My Writing Process – What Worked and What Didn’t by Laura Elvebak

Much has been written lately about the working process. Outline or write by the seat of your pants. I have tried both in varying degrees.

I’ve been writing all my life. First as a sideline while employed and supporting a family. But in 2006 I decided to get serious and get published. I wrote magazine articles, short stories, several screenplays that never got produced, and a one act play. But my focus narrowed to writing novels.

The timing of 2006 was due to being laid off from an oil and gas exploration company. As a bonus, I would be paid for three months after leaving. It couldn’t have come at more perfect time. Instead of looking for another job, I could finish my novel. I read Stephen King’s On Writing and I was pumped. I said to myself, “Self, if Stephen King can write ten pages a day, you can, too.” 10 pages a day for 90 days equals 900 pages, or, in other words, a book.

Being used to writing screenplays at the time, I set up a storyboard on my easel. The set up used the first fifteen pages. Plot points followed, the climax, the all-is-lost point, and the dénouement were all meticulously planned out. By the end of two-and-a-half months, I finished with 500 pages of manuscript. Just in time to go to the Austin Film Festival and sell my idea for the book and/or screenplay.

Such are the stuff of dreams. Not real life.

The book was raw and I knew it. I got invited to join a critique group that wrote only mysteries. I was a member of Mystery Writers of America, and mysteries were all I read and what I wrote. The group was talented and their critique honest and brutal. I listened. Two years later I had re-written the book twice, cut the pages from 500 to 280, and found a publisher. The book was Less Dead, the first Niki Alexander mystery.

I still belong to that critique group and another one, and attend both religiously every week. They give me incentive and a deadline. They give great feedback, and sometimes they offer plot ideas I hadn’t thought of before. Another thing, I always edit my pages before continuing.

Lost Witness followed in 2009. In 2012, the rights of Less Dead and Lost Witness reverted to me and I reissued both as e-books, print, and audio. In January 2017, I signed with Black Opal Books and the third Niki Alexander mystery, A Matter of Revenge, came out in paper and e-book format. A standalone, The Flawed Dance, came out in 2016. The first of a new series, The Past Never Dies, will be out in early 2018.

What is my process now? First I write bios for each character. What are their goals? What’s stopping them? What do they believe in enough to fight for? I write a brief synopsis. Then I start writing.
At page 50 or thereabouts, I’m usually at a standstill. My characters have taken left turns I didn’t expect. So now I outline, chapter by chapter, what I’ve written so far. Then I continue writing. I’m outlining backwards. I write ahead, then put it in the outline. That way I keep track of the plot and characters, and keep my creative juices flowing.

Everyone writes differently. There is no right way or wrong way. It’s whatever works for you. My way is a mix, but so far it’s working for me.

Laura studied writing at UCLA, USC, Rice University, and Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. After taking a directing class in Houston, she co-wrote, directed and acted in a one-act play. She optioned three screenplays to a local production company, and co-wrote a script for the 48 Hour Film Project.

She is the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead, Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge. Niki Alexander is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. Her standalone, The Flawed Dance, takes place in Philadelphia in the late sixties, about a young woman fleeing from an abusive lover and hides in the demimonde world of go-go bars and mobsters. Laura is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-In-Crime, The International Thriller Writers, and The Final Twist Writers and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Good Reads, and Amazon Author Central.

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Twitter:                    @lauraelvebak


Skype:                                        laura.elvebak53


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11 thoughts on “My Writing Process – What Worked and What Didn’t by Laura Elvebak

  1. Zari Reede says:

    Wonderful to know how you do it, Laura. Everyone does have a different process and I like to learn from all the best. Love your Nikki Alexander series. Keep up the good/hard work.

  2. EARL STAGGS says:

    Laura, you’ve reinforced something I Iearned a few years ago: we all come to writing from a different path and eventually find the path that works best for us.

  3. Ian McLean says:

    Great article Laura. I enjoy learning how authors write.

  4. radine says:

    Interesting how varied authors can be while practicing the same profession. In my previous profession (retail) so much was the same whether you worked serving customers at a “veddy posh shop” selling antiques, fine linens, art, and more (as I did) or sold ice cream at Braums. Thanks for thinking this through for us.

  5. Great blog post, Laura. Steve King’s On Writing was an inspiration for me too. I also enjoying reading about your writing journey.

  6. Laura says:

    Thank you, Kathleen.

  7. Laura, I do the same thing with plotting after I write my “morning words.” I make sure I have the timeline nailed down that way, and it’s easy to go back for the highlights if life gets in the way for a few days, or even longer. I love reading about other author processes, so very much enjoyed your post.

  8. Lovely blog post, Laura. I can relate to some of your methods 😊 Good luck x

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