Fiona Snyckers is the author of novels Trinity Rising, and Trinity on Air, which have earned an enthusiastic following for this Johannesburg based writer. Here she talks about her writing process.

Write a Book: Finding Ideas

For me, a new book starts as the germ of an idea. How much fleshing out this germ needs depends on whether I am working on a new, stand-alone novel or on the next book in a series.

If it’s a new novel, I need to spend a lot of time and thought on creating an entirely new world. It starts out completely empty and needing to be peopled and furnished.

If it’s the next book in a series, I need to get back into that ready-made world and think of new situations for the characters to go through. How do I keep it fresh? Which of the old characters is expendable and how many new characters do I need to introduce? Both approaches are challenging in their own way.

Tips for Writing a Book: Start With a Structure

When the original germ of an idea has sprouted, I start plotting in earnest. I like to have brief chapter outlines written out before I formally begin. The ideal length for the kind of popular women’s fiction I write is 100,000 words, so I work on a structure of twenty chapters of 5,000 words each. Each chapter has approximately three scenes in it. These are separated by typographical breaks in the text.

None of these rules is at all hard and fast. I break them all the time, but I like the comforting structural guidance they give.

Become a Published Author: Keep Writing

When my chapter outlines are done, I start writing at the beginning of the story, and carry on until I reach the end. A lot of writers say that they are ‘surprised’ by the twists and turns their characters take, almost as though the characters have taken over the job of writing the novel. I don’t like surprises, so this seldom happens to me.

I find I produce a more polished document when I know how the story ends before I’ve started writing it. It’s easier to plant clues in the text that make the story seem more tightly plotted. I don’t enjoy reading books that feel chaotic – as though they’ve run away from their authors. This very orderly approach to writing is highly personal and wouldn’t work for everyone. Aspirant writers need to find an approach that works for them.

Hints for Writers: Find the Way of Writing That Works for You

You won’t find two writers who describe exactly the same process. All they can tell you is what works for them. And what worked for them when they were twenty-five may not still work when they’re seventy-five. It needs to be said is that there are no right or wrong ways of writing a book, and that there are as many different ways of writing as there are writers.