I apologize that it’s been a hot second since I blogged, but I wanted to let you all know that, in April, I’ll be starting a new series of posts to follow the process of being a debut author! I’ll be writing blog posts during each stage of the process, discussing what it’s like to work on edits with an editor, how copy edits and pass pages work, how covers work, etc. I’ll share as much as I’m able to, to give anyone who is curious an idea of how this whole process works.
Before I dive into this post, I wanted to give some quick writing and freelance editing updates.
Editing Updates: My bigger editing services are currently on a wait list! You can contact me to get on the list and get a tentative date (looking around May-June as I write this). I occasionally will have a random opening that I will try to fill on Twitter when someone cancels last minute, or when I finish projects early.
Writing Updates: I’m currently preparing to get started on edits for ALL THE STARS AND TEETH. Because my edit letter is arriving in just a few days and will take up a ton of my time, I really wanted to finish the first draft of another project I’ve been working on. And as of Monday night, I’m so so happy to say that IT IS DONE! I’m not going to reveal the title just yet, but we’ll call it DC.
Don’t get me wrong, DC needs a ton of work before it’s ready to be seen by other human eyes, but that’s perfectly fine because I’ve always loved revisions way more than drafting. Is that weird? I know the joy of being a writer is getting to write and all, but I’m always so annoyed when my ideas won’t just magically manifest themselves onto paper in like . . . a day. 😐
The part of writing I truly love is having the skeleton of the story down. I am an underwriter (does this word mean what I want it to in this case? Idk, you get the idea), and prefer to get the book dumped out quickly, and then spend time fixing it and making it pretty.
So while the first draft of DC is “done,” it has a longgggg way to go.
But since we’re on this topic, I’ve recently had a few questions about my writing process. Because of the curiosity, I’ve decided to dedicate the next few posts to discussing my “process,” which feels like a very fancy term and makes me feel very suave and creative 😉
My Drafting Process:
I’ll start by saying I draft very quickly. All the Stars and Teeth was drafted in 3 weeks. My current WIP took a little longer due to ATSAT edits with my agent and a super busy editing schedule for my freelance work, but was still very quick. This is not because I’m a magical wizard, I promise you. It’s because I hate drafting, just want the story out of my head, and don’t have too many external obligations outside of writing and editing full time.
Before I dive into specifics about how I work though, I really want to emphasize that there is no correct way to write. The process that works for me might not work for you, and that’s absolutely okay. If my process sounds like hell to you, don’t stress yourself out trying it. Write how you want to write, and work how you’re comfortable working. There is no one best way to do this.
Now with that said, here’s what I did.
1) I plotted 3 chapters at a time.
I absolutely do not plot out a chapter-by-chapter outline, because that’s way too rigid for me. I do, however, like to have a vague idea where the story is going. Since first chapters are one of my favorite things to write, I typically draft that out first to ground myself in the story, then I do a little bit of plotting. For ATSAT, I did not plot the whole book out. Rather, I plotted 3 chapters at a time.
Whatttttt? I know, right? Weird. But I swear this helped me keep my pacing on point. I knew what came next for every chapter, which helped me avoid any random arcs or super extra scenes that had no purpose in the story. So I would write those chapters, pause to plot out the next three, then continue the cycle until the manuscript was done.
I will say that this led to a few strange turns towards the end that I had to fix in revisions, but #revisionsarelife. #nolovefordrafting
2) When drafting, I write 2,000 words a day.
Sometimes, if I’m in a scene I really love, I’ll do 3k or 4k, but these days were rare. If I missed a day, I would do 4k the next day, or 3k the next two days.
Was it hard? Yeah, especially when I just wanted to watch Vanderpump Rules or crappy reality tv. But when writing ATSAT I had just gotten out of PW, had no agent, and wanted very badly for this to be my career. And so I made writing this book my job, and you have to show up for your job.
3) I did writing sprints!
I LOVE WRITING SPRINTS! I’m very fortunate to be part PW ’16, where we have a Facebook group pretty much dedicated to sprinting. Almost every time I needed writing motivation, I was able to find someone else working and we would sprint together. A sprint is when you work non stop for a small amount of time (15-30 minutes), and then check back in with each other and take a small break. Sprints are life. I swear by them. I could poke around for hours and write maybe 500 words without them. But with sprints, I can get 1,000 words done in 30ish minutes if I’m really in the groove. So that 2k a day ends up being about an hour-hour and a half of work on a good day.
I want to mention that you totally don’t need a group to do sprints. You can find one or two writer friends, put out a tweet asking others to join you, or just do it yourself (though the motivation of others definitely helps me).
4) I stopped writing during scenes where I wanted to keep going.
I tried to never stop working after a completed scene, or at the end of a chapter. This is because I always had a sense of being “done” when I finished a chapter. Like with reading, they’re an easy place to take a break. But then I would take that break, come back, and just stare at Scrivener like, “Well shoot, what comes next?” So I stopped doing that, and always tried to stop working in the middle of an active scene where something exciting was happening, so that I had motivation to come back!
In the middle of a heart-pounding romantic moment? That’s where I ended my day. Just had a character stabbed in a super fun action scene? Done for the day! This ensured I always wanted to come back to work, and is a trick I will use for every book I ever write.
5) I made it my goal to just get the words out.
The thing about the first draft, especially mine, is that they’re never going to be perfect. ATSAT was one of the stronger ones I did simply because I had such a good sense of the characters, but this newer one is basically a dumpster of words that was shit on by pigeons, doused with oil, set on fire, then eaten by the void of darkness. And that’s okay, because that’s what I expected and I love it, anyway!
I don’t tend to make my first drafts very pretty. Descriptions, better prose, fixing dialogue . . . That comes in revisions. Literally the whole point of the first drafts, for me, are getting the bones on the skeleton. Developmental revisions are what gives the skeleton its muscles, meat, tendons, etc etc. The skin comes way late in the game, when the pretty final polishing happens. Writing is truly a process.
And that’s it for drafting! I feel like I probably made it sound pretty easy, but it’s not. And if you’re struggling, that’s normal. My biggest recommendation is to just finish the draft. Just sit in the chair and get the words on paper, because you can fix that. What you can’t fix is a blank page. So just keep going, because you’ll get there. Even if it takes some time, you’ll get there if you keep pushing.
If you have any questions you want me to clarify or tackle in a future post, feel free to ask! Next week I’ll talk about how I tackle revisions. Until then, happy writing! 🙂