Welcome back. As you might know, my previous four blogs focused on my seven touchstones for writing a Mystery/Thriller. (You can catch up with those here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.) Two questions that were raised several times in comments and a podcast with Ryan (r. r. campbell) at Writescast are:

  1. Why is “research” not included in your Seven-Step Process?
  2. Wouldn’t this process apply to other writing as well?

My “Seven-Step Process” grew out of a fifteen-step process, “From Idea to a Publishing Contract,” which did included research, editing, rewriting, etc. Out of, but including, the fifteen-step process came the idea for a Mystery/Thriller specialty. What would be different about that process, and am I missing something? Research is a big part of the process. I spend about 70% of my time researching and about 30% writing. Out of the fifteen-step process, you can mold any genre. So, the Seven-Step Process can apply, to some extent, to other genres, which might be fun to do in a blog at some point. There would, of course, be differences. For example, while a Mystery/Thriller asks, “How?” A Memoir might ask, “What?” Historical Fiction would as “When and Why?” And so on.

I believe this blog should unlock the Fifteen-Step Process that is the foundation of my writing, and I think it could apply to any writing. Here I will present the idea and the steps for you to review. And, next month, I will discuss some of the issues not included in my Mystery/Thriller discussion.

Start right now, to begin, and commit to your writing journey. My fifteen-step process, is not a timetable, but rather a “What comes first” or “When do you do a surgical edit? Think of it as a fifteen-hundred-mile road trip. There are no tricks or short cuts, but there is a best fifteen-hundred-mile map, which is both realistic and self-motivating. There are temptations, interruptions, and distractions along the way that will challenge you. And you can’t jump to mile 9 before completing mile 2. But you’re driving, and all you have to do is stay on this road for fifteen-hundred-miles. How fast you drive and whether you need to stop at a rest area along the way is up to you. Stay on the road and focus on your first one-hundred miles. You’re on your way.

Typing your first, “The End,” is thrilling. Landing a contract is thrilling. Getting that first advance check is thrilling. My road to publication required perseverance, hard work, and luck (luck is simply preparation + opportunity). Along the way, I made mistakes that you can avoid. I promise you; you can do it. There is no magic feather. The muse is inside you. I have a map. I know how to get there. I have taken the same journey. So, let’s get on the road.

Here are the 15-steps (with marketing as the 16th step).

  1. Idea –what, how, who, when, where. (A mystery is about “how”.
  2. Scribble – POV, past or present, (where and when).
  3. Research (Initial) and Outline, Pants, Implication-Points, or Mix & Match.
  4. First Draft.
  5. Read, walk, exercise, and start social media. Wait for two to four weeks, maybe longer.
  6. The first Rewrite – begin carving and fleshing, refine dialogue (index cards) Open (keep going) & Closing (come back).
  7. Additional Research and social media marketing.
  8. Second Rewrite – surgical, tightening, texture, and refinement, all open and close.
  9. Have someone read out loud. Or you read it on tape (that dates me)
  10. Edit (story, plot, surgical, opening and Closing lines, voice, etc.) and reading out loud.
  11. Third Rewrite – this is the castle.
  12. Final line edits.
  13. Fourth, Rewrite (should be an easy read-through and move in).
  14. Pitching (Synopsis, Elevator, Cover letter, Agents, Publishers).
  15. Publishing & Contract (Traditional Large, Trad Med to Small, Indie, Author/Publisher) READ the contract.
  16. EXTRA – Marketing (social media and on the road) – but that’s another story.

A fun way to get by during these weird times is to write down alternative endings to movies, TV shows, books, short stories, and then discuss them. And indeed, do this with any of your writing -short story, novel, poem, etc.

Thanks for being here and stay brilliant, healthy and hopeful, Nick