As many of you know, I recently finished the first draft of my WIP. Then I cleaned up the plot holes and added an element it was previously lacking. My wonderful first beta read the whole thing, and I went back through it a second time, making adjustments based on her feedback. Now I’ve sent it off to a new batch of beta readers.

So what now?

I’m neurotic, of course, and I’ve discovered a certain pattern to my moods and thought processes after the completion of every WIP.

Stage 1: Elation – Just a few short months ago, I was looking at a messed-up manuscript, wondering if I’d written myself off a cliff. But in spite of pantstering the whole thing, I’ve reached the end, and it all makes sense, and I’ve tied up things I didn’t even consciously know were going to tie together!

Stage 2: Depression – I suddenly realize I have nothing to write about. I miss my characters. I wonder if they miss me. I start making up little scenes in my head about what they’re doing now. It’s pitiful.

Stage 3: Cheering Up – I remember that I’ll probably be revising this story repeatedly over months, or heaven help me, years. I’ll be spending lots of time with my characters, re-writing scenes, re-arranging scenes, creating new scenes … And I can never predict where these projects will take me. I finished the first draft of We Hear the Dead in November of 2006 – and I’m still writing about Maggie and Elisha in the screenplay, four years later!

Stage 4: Wonder: I wonder when I will have an idea for a new story.

Stage 5: Worry: I worry I will never have an idea for a new story.

Stage 6: Panic: I have no ideas! I have no ideas!

Stage 7: The Hook: Something catches my eye, or I read something – and suddenly, there’s the glimmer of an idea. It might be dim or flickering, or it might be bright and mesmerizing (the caged graves were the latter). But it’s an idea.

Stage 8: The Birth: Out of that one idea, a character rises from the primordial mist. I can see her (or him) in my mind. I can describe this person; I can place this character in at least one scene. Sometimes I even know the name …

Stage 9: The Story: Out of that one character and one scene, the shadowy plot elements begin to coalesce in the fog.

Stage 10: Chortling Happiness: Research begins. Outlines. Brainstorming and free-writes, just to explore the story. A new project is underway …

Yeah, that’s my process. What’s yours? And in case you’re wondering – I’m currently on Stage 8.