Hey guys, so, if you’ve seen my post Long Live the Queen, you know that I am writing an original YA fantasy novel called Long Live the Queen! In my aforementioned post, I shared the characters, a bit of info about the world, and how I came up with a few of the ideas. TL;DR – it’s going great!
Right now, I want to share how that’s going, and through that, explain my writing process! I have received many questions from people, such as, “Where do you get your inspiration? Can you explain your writing process and how you get from inspiration to finished draft? HOW in the world do you write SOOOO much and SOOOO quickly? Do you outline?”
So, I’m going to go step by step through my writing process, and I’ll also be answering questions like these and sharing snippets of my rough draft as we go! If I don’t answer any lurking questions, feel free to ask!
WARNING – THERE ARE ALLURE SPOILERS HERE
1. I always begin with inspiration and asking questions. This is generally the point where I begin to worldbuild.
Generally, it starts with, “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?” and then it devolves from there into, “I want this, this, and this,” in my story. For example, in Allure, it began with me saying, “What if Lloyd turned evil and caused a civil war between the Ninja?” I also said, “This is a world where the Police Commissioner and the mayor have more say. This is going to be a world where the Oni and the Dragons have huge impacts and implications for the plot.”
For LLTQ, I knew for sure I wanted a fantasy world, I liked dragons, and I wanted Andi, the main character, to have wings, etc. I created an entire document with all of my ideas. I put all sorts of random things in it: like races, kingdoms, elements, facts about the world I make up as I go along….
I also go on Pinterest or the web and find inspiration for things I want to include in my story. Like, I’ll say, “Okay, so I want there to be some sort of creature that causes everyone to have to live inside walled fortresses because they are really dangerous.” I settled on drakes. I said, “Drakes look like wingless dragons. They run very fast. They spit venom and they are reptilian. They are inspired by spitting cobras, cheetahs, and dragons. They look kinda like Sandara’s Desert Demons.” So I write all of this down in my “story ideas” document. Then I Google images of drakes, and if I find something that fits my mental image, I save it and add it to a folder somewhere in my photos. I label all of my inspiration photos in folders underneath “story.” And when I am wondering about my worldbuilding, I say, “Okay, I need to describe it. What does it look like and what does it do?”
As I worldbuild, I also say, “The world is like this. What impacts does having a world like this cause? What do people have to do differently to survive in a world like this?” I already discussed how the drakes affect the world, but there are also things like dragons. In LLTQ, like Game of Thrones, dragons are very powerful so they’re essentially used as military weapons. Therefore, they’re a commodity. Kingdoms compare their dragons and buy and sell them just like people in the Marvel Universe want the latest Tony Stark tech.
2. Next, I say, “Ok, what main plot points do I want to happen? What scenes would be really cool and impactful if they happened?”
For Allure, for sure, I knew Lloyd needed a ghost – something motivating him (aka someone needed to die), I knew Lloyd needed to turn evil, so I spent a ton of time mapping out his and Allura’s fight and how that would impact him, and I knew there was gonna be a big Endgame-style fight where everyone shows up to this world-ending event to fight the “Golden Master.” So already, right there, I had three big moments: my First Plot Point, Midpoint, and ending. Then, in the middle, I threw in fun things I wanted to happen: etc. scenes with the kids, scenes where Kai encounters the paparazzi, the encounter with Morro in the desert, etc.
For LLTQ, I knew one of the main characters, Zach, was an antagonist in some way, and I knew I wanted him and Andi to have a dance. He is a prince, he is very charming, he is socially educated, and they needed to dance. In my latest draft, unfortunately, circumstances don’t line up for them to actually dance, but I still managed to set up a ballroom scene. Additionally, I have an idea of where my story’s going too, even though I haven’t written it yet … ahhh! Also, as I’ve mentioned many times, I had this incredibly impactful dream which inspired the drawing in Inktober 2018. I know for sure I want this to happen, so as I think about how the story might happen, I also think about what events could lead to this.
Here’s an example of a scene I’ve also thought about A LOT. Sometimes I just get so excited I go ahead and write the super exciting scenes so I don’t forget XD. I also wrote bits of Lloyd’s trial scene before I wrote the climax XD.
