I'm hard at work on a new novel. This is my third, and I've got a whole process worked out for how I do it.
First I write up an overall synopsis, which includes little character bios, and a skeleton of the plot. Many of the major milestones of the plot are in there. This takes me a long time to do. For this book, I'd been considering the overall plot of the book for several months, before I decided I had sifted it enough in my head that I was ready to begin putting it together on "paper". The synopsis includes physical, emotional, mental, and even sexual details about the characters, their personalities, and their motivations. It's also got some details about locations.
Around the same time I first start thinking about the synopsis, I begin looking for a small, highly trusted group of friends to be test readers for me. We talk individually for a long time about the book, and what I hope to get out of it, and why I want them to help me. Once I've got what I feel are a sufficient number of people to help, I start in with the technical details.
I set up a shared online directory through a service I can get to, from my phone, my tablet, and my computer. Then I get writing. I use a very simple, spartan word processing application, something without a lot of bells and whistles, so that I can get writing anywhere and everywhere that I have a few minutes or an hour to get down to it.
Then begins the long, arduous process of actually doing the writing, and then the editing, and the many other steps to come after that.
Here's the thing though - the part that I'm grateful for, and often forget, is that I LOVE to write. When I first start the process of a new book, long before I'm even ready to begin writing the synopsis, the characters, plot, locations, and meaning of the story begin to come alive in my head.
I start seeing the characters in my dreams. Later, as they flesh out and become yet more real to me, I start seeing them in my head, when I'm awake. They begin going about their business, and stuff from their past, present, and future play out like little mind movies. I'll imagine they're in the room with me, and I can hear them think, and just know them through and through.
I slowly, but surely fall desperately in love with all of them. Even the ones I dislike. As I start to understand them, and the world they live in, that world becomes ever-so-real to me. I can taste the food they eat, know their exhaustion when they're wrung out after an argument, feel their arousal. They aren't me, but they live inside me.
One big dirty secret I have is that many of the characters I write are pastiches, mish-mash creations where I blend aspects of real people I know, combined with details that come only from my imagination. They're like alternate reality versions of people I have known in my life. That's why I can hear their laugh, or know the foods they're revolted by.
It CAN be exhausting. When I do finish, it's bittersweet. It feels great to complete something so enormous.
But the whole process from start to finish is rich with emotion, sensation, and this sort of swollen, energizing, exhausting creative urge. I am so grateful I get to experience it.