My Writing Process: Getting the words out
Previously, I discussed how to get ready to write. This time, I'm going to lay out what I do to get all the words down on the page without wasting any more time than is necessary. So many of you ask how I get so many books out in a year, and how I manage to get such impressive word counts. Well, I'm about to share the secret (hint: it's not that much of a secret). But, I want to point out that how many words you can write in a day isn't something you can judge from person to person. The mom with three kids and a full-time job will never have the time to drop as many words in a day as I do. Why? It's not because I'm so amazing or anything. Rather, it's because my