Believe it or not, here are a few excerpts from a WSJ article on how several famous authors tackle the task:
Most agree on common hurdles: procrastination, writer's block, the terror of failure that looms over a new project and the attention-sucking power of the Internet.
"Put your left hand on the table. Put your right hand in the air. If you stay that way long enough, you'll get a plot," Margaret Atwood says when asked where her ideas come from. When questioned about whether she's ever used that approach, she adds, "No, I don't have to." Ms. Atwood, who has written 13 novels, as well as poetry, short stories and nonfiction works, rarely gets writer's block. When ideas hit her, she scribbles phrases and notes on napkins, restaurant menus, in the margins of newspapers.
Kate Christensen was two years and 150 pages into her first novel, "In the Drink," about a boozy ghostwriter, before she discovered what the book was really about—so she dismantled the draft, threw out a bunch of pages and started over.
When she was working on her first novel, "Interview With a Vampire," in the early 1970s, Anne Rice revised each typed page before moving on to the next. These days, she writes on a computer rather than a typewriter, and revisions are constant and more fluid. She writes a chapter a day to make sure each section is consistent in its tone and style, and often works for eight or nine hours straight when she's in the middle of a novel.
Mystery writer Laura Lippman, who writes a popular series featuring detective Tess Monaghan, creates elaborate, color-coded plot charts, using index cards, sketchbook pages, colored ribbon and magic markers.