While writing my first novel, The Field, I learned a lot about the writing process but learned even more from writing the second novel in the series, Midnight House. Over the next several posts, I want to share my writing process, the publishing process, and the marketing process to help you succeed in publishing your book as an indie author.
While working on The Field, I did not intend to turn it into a series. After all, if I was going to publish the book myself, maybe one book was enough—something to check off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do.
And then, I let a few people read it.
It wasn’t the published version, but those who read it liked it and offered their notes. When I met Kathleen, who became my editor, she read it and encouraged me to turn it into a series.
So, I started to think about how I could do that, and a few years before The Field was published, I began to brainstorm story ideas for a second novel.
I knew I wanted the characters to be older, but I was unsure of the second book’s storyline. But I wrote down several ideas. Like all brainstorming/pre-writing sessions, some were worth keeping, but most were ridiculous and would eventually be left behind.
The big question I had for myself was if I should continue the story from the first book or do a standalone with the characters doing something unrelated to the first story.
I wanted to do something with Kyle Hanson that was sports-related, which ended up happening, but Daniel, in the early phases, had no real place or direction in the story. He was a school newspaper reporter. He was in ASB. He was this, that, and the other thing, but he didn’t feel grounded in the story. He lacked purpose.
That’s when I decided to dig deeper into the minds of my two main characters. Who were they before the events of The Field? How did those events change them, not just externally but internally?
Doing a deep dive into who your characters are, what makes them tick, and how traumatic events can impact them going forward can help you shape more dimensional and grounded characters.
So, as I sketched out Daniel and Kyle after the first book, I discovered things that would give Daniel and Kyle stronger story arcs in the second book and give these characters an expanded world and more conflict to work through.
I had to decide how old Daniel and Kyle would be in the second book, which would inform what they could and could not do regarding their ages, and I also started to brainstorm ideas for new characters they would encounter in this new story. I also had to decide who from the first novel would carry over to book two and what they would be up to at that point.
Now that I started to flesh out character arcs, I developed story ideas that would be interesting and provide the needed elements of action-adventure that are crucial elements of the series. This is where things get fun for any writer since, at this stage, anything and everything is a possibility. I chose locations in and around Redding where I felt different action pieces could take place and worked through various scenarios. Some over-the-top, some less so.
All the while, I’m thinking of how the main characters, other characters, the overall story, and these action moments will all come together in a clear and compelling narrative.
But I was nowhere near that stage yet.
Notes, Notes, and More Notes
Part of the early brainstorming and development process is writing down your ideas. All ideas. I have the Notes app on my phone filled with snippets of dialogue or scenes I thought of while at work. I have a legal pad by my bed if an idea strikes me at 3 AM. And a file on my laptop for ideas so I can type furiously as the ideas flow.
I’m a writer who has difficulty sitting and waiting for ideas to appear. I usually am doing something when they hit me, so having a way to jot down ideas on the go is much better than saying to yourself, “This is a great idea. Can’t wait to get home and write it down!” (SPOILER ALERT: The idea will probably be gone by then.)
Dozens of Note app files. Lots of legal pad pages. More than one Word document (I started breaking ideas into separate files by character). Somewhere in all these places was a complete story. I had to start taking these ideas, fragments, and notes and crafting them into a narrative.
In Part Two, we’ll discuss writing prep and my writing process.