Work In Progress – Learning How To Be A Writer

Work In Progress - Learning How To Be A Writer, J. E. Martin Books @jemartinbooks
A hint about crafting fabulous books – just add coffee!

I thought I would share a few words about my writing process, but when I sat down to write this post, I quickly realized: what process? Sure, I’ve had a process – in fact, I’ve probably had about twelve. I’ve tried to distill it into the basics, but that’s what this is: the basics. My process has gone through so many evolutions and iterations, it’s not funny. But therein lies the lesson. Each time you sit down to write a new work in progress, you’re coming at it with greater knowledge, new skills, and different needs. Staying flexible and being willing to grow will help you every day as you continue in your writing journey!

APPROACH #1: JUST WRITE

When I first set out to write the inaugural novel of The Black Wolf Series, my only goal was to write. I slung words here and slopped words there and plugged along as quickly as my fingers would carry me. At one point, I randomly decided I wanted to have 100,000 words down by my birthday. I had seventeen days to go – and I was 50,000 words short. I spent one whole Saturday camped out at a quiet, dark back table during a forensics and pathology conference, typing like mad. I hit the goal by my birthday, but later discovered a zillion plot holes and continuity errors in the work I’d thrown down so quickly.

September 2018, updated to add: I’ve since learned that this is just how I work. I’m 100% Type A. I thrive off trying to beat my last best word count, and I’ve come to accept that I’m a word churner. This means I’ve had to up my game significantly in terms of revisions and editing, but in the quest for what works for me, I’ve grown pretty damn accustomed to experimenting until I find the process that is truest to my natural state. The results are so much better than trying to force fit myself into an approach that just doesn’t work.

APPROACH #2: EDITING SCHMEDITING?

I didn’t do any editing of my own while I was working on my first draft of Book One. That was a mistake. As you might imagine, when I finally sat down with that printed first copy, editing and revising was a total nightmare. I planned to complete my first round of revisions by the end of May. That deadline became the end of June. Then the end of July.

I had no clue what to expect as far as the amount of work that was involved. And really, when I first sat down to write, I didn’t expect to discover such an enormous universe in my imagination. When I was quiet, characters would come to me. When I was very busy, plotlines would reveal themselves. My poor husband hardly got a chance to yawn and stretch in the morning before I set upon him to noisily discuss everything my brain had concocted as I was dozing off the night before. He never once complained – he’s an unbelievably patient person.

APPROACH #3: WRITING PLAN IN THE MAKING

Each month, I scribbled plans in a little notebook that goes with me everywhere. I plotted out my attack for the next month. Some months I nearly made it; other months didn’t look anything like the roadmap I’d sketched out. I lost time by not having a better idea of what I was doing or where I was going, so I started researching better ways to manage my time and energy.

Here’s how my process looked while I was working on Black Wolf:

  1. I wrote all the things.
  2. I revised all the things.
  3. I re-wrote pretty much all the things because the first writing of the things was wonky as hell.
  4. I revised all the things again – this time making note of specific character and location details for use in my story bible (more on that at some point in the future).
  5. I re-wrote more of the things because I got nervous about sending the manuscript out for beta reading and was pretty sure I should never have tried writing to begin with.
  6. I waited (impatiently) for beta reading to occur. Ditto, the first round of editing.
  7. I sat on all beta reading and editing suggestions/comments I got back for a week before I allowed myself to look at them. This part was hard, but I wanted some time to boost my self-esteem, in case the marks of the red pen broke me down.
  8. I revised all the things again – well, not really all the things. I addressed all the points I’d gotten from my beta readers and editors and reworked things as needed.
  9. I sent all the things back to the beta readers and editors for the second round of opinions/markups on the new things.
  10. I made a cover. Then I made another cover. Then I made another cover. Fourteen (no joke #writerproblems) covers later, I had a cover. And that’s with a background in graphic design and digital art – or, perhaps, that background was the culprit that caused the perfectionism that brought about fourteen covers…yeesh!
  11. I got all the things back and started formatting like crazy for the paperback and ebook editions.
  12. I got the paperback proof printed, downloaded the preview file for my ebook, and edited/reformatted all the things again.
  13. I sent in final versions of the paperback and ebook, and am now awaiting word that my preorder status for the paperback is GO. The ebook is GO. You can find it here.
    September 2018, updated to add: Books One through Four of The Black Wolf Series are now available for purchase here.
Work In Progress - Learning How To Be A Writer, J. E. Martin Books @jemartinbooks
Pretty notebooks equal all the best ideas, right?

The total process for Book One took a little better than 11 months, as my release date is set for November 18. I’d like to get two books out next year. Obviously, I need to streamline the way I work.

So, I have a whole big box of tools now, both from my own experience and from reading tips and tricks from others. I’ve got a shiny new roadmap to start my journey as I look to begin official work on Book Two in the coming weeks. (I say official because unofficial work on Book Two actually began about a month after I started Book One. Gotta love when full scenes come to you out of nowhere – and you bet your sweet bippy I scribbled them down as quickly as I could!)

September 2018, updated to add: I managed to get two books out during 2017 – the second was released just one day before Black Wolf’s first book birthday. That means I published three novels in one calendar year. I’m still constantly striving to improve my process, but I don’t mind that it’s a work in progress. I think that’s part of the fun.

MY ADVICE IS THIS:

Let your process inform you, rather than trying to fit it into any sort of mold. At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to do the work. Keep an open mind and continue to experiment until you find the thing that works for you – no matter how particular or peculiar it may be.

Schiller needed the scent of apples rotting in his desk in order to write. I, too, have my needs. ― John Kennedy Toole

Over to you: if you’ve ever taken on a writing project, what tips and tricks helped you along the way?

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