There are probably as many different ways to write as there are writers, and if what you are doing is consistently producing good content then whatever you are doing isn’t wrong. I know writers that have to plot out every detail in a comprehensive outline before they can get started. Others write an outline that tells the story chapter-by-chapter and then go back over it and flesh it out. Some people just sit down, start writing , go for it and see what happens. You can write character outlines in obsessive detail, or meet the characters in the course of the story and discover them the same way that your reader will. Some people go through multiple drafts, some don’t. None of these ways of writing are wrong if it works for the individual.
For ourselves (I mostly co-author with my wife Linda) we start with an idea for the story, then we get to know the world that the story takes place in. That world might be 9thC. Gotland or an entirely made-up place. We research, ask each other questions, dwell over details. We often get into aspects of the story’s world that have nothing to do with the story and that the reader will not encounter during the course of the story (or at least not in the first book…) Once we are comfortable with the world we can get started. Mind you, very little of this detail is written down…
Our work is character-driven, so the character is sort of inherent in the story-line. The story can’t happen without the character, so we already have a fairly good idea of who the character is before we start writing. We also understand the ‘logic’ of the world that the story takes place in, and sometimes this combines with the character to wrench the story out of our hot little hands and send it careening off in an entirely unexpected direction. ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman’ was originally going to be the story of a lawman in a mining ‘boom-town.’ But as things developed it went off in unanticipated directions and it wound up being a very different book than we thought we were going to write. A lot of the time we were compelled to keep writing because we needed to find out what would happen next!
We don’t really do multiple drafts as such. I spew it out onto the page, Linda reads it and tells me where we need changes, then we read it back and fourth to each other out loud and tweak it until it works. Co-writing with Linda is great; we each have our weaknesses as writers but they aren’t the same weaknesses so we tend to balance each other out. Also when I get ‘writer’s block’ (and I do) I say, “H0ney, I’m stuck!” and we talk it through until I’m un-stuck. We also brainstorm when the story has gone off-track and we’re not sure where to take it from there.
After we’re happy with the finished product we send it off to a beta-reader or two and an editor. We fix it again, then it goes to a proof-reader before we publish.
These last steps are crucial for us. By the time we are ‘finished’ with a book we are far too close to it to catch every little glitch. The manuscript needs a fresh set of eyes or two to take on it’s final polish. We learned this the hard way with ‘The Medieval Sword in the Modern World.’ Eventually we had to do a second edition- which could probably still use the services of a good copy-editor, and it would certainly benefit from a good cover-artist!
After editing the book needs to be formatted. We’ve taken to using the Smashwords.com format as the default in Word for all of our writing; it saves a lot of time and energy! They also publish a helpful guide in .pdf format that you can download for free. It walks you through the formatting process step-by-step. The same format works just fine when we go to publish at Amazon.com, so it’s all good.
Then we need a cover. Covers are very important- they are what catches the reader’s eye and they must be professional quality for the best results. We’re not graphic artists which means that we need to either settle for a sub-optimal cover that we have come up with ourselves, or pay some one to do it for us, which is tricky for us right now. We had a professional cover done for DoaDR, but we’ve had to make do for shorter works.
Anyway, that’s how we do it. It works and people seem to like the result, so I guess we’re doing it right… for us.