Monday, June 29, 2015

How To Be An Indie Author 2: Process

This is the second post in a series about self-publishing from ideation through sales. To check out other posts in this series, click here.

Last post I talked about the way I come up with and vet my book ideas. This time, I'm going to talk specifically about turning those ideas into a first draft.

The Black Box

A writer turns coffee into manuscripts. Really.
For many, the process of turning an idea into a first draft is full of mystery. How can a person sit at a computer for hours and hours and write anything coherent?

Well, for me it functions differently depending on the kind of book I'm producing. For a novel, I often don't outline, at least not recognizably. I just sit down and start writing. I start with the main character, and the story develops as they interact with each new character. As the interactions build, outside forces begin to forge events, which cause characters to react (as happened in JAMES).

If the book is a sequel, I do have an end point in mind before I begin. I may have a list of questions I need to answer. Just writing them down is often enough to make sure they get addressed, but I do check the list as I write (such as what happened for FAMILY FRIEND OR FOE).

For nonfiction, I always decide the arc before I write. I write the introduction to give myself a framework, and then I write chapter titles or topics. This gives me the freedom to jump around as ideas strike me while holding true to the designated arc of the book. In nonfiction, I cannot sit still and write continuously as I do with fiction. Novels might hold my interest for 15 hours straight. Nonfiction will often require social media and current events breaks to keep me from burning out.


Typically all this writing happens first thing after breakfast for several hours. Often I give myself a certain word count to complete daily, at the bare minimum. About half the time, I write more than my minimum goal.

This is how I know I've made some progress. I feel accomplished even if I had a rough day. Today, for example, I was going to rewrite another 15 pages in FAMILY FRIEND OR FOE, however my toddler had an epic meltdown and I couldn't seem to get focused (courtesy of sleep deprivation) so instead I decided to write this post. I still have the afternoon and I still have to get this series done as a project, so it isn't a loss. It just isn't quite the direction I expected when I woke up this morning.

And that is okay. I have my daily plan for a standard of measure. I have my long range plan to assist in my overall frame. I have self-imposed deadlines (now made easier with additional preorder options) for publication and I know approximately how long it will take me to complete any given book based on past experience. All these things are in place so I know how much more I need to do and how much progress I've made.

No matter what derails me in a given day, I still wake up and write. I try to hold to my daily goals as closely as possible (which means I still have about 10 pages left to rewrite today). This is how I get things done. It is what allows me to maintain my insane pace and complete the amount of work I do despite being a stay at home mom with a moody hyperactive toddler.

Successful Completion

All this is to say, completing a first draft requires two main things:
  1. A working personalized process and
  2. Commitment to the process through discipline.
Developing a personalized process does take a little trial and error, however reading stories like mine and using personal experience as a guide for what works and what doesn't will get you there faster.

For example, I am an intuitive person, so I knew my preference for revelation in fiction as opposed to outlining things in meticulous detail. If I outlined my novels, I wouldn't finish them. Period.

As for committing to using the process to see your first draft through, well seeing writing as a job helps. Breaking down your work into bite-sized chunks achievable in a day, a week, and a month makes a difference. It keeps you from getting overwhelmed. I can't tell you how many times I have looked at all the tasks involved in writing a book and become paralyzed. However, taking a breath and breaking it down into sections makes the whole thing a lot more manageable and tricks your brain into thinking it's a lot less than it really is.

What process do you use to write? Have you tried any of the above? If so, leave a comment below. I'm always looking to improve my process.

Check out next week's publishing post about editing and of course, be sure to visit my website to support your neighborhood indie author!

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