Recently I’ve had a few people ask me to detail my writing process because they want to know how I write so fast. I want to preface this post with a couple things:
- My process is not better just because it’s fast
- If you do things different, that doesn’t make them wrong
- Please don’t compare your style to other writers
- My process isn’t perfect, but it works for me
- I write by hand (so I will be referencing page count, not word count)
Now, for some background. My first book, I wrote over, and over, and over. I stumbled over pages, the plot, second guessed myself, deleted things, edited as I wrote. IT WAS TERRIBLE. But, it was necessary for me to help understand what does and does not work for me. I started and stopped this novel probably twenty times, before I finally told myself I was either going to finish it, or I was going to give up. It took me around a year to finish. Oh my Godzilla it was a mess, it was awful – BUT IT WAS DONE. That’s all that mattered. I queried this piece of crap, got nowhere, and started on another novel. The next took me six months, it went right in a drawer. And I started another book immediately, a YA paranormal romance I felt really strongly about.
Book three took around five months, I think. Around this time I got really serious about writing and started attending a writing group in Connecticut. One of the group members mentioned to me reading a book called the 30-day novel, or something like that. And I was like, I think I could do that. I had an idea I was already toying with for my 4th book. I wrote FURIOUSLY. And I did it. I wrote it in 28 days. It was a mess, around 40k words. BUT I DID IT.
Now, HOW THE HECK DO YOU WRITE A BOOK IN 28 DAYS?
Step 1 – OUTLINE
Outline that book like your life depends on it. I’m sorry pantsers, I don’t know any other way. I’m a plotter (that doesn’t make pantsing wrong. You do you). When I start, I write an outline broken up into chapters. I then use this chapter list as a checklist (save this, you’re gonna need it again). I try to go into as much detail as possible about every plot point that will occur in these chapters. Will I get them all? NOPE. Will I think of others as I’m writing? YUP. I keep a running list as I write of elements I’ll need to add in draft 2.
Step 2 – CHARACTER LIST
Before I start, at the back of my notebook, I make a list of characters I think will appear. I include names, description, whether or not they die, any other relevant information. I will also add to this list as new characters are needed during the writing process, this helps me keep track of them all.
Step 3 – RESEARCH
Sometimes I research before writing, sometimes I don’t. Usually for historical works I do my research before hand and have anything I’d like to include in a list before I start.
Step 4 – WRITE THE DAMN THING
Now that you’ve completed steps 1 – 3, it’s time to write a book. My rule for this? 10 pages a day MINIMUM. 15 pages is ideal. 20 pages, is a great day. I’ve found it’s easiest to break this up into 5 pages before work, 5 pages during my lunch break, 10 pages at night. Once I reach my page count, I get to do whatever I want for the rest of my evening. Usually 20 pages is the most I can do before my wrist starts to hate me. With this pace, I can have finished a draft in two weeks. Usually though my drafts take two and a half to four weeks, six if I’m being lazy. I am hard on myself about drafting, I don’t take days off during draft phases. (AGAIN this may not be for you)
How long are these drafts normally? Once they’re typed up 40-60k words. My drafts start short and grow as I edit.
Step 4a – TYPE IT UP
After drafting is done, I spend a week or two typing it up. Obviously if you don’t write by hand, you won’t have this step.
Step 5 – EDITING
Editing takes longer than writing, so just buckle up. My first pass of editing (after typing), I print out the pages, put them in my editing binder, then begin to look for what’s missing. This isn’t a line edit, this is a ‘what the hell is this book missing’ edit. I will clean up stupid errors or bad sentences, but mostly, this is to add some flesh to the bones I’ve created. From here, I take my original outline, and I make notes for myself for what every chapter needs (This is your editing outline). I will write any new content I need in this draft, then add it in.
Draft 3 – Once I get to this stage in the draft, I start looking for small errors, continuity, things that are out of character for my cast, etc. After this stage, I send the draft to my CP (critique partner).
Draft 4 – With notes from my CP I will make ANOTHER editing outline broken down by chapter for what needs to be changed.
Editing is rinse and repeat of the steps above. Sometimes it’s five rounds, sometimes it’s forty-seven. It just depends.
So how long does editing take? Usually to get to draft 3 – four to six weeks depending. Sometimes faster. Editing gets faster the more you do it.
And that’s it. That’s how I write so fast. It may not be for you. But I hope this helps you understand my process. If you have questions, find me on twitter!