In the past week or so, a couple friends have posted bits on their blogs about method, so I thought, since I am at the beginning of writing another novel (number six), that I'd add a bit about the process I go through.
I've written before about outlines, and how I don't use them. When I write a book, I usually begin with a question: What if... and I go from there. Then, I'll think about that question and how it might bounce around against the lives of different characters.
For me, character and voice are probably the most important elements in a novel, and I suppose I'll spend some time in the future blogging about these. But for now, I'll just say that all of my characters have a lot to do with my own life, and maybe that's what contributes most effectively to their believability.
So, after I have that question and my characters worked out in my head, I'll sit down and write out the first pages of the book... maybe around ten or so. Then I'll stop for a while. Once I have that beginning, the general question, and my players, I'll just let it sit in my head for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. During that time, I will frequently get ideas or visions about the story, and I may jot them down or add them to the file -- just hanging out there like icebergs with no referents that anyone but I can understand. Very frequently, since I can't control when these icebergs will come floating along, I will take my phone out and email them to myself so I don't forget them.
I get a lot of weird emails like that.
But I think I email myself more than anyone else.
Finally, when I'm ready to go (usually this is because I get frustrated after a while just drifting along among all these icebergs), I'll sit down and start the real writing. When this happens, I get pretty manic about my work because I'll actually project a completion date in my mind and I always stick to it.
In about 2 months, I'll have a finished and ready-to-submit manuscript... but I work hard and long hours to do that. The last couple of books I finished took from 5 to 8 weeks to go from that sit-down-and-write-after-the-thinking-phase to being in my editor's and agent's hands.
It's always interesting to me, though, that every author I know goes through an entirely personal and unique process for getting their stories onto paper.