I am urging my stolen dragon mount faster, faster. After that mysterious peasant boy, and most importantly, out of Chianna.
The approaching storm thunders, and rain begins to fall in sheets, completely drenching me with minutes.
Lightning flashes, and I veer my dragon to the side. I blink; I can still see the forks of light seared into my retinas.
No wonder the Chiannans shut everything down – this storm is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
I can barely keep my mount going straight. The wind tugs at her wings and tail, dragging her off course and forcing her to dip her neck up and down as she grunts and strains against the wind.
Lightning flashes again, and I squint. Is that what I think it is?
A figure in the clouds …?
A Varian, judging by its large dragon-like wings …
He is positioned right where I want to go, his huge wings spread wide, the air buoying him rather than blowing him away. Black dragonscale armor coats his torso, with spiked bracers on each forearm and tens of knives strapped to his body.
The figure’s glowing sky blue eyes meet mine, and fear shivers through me as I realize who he is.
It was said that some of our nobles had been disposed by … ignoble means. We all looked the other way, but the whispers of court said they were assassinated by only the best. The Storm Walker. So powerful and so elusive no one has ever caught a glimpse of him and lived.
Has Prince Zachary hired him and the Thanatos Brotherhood to kill me if he can’t catch me himself?
The Storm Walker’s hands begin to glow as lightning stretches down from the clouds to engulf him in a blinding display of light.
He sends it towards me.
My dragon dies in an instant, and I am thrown from its back, helpless as its body tumbles from the sky. I don’t have time to ponder why I am still alive.
I manage to right myself, pumping my wings, pain streaming through my fractured wing with each flap.
I am screaming as I thrust my wings, trying to rocket upwards out of the pounding rains and fierce winds that are obviously unnatural.
The Storm Walker does not fail to follow, his cloak whipping in the wind as his dragon-like wings carry him easily, the wind bowing to his command.
“Princess Andromeda,” he growls, “You cannot escape me!”
I briefly spare a thought for the Elemental boy – Hunter, right? I hiss at the idea of him luckily escaping Chianna while I am assassinated by the Thanatos Brotherhood.
I dare once more to glance behind, to check my position against the Storm Walker’s, when a shriek sounds, and suddenly a dragon is lunging for the small figure, talons outstretched as it rips at the Storm Walker’s wings.
Lightning flashes as the assassin summons the fury of the Storm, and the bones of both the dragon and its rider are clearly visible against the dark sky as the electricity runs through them.
Then all three – the boy, the assassin, and the dragon are falling.
I weigh my options. Now I am the lucky one – I can escape to Astoria and persuade Gunther to use his army to take back Dalavion. Or I can save this peasant Elemental, and risk the Chiannans catching me before I can make my escape.
There is no choice. I tell myself it’s because he is the first Fire Elemental seen in decades, because he risked his life to take down the Storm Walker. Because I owe him life after I tried to give him death four years ago.
Not because I care for a peasant.
This is a draft of my First Pinch Point where Andi meets the Storm Walker. So, now, the question is, what circumstances drive Andi into Chianna and why does she want to escape? I have to go back and plot what leads her there.
3. Now I build characters. Steps 1 and 2 go hand-in-hand with Step 3. As I worldbuild, I keep the characters in mind and ask myself who each character is and what their goal is. I’m always character-based first, but the world is just as important. With Allure, my cast was already pre-set, in a way, but I also drew from the world I had already built in my head. My sister and I invented Bobby, Raven, Hunter, etc. and they were characters in our Lego town. I knew I wanted to incorporate Sensei Wu’s academy, and then I had to flesh out Allura, Chamille, Mambo, etc. because they were either mine or their characters were not expanded upon in canon. So, for Allura, as I built her backstory, I also invented the world, in a way. I was like, “Here is Allura’s realm, here is what happened, here is what the FSM did in the past, here is where she came from. This is what the world is like for elementals.”
In LLTQ, my characters were also “built” in a way but I still had to flesh them out more. As I think about key plot points, I think about who the character is and ask why they would do such a thing and what sort of things would lead up to that if they wouldn’t normally do such a thing. For Zach, I knew he would take Andi’s power, but I asked, “How would that happen? How does his element work? Where are they when this happens? How did Andi not know what his element was capable of before this?”
