So, I am the type of writer that needs to know the story from the beginning, through the middle, and to the end. I can't start with a part of the story. I have to flesh the entire story about before actually starting to write. This includes writing character sketches, planning out the plot (in detail), and doing the necessary research.
I have a little red book that I jokingly call my bible. I also will sometimes refer to it as my manifesto. Interpret that as you choose.
In the case of The Sins of the Child, I started with the character sketches first. I already had a picture in my head of who the main characters would be:
This is an example from my little red bible that shows the first character sketch. Lisa is the narrator of all the books (the third is being written now). Some of the information evolved as I wrote the books, and I used a random name generator for most of the names. You can see that I included little pictures of actresses that I could see playing the characters in a movie or television series. That just helps me see the characters in my mind.
By the time I got to writing The Sins of the Father, the second novel, I already knew who my main characters were. So I wrote the outline first:
This is a scan of two pages from the actual outline of The Sins of the Father. You'll see that I notated in red the chapter number that the plot detail appeared in, along with a check mark for when it was written. The character sketches for new characters introduced in this books were written after the outline was completed. Again, a random name generator was used for the character names.
I also discovered while writing the first novel that I had a hard time keeping track of what day of the week it was in the story. All the books take place in period of time that spans a little more than a week. So it was important to be aware of what day the events were taking place on.
You can see that things were a little out of order, since I only starting the list in chapter 12. But the lists were better organized in The Sins of the Father and the book I'm writing now, The Sins of the Husband.
These are the tools that help me stay on task while writing, and help to prevent me from getting lost in the story. It can happen. It's all too possible to wander off on a tangent that isn't important to the overall story, and you can get off track as a writer. But this helps keeps things all just a little bit tighter.
I think that in part because of all the preparation and attention to detail, these characters have become very real to me. I feel like I know them almost as well as I know myself, especially the narrator, Lisa. I've been known to have dreams about the characters, especially if I go to sleep right after writing.
I think it's also important as a writer to allow your mind to wander. I've discovered that I come up with my best ideas when I'm either in the car (which I'm in about 2.5 hours a day during the work week), or in the bathroom (no joke). In the car I don't have the ability to write anything down, unless I want to drive the car off the road or into another vehicle that is. Getting to the app on my phone that houses the voice recorder is not easy, so I carry a digital voice recorder with me. That way there's less of a chance that I'll forget the epiphanies.
Another element that's important to the process is input from third parties. Once I have a second draft, I like to hand it over to other people to read. I've incorporated much of their criticism into revisions and edits. It's invaluable. It's difficult to see the flaws in your own work, so I rely on the help of others.
Anyway, I hope this entry has provided invaluable insight into my writing process. Not every writer uses my methods, and every writer knows what's best for them.