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.

Is Your Book Done Yet? (Part 2)

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question… well, I’d have made more money that I’ve done self-publishing so far (Ha. Ha. But that’s a topic for another blog post). But, seriously, how long does it really take to write a book? Check out PART 1 or PART 3 of the three part series.

Comments from Part 1 of this blog post series asked about writing vs. editing time. As a new writer, I had no idea how long it took to polish a novel once it was written. What was really eye-opening to me is how quickly I can put words down on a page and call it a novel. The real magic happens with rewriting and edits. One of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton has said, “Books are not written–they’re rewritten.”

Here’s the real timeline breakdown of Love, Lies & Clones.

  • February/March–Wrote “Draft Zero” which was a 50,000 word ROUGH, ROUGH draft of the novel.
  • April–Camp NaNoWriMo Project–First round of edits/revisions to try to have it grow from 50K to 80K.
  • May/June–Two rounds of beta readers and edits.
  • July–Put this novel away. Wrote Blood & Holy Water for Camp NaNoWriMo.
  • August/September–Another round of beta readers.
  • October–Editor/Prep for Kindle Scout
  • November–Kindle Scout Campaign. I read through the novel one more time, and still caught issues! (And I attempted to win NaNoWriMo with another novel.)
  • December–Published! Horary!

How about other self-published authors? 

Today’s Spotlight: Mystery / Thriller / Crime Authors

Note: You can CLICK any book cover below to learn more. You may find your next novel to read!

QUESTION: How long did it take you to write your most recent book(s)?

The Olympus KillerThe Church MurdersDeath of a BrideLuke Christodoulou: I give myself a year for each book. I finish earlier than that though, giving plenty of time for the book to go to my editor and for my proofreaders to provide feedback.

A Jar of Thursday

The Secret Notebook of Sherlock Holmes A House of MirrorsLiz Hedgecock: I write the first draft quite quickly, but I’m pretty thorough in the edit. I wrote the draft of A House Of Mirrors in 6 weeks, then put it away for 6 months, and took a month to edit it.

The SplitWarriors

Carey Lewis: It takes me about a month, and that includes research and two rounds of edits on the manuscript. Then I’ll put it away for a couple of weeks and give it another couple of edits with fresh eyes.

The Adoption

Greg Merritt: About 8 months.

How much of your time is devoted to writing opposed to editing/rewriting?

Please post in the comments.

Guess What? Revising & Editing are Different!

April’s Camp NaNoWriMo is wrapping up and my project for the month was to edit my novel.

Edit… Simple right? I thought all I had to do was read through it a few times and fix my mistakes so it would be ready for beta readers.  (That’s how I edit a short story.  Why would a novel be any different?)

Boy was I mistaken! Holy crap!

FIRST OFF: I thought revising and editing were mostly the same thing.

WRONG!

  • Revising focuses on how your story reads, filling in plot holes, making characters act appropriately, ensuring the story makes sense, consistency, and flow.
  • Editing focuses on the mechanics of the language.

PLUS – each step in the process has been getting progressively harder… I can’t imagine the challenges I’ll have just trying to get someone to actually read the novel when I’m done!

A TIP I learned – Do NOT edit the document before revising it! All the time you spend editing will be thrown away when/if you discard the scene or rework it. Trust me. I did this.

It takes me twice as long to revise a scene as it did to write it! What’s the saying? Writing is rewriting? I COMPLETELY get this now. I wrote “draft zero” in 45 days. I’m now 30 days into my revisions and anticipate another 30 days at least before I’ll have any kind of draft I’d show someone. For someone who just likes to get stuff done, this is a little frustrating. I focus on completing one scene at a time and this helps me feel like I accomplished something.  How can writing a novel take a full year or two?  I now understand.

Oh! AND the emotions I feel while revising the novel make it difficult at times to continue… (Like not shoving everything into a drawer while staring at a haphazardly strung together “sentence” or my heart sinking at the stiff dialogue.) Luckily, with the downs, come a balance of ups. Like THIS POLL that encouraged me people would keep reading past my first page. (Again thank you to everyone who read it and responded.) These ups, along with just determination to finish what I started, keep me going.

TOOLS that have helped me:

  1. WRITING BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Plot, Structure, & Scene by Martha Alderson. (Amazon link here) I stopped in the middle of the month to read this book after finding some gaping caverns in my plot. This will forever change the way I plot a book. I was doing a lot of the techniques in the book naturally, but having an understanding of them gave me a new perspective. The most eye opening part was how important strategic and deliberate pacing is to keep your reader engaged. Looking at your scenes as to who’s actually in charge (protagonist vs antagonist) helps with this pacing.
  2. IT WAS THE BEST OF SENTENCES, IT WAS THE WORST OF SENTENCES by June Casagrande. (Amazon link here) I’ve been out of school for 20+ years and felt I needed a refresher on sentence structure. I’m not done with this book yet, but already have learned a tremendous amount. I lack skills in sentence structure and other rules of grammar. I’m learning that no matter how hard I try, I’ll still need an editor. I’m cheap and struggle with spending the money. What is the statistic? The average self-published book sells less than 10 copies or something like that?

PLUS – with all of this, I DIDN’T WIN CAMP NANOWRIMO! I set a goal to expand my novel during the revision process from 50K to 80K by adding details and emotions. I’ll meet this goal, but it will take much longer than expected. Deleting things is part of the rewrite. I’m finishing up April at 66-67K, which did not meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goals. BUT I’M OKAY WITH THAT! I’m getting a better novel out of the ordeal and I’ve learned so much about the writing process.  (An additional win – I worked on the novel every day in April.)

So, with all these things and the time and effort into writing, why do I do it? What keeps me going? Because my characters want their story told? Because I enjoy writing? Those are all true, but the real reason… The major driver?

Because I hope one person reads and ENJOYS my book. 

Really, that’s it.

Thanks for reading.

–Joy