4. Now I exclusively focus on theme. The characters are mostly built, but now I ask myself what the main character’s lesson is, and what the overall theme of the story is.
In Allure, I knew for sure the overall theme was power and how it corrupts. I explored how each character viewed power and what it did to each character when they got it. I knew Kai had both a love and a fear of power I could exploit. His love of power in S4 with Chen’s staff led to his fear or power in Allure. Meanwhile, Lloyd too hates power, but he can see the good it can possibly accomplish without seeing the hubris and temptation it brings once it is gained. Hence, his fall. Allura meanwhile sees the reality but she doesn’t care because she will get revenge.
In LLTQ, it took me a while, but I pinpointed it. I believe the theme is selfishness vs. selflessness as love. Andi’s character journey represents her journey from being a “sheltered”, arrogant, and spoiled princess to one who learns that being selfless for others is worth it. She believes herself above the peasantry and finds it hard to relate to others, but once she gets down on their level, she realizes people are all the same and have equal worth in the Maker’s eyes. It’s at that point she decides to give up her pursuit of the throne (she believes in her pride that she is the most capable and she deserves it) in order to pursue something greater.
So, the characters have to be built before the theme comes. The theme is organic to the story, but I personally believe without pinpointing it at some point and stressing it whenever possible, the story will fall flat and not thematically resonate with readers. Other characters in LLTQ also reflect this theme in different ways.
K.M. Weiland from Helping Writers Become Authors recently posted about the Thematic Square and I personally think that is SO brilliant because I didn’t even realize I was doing it with Allure, but it’s basically about how the same theme can be explored in multiple different ways to deepen the story beyond Truth vs. Lie. In LLTQ, for the positive Truth, again, it’s self-sacrifice as love, and the contradictory Lie is selfishness. It can be deepened with characters like Zach, who represent self-preservation (Contrary), and then the villainess, who represents oppression of others (Outright Negation).
5. Okay, now that I have all of that out of the way, I can make my outline. I know a lot of people can write without outlines and they’re geniuses. Guess what – I can’t. I need to know where my story is going, so I can stress what I want and foreshadow what I want without being worried it’s too off-track, so outline it is!
When I outline, I start with the major points, and generally, those have already fallen into place with worldbuilding and character building. So, those would be: Key Event, Inciting Event, First Plot Point, First Pinch Point, Midpoint, Second Pinch Point, Third Plot Point, Climax, and Resolution. To learn more about all of these, check out Weiland’s Story Structure! (She’s a genius).
Honestly, I spend A LOT of time thinking about my stories in the beginning. Whenever it strikes me, I immediately write it down because my brain is kinda like a sponge. It soaks up stuff really well but it also has a ton of holes so it leaks really well XD. SO ALWAYS WRITE IT DOWN WHEN IT STRIKES YOU. You never know when the key to your plot problem was sitting right in front of you but it evaporated a week ago and you’ll never get it back.
I write in a conversational tone to myself. I’ll put ???? and YES!!!! and NO!!! THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE because writing this way helps me be very free-flowing with my thoughts and just blurt them out so I can think through them.
Straight from my Allure notes at the very beginning:
First Plot Point: [spoiler] dies
First Pinch Point: The Ninja clash with Allura
Midpoint: Lloyd accepts DM
Second Pinch Point: The Ninja return and clash with the new Lloyd. He has half of the elements for GP and he steals the rest? The Ninja’s plan to get Vengestone or an Elemental crystal fails, and Lloyd kills Allura in a bloody show. He is fully corrupted.
Third Plot Point – Lloyd is winning and the Ninja are helpless. The Ninja who allied with Lloyd are all on the run.
Climax – Morro joins the Ninja and possesses Lloyd.
