I heard an interview with David Baddiel recently, where he talked about “how he wrote”; he said (and I am paraphrasing): I sit down at my computer, look at the internet for a bit, realise I should do some writing, do some writing, reward myself by looking at the internet again… Of course, he did then explain about his actual approach, but his account resonated with me. Clearly, real writers waste lots of time too looking at Twitter and Wikipedia…
This is how I wrote The Kosher Delhi:
When I wasn’t looking at the internet, I tended to write as follows: On a morning, I would write a few pages of the novel and change it a bit as I go along; personally, I do believe in improving some aspects of it as I write. But, if I realised that there were words I needed to change later, or there was something I still needed to amend/improve/insert, then I sometimes highlighted such words/sections in yellow (using the software’s Text Highlight tool) and moved on. The following day, I reviewed what I wrote the day before, made further changes to that and then started writing new pages for that day. That also helped remind me where I was, what I needed to write next. And repeat. All that I did directly on my PC/laptop.
Partly through necessity of life and partly because I can’t write and write for weeks at a time, I did sometimes stop and leave the MS alone for a while. When I did that, I found it very helpful when I returned to it some weeks later and I reviewed great swathes of it again. When I did that, I printed out what I wanted to review and wrote on it using a pen; I found I could see the book far more clearly that way, in terms of what was good, what needed changing etc. I even printed the novel in ‘book fold’ style and put a couple of staples in the fold, so that I was reading it in A5 size, turning pages over “like a real book” – that seemed to really work for me. That said, I have also sent my book to my Kindle and added notes to it on that, before updating the master MS back on my PC.
As for whether I am a “pantser or plotter” (a classic phrase people writing books these days use), I am somewhere inbetween. But I definitely err on the panster side. As the Kosher Delhi progressed, I did have a single Word document with all the character and plot information in it, including the core of what I still needed to write/incorporate and what needed changing. And I had supporting documents such as ‘The Characters Ages’ year by year in a spreadsheet. But a lot of the plot was only in my head. I can’t imagine ever plotting everything out before I start a novel, although I do think a lot about the overall structure before commencing (or, at least, I think I do…) I also use Mind Mapping when I am first considering a plot/novel; I have written a separate post about that.
In terms of software, I used a combination of Microsoft Word and Google Docs. I did like using Google Docs because I could access it anywhere from any computer (even offline on my Chromebook), and I could easily download copies for version control. But ultimately, I found I needed to ‘finish’ the documents in Word so I could print them, format them slightly more easily, just have little bit more control. And my editor used Word for track changes.
I should finish this post with a huge caveat: this was just what I found worked for me! For this one novel. There is no right or wrong (as far as I know) and I have still only written one (unproven) book. So if you do something differently then that’s completely fine.