From Idea to Publication…My Journey.

writing process

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.)

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(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.)

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(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.

Camp NaNo – My First Sequel

July’s Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I’m excited to start my first sequel! I published Blood & Holy Water back in April, and since then, readers have been asking for a sequel…so…here we go! I have a tentative cover (since, for some reason, covers motivate me to write) and a working title.

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Book 1 (Blood & Holy Water) was about an angel who needed a miracle to earn her wings…and it turns out her miracle involved a vampire with a secret to protect.

Book 2 (Feathers & Fur) will be about a recently fallen angel who can’t help but try to do good, but when his path’s cross with a werewolf mother that doesn’t want his help, he feels lost in this new world.

I have the whole thing outlined, and know the characters since they appeared in other stories. (The fallen angel was in Blood & Holy Water and the werewolf was in my story Bitten in my Quick Escape: Fantasy Tales freebie.)

Next, I need to come up with a series title.

So, who’s in Camp with me? What will you be working on?

Writing Tip: Dialogue Tag Overload

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I spend a lot of my time beta reading for other authors, and one thing that flags a new writer to me is their use of dialogue tags.

What is a dialogue tag? 

The most common one is the word “said.”

  • “I want to go to the park,” Timmy said.
  • Ariana said, “I can’t believe she wore that.”

But some writers are clever and vary the word “said” such as using words like… “added” “interjected” “asked” “yelled” “pleaded” “questioned” etc.

  • “I want to go to the park,” Timmy demanded.
  • Ariana sighed, “I can’t believe she wore that.”

This is great, here and there, but when you read pages of dialogue and every line has one of these tags, it slows down the pacing.

Dialogue tags do have a place. Using a fancy one, such as “yelled” definitely adds to the story, but here’s what would be better…

Show me how they say their words. Describe their actions and their feelings, rather than tell me with a dialogue tag.

  • “I want to go to the park!” Timmy stomped his foot and cross his arms. His eyebrows narrowed into a V above his nose.
  • Ariana glanced around the room, then leaned onto the table. She dropped her voice and rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe she wore that.”

Now, let’s return to that important concept called pacing. An entire conversation packed with descriptors as in the last examples would really slow down the reading. That’s where a nice combination of dialogue tags, description, and floating dialogue make a conversation between people flow.

Here’s an example from a short story I just wrote. Not perfect, but an example of using a dialogue tag (Devora asked) mixed with action descriptors and dialogue without any description at all:

Arriving home that night, Derek was already there. “Busy day?” Devora asked.

“Not at all. All the crime must be under control.” He sat on the couch in shorts and a t-shirt, watching some sports ball game.

She pulled her phone out. “Well, I had a busy day. I broke my phone.”

“Why’d you do that?”

She clenched her hands into fists. “I was trying to text you.”

“Was something wrong?”

“Just some type of drug crime going on.”

Derek turned away from the TV and arched an eyebrow at her. “And you didn’t let me know?”

“I told you I broke my phone.” She wiggled her phone’s shattered screen at him, then tossed it on the end table. “You can’t rely on me for everything! I have my own job to do. One that you seem to not take seriously, but I do a lot of good things too.”

When I write, I try to use the least amount of dialogue tags possible, and when I read something that’s littered with them, I find myself detached from the writing and distracted from the story. This is just another one of the many ways to shift your writing from telling the reader what’s going on to showing them.

**Of note: If you need to throw in a dialogue tag, I’ve read that you’re best to just use the old-fashioned “said” because it turns invisible to the reader–minimal slowing of the pace.

So next time you’re writing “said” or “interjected” take a look if it’s really needed to portray to your reader who’s speaking.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on dialogue tags, and when you read, what flags a story as coming from a new writer to you?

My Writing Journey

My Writing Journey

If anyone is interested more about me (like, way more than you care to know) or just need a little motivation to keep you writing, here’s a summary of my writing journey. (Forgive me if I got a little “preachy” in the piece.)

Thank you E. Paige Burks (and Infinity Flower Publishing) for hosting me on your blog. I really enjoyed writing this piece.

Here’s a little snippet:

My Writing Journey – Perseverance – Joynell Schultz

The quote, “You are your own worst enemy,” sums up my writing journey and affects many artists. Heck, I think everyone struggles with this to one point or another.

As far back as I remember, I loved writing. My favorite part was looking at the finished product and saying, “Hey, I created that OUT OF NOTHING!” Each story always brought me some emotional satisfaction. The characters, their struggle, or just the way the plot was crafted. Not that I’m brilliant…far from it.

I think nearly anyone can write. It’s just a matter of how much work you’re willing to put into the story. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago I had this revelation.

… Read the whole article here: My Writing Journey – Perseverance …

Have a fantastic rest of your day!

–Joy