Important things that need to happen:
-Lloyd hunts down Garm so he can steal Destruction
-Lloyd discovers he has Golden Power
-The Ninja clash when Lloyd steals Jasper’s powers
-Chamille masquerades as Azura (Azura gifted Chamille her powers before dying, as she was the last Chosen One
-The Ninja are abandoned in a realm
-The Ninja escape by using deception with Chamille
The Ninja have to ally with Kate for a short time
At the midpoint, Kai empowers the others to believe power is not good – he experiences new vision and conviction for his life and allows him to see past Morro and ally with Morro, despite the fact that M possessed his little brother
Lloyd discovers GP in Midnight, uses it to heal Spinjitzu, and then leaves the Ninja
Perhaps Allura holds his mom against him, forcing him to get DP
Perhaps the Ninja split because Lloyd wants to get GP back and he wants the other Ninja to give up their powers, but they refuse. They don’t want them stolen again like last time, and point out that it was Lloyd’s fault he lost them. Lloyd is angry and decides he’ll get power elsewhere.
So, if you’ve read Allure, you can tell that some of the plot points were shifted around as new things got added in and other plot points got pushed back. But overall, you can see how I do it.
I did the same thing for LLTQ, only because since it’s a full-fledged novel and I actually want it to be good enough for others to read … it took me a lot longer to plot and I actually still don’t have it all plotted … I decided I just need to dive right in and try while knowing vaguely where I’m going. I have a rough outline similar to the one above, but after the First Pinch Point, the outline is much less strict and I’m ready to push it back/move things around if I get there in my rough draft and it’s not working.
It looks something like this though:
Hook: Andi and the rebellion.
Inciting Event: Meeting Zach. Set Andi and Zach up for the first Plot Point – Andi wants her throne but Zach is determined to stop her from getting it – or at least getting it happily. He wants her to know that it makes the most sense to choose him.
First Plot Point: Zach attacks. Andi is forced to go on the run and is then captured by the Chiannans.
First Pinch Point: Andi meets the Storm Walker and realizes there is an even bigger threat
So, I try to do that for the entire story, but often, I’m not quite sure what I want to happen in the middle. One thing is for sure: I know where I want the story to end up. Thanks to knowing the characters and theme, I can figure out what sort of ending will be best.
6. After I have the main plot points, I go in and I make a scene outline. In my scene outlines, again, I use very casual language. I usually break it down by first focusing on filling in the major things that happen in between each major plot point, and then I go in individually and write it out scene by scene what happens. I break my scenes down with each new scene having a new goal, a new mini-conflict, a resolution, and a new scene goal. Each scene is as long as however it needs to be when I write it though. I don’t try to strive for a certain word count or anything.
In the scene outlines, I focus on things like: What does each character in this scene want? What is the scene goal? What conflict do the characters encounter in this scene? What sort of disaster does resolving this conflict cause? I do a lot more thinking like this for LLTQ (because, again, I want it to be good) but in Allure I sorta let the words flow because I already knew intuitively the conflict and what the characters were thinking.
Here’s the scene outline I wrote for “This Is How We Rise Up.”
What does Lloyd think? He took the Dark Matter to defeat Allura and was then convinced he needed to make room for darkness to bring peace to Ninjago. His goal is to merge the islands to bring peace. He wants to convince his brothers to listen to him, and he does, temporarily, but when the Overlord takes control he gets concerned.
“Lloyd was drowning.” Write about how Lloyd regrets drinking the Dark Matter and about how he thought this was the best choice, but now how the Overlord is starting to take over. Write about how he realizes the Overlord actually took him over. The Overlord denies it, saying Lloyd alone did it. L loyd suspects the Overlord has taken over him and will continue to do so.
Lloyd leaves for the Golden Peaks but regrets drinking the Dark Matter.
The Serpentine arrive at Astor City, exhausted. Lloyd left to free Chamille to do “things” so that Carlos could spy on her. The others feel a “presence.” It’s Carlos.
So, the Serpentine arrive, and they have a few seconds to scope it out. They decide they will wait for the rest of their allies before attacking.
However, Lloyd arrives, and they are not given that option. They begin to prepare.
Lloyd takes Chamille and he goes to talk with Kai and the others one last time. Kai sees Lloyd is fully controlled by the Overlord. Lloyd asks them if they would like to join him to make Ninjago a better place or if they would like to be captured. Lloyd explains that he wants a utopia for all elementals and that merging the islands will bring Ninjago into balance once again. The Dark Side needs to be embraced. Morro refuts this, telling him that Ninjago is a realm of light. He begins to spout realmatic theory.
