I have been working as a programmer since I was 16. In my career, I have been paid to write code in 25 languages on 8 different major platforms. Being a programmer isn’t just about writing code, it’s about being organized.
Being a writer has a lot of parallels.
When writing a large application, software developers go through a C D E F process. Each letter represents a different phase of the project: Conception, Design, Execution, and Finalization.
Writing a book isn’t just about putting words down in sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. It’s that, for sure, but that’s just the Execution phase. Do you see where I’m going with this?
When I start a new book, I begin with the Conception phase. I keep a notebook or my iPad handy and I jot down ideas as they come to me. These are often single sentences that describe scenes or characters. I have also written down lines of dialogue. Once I have some big ideas and have decided to run with one, I spend some time brainstorming more detailed ideas along that book’s theme.
After I have conceived my book idea and written down the main ideas of what the book will contain, I organize and flesh out those concepts into a plot event list. This is the Design phase.
A plot event list is what many authors call an outline. I don’t call it that, because it’s not in outline format. Mine is a list of single sentences, each describing an individual scene. I then organize those sentences into the chronological order they will appear in the book. (I don’t group scenes into chapters until I’m actually writing the book.)
Once I have the plot event list finalized, I turn to my favorite writing tool, Scrivener. I create a text card for each scene, and copy-past the scene sentence into that card’s notes field. Once Scrivener is all set up, I begin writing Chapter 1, page 1.
I have now entered the Execution phase. This is where I actually write the book. Because of how I have organized my plot event list into separate scenes within Scrivener, I only have to mentally and creatively worry about one scene at a time, rather than worrying about the entire book. This also helps prevent Blank Page Syndrome. It also allows me to write scenes out of order if I need to.
Once the book is written, we move into the Finalization stage. This is where I hand off my manuscript to my editor for a plot level review. She reads what I’ve written and gives me feedback on what happens in the book. This includes identifying plot holes, inconsistencies, and areas that need to be expanded based on their reader’s curiosity. I then make revisions based on that feedback and turn the revised manuscript back over to the editor for another plot review. I also hand the book over to 2-6 beta readers for their feedback.
Once revisions are made, the editor goes over it again, this time for a line edit. This is where the mechanics of my writing is critiqued and corrected: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Nothing changes as far as the plot goes.
The last part of the Finalization phase is publication. I submit the book to my various outlets (e-book publishers, like Amazon.com and iTunes, etc.) and then announce its availability to the world through social media and my blogs, including this one.