Monday, July 1, 2013

Conception through Birth (for Books)

by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.

Every author has his or her own process. This is mine. (At least for now.)

Idea. Mull. Mull some more. "What if" a little bit. Stream of consciousness plot concept. Research.

If it hasn't fallen apart by this point, I might have a book.

Then I'm on to character development. What makes him tick? Who is he? What life events have formed him? This applies to both the good guys and the bad guys. This step, for me, is extremely gratifying.

If my concept and my characters are strong enough to carry an entire novel, I set to work.

I'm not a pantster (someone who just sits down and lets their fingers fly without a thought ahead of time). I've tried "pantsing" it from time to time and although it's kind of fun and liberating, I end up with a manuscript that's more like a Rorschach test than an actual story. I'm also not a detailed plotter, although I sometimes think this would be the way to go, I just can't seem to get there. I write more like a bloodhound. I know what the general issue is. I know a few elements I need to track. I sense the trail and follow it, not always knowing where it's leading me, but trusting my abilities to sniff it out.

So then I'm done. I have a beginning, a middle and an end.

But does it work?

Then I do a quick read-through, looking for obvious issues. I hate when I find them, but the more books I write, the more issues I find. This is the first round of edits.

And then I do an audio edit. I employ my text to speech feature and try to pay attention to that mechanical voice as he points out my overuse of words and phrases and the occasional word that makes it past spellcheck but is absolutely not right.

I finished this phase this afternoon for THE SACRIFICE.

My next step are my beta readers. These are the readers that are almost, if not more, trusted than any member of my family or friend-circles. These guys are gonna read my manuscript in an almost raw state. It's far from polished. No editor has seen it. The bloodhound has made a report, but it doesn't always make sense.

Once my betas have had their say and I've evaluated their input, I revise for the third, fourth, seventh time. Then it's off to my editor.

(Did I tell you about my editor for THE SACRIFICE? I think I'll post about that very soon. I'm stoked.)

After my editor is finished (and I've made yet another round of revisions) it's time for my detail-oriented copyeditors/proofreaders to take a gander. A chapter that may have been without typo flaws before editing can undergo horrendous upheaval and end up with all kinds of issues. Editing can create its own subset of problems.

And then finally, it's time to let it go. Push my book out into the world.

Readers, are you interested in this process? Writers, how does yours differ?

It's all better with friends.


  1. Are your beta readers writers, crit partners or are they just readers? Do they point out problems or do they just do an overall ... like, "you need to strengthen the conflict, Peg." Just wondering.

  2. Here are some concepts for beta readers that you might find helpful:

    Mine tend to run the gamut, Jess. A couple are published authors and a couple are avid readers with solid backgrounds in English. It's good to try and get someone who's never read your work before (easier said than done), and with my current one, I tried hard to find someone with depression to make sure I didn't go over the top. The thing is, they need to love your genre.

    Most beta readers are happy to look for whatever you ask them to look for. Mostly it's kind of an overall big picture read… plot, characters, pacing, ending… but most can't help but pick up the errant over-used word or other grammatical error.

    To me, a beta reader is different from a critique partner. They're getting the whole shebang in one wallop. They're my last stop before a professional editor, and hopefully they help get me real.