Kai essentially tells the Overlord to go to the Underworld. Lloyd smiles and tells his army to attack. He says he’ll let them watch. The Overlord tries to take control of him and destroy them, but Lloyd doesn’t let the Overlord. He floods himself with light, but it still doesn’t heal the divide.
Chamille tries to tell them via Mind what is going on. She broadcasts to Neuro, then says, “Lloyd’s laid a trap for you.”
Kai and Skylor go to break out Cole and Zane.
Meanwhile, Lloyd takes Chamille up to the top of the Palace to watch.
Chamille knows the armies are here. Now is the time to steal the crystal. She asks him what he wants her to do. (His trap is killing Chamille and stopping her from giving the crystal to them).
Meanwhile, Kai and Morro run into a snag because Zane is evil. They are all in a bind. Then Portals happens. And Kai and the others manage to stop Zane. They get to the top just in time to help Chamille. (Hunter also comes to rescue her). Or maybe Shade portals the crystal away. The entire alliance has betrayed Lloyd. Lloyd then spills Dark Matter on them.
Scene idea: Maybe Shade transports himself to report news to them?? He tells them Lloyd’s left the city and they should invade??
(1) Nya and Kai talk about trusting Morro
(2) Aubrianna mentions what will have to happen with Lloyd and the ERA
(3) Kai considers the costs of gathering power and realizes someone will have to wield the crystal against Lloyd
(4) Lloyd has a POV where he is at the Golden Peaks, struggling against the grip of the Overlord. He is reacting to choking Chamille and he is trying to seize control of his body. He dislikes the Overlord but cannot get rid of him. The Overlord continues to insist he is correct; the islands must be merged.
(5) They march very hard, for days. Nathaira has been dispatched; they leave the Ninjago City Council leaders in Ninjago City with Borg and the Police Commissioner. The Metalonia leader is flown to Metalonia by Griffin. Vania of Shintaro flies to Shintaro with Hailmar to empty out Shintaro and ask the Geckles and Munce for help. The Islanders do not yet exist.
(6) They are not sure if their allies will come back in time but they hope they will
(7) they fight against the endless sea of Stone warriors for a few minutes before the other people arrive, bearing – surprise – gold from the Peaks and Raven – a Master of Destruction??? Or, the Ninja together fight and create a Tornado of Creation?? Their powers together combine
Multiple plotlines for the Beginning of the End:
(1) Zane and Cole must be rescued for the crystal to work – Skylor, Kai, and Morro go in, but they have a problem (Nya is with Nathaira and Jay with the land team)
(2) The warriors outside are amassing and the people can only keep them down for a short time unless an elemental does something
(3) They must release Garmadon so he can fight Lloyd’s light warriors but Garmadon is severely weakened …. he’s been tortured! The Ninja combine their powers into Creation to temporarily heal him??
(4) the Ninja must get the crystal from Chamille but she’s betrayed!! Keep switching the viewpoints
(5) Use “Portals” for when their armies arrive to fight the Stone Warriors
“You know someone will have to wield that crystal.”
“You know someone will have to risk killing him.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Power corrupts,” Kai said. “But it’s the only way we can defeat him …” Kai is agonized over possibly losing his brother and also over the thought of the Ninja having to give up their powers for the fight.
Goal: To drive off the Nindroids and elementals
Conflict: They put up a fight
Disaster: It turns out well, but now Chamille is supposedly on THEIR side
Reaction: Everyone is understandably worked up about Chamille. They question whether or not they should head to Astor City. Morro tells them about the legend of LastDeath
Meanwhile, Mayor Aubrianna approaches Kai and Nya privately and tells them they have to know what will happen if they go after him – that killing him may be a very real possibility??
Kai also has a private conversation with Morro – he goes out to seek Morro and find out WHY Morro saved him, and Morro tells him it was Sensei’s wishes that he become the 7th member of the team
Deliberation: They decide what to do about Chamille and whether or not they should trust her
Decision: They decide they’ll have to trust her and they travel to Astor City. Nathaira takes half of their forces – the Maarays (unfortunately the
Goal: get to Astor City before the Spring Equionox
Conflict: they don’t know if they’ll get all of their armies there in time so the Serpentine march alone. While camping in the desert, Aubrianna discusses with Kai and Nya what will happen to Lloyd. They refuse to let that happen.
