Thursday, June 8, 2017

Guest Post: Writing a Novel in 6 Steps by Weston Kincade

Today I’m excited to have author Weston Kincade on my blog. Weston Kincade is the author of the A Life of Death Trilogy that I can't wait to read and that got some raving reviews!! And today Weston is telling us all about the process of writing a book!

Hey Maureen! *Waves from across the pond*
Thanks for having me here. Congrats again on your wedding and honeymoon. Sounds like you had a grand time.

How’s everyone else doing? I hope well. Maureen and I were talking a bit about how to let people know about my latest trilogy release, A Life of Death, when we came up with the idea for a guest post, quite accidentally actually. (That’s what happens when you answer emails before having your morning coffee.) But she mentioned that the writing process in general might be of interest to her readers.

“So who is this guy to talk about the writing process?” you might be asking.

Well, I’m a dark fantasy/horror author with 6 books under my belt so far, as of May 31st, and I’ve taught writing for the last 11 years. I also ran a boutique editing agency for 5 years until I finally decided I couldn’t divide my time up that much. However, the experience of editing nearly 100 books for other authors is one I would never trade.

So, what is the writing process?
The writing process is a detailed set of steps to follow in order to find success in your writing. The different steps vary from author to author. Some things are routine for everyone and others are more like preferences. For instance, some authors like myself often find we are the most productive writing our rough drafts on paper, mainly journals or notebooks. Others prefer to simply sit down at a computer and write. Suffice to say, the writing process I’m discussing here is the best way I’ve found to write a novel, from start to finish.

Writing Process Breakdown
My writing process can be broken into 6 different steps:
  1. Idea
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Writing
  4. Revisions
  5. Feedback and Beta Readers
  6. Editing

1. The Start of an Idea...
If you have ever considered writing a book, it’s likely because you already have an idea in mind. This could have come from anywhere, a niche in the market that needs filled, a fantasy concept from a real depiction of events you heard about on NPR, a decrepit, mange-ridden fox you spotted on a camping trip… really anywhere. But where do you go from there?

Firstly, you have to get your idea down on the page. Often these moments of inspiration come at the most inopportune times. I use the Evernote app on my phone for just these occasions. The first plus is that it’s free. Second, and more importantly, you can dictate to it and it will convert your idea to text. Then you can save it for later in the cloud. I have numerous ideas in my account, some that have become stories, some that will later, and others that may never see the light of an ereader. However, I won’t forget them.

2. Brainstorming...
Now it’s time to flesh that idea out. If you have a story playing through your head already, just sit down and start writing. Some people can do this. Don’t worry about organization, chapters, or anything. You are writing story notes. Just get your ideas onto the page. It may not even be narrative. You can always brainstorm using a bulleted list or web. However, if you need help, that’s where a friend can step in.

Someone I know who always wanted to write a novel recently had the inspiring idea he had been waiting for. It called to him to write it, but he didn’t know how to begin. He contacted me on Facebook messenger with the dilemma.

I simply started asking him questions, he answered, and I asked another. The process began slowly. He tried arguing and saying, “I don’t plan on using…” I stopped him and just repeated the question. It didn’t matter if it didn’t make it in the book. At least 10% of any rough draft will normally be cut by an editor before it reaches readers’ hands. You just need the ideas to flow. One will lead to the next, and the next, and the next. From there it sped up until it became what I call “Brainstorming on Crack with Weston Kincade”.

No, we weren’t doing drugs, but it felt a little like that. The questions were flowing one after the other in rapid succession faster than a shotgun wedding with a Speed-infused priest. As soon as he got his answer typed, another question prompted him for more: What’s it about? Who’s the main character? What’s her motivation? Why does she care? How is she unaffected? Where’s she from? Who or what does she care about? Why wouldn’t she run? What started it all? And on and on. The story was flowing, ideas were coming (some crazy that would be changed later) but they were coming. Within an hour he had the entire book outlined Q&A style.

That’s what you need, an outline of the entire story. It will guide your writing, and it can always be flexed and changed, but it will keep you on track.

3. Writing… Writing… Writing...
From there you need to find a place to write. Whether on a computer or in a notebook, find a place with limited distractions that you can simply use to write. Your outline will be a guide. You just need to get your rough draft out on the page. Your characters need to be realistic, faults and all, and you need to lead up to your eventual climax by increasing the anticipation for the reader and ending by tieing up loose ends (at least most if this is one of a series). Most importantly though, you just need to write.

Some people will try and get an entire novel completed in one month, November. It’s known as the National Novel Writing Month, or NANOWRIMO. It’s always good to have goals, but it’s okay if you don’t make it. I never have. However, having so many people strive to do the same thing can be inspiring and help you get an enormous portion of your book written.

