An idea to the completed story, how does the magic happen?
Writers are brilliant, creative, and passionate people that enjoy storytelling. Some writers relay factual information with the hope that they can enlighten someone else. Some writers make up wild fantasies that allow readers to dream with them.
I’m sure my writing process is not unique, but I thought I’d share it away.
My writing process is a combination of best practices, creativity, purpose, motivation, discipline, and instinct. Some days I use best practices from books and articles I’ve read about my craft. Other days, I let creativity and purpose send my fingers flying across the keyboard as news words flow and my story forms. Motivation and caffeine keep me awake past 11:00 PM writing until I finish a chapter. Discipline is what keeps me committed to seeing these long projects through the fun begin and murky middle and to the satisfying end.
All of my stories start as an idea about a special person or object. I write fantasy novels and so I’m always willing to play around with the idea of witches, mermaids, lockets, and grimoires. As an African American woman, I often want to (read and) write stories featuring women of color.
Next, I enter a brainstorming phase where I give myself the time and space to let my new story idea take root. I don’t worry about if my idea is original. I don’t worry about if my idea is predictable. I get to ignore plot holes and other problematic issues. I simply let the ideas solidify, multiple, fade in and out, and collide.
Sometimes the idea for a story doesn’t go past the brainstorming phase. And that’s okay. But when it does … I’m interested, inspired, and motivated to see this seedling grow into a full-grown novel!
This is when I start writing everything down. I write down possible character names, names of places, and book titles. I write down descriptions of the protagonist, antagonist, and all the supporting characters that pop up. Maybe I jot down ideas about the season and weather, what tone I want to use, what mood I want to convey. By this point, I have an idea about the genre and the maturity level.
Then, I begin the novel planning phase where I work on my logline, character descriptions, and synopsis. Boiling the story down to one sentence is incredibly difficult and useful. Creating character biographies complete with flaws and motivations become an essential reference. The synopsis (or summary) starts as a paragraph or two and ends up becoming two to four pages.
In the detailed summary, I insert the beats I need to hit for my genre and story length. This becomes the framework for my outline. I like to use the three-act structure, but not always, and I write my outline using bullet points. Bullet points cover locations, which characters are in the scene, lines of dialogue I’ve already thought of, and the goal of the scene.
Next, I write out a list of scenes I need to move my characters through the story and arrive at all of my plot points. Sometimes there are fifteen scenes and sometimes there are fifty. Then the real work begins. Scene by scene, I write my story as quickly and as enjoyably as possible. I allow for new ideas to take my characters or plot in a new direction. Problems get solved as I write and new ones pop up. Fun things like character quirks and backstory continue to evolve. I try to stick to the outline I created but the ending usually morphs into something far greater than I initially imagined.
The process takes hours. Two hours here, four hours there until I’ve put in so many hours that I’ve lost track and weeks have gone by. Because I am a stay-at-home-mom with two little ones, my writing time is limited. I tend to write at night, anywhere from 8 PM to 2 AM. Some nights I’m interrupted so much that I barely get 250 new words written. Other nights, things run smoothly, and I have reached my goal of 2,000 new words per writing session.
Only after my first draft is done will I switch from creative writing to self-editing. I enter editor mode only after I’ve spent some time away from my story. This could be for two days or two weeks. The editing progress, getting my story from draft one through draft four, is another journey involving test readers, writing software, and paid editors and proofreaders. I’ll save that process for another article.
About the Author
Azaaa Davis is an American author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels.
She fell in love with reading as a high school freshman and continues to read, write, and draw today. Her background in social work helps her portray realistic characters in otherworldly–and sometimes terrifying–situations. A New York native, Azaaa currently lives in New Hampshire (USA) with her husband and daughters.
She debuted with This Time (book one in the Nadira Holden, Demon Hunter series) in 2018. A novel about demon hunters, family ties and the magic of love.
Azaaa is working diligently to finish writing more fantasy novels while raising her daughters. Thank you for showing an interest in her stories!
What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?
I love creative writing. The joy I get when I complete a story and type the end is fantastic. It thrills me to let others read my stories for entertainment. I think I’m good at networking. I’ve met some many incredible readers, editors, digital artists, book bloggers and indie authors. When I’m ready to promote myself or my books, there are also people in the writing community willing to help. My least favorite part about the author business is self promotion. It feels great when others are recommending and reviewing your books, but it can feel uncomfortable to try selling your books to any and all who will listen. I’m improving, but I still struggle with book marketing.
What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone? How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!
Great question. See my guest post about how I turn a good idea into a novel! I enjoy listening to ambient, instrumental or classical music when writing. Nothing with lyrics to distract me.
I write for about two to three hours at a time and can write 250 to 2,500 new words depending on my mood, energy, and how clearly I can picture the story unfolding in my imagination.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story can be defined as memorable, able to make the reader feel something, and to some extent unpredictable.
Do you have a set writing schedule?
For the longest time, I did not have a set writing schedule. Because I am the type of writer that likes to dive deep and get lost in the fictitious worlds I create, I need two or more hours at a time to have a productive writing session. Nowadays, I have time blocked off two to five times a week to write. I love my new writing schedule and I’ve already seen an increase in my weekly word count.
Do current events affect your writing, or do you try and keep life and your stories separate?
I write contemporary stories, but I steer clear of current events because I don’t want to explicitly date my novels. I enjoy writing fantasy novels and take full advantage of the fact that I can keep real life and current events out of my stories.
If you could have dinner with any three figures from fiction, who would they be and why?
I would love to meet and learn from the great Maya Angelou. She was known for her activism, memoirs and poetry. I find her literary work to be impactful, inspirational and memorable.