Writing Challenge Day 8: What's your writing process?

(Photo: Uschi Hering)

*Falls over laughing*

Right I’m going to try to take this seriously (Puts on stern face)

My first characters had been running around in my head for years before I tapped the keyboard so they were fully formed when I started to write the Roma Nova stories. Of course, I’ve  added others over the years, so I check how they’re interacting with the old stagers. Cue spreadsheet with ages and major events. Nobody wants to marry their son or have the legendary 11-month pregnancy.

I usually have an idea of what I want a character to achieve. Back in 2012, I evolved a vague system to put some structure into each story and wrote a post called How to write a novel in 30 lines. It runs from inciting incident, three crisis points, the black moment to climax and resolution. I still use it. But that’s the extent of my planning ahead.

The detail evolves as I tap on the keyboard. The characters’ quirks and interactions push the story along. Sometimes, they try to stage a coup and take over the show. Excuse me! Who is writing this book? After an hour of negotiation we agree on a compromise and I nudge them back into the story, promising death, agony or separation from their beloved if they don’t behave. (I do that anyway, but don’t tell them ahead of time.)

After an hour of this bickering, I go for a tea break and decide I’ll do something calming like marketing.

Track and trace (Yeah, but mine works.)

I’ve developed a tracking grid (which you can download for free) which keeps the timeline straight and where I can jot down the main actions in each chapter – a kind of DIY ‘do it as you go along’ index to the book. After the first rough draft was finished, I used to put the file in a folder and try ignore it for at least six weeks and work on something else. But these days, I load it onto my Kindle and have a quick read through to see if it has the ‘legs’ as a story – no editing allowed at this stage. Then I ignore it.

When I open it again, I carry out the first edit with my red pen. And I’m really tough on myself. No, I’m brutal. Every sentence is fixed with my version of Mad-Eye Moody’s orb.

Then off the draft goes to my critique partner who is eagle-eyed, caring and scrupulously honest, so is a sounding board as well as critic. She will look for (and find) plot holes, character failings, extraneous or awkward scenes and inconsistent dialogue but more than anything she will check for cohesiveness and whether the story grips. Without page-turning quality, the book won’t deliver a good read and that’s the writer’s duty.

Then revisions and on to a final professional copy edit and any further revisions. After all this, it gets turned into an ebook and paperback using the wonderful Vellum software then it’s uploaded to electronic retailers like Amazon, Kobo, Apple and B&N Nook and to Ingram Spark for printing.

Interspersed with this are hours of mind-expanding research, tracking down odd books on odd Roman stuff, spending hours on the Glock and Google Earth sites or working out how to stage a coup.

Are you a writer? I bet you’re more organised…


Writing challenges so far:

Day 7: Introduce your ‘author friend’
Day 6: How the writing all began
Day 5: What inspired the book I’m working on
Day 4: The setting for the new Roma Nova book
Day 3: Introducing the main characters Julia and Apulius
Day 2: Introduce your work in progress
Day 1: Starting with revealing information 


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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