The Beatles Schedule of Novel Writing

So last week, after entertaining you with a bit of mythological humor, I teased you with a hint of exciting news to come this week. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull off what I intended for the subject of that exciting news – which would have left me making up something exciting like winning the Pulitzer Prize (totally believable).

But because I knew you’ve come to expect brutal honesty from me, I somehow scraped my nose along that proverbial grindstone and managed to accomplish what I set out to do. And what might that be? Drum roll please….

I drafted a novel in a week! Okay, it was eight days, but if eight days counted as a week for the Beatles, it can count as a week for me.

How did I do it?

Um, I have no idea. I normally draft books quickly, but in the past “quickly” has meant three weeks at a minimum. Still, I have a few clues as to how I pulled this off.

  1. I knew (mostly) what I would be writing. I came up with the idea for this story in February and spent most of March jotting down ideas about the main character’s background, the basic premise, and how I wanted the book to begin and end. In early April, I outlined the book (which I think deserves a dedicated post next week).
  2. I busted my butt the week before and especially the day before I began the draft so I’d have as much time as possible to write. I still had a few chores to do, but this “clearing the plate” of any big chores meant my workdays over the past week were mostly dedicated to writing.
  3. I LOVED every inch of this story. Except for some hand cramping and achy shoulders, this book was so much fun to write, it didn’t feel like work. I’d even intended to give myself the weekend off from writing, but I just couldn’t tear myself away from the project.
  4. There was that sense of getting ahead. I hadn’t scheduled writing the first draft of this book until June, and I even gave myself two months to do it. Now that first draft is well out of the way, I have that smug sense of thumbing my nose at my Production Schedule!
  5. I know how I write most efficiently, but I was willing to experiment (see Testing Out New Writing Methods below).

Let’s look at a couple of these a little more closely….

Going With the Flow

In #2 up there, I mentioned clearing my calendar to allow as much time for writing as possible.  Why did this help? Because the absolute worst part of my writing day is putting down those first few sentences. They’re usually awful and stilted and I waste a lot of time mulling them over. But I know if I can just get them down, things will start flowing.

Grumpy Cat has a different take on going with the flow.

Since I only had eight of these starting hurdles to get over, the flow was only interrupted a few times. Most days, I spent about five hours (in 30- to 55-minute sessions) writing, but each time I’d start a new session, i was simply continuing with the momentum I’d already gained in the previous session (there were even a few instances where I stopped in mid-sentence when the timer went off, but this was mainly the hand-cramping, not to maintain the flow).

Testing Out New Writing Methods

I’ve heard wonders about using dictation to write a book. How it speeds up production, how it allows you to move around while working, etc. Always keen for new experiments, I tried it for a few scenes. Those scenes are the worst ones of the book. Words simply would not come to my brain, and those that did were pretty bland. I gave up on dictation and went back to my usual method. That method is writing long hand in a notebook. But this time I gave it a little twist.

This longhand approach shocks most people, but I simply can’t create well on a computer. The words don’t flow and if I get stuck, I seem to just stare at the screen instead of trudging on as I will do with pen and paper. However, I did find that if I could get things chugging along with pen and paper, I could spend a little time at the computer and keep up the momentum. I still only wrote about a quarter of the book on the computer, but it was a good tidbit to learn about my work methods.

Not Done Yet

Even though I wrote this book quickly, I’m not one of those writers who can (or want to) crank out a novel in a month or less. There’s still rewriting to do, areas to flesh out, and all the other little tidbits I like to fiddle with in subsequent drafts. Still, because ideas are bubbling in my head of the exact spots I want to change, I’m not dreading the rewrite stages like I have in the past.

When will I begin the next books in the series? Who knows? With this much excitement for the story and the characters, I may be whipping through that Production Schedule faster than I anticipated.

What about you? How do you tackle big projects? Have you learned anything about your work methods? Anyone out there still prefer to write longhand? I’d love to hear from you so be sure to leave a comment!! Oh, and Finn will be stopping by Saturday with a little exciting news of his own. See you then!

 

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Novel Writing: Heading into the Third Inning

I have to say that the third draft is probably my favorite when hammering out a book. “Shouldn’t the final draft be your favorite?” I hear you ask. Well, no. The final draft is a bit anti-climatic. It’s thrilling to be done, but then I have to face the daunting tasks of marketing, publishing and turning a stack of blank pages into the next book.

threeFor me, the third draft is exciting. I’ve conquered the blank-page phobia of the first draft. I’ve sorted out most of the major plot problems in the second draft. By the third draft, I’ve thrown up a super sturdy framework for my building and now it’s time to do a little rearranging, decorating and shoring up of the structure. You know, the fun stuff! Continue reading

The Terrible Twos of Drafting

As my readers may know, I’m deep in the mire that is Draft Two of The Voyage, the second book of my fantasy series The Osteria Chronicles. For me, working through draft two is like slogging through knee-deep muck – it’s scary, it’s exhausting and you feel like you might never make it out alive (I know from experience what it’s like to slog through knee-deep muck). This may not be everyone’s experience, perhaps draft one is the hard part, or something snaps in draft three that makes you want to rip out your hair, but I thought this week’s post should be about how I tackle the Terrible Twos of Drafting.

To Start, Draft One and Pre-Draft One

Now, my troubles with draft two can’t be blamed on lack of preparation. I’m one of those writers who creates character sketches and brief outlines before starting the first draft. Some writers hate this approach saying it kills creativity, but trust me, it doesn’t. My one sentence on an index card turning into a ten-page chapter is not an example of my creativity being stifled. Outlining essentially provides me a writing prompt to get each day of draft one going. Continue reading