Part 2 – Learnings about writing and publishing a book Series – Writing
Yesterday I wrote about my planning process, today I write about… writing.
Before you begin writing a book, make sure you enjoy writing. Unless you’re planning on writing a ton of books, or you are certain to catch lightning in a bottle, writing is tough and not frequently rewarding unless the act of writing itself is of interest to you.
The first question is time. You really need to find a way to make time for writing or you’ll get nowhere. I started by writing in the margins of my time. There is a reason it took almost three years to write On Swift Wings. I bought a fold-away keyboard for my phone and I actually wrote about half of the book the same way I did my planning, on the train, at lunch, whenever I had five minutes of time. Sometimes that meant that I didn’t write anything for a few days or weeks at a time.
One thing I did to buy myself time, no laughing, was to delete all my stupid games off my phone. I wanted to write a book, and it occurred to me that all the time I was spending tapping on games that are surprisingly addictive, and yet really boring and unimportant, was consuming those little blocks of time that could be used productively.
A second thought was to avoid social media. I didn’t delete them, but I made a conscious effort to not spend idle time scrolling through it. You’d be surprised how much you don’t miss out on things when you don’t read thoughtless nonsense all day.
As I got deeper in, I set aside blocks of an hour in the evenings to work, and that helped get the book done much more quickly. I set some goals for myself and posted them so that everybody could see what I was doing. It is a way of holding myself accountable. I don’t like letting people down, even if they don’t really care if I do.
Read and progress
A mistake that I made, writing over a long period was that I often forgot what I had written before. When I got to the editing phase this required me to go back and correct double-writings several times. I usually remembered what I wanted to write, I rarely stopped thinking about the book, but I definitely forgot whether I had already put it down a page or two back.
It is certainly easier if you re-read what you’ve already written to ensure that the contents and style flow the first time. If not, you’re in for an editing adventure. If you can write it all in one go… you might be a magical wizard. Most people can’t pump out a quality novel of 100,000+ words in one sitting. Take your time to cover your flow.
I’ve stated in my planning blog that I wrote out the exact flow and structure I intended to follow including a very specific ending. As I wrote the story, I didn’t like the ending that I had originally envisioned. It didn’t fit with the tone and content of the story, and would have felt extremely out-of-place at the end of it. I believe that the readers would have felt cheated and confused. If I had rigidly held to the original plan, it would have made the story worse.
Similarly, at several other parts of the story, I realized while providing details and descriptions that the original plan left me with too little breadth to paint the necessary picture. I really wanted to avoid any deus ex machina fallacies, where suddenly a most fortuitous event magically gets the character out of a sticky situation. I wanted the story to provide reasonable solutions to problems if the main character could find it. At one point my editor, Bobbi, wrote a comment that read something like, “Isn’t that lucky?” She flagged something really important there that I had done inadvertently, and fortunately it gave me time to carefully fix it.
The first time I write something, I usually get the gist of what I want and a readable story, but if I go back and read it, I usually criticize the crap out of it and re-write it several times. Each time I re-write, it keeps the plot, but I tend to add more literary devices, more vivid description, and better satirical elements. I know it makes the process much more time-intense, but taking the time to re-write is a really important part of my process.
A word of warning though. If I let myself re-write something too often, it becomes an overly-cerebral pile of nonsense that nobody wants to wade through. You have to trace through Beautiful Mind-style cobwebs of interconnected thoughts, often with key links deleted during the re-write.
Trust that you’ll cover any glaring issues during editing, but make it good enough first. Editing isn’t cheap or quick.
Here is something I didn’t know when I started. Different genres expect different word counts. I was aiming to have a good book, I didn’t really care how long it turned out, but I wanted it to probably be >100,000 words. Depending on your genre, 100,000 words might be way too many or too few. Look up what you’re writing and find out. In my case, my editor suggested that literary fiction could be a little longer, so I got a bit lucky that way. Another consideration is that when printing your book; number of pages directly affects cost. I wouldn’t trade quality for a few pennies per book, but if you write a Tolstoy-like epic with a million words, it’ll eat your profits, and probably reduce your sales enormously.
I’m certain there is more that I’m forgetting, but my window of time for the day is closing.
I hope that this section on writing is of some value to you. If it is, comment here or get a hold of me through my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!