Inspired by Simmone Howell’s Anatomy of a Novel, this is the first in a series of guest blogs on How Writers Work.
YA author Michael Pryor talks about his writing process.
My Writing Routine
After writing twenty-seven books, my writing routine is well practised. I’m always open to refinements, but the basics are in place.
I divide my writing process into four stages:
- First Draft
The Preparation stage involves any necessary research (mountainous, in many cases), consulting experts, doing character sketches and profiles, jotting down fragments of dialogue and potential opening sentences, compiling a detailed point form plan and lots and lots of thinking. This stage often overlaps with finishing writing a book. That is, I’m often thinking about the next one while I’m finishing the last one.
My plan is vital. I need to know where I’m going when I write. I always know where the story will begin, where it’s going to end, and the important phases on the journey between these two points.
In the First Draft stage, I start at the beginning and write right through to the end. Along the way, I know I’m writing some less than perfect stuff, but I push on, looking for momentum to help capture character development, pacing and tension. I do, however, make little marginal reminders to myself using the Comments feature of Microsoft Word. Very helpful.
In the First Draft stage, I aim to write at least 4,000 words a day, five days a week. With that sort of progress, I feel as if I’m making headway, bit by bit, moving forward instead of running on the spot.
The Rewriting stage is crucial. I’ve done up to twelve drafts of a novel, and when my books are 100,000 words plus, just re-reading each draft is a substantial undertaking. With each rewrite, I’m simply trying to make the book better – better characters, more interesting story, more accurate and engaging prose. Each time, it’s an inch by inch process. Then I repeat it.
The Editing stage happens once I send my wonderful, perfect manuscript off to Zoe Walton, my ace editor at Random House. She reads it, and gives me feedback. Considered, thoughtful, perceptive feedback. Some it makes me smack myself on the forehead and ask, ‘What was I thinking?’ Some of it makes me go, ‘Hmmm’ and start jotting down alternatives. All of it is useful and when I address her points, it makes for a better book. We go through this process a number of times before copy-editing (my spelling gets fixed up!) and proofing final pages, just prior to printing.
That, in a nutshell, is my routine for writing a book. Of course, I’ve left out the magic that turns dull, black marks on a page into something extraordinary, but I don’t want to reveal everything!