Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My steps to writing a book

Now, before I start, these are the steps I take (me) when I write a book. There is no tried and true way. Every writer is different. I thought I'd share my way. I am what they call a panster. More often than not, when I sit down to write for that day, I have no idea what will happen.

Step 1: Write first draft. This usually takes about six weeks and ends up about 50 000 words long. In this draft, I establish characters, most of the whos, whats, whens and whys and the basic plot outline.

Step 2: I leave the first draft for about 6 weeks and either start another project or rewrite one I've put aside.

Step 3: I rewrite the first draft. This usually takes six weeks and the final manuscript ends up about 70 000 words long. In this draft, I continue to establish my characters, give them specific traits, speech and purpose. I also add A LOT of adjectives, world building, background. Here, I also establish subplots. I may also add more characters. This draft pretty much ends up very, very messy!

Step 4: I leave it for about 2 weeks. Work on previous project. I always have two books going at the same time. It keeps me sane.

Step 5: Third rewrite. This rewrite takes about 8 weeks. This is the final rewrite for the book. By now, I know my characters. I know the way they look, the way they smile, their speech, voice tone, what makes them angry, how to get them out of a bad mood, what frightens them etc etc. I also know the setting, intimately. I know that if you come out of one door and turn right, there's a step the character always trips over. I know that there are 25 steps in the curving staircase because the characters counts them. I know that the hero and heroine really do want to be together but there are just so many darn obstacles for them to face. In this draft, I elaborate a lot of things. I put more description into each scene, add tags. Here, I make sure I pull the reader in. I clean up all untidy plot holes, add new little surprises, take out the trash. By the end of this rewrite, the manuscript is about 85 000 words long.

Step 6: Now, comes the hard bit. EDITING. I generally edit as I go but here, I use the "search and destroy" funtion (search and replace). By now I should have a little list of words I've noticed that I overuse, such as: desire, passion, gorgeous, gaze, eyes... and a few more!! I love my thesaurus at this point. This stage takes about a week. I get very sore eyes by the end. I either take out or replace was, were, is, had, have, it, has, and. I remove unnecessary sentences, paragraphs, backstory and speech. Sometimes, I delete entire chapters. I am ruthless with my adjectives. Descriptions are only left in the manuscript for a reason. Any flowery prose or obscenely long descriptions are removed or reduced. The manuscript ends up about 80 000 words.

Step 7: I print the entire manuscript and sit in front of the tv. Reading the manuscript in hard copy gives me a new perspective. I usually notice things I didn't notice before, typos, disjointed sentences, plot holes, tense problems (I always have tense problems. Didn't, don't, wouldn't, won't aaargh!!!) In red pen or fluro highlighter I mark the things I need to fix. I may rearrange paragraphs, or see the opportunity to expand a scene. At this stage, I usually do a character questionairre to make sure the characters are behaving. I fix the electronic manuscript. This takes about 2 weeks

Step 8: Critique partner. This might be the most important part. I send the manuscript off to a crit partner for feedback. I usually ask for my tense to be checked, spelling errors/typos, plot flow and character development. If my crit partner likes the story, I'm a happy writer!!!! Fix all errors crit partner pointed out. Hopefully, they are only minor. 2 weeks.

Step 9: Read the manuscript. Here, I read the manuscript, move commas, try to find all spelling errors, stress that the editor won't like it and condemn my writing skills. I leave the manuscript for a week or so.

Step 10: One more read. The manuscript isn't as bad as I thought. Prepare a cover letter, format properly, make sure the manuscript is neat and tidy. The manuscript ends up between 80 000 and 82 000 words. Then, I send it off to a publisher and hope they like it.

So, it takes me 7-9 months to write one book. Although, I have 2 books going at the same time, at different levels of completion. By the end, I should have two books to submit within 8 weeks of each other.

Phew!!! I'm tired, now!


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