Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dreams, Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Four Stages of Novel Development

Since this is my 100th post on this blog, I think it makes sense for me to take a step back from the minutiae of independent publishing and look at my overall process from beginning to end. Hopefully, you'll find something here to steal for your own work, or at least look at your creative process a different way.

Like everything else I've done, this process isn't original. I've borrowed some elements from my days working at a Japanese animation studio and some ideas came from watching the creative process unfold when I worked at Marvel Comics. The workflow I use could be valid for creating all types of commercial entertainment, but I don't have enough experience to confirm that.

The Four Stages

Novel development at Nightlife Publishing has four phases: pre-production, production, post-production and launch. I'll try to describe each one in order and link to other relevant articles that I have posted.

Stage 1: Pre-Production (The Dreaming Stage)

This is where we think up stories. We gather ideas, follow inspiration and collect research for our half dreamed masterpiece. For those of us who plot, this is where the building blocks of the story are laid out. For those of us who don't plot, the writing might begin at the first spark of an idea. All of us see a work of art taking shape in the fog of our imagination.

Related articles:

Stage 2: Production (The Sweat Stage)

This is where the fantasy of ideas meets the reality of writing. Here, we wrestle with setting, characters, pace, plot, conflict, dialogue, language and the gap between expectations and results. Some of us produce a steady word count every day in a dedicated writing space. Others squeeze chapters out on our smartphones during our morning commute. This is the first major obstacle for a novel. Anyone can get an idea for a story. Fewer people have the stamina and willpower to forge an idea into a manuscript.

Related articles:

Stage 3: Post-Production (The Blood Stage)

The rough shaped gem we've mined from the depths of our subconscious needs to be honed before it will be a jewel that sits alongside other best-sellers. Self-editing, beta testing, professional editing, formatting and other quality control measures give our books a professional polish.

This can be a painful stage for two reasons. First, many of our cherished dialogue, characters and concepts might not survive this stage. Second, this is where the book transforms from a low cost creative expression to a project that costs money.

(Ouch. That's why I refer to it as the blood phase.)

Related articles:
Stage 4: Launch (The Tears Stage)

At a certain point, our creation needs to leave the protective nest of our computer and rise or fall as a published work. We can help it along with marketing, advertising and social media, but at some point your readers will be alone with your work to measure it on its own merits.

This stage can produce two types of tears. You might experience tears of joy when you get good reviews, positive feedback, sales, fame, fortune and immortality. You might simply cry tears of pain because people reject your book, regardless of how much work you put into it. In my experience, both types of tears come with every book.

Related articles:

Manipulating the Process

The main reason I created a process for publishing my work is to improve efficiency. Each stage of the process requires a different level of time, energy and money. By spreading my work out across each stage, I can increase my library of titles without using up any one resource.

For instance, I currently have one novel that was recently released (launch stage), one novel that is going out to beta readers this week (post production), one that I'm 20% done with the first manuscript (production) and three books that are in various stage of development (pre-production). When time and circumstances permit, I flow back and forth from one project to another. Everything works out, as long as I'm always doing something but not trying to do everything at once.

Stealing a Good Idea

This process won't work for everyone. Some people won't have the time. Others might feel it is too industrial and counter to the way their creativity works. There's no problem with that. I put together something that works for me. If you'd like to steal it, be my guest. If not, I still make the same amount of money from posting this (i.e. nothing).

If you'd like to share your own publishing process, I'd like to hear it. I'm not above stealing a good idea.

Have fun.


  1. I find your post very encouraging - I'm in the post-production phase...and blood has been split...and I'm not even as far as the money spending.

    1. It's all worth it Teagan. We appreciate the finished product more when there is a struggle to create it.