Nya also confides in Kai that she wants to trust Morro – that she does trust Morro??
Reaction: they finally get to Astor City, and there is an entire army guarding them. Lloyd is not there, so they cannot steal his powers or cleanse him.
Finally, Lloyd arrives, and he stares at them. Lloyd had only disappeared to give Carlos an opportunity to spy. However, he did collect more Gold and Dark Matter while he was at it. Lloyd returns and creates a monolith. and laughs at them. He creates more warriors and orders his elementals to attack. They turn on him, and Lloyd destroys them all.
The fight begins. Lloyd stands atop the monolith, looking down at them, and laughs. The Overlord takes over. He begins to merge the islands.
As you can see, my notes are verrryyyyy rough. First, I plotted what I wanted to happen in the scene, and then I tried to break it down at the end to see exactly what was happening structurally. As I think about each scene, I also sometimes write snippets of dialogue that I’m super excited to write.
Here’s the scene outline for the opening scenes of LLTQ. (This is actually deleted now, I decided to rewrite the first three chapters XD).
Scene #1 Andi is in her office. She is talking to the nobles. They are reporting to her regarding what is happening in the city of Besai and the city of Cathal down below Dragon’s Cry.
The nobles inform her that the peasants are unhappy and that they are burning down nobles. Andi declares that she’s had enough with their dumb rebellions. She wants to use their dragon forces to put down the uprisings. Permanently. Perhaps they should capture the leader, who supposedly starts fires, and burn him at the stake in retribution.
A soldier notes that they have fewer dragons. Dragons are rare, and they only have six battalions, but now they have five and 4/6 of a legion, because two have rebelled/are too unpredictable (due to Tatsu’s stretching influence). Three are involved defending the borders. At least 1 and 3/6 are needed for the coronation. One is needed in case an emergency happens, and is stationed a few hours away, leaving Andi with only ½ to spare.
Andi decides to send the ½, when she gets word that yet another rebellion is happening – this one in Cathal itself. She plans to send the rest of the battalion, even though her other nobles object. One suggests that they send a high noble to “negotiate” with the peasants and see what they want. The others agree.
Andi is about to steamroll them when Rexanna comes in and announces that Prince Gunther has arrived and that he is being entertained in the foyer, along with his parents. Andi wonders why none of the scouts alerted her sooner. She tells the nobles to send the ½ of the dragons to Besai and ½ to Cathal anyway, leaving Dragon’s Cry under-defended, with only ½.
She starts to head over with Rexanna to greet Gunther, but Rania stops her. She says it was unwise to send the dragons away. Andi retorts, “should I have done nothing?”
She then points out that the reinforcements will be arriving soon, and that the other royals will bring their own forces to strengthen any attack. It is a peaceful coronation, so anyone who attacks will be held in contempt by the others and possibly start a war.
She talks to Rexanna and Gunther on the veranda. Gunther greets her civilly. He then asks to talk to Andi privately. He tells her that she is soon to be coronated and says he wants to set their wedding date. He points out that they’ve always been betrothed and that it is customary for the official engagement to happen soon after the coronation. He informs her he was hoping they could become engaged before he has to return to Astoria. She doesn’t know what to say, and he seems dismayed. He decides to retire early, and does not come down to dinner, claiming to be feeling fatigued after traveling.
I often do these little scene outlines with 1-3 at a time. The longer they go on, the more vague they get, because sometimes as I’m writing, I get new inspiration and I have to edit the later stuff so that way it’s all cohesive.
7. With all of that done, I go in and WRITE. Some people ask me how I find the time. I’ll answer more in depth below, but let’s just say I’m a VERY busy person XD.
So, I’m not going to share a whole scene here, but essentially, let’s say I’ve written a scene. I generally write a scene at a time. I don’t like to stop and move on until the whole scene is written. It really bugs me. Sometimes it takes me one sitting, for others, it takes me three days. It took me a week to write one chapter of Allure, and I’m finding the same as I write LLTQ.
My scenes/chapters can range from 1,300 words to 5,000 words (although those I find actually contain 1 1/2 to 2 scenes when I examine them more closely).