4. Making Revisions and Corrections...
Once you have the book written, type it up. Read it over. I recommend reading sections you might be uncertain about aloud. This will help your mind recognize awkward sentences that might need reworded. With my first novel, I wound up going through the rough draft and revising it 11 times, and that was after I had spell-checked it. Now, with 6 books under my belt and having edited nearly 100 for other people, I can generally go through a rough draft once before moving on to step 5. You will become more adept over time. However, I recommend at least making 2 to 3 revision passes to start. Then spell-check it again because anything new you added will have errors.

5. Getting Feedback from Beta Readers...
Believe it or not, your book still isn’t ready, not for the public at least. However, you can get feedback from other authors and avid readers. You need to find people who can be critical and aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings. You want people who will be just like the readers of the world who want a good book and are willing to dump on a book that doesn’t meet their standards. Back when I started, there was Authonomy. It was a good place to network with other writers and get feedback. I am still friends with a variety of people from those days. Now Wattpad and Scribd seem to serve the same purpose. Take large recommended changes with a grain of salt. Wait till you get multiple people saying the same thing. At that point you know they’re probably right.

For grammar and publishing expectations in the fiction industry, I suggest two things: 1, use Merriam-Webster Dictionary to check spelling, and 2, get a subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). Use them anytime you have a question, because these two books are the bibles of fiction publishing.

6. Everyone Needs an Editor…
It’s true, everyone needs an editor. Ever written something and only after rereading it aloud or someone commented on it did you notice that there were words missing or misspelled? Our eyes read what they think we wrote. This is why I recommend reading things aloud. It will help, but everyone needs a fresh set of knowledgeable eyes to look over what we have written.

Yes, hiring an editor will cost money. How much is up to you, but there are two things to remember: 1, with an editor you often get what you pay for, and 2, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression with a reader. Put out a book without having it edited, and grammar nazis will eat you alive in the reviews. Those same readers will also never again buy one of your books, and their reviews will be like the plague. Potential readers will turn and head for the hills, going for a Grisham, King, or other more well-known author. Your name is your brand. Don’t jeopardize it before you get out of the starting gate. Save up for a good editor. Find one at least a few people you know can recommend, and then take the time to truly consider their advice and recommendations. When you discover a great editor who knows what they are doing, someone you work well with, keep them. Those relationships are incredibly difficult to find and develop.

Only after you have completed all 6 steps will your book be ready for submission to publishers, agents, or the public if you are going the indie route.

Thanks for having me, Maureen!

Sorry this was so long, but this is actually the shortened version. To read more about my writing adventures, get advice, or look into my books, follow me on my blog, social media, or via email. I’m currently offering a free copy of my co-written short story anthology Strange Circumstances to anyone who joins me via email in the writing adventure I call life. Click to get your FREE copy and explore fate and fantasy.

About the 'A Life of Death' Series:
A Life of Death (A Life of Death #1)

Only one teen speaks for the dead...

Alex is a troubled teenager with a checkered past, a broken home, and a surprising ability: psychometry. When he touches items murder victims held in their final moments, he relives the events in gruesome detail. But who will believe a troubled teen, especially when murders implicate the town’s founding family?

Available at Amazon.
Golden Bulls (A Life of Death #2)

Ritual Sacrifice. Terror. Panic. In a fear-filled town, will ghostly visions be enough to stop a serial killer?

After fifteen years of ritual murder, Homicide Detective Alex Drummond must save this year’s sacrificial lamb. But who is it? The serial killer’s anointed date is only days away. An anonymous tip forces Alex and a high school friend to Washington DC to prove the suspect's guilt, but nothing is as it seems. Unsolved murders abound like cobwebs under abandoned guest beds. Is Alex in over his head?

Available at Amazon.
Sacrifices (A Life of Death 3#)

Alex’s ghostly visions can save lives. But can they stop a drug czar from disrupting the peace and harmony of Tranquil Heights?

For Alex Drummond trouble doesn't come knocking, it kicks down the door and raids the refrigerator. War is brewing between moonshiners and a murderous drug kingpin. Cremated human remains are appearing everywhere. And now Alex’s family is in the middle of it all. To make matters worse, his son’s powers rival his own… as does his stubborn nature. Choices will be made. Laws will be broken. And morality will be questioned. Will Alex’s family survive the bloodshed?

Available at Amazon.

About Weston Kincade:

Weston Kincade writes fantasy, paranormal, and horror novels that stretch the boundaries of imagination, and often genres. His current series include the A Life of Death trilogy and the Priors. Weston's short stories have been published in Alucard Press' "50 Shades of Slay," Kevin J. Kennedy's bestselling "Christmas Horror" and "Easter Horror," and other anthologies. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and helps invest in future writers while teaching English. In his spare time Weston enjoys spending time with his wife and Maine Coon cat, Hermes, who talks so much he must speak for the Gods.

Investigate Weston Kincade’s newly released trilogy, A Life of Death. To find out more about him personally, follow Weston on social media: Website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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