As a new author, I struggled to find a creative process that worked for me. If you believe books on writing, blog posts, and other authors, there are two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. I’m an unapologetic pantser—sort of.
When I set out to write “Feast of the Epiphany,” I knew it would take several books to tell the story. I didn’t bother to plan out the first book. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Originally, the book was told from six different point of view characters by rotating chapters. I quickly realized not every author or every story could be told a la Game of Thrones. I had a hot mess of characters and plots. It took several months to rewrite the book from Gia & Torben’s perspective, and it worked.
Rather than beat my head against the wall with the second book, I got organized. I wrote a detailed outline and sat down to write. Nothing happened. That’s not true. I had words on paper with no emotion, no hook, nothing for a reader to latch onto. I scrapped it all and set out to find a happy medium. I found my process in perhaps the most un-creative tool available, an Excel spreadsheet.
Here’s what mine looks like.
Sheet 1: Characters
The Order of the Sinistra Dei series has over thirty named characters. I created an entry for each of my people with a picture, physical description, human birth date, immortal imbuing date, etc. This is extremely helpful to keep track of little things like eye color.
Sheet 2: Series Overview
I created one column for each book and a row for the different plot lines. Rather than including everything that will happen in the plot, I jot down main ideas. I don’t define the path, only the start and end points for each plot. When the book is finished, I change the ideas to one sentence telling me where the plot line ended. This gives me a reference point for the next book.
Sheets 3 - 7: Individual books
Each book has its own sheet. I copy the character list and define their motivations in general terms. Next, I jot down story beats for each plot line after I finish a chapter. This makes writing the dreaded synopsis much easier. It also helps me to identify plot holes.
My process won’t work for everyone, there are some die hard plotters out there. The best advice I received as a new author was to find a way that works for you. There are rules for scene structure, character development, grammar, etc. Know and follow them until you learn the craft, but how to pull the first draft out of the magician’s hat is completely up to the author. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Example from Feast of the Epiphany: Book 1
Educated, motherly at times (doesn’t see it in herself), haunted by her past, feels unlovable, sin – lust; torn between her selfish nature and accepting she’s the only one who can save the clutch; must step outside her comfort zone and conquer her past hurts.
Quiet, second in command, loves Gia, loyal, fair, Executioner of clutch. Goes against his nature to make a grab for what he wants vs what’s best for the clutch; needs to reconcile internal struggle.
Leader, losing abilities, controlling, manipulative, Judge of clutch; desperate to keep: Gia, position, respect, rank within the Order.
Execrati in New Orleans: take Caleb, harm Nick in ceremony, attack remaining clutch. Reason behind the attack unknown until Book 4.
Establish the rules of the SD, how characters view the Order, set consequences of alerting the Church about Lochlain, Torben possible conflict of interest, clutch fears intervention from Rome.
Establish history; Gia’s acceptance of situation (fear, complacency, loyalty?); Lochlain’s controlling, abusive, desperation; Gia final straw; resolution to leave/trust herself.
Establish history; Torben’s feelings; his betrayal; Gia’s forgiveness; forced together vs ability to finally be together; his struggle to allow her to lead.
First meeting; Lochlain’s disapproval; Arranged marriage; Nick runs; break up. Still hung up on each other, impossible situation.
Gia’s accident; trip to the Aether; beings on other side; original abilities vs new abilities; secrecy; abilities fail her; self-doubt/fear; victory comes with major loss.