Musings on the Craft of Writing

►My Novel-Writing Methodology: The Actual Writing

After I have done all that I listed here I finally get to sit down at the keyboard and start typing it.

1)      I am sure to have a “sacred space” for my writing without distractions.  I write in my basement where there is (by design) no Network connection.  (I even went out a few years ago and bought a used laptop with a broken wireless adapter for this purpose.)  I also set the mood for my writing.

2)      I lay out my scene list from my pre-drafting work and start typing.  I have a master folder on each computer wherein I put a folder for that day’s work.  I make a different Word doc for each chapter.   

3)      After a day’s writing I will transfer the files (by USB) to another computer, upload it to the cloud, and then print it off.  (I cannot sleep unless I know that my writing for that day will survive my house burning down.)

4)      The next day I will read what I have created just once, no editing.  This helps me find any new items to add to my scene list.  It’s impossible to plan everything, for some details are only manifest once you type out the scenes.

5)      I repeat 3 & 4 until chapters 1-6 are completed.  I then take Chaps 1-6 out to a coffee house and read them to seeing how well I’m doing.  I give them a light-proofing because (I hope) this will reduce common mistakes I make as I write the rest.  (Chapters 1-6, as we who have been through the grind of submitting our work to agents, matters more than anything else to escape the dreaded Slush Pile.)

6)      I repeat the above until the entire Draft One is complete: write/print/light-proof/review/adjust scene lists… until it’s done.

7)      Once it’s done, I give myself a little distance from it.  I read other books, scribble on other projects, etc.   This only lasts a week or so.

8)      I now return to Draft One, ready to tear it to shreds (aided by a lot of espresso).  I not only am proofing here, but making side notes about errors I have made within the plot, character arc, or whatever else.

9)      With a thick, bleeding red manuscript, I am now ready to correct the errors in the docs.  (I am also making any story corrections.)

10)   Once that is complete I print off a whole new manuscript.  I read it through, making notes here and there.  I am trying to feel the story out.  Is it matching my intended goal?  Are the effects that I wanted on the reader present?  Of course, I know that I am too close to my book to give an objective answer, but sometimes I can still answer these questions. solar

11)   I will have found errors from my last reading, and I make those corrections in the doc.  Now, it’s time to get a greater distance from it.

12)   So, I hand it to a proofreader.  I accept that I am too close to the text to proofread it any longer.   I may have planned what project to work on ahead of time for this stage, but I just get away from this book for at least 3 weeks.  I don’t touch it or read a word.  My mind is now working on the story in the background, processing issues and questions.

13)   Hopefully, a month later I am ready to look at it with clearer eyes.  I get the (once more, bloody) manuscript back and look at my errors (to try and improve for the future).  I now correct all of the errors in the docs.  (And I still upload my zipped files to the cloud on a daily basis.)

14)   After making all of these corrections, I print off the new manuscript.  Now it’s time to pass this to an editor.  This is another long period of time where I cannot move forward on this book, so I let my mind move on to other projects (or perhaps just relax).

15)   After the editor and I brawl in the streets, I make changes, revamp and think for a few days.

16)   I am now ready to give it to test-readers.  They will read it in its entirety, giving me long, detailed feedback, critiquing it on all levels (literary, emotional, whatever).

17)   After getting the feedback of readers I trust, I let my mind work on it again without reading it much.  I have to process all that they have told me, and mix that with my own feelings about the work.  Perhaps a month of this needs to pass (hard to gauge).   I make whatever changes I’m convinced need to be made.

18)   And here I enter the ambivalent “Am I done?” stage.  There is usually a lot of internal strife at this point, and the fear and stress rage around me.  But, sooner or later, I have to call it complete, and then consider entering the charnel house of pitches, query letters, etc. to agents, or to Indy-pub it.  (A whole new war.)

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7 responses

  1. I laughed out loud at #15. Sounds like you’re far more disciplined than I! Good luck!

    December 17, 2013 at 1:04 am

  2. You are spot on about the editor and the author brawling in the streets. That’s certainly happened to me on occasions over the last 20 years, where I’ve tried, sometimes in vain, to persuade some author to ditch a certain precious (and quite unnecessary) passage. Ah, but it’s all good fun and usually turns out well in the end. Enjoy the process you’re now well embarked on – as you say, the later stuff is/can be a charnel house.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    • I’m an easy writer to edit regarding the “fighting” part of it… If I have gone to an editor, that means I’m assuming their expertise is valuable, and so why would I balk and bridle?

      However, I did once hire an editor to go through some chapters, and she clearly had no strong grasp of medieval fantasy. That ended up being an infuriating waste of money. But, I consider that experience to an an exception to the rule.

      December 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

  3. A thorough process. I’m sitting at number 18 right now. 🙂

    December 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    • Oh the agony of #18. Truly. Anguish. Insomnia.
      (I’d love to hear your list sometime.)

      December 19, 2013 at 9:44 pm

  4. Pingback: Author in the Spotlight: Daniel Ionson | A Fantasy Writing Journey

  5. I did the whole process backwards. I believe that’s why I’m having such difficulties.
    I self-published and then had book edited by the publisher, I’ve been using my reviews, conversations with other authors, and reading groups to make the necessary corrections to my book. I have one last group of edits to go. No more ‘ly’ adverbs and hello to showing without telling. Next time, I’ll follow the correct order.
    Thanks for the helpful advice,

    January 7, 2014 at 9:46 pm

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