and I don’t often open up about my own methods. I’m very much behind the scene, quietly getting on with it. I get a bit nervous to talk about my own process as there’s so much writing advice already on the internet—dos and don’ts, one says do this and another says do that. But the best way is always your own way, and you only learn something by doing it. And it took me a while to figure that out. At first I would feel like I was doing something wrong because I wasn’t following one thing or another, or feel guilty if I didn’t write one day…
Really, there can be some pretty useful advice out there, but it helps to know what’s relevant to you and how you work best. And the only way to discover that is by writing.
This is a rough guide of what works for me when writing a novel. This is just my approach, and it does vary depending on the book and the feedback etc. So here goes…
I plan, but just a bit. I plan out major points and why they happen—character motives, relevance to the story etc.
Example for The Wanderers is things like:
The circus – Why a circus? Who started it? How did the orphaned shifters find it? What roles do the characters play? Why are they essential to the order of things? What happens when they grow up? Who runs it, and how?
The hunters – Where did they come from? What do they want? How do they know about shifters? What drives them?
The shifters – How are they connected to their animals? What’s their view on the world? How much do they know? How do their abilities work?
If I can answer questions like this then I know I’m getting ready to start. More crop up while writing. Constantly. If I’m getting carried away with something I’m thinking: Why? What’s the point of this? If there’s a point, great I’ll use it. If not, cut back or cut altogether. I give myself time to answer all the questions because it’s important that I can.
First draft (or zero draft), which is me getting the plot down. End result is usually a third of the desired word count, as if it’s a really, really detailed outline. I fast draft, eager to get everything written down. I feel so much better when I’ve done this, when I have something solid to move forward with.
Rewrite it properly. I’m very much into editing by rewrite. It’s time consuming, but thorough. I do this a few times over. Reading it and rewriting as I go helps me see what’s not right, what needs expanding on, where info is lacking, where there’s too much info. Only problem is typos.
Read and edit. So it should be in pretty good shape after several edit-by-rewrites, but now there are typos to fix and a proper, undistracted read through to be done.
Send to Kindle. I like to read away from the computer, like I’m reading a finished book. This helps with picking out errors I don’t catch on the big screen and working out how the story flows. I always have a notepad and pen with me for this.
Take notes back to the computer and apply to MS. I usually end up with a long list of little things that need changing—a word change, remove a sentence, add more info. It’s mostly tweaking at this stage. Very picky!
Submit. Argh! At this stage it’s most often ready to go to my agent and readers for feedback. Usually, once I’ve got feedback I might write it out again if it’s extensive, or I’ll make the necessary edits and then read it through to make sure it all makes sense. Sometimes one little thing can have a domino effect on lots of other little things and it’s important not to let that slip through unnoticed.
I’m very careful. I think anyone who’s worked with me would agree that I’ll read and read and tweak and tweak until they cut me off at the source. But that’s good because then I know I’ve done everything I can to make it to the best of my ability and something I can feel proud of.
So what I’ve learned after writing a few books is not to be afraid to experiment, to carve out my own path, believe in myself and my own methods, and always do what works for me.
Kate Ormand is YA author of DARK DAYS and THE WANDERERS. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also member and co-creator of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website or on Twitter (@kateormand).