I know. I went there. Don't worry - I promise there are quotes from actual famous authors contained herein!
So after writing a few books now I've got my process pretty much down:
Stage 1: Think. Mostly about anything other than my book!
Stage 2: Think harder. This time about my book!
Stage 3: Take the scene in my head that won't let go and start asking myself oodles of "what if" questions about the characters and plot.
Stage 4: Do characterisation charts for my protagonists that include their Goals, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) and get a bit stuck.
Stage 5: Open up a separate GMC document. Decide to clean the entire house instead.
Stage 6: Force myself back to GMC document and immediately come up with over-complicated internal GMC that doesn't fit into external GMC in any way, shape or form!
Stage 7: Realise that if my imagination can come up with such crazy internal and external GMC I must be able to come up with believable ones. Rework chart. Write brief outline.
Stage 8: Break out my Enneagram wheel to double-check the personality of my characters run true.
Stage 9: Spend way too long on the internet 'casting' my characters and looking at pictures of shoes I can't afford!
Stage 10: Choose the perfect notebook to accompany my book, crack open a new word document and begin...
In reality, I don't always complete these stages in numerical order, or, indeed, until I'm writing the book.
But once I start typing, this is my life:
"I can't write five words, but that I can change seven" - Dorothy Parker
I find it next to impossible to switch off my internal editor. I battle every day not to make it perfect - to simply get the words down in a dirty draft that I can rework later. But the truth is that at the start, for me, I can't progress to the meat of the story until I have written the first chapters perfectly to include cute-meet, setup, theme stated and inciting incident. I have to have started and locked-in the framework to hang the rest of the story on before I can relax into it.
The next problem I encounter is that I always forget how long this part takes me; which means that I then have a mini heart-attack when I look at my writing schedule for contracted books and realise I'm already behind in my word count. Writing life evolves into an obsession with mathematical formulae where I constantly recalculate how many new words I now need to write each day to hit my deadline.
Somehow I drag myself back from full-blown panic mode to the edge of hysteria so that I can continue re-writing my first chapters over and over until finally, magically, blissfully, my internal editor leaves and I am reminded of this quote:
"Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak, surrender to them. Don't ask first whether it's permitted, or would please your teachers or fathers or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that." - Hermann Hesse
With the framework laid down and the internal editor gone I am now so embroiled in my story that the inner voices begin to speak their truths unfiltered. This is the part of my process I have to trust will happen. Because when it does, nothing else matters. I don't have time to think about being judged. About writing what others want. Or worry about trying to get it perfect. Once the inner voices start I need to do only two things to avoid ruination, 1) Get over myself, and, 2) Get out of the way of myself.
This is when I get the rest of the story down. Not perfectly. Not prettily. But down. So that I have a beginning a middle and an end. A finished draft that I can set aside while I take a couple of breaths and reconnect with the world, before diving into editing and polishing. The re-writing at the beginning is just me figuring out the reality of the book so that I can let the internal editor go, hear my characters fully immersed in their world, and write their story.
So before I go back to the incessant re-writing of the beginning of my new book, I'd love to hear what your process is?