So, I go in, and I write a scene. As I write, it’s rough. I know some people use brackets like [word like glow but better] to keep writing. I don’t do that. I like to turn out fairly polished drafts, so I sorta edit as I go and check my punctuation and all that. I turn on my music app (epic soundtracks are my favorite for writing) and I use Thesaurus.com if I need better words. Other than that, I simply DO NOT allow myself to get distracted. No social media, no YT, etc. I write in sessions of 1-2 hours with maybe one 15 minute break.
When writing dialogue, I sometimes go in and write just what each character is saying, and then I go back and add motions that the characters are doing. And then I’ll describe the scene. Because for me, the characters are foremost.
In the end, I turn out a rough draft that maybe has some weird sentences, might need better descriptions, the dialogue’s not clicking, etc. but overall the main ideas are there and the main action is established. It looks similar to the final draft but is not quite there. In other words, it needs editing.
8. Editing. Every writer’s least favorite part.
I have a scene. As I said, I normally have 1-3 scene outlines written. After I finish a scene, I take a break. I come back the next day. I re-read the scene I have written and see if I like it. Are all the characters in character? Are the descriptions okay? Let’s fix some things I hated as I wrote but left because I needed to keep up the momentum.
Again, for me, I am character-driven. If the characters’ motivations aren’t clear and I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t like it. The scene is not tracking. Everything comes to a halt.
Let’s assume the scene’s good and everyone’s happy. Alright. After I clean up the punctuation problems, maybe move a few sentences around, add more descriptions, and make sure the writing itself flows, the chapter’s great. I do one last sweep and the chapter’s ready to post! Then I start on the next chapter.
Let’s assume now the scene is terrible. Something is off in my gut, and generally, it’s because I don’t know why the character is doing this but I’m sure I want it to happen. This happened to Morro in “It’s the Quenchiest!” and it was the worst. It took two weeks and two Morro-centric fanfics to fix this problem.
When this happens, I stop everything. My entire life grinds to a halt as I attempt to figure out what is wrong. I am constantly thinking about who this character is and their motivations and how I can force them to do what I want. It often involves rethinking their background and what has brought them to that moment.
I was having problems with Queen Rania and the council a few days ago. I go back and I just blurt out thoughts like when I’m worldbuilding. I’ll also troubleshoot with friends by telling them what’s up with my character and if they have any idea why he/she would be like that.
This is me brainstorming a fix for the first two chapters:
Dynamic Between Andi, the council, and Rania
-Rania is overprotective and wants to rule; she thinks she knows better
-Yet Rania has never been able to rule because the power-hungry council has taken over
-Andi plunges right in to take over the council
-She learns that the council can be bribed; Rania has been bribing them to let her have power for the past eighteen years as she is only queen regent
-Fortino made her a queen regent although she was originally a queen consort
-He had official adoption paperwork drawn up as he was dying and when he arrived in Dalavion all that was left was for Rania to sign, which she did, as it was his dying wish
-The council is against Andi’s wishes, but she reminds them that she is going to be queen regnant, and at that point, the council will be irrelevant
-They agree – reluctantly – to let her rule
-Her decision to place the legions in Besai is correct; she just did not account for the attack on Burke and Besai because legions should not have been defeated
-So Rania wants to protect Andi and doesn’t want her to rule
-The council does not want Andi to rule because they have run rampant for 18 years so they oppose her every step of the way
-The taxes are so heavy because the council is in charge
-Andi immediately decides to change all of that
-Andi has been studying this court for the past 18 years
-She knows the council’s secrets: Lord Carlos birthed a bastard, and she threatens to kill him; Duke Gavallo has been stealing funds for years; Lady Jessica doesn’t do half of the stuff she claims to have done for Rania, and it is her fault that other parts of their government is so weak;General Cedrick is not at fault, he has to obey the council/queen for military action to be done, but the council has not approved funding for training more dragons, etc.
-General Cedrick is a general because he was the first to begin training dragons again
-Why is Andi so mean to the peasants? She knows they need to strengthen Dalavion’s military because the council has let it go down in the face of peace
-The council is lenient and selfish and only cares about their personal pleasure
-Andi knows the peasants need to see the power of Dalavion – the council has not made the throne powerful for 18 years and Rania has only recently been able to seize power from them by bribing them
-starting the story: Andi is gunning for the throne. Show how she wants the throne above all else. She receives from Rexanna a note about them.
-Rexanna has Mind and thanks to Rexanna, Andi is able to get information
-So, the story starts out with Andi using her information to take control of the council and blackmail them
Alright. I turn out a drafted scene. It’s good. After all of the main things are laid down AND the characters are doing great. I edit for punctuation.
So, I have about three drafts. First, rough draft. Second, motivations, characters, dialogue. Third, punctuation, descriptions, continuity, etc.
9. Rinse and repeat.
Ta da! One hundred thousand hours later (and lots of pain later), a novel!!!
As I’m writing, once I have some scenes, I sometimes reread the prior scene before drafting the next scene. At the 25% mark, I took a big break (which I’m still on XD) from LLTQ to let the rough draft cool off before diving back in. As soon as I finish making character art of my four main characters I’ll probably jump back in.
What time do you write? You post at a really early time.
Ha ha ha, I got a variation of this question from the amazing Bea at The Beahive. The answer is – I write REALLY early. While writing Allure, I got up at 6 a.m. on weekends and I would write for like two hours straight. The next weekend, I would do the same, only I would edit last weekend’s chapter slightly, make sure the music was good, post, and then start drafting. So I was posting about once a week. In between those times, I was writing the scene outlines and preparing for those marathon weekend sessions. I drank LOTS of coffee. Thanks to having no social life, I never went anywhere on Fridays as well XD.
I’m doing the same for LLTQ – waking up really early and writing some, and then as I do other tasks, I have that sitting in the back of my mind. So it’s really easy to get ideas and just think about what I did this morning as I do the dishes, clean my room, wait for something to load, etc.
How long does it take you to write a scene/chapter?
So, again, seeing as I mostly actually WRITE only on the weekends, it takes me a week. But I’m not sitting around – again, I’m thinking constantly about my scenes. sometimes, I do have dry spells.
How and where do you get inspiration?
I am super inspired by almost anything. I read a ton of books. I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, I generally get inspired. I love beautifully written stories where we’re in deep with the characters and the characters are super developed and have great chemistry. Some of my favorite stories include The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (love Jude and Cardan’s chemistry), Anakin Skywalker’s fall in Revenge of the Sith, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (so atmospheric and the characters are TO DIE FOR), Alyssa and Morpheus’s battles with words in Splintered, the friendship of Hiccup and Toothless in HTTYD, Lloyd’s tragic childhood (and even more tragic adulthood considering Harumi??), Artemis Fowl’s … ahem, death, and Jim’s sacrifice to become a troll. Can you tell I love tragedy?
Honestly, I’m in it for the feels. Feels are everything, and they are born from a great world and compelling characters.
Visual art is also really inspiring. I follow a lot of fantasy artists who paint beautiful stuff, like Sandara, and it’s just so gorgeous that I want to live in a world like that. My favorite pieces by her that have directly inspired my world are Crystal Street, Market Gate, and The White Griffin.
How do you write SO much?
My friend asked me how I am churning out so much so quickly and honestly I DON’T KNOW. I get my scene outline ready, I sit down and write, and like, two hours later, there’s 3,000 new words on the page. As I was writing Allure, I legit thought it was going to be a 30,000 word short story. NOOOO it turned into a 160K monstrosity! How? I don’t know. I plotted it out and started writing and like every chapter got longer and longer and there were more things I wanted to explore and aghhhh!!!
I honestly have no idea how long LLTQ is going to be. Right now, it’s at 38K and it’s two chapters past the First Plot Point, so maybe it’s like 32K? Multiply that times 4 and it’ll be 128,000 … I think 120K is a standard fantasy novel. Not bad … assuming my word count doesn’t suddenly inflate.
I think I’m just a really wordy person … not sure how to fix that ha ha but I just keep asking myself as I write: Does this sentence matter or is this me boasting about how great my world is? If it doesn’t foreshadow something that will happen in the future and is a “pretty” detail or it doesn’t paint my characters succinctly, I try to leave it out, unless, you know, it’s just describing the scene so my characters aren’t in a white void XD.
In conclusion, here’s my writing process! I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and for fellow writers, I’d love to hear how you guys turn out your finished drafts! If you have any questions or just wanna chat, feel free to comment!