I don’t know how professionally trained writers do it, but here’s how it usually works for me:
1) Have a good idea or message/moral that I want to convey
2) Come up with good intro, ending, and a key scene in the story
3) Start developing main character(s): physical traits, personality, likes, pet peeves, history, etc.
4) If world-building is involved, start thinking about what is unique and compelling about the world. Maybe come up with some prior "history."
5) Start brainstorming and outlining chapter plots.
6) Develop secondary characters
7) Start fleshing out chapters, sub-plots, dialogue.
8) I tend to write all over the map. Sometimes I’ll be working on one chapter but get an inspiration for a different chapter. In the end, I will start stitching everything together like a quilt, narrowing down the number of gaps I have left.
9) Edit, edit, edit. It’s also at this point that I will solicit feedback from friends and beta-readers.
10) Leave it alone for a couple of months. Move on to something else, whether another writing project, or a book I wanted to read. The writing is still too fresh otherwise and I’m like a nervous parent that can’t let their kid out of their sight. Letting the work rest enables me to look at it more critically later to make the changes that need to be made.
11) Edit, edit, edit.
12) Hopefully be happy enough with it to share with others.
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