Today Annabelle Hunter, author of Number’s Up, her first novel in the Barrow Bay Mysteries is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us a little about how she writes.
Welcome, Annabelle. I’ll turn the floor over to you:
I’ve noticed that one of the first things people ask writers is, “what’s your method?” Most times I stare at them and pray that someone else jumps in to answer. Because I don’t know that I have a method. That seems so… professional. Logical. Organized.
Not that I’m not… but… well, I’m bad at staying that way.
Step one — the idea. Most times this just comes to me. I’ll be watching something or reading, and a thought comes to me. Most times it is in no relation to what I’m doing, but I’m not picky. Then I think about it, scratch out some notes and, if I think it’s good, I grab a notebook and start world building. Or, since I’ve been focusing on Barrow Bay, the funny moment comes, and I start creating a crime around it.
Step two — the first chapter. I like to do this first because it gives me a flavor of the characters and the story. It also lets me flesh out the character in my mind. It gives me some momentum. Do I recommend this? Probably not. It probably would be better to do an outline first. I have learned that going more than three chapters before stopping for an outline is a horrible idea. Very, Very horrible. I regret it rather quickly. On the other hand, starting with the outline before the first chapter is the quickest way for me to lose interest. It’s a fine line. You might need to find yours.
Step three – outline. Who’s the victim? Who are the suspects? What my red herrings and clues are. What order we will find out the clues? Then I move to secondary plots in great detail – AKA ‘romance here, blah, blah, blah’.
Yep. I’m super detailed.
Step four – I start writing, using my outline as a blueprint, until the characters take over. That’s when limbs come out of nowhere. Bets appear. Family dinners happen when my outline clearly said, ‘cop interview’, and dates happen instead of an intense interview at the police station. Yep, super methodic. And organized. I’m in control. I mean, they’re figments of my imagination, so that means even when they are in control, I’m in control.
Don’t burst my bubble.
Step Five – Adjust my outline. Again. Swear at it. Complain to my husband. Get no sympathy. Go back and write.
Step six – finish writing the story. Look at the outline. Confirm that at least there is some resemblance to it in the story. And that all the clues made it.
Step seven – get a lot of coffee. And chocolate. This needs its own step. Pre-editing comfort food is super important. Do not underestimate the pre-editing comfort food.
Step eight – First edit using the grammar program. Much cursing at all the things it gets wrong. More swearing as I look up questionable grammar mistakes. Eat some chocolate. Finish. Move on to the computer reading it out loud. More cursing, and a few wails of ‘what was I thinking?’ Refill the comfort food. More coffee. This can last for days.
Step nine – stop editing to write something else, anything else. Anything to remind myself that writing is fun, and that editing is worth it so I can write. More coffee.
Step ten – finish listening to the computer read and correcting all my stupid moments from writing too fast. Go into another read through. Want to never see it again. Pray for it to get erased. Fear it will be erased. Add some more characterization. A few more ideas for the plot. Realize that it was all worth it. It’s genius. It’s the best book I’ve ever written.
Step eleven – Beta (or Alpha or critique partners… what ever you want to call them) readers. The ones that I know will be painfully honest, but in a way that will make me understand they want you to fix it, not cry and drink lots of alcohol. I still cry.
Step twelve – take their ideas and fix my manuscript. Know that the editor is going to love it. It’s amazing. I have the best readers ever. This is the best I can make it. It’s a flawless diamond polished to perfection.
Step thirteen – get it back from a development edit. Read the first page of the report. Stop. Go to the store and stock up on cookies, coffee and alcohol. Cry. Get angry. Cry again. Swear I’m going to give up writing forever. Right after I fix everything. And edit it. Again.
Step fourteen – Send it out to the beta readers again. Thank my editor profusely when the beta readers don’t hate it. Take their suggestions and send it off for line edits. Run out of coffee around this step and suffer.
Step fifteen – repeat Step Thirteen. Worry I’m wasting my editor’s time, call her and have her tell me I’m not, but really, I might think about these changes. Badger her into telling me the truth – forget saying it nicely, I need to know exactly what she means. Exactly. Dive deeper into my myopic, stubborn side. I’m going to get this right. Eat more cookies.
Step sixteen – Fix it. Worry about it. Stress that it’s not good enough. Debate if my editor is being too nice to me. Maybe it needs another line edit. Gather my courage. Send it in for proofreading.
Step seventeen – The proofreader liked it! Think maybe I might not be delusional. Fix the notes. Send it to my second proofreader.
Step eighteen – Make the final changes. Stress. Stop myself from reading it. My grammar sucks. I’ve had two people read it with better grammar. Trust me, I can add grammar errors in, under the guise of fixing it. I’m that bad.
Step nineteen – format. Get ready for release. Tell myself that it’s too late. Sing the chorus of “Let it Go.” Pray. Plead. Cry. Cross my fingers. Do a like-my-book dance. If someone’s come up with it and put it on the internet (and it’s free) I’ve done it. Focus on social media. Realize that I’m awkward on social media. Do it anyways. Eat more cookies.
Step twenty – Release. Stress. Cookies. Recently, get so sick that my phone’s facial recognition software refuses to recognize me. Yell at the phone that has the audacity to give me shade about not looking good. See that someone had bought the book that wasn’t a friend or family member. Realize it doesn’t suck.
Wash and repeat. And that, is how I write a book. Hopefully that helps. Or at least tells you that you’re not alone. Or that you’re doing better than me. What ever keeps you writing. XOXO
Thanks for sharing this with us, Annabelle, and good luck with Number’s Up, the first book in the Barrow Bay Mystery series.
The novel is available online at Amazon.
About Annabelle Hunter: Annabelle is a stay-at-home mom and an avid fan of classic mystery shows and dressage. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and too many animals.