We all watch movies and TV shows about authors who are trying to come up with the next great idea…or struggling with writer’s block. I always laugh to myself that the character had to be inspired by the show’s writers own troubles.
Recently, a reader asked me a bit more about my personal creative process when writing books.
I’ve been pushing myself this winter (while our zoo is closed) to get some content done so I can publish all year long. The process is still a bit too long for my liking (I have 5 full-length books and 1 novella already written, but stuck elsewhere in the process that nobody has seen yet.) I’ve focused on honing my process in 2019, so here is a glimpse at what I do.
(Zoo Photo is below to break up this super long article.)
(Photo of Raven is just for fun. Isn’t she beautiful? It’s our female wolf at our family’s zoo/wildlife sanctuary. She’s un-releasable due to no fear of humans, but has big, beautiful enclosure.)
1. A book usually sparks off an idea. Sometimes it’s a character I really want to write about, other times it’s a concept. For instance: Blood & Holy Water was based of three characters (Fin, Ava, & Lily) and I needed to create a problem/struggle for them. Where Superhero Wives was based off a question: What’s it like to be a superhero’s spouse? and then the story unfolded.
2. I take a day or two to jot down book notes, creating more depth to the characters, understanding their flaws and desires, and coming up with their struggle that will become a book. I then twist all these items into a rough story outline. (Literally, my outline is about 8-10 sentences.)
3. I begin writing, aiming for 3000-5000 words per day (on days I don’t work at our family zoo and I’m not editing another project.) So, for one of my 30,000 word novellas, it takes me about 7 days of writing and twice that to get a first draft of a 60,000 word novel done. Not bad: Rough draft in 14 days! Sometimes, I get a bit of writer’s block, but the easiest way to fix this is to take a day to plot out the next part of the story. For me, a good brainstorming session always overcomes writer’s block.
4. But that’s the easy part! My firsts drafts are TERRIBLE and I’d never show them to anyone. My next step is to go back through the book, fix all the plot holes I left and make the writing sound like I’m semi-intelligent. This process takes me just as long as writing the first draft does.
5. When my first edits are done, I make another pass, quickly, just reading and adjusting what I missed (and fixing grammar/type-o’s) This is only a few days.
6. I send it off to beta readers for feedback. I bite my nails while I wait. This is the biggest time hold-up for me in getting a book released. It’s a struggle to find good beta readers that are reliable and efficient. I have a few I use, but I write more books than they can keep up with. I’m always looking for good beta readers, but I think I finally found some that show promise. Hopefully, I have this step figured out, so I’ll be able to get my books out faster.
7. I fix my story with beta reader feedback. Usually takes about a week and can be quite frustrating to figure out if the issues identified are truly issues or just the reader’s preference.
8. I send to my proofreader/editor. I have a fabulous fan who does this for me for free. (Thank you Janet!)
9. I send to my Advanced reader Team (and post on BookSprout) for reviews. I like to put the books up 3 weeks before publication.
10. I publish!
So… Here’s an example of the timeline for my upcoming book, Souls & Shadows (coming out next month.)
- December: Wrote the book
- January: Edited the book
- Jan 15-Today: Book with my beta reader, waiting for feedback.
- March 14-18th: Work on edits
- March 18th: Send to my proofreader
- April 1st: Send to my advanced reader team
- April 22nd: Publish!
(Old photo of my family is just to break up this post as well.)
(Photo of my husband, kids, and me during a color run a few years back. Don’t you love the Oscar shorts?)
I’m always interested in other authors processes, some of them skip the beta reader step, while others use multiple rounds of beta reading. Some write a really clean first draft and don’t need all the time invested in fixing it before sending it to anyone to read. Others, make a detailed, in depth outline that could almost be read as a stand alone book!
Oh, and then there is the other big component before I publish: Getting a cover!
Many, many designers are booked out a year or more. It’s a shame to hold up publication due to difficulty in getting artwork. I create many covers myself so I’m not at the mercy of a designer. (Plus it saves money. The cover is the most expensive part of my process–more than my beta readers/editors!)
So, are you a writer?
Tell me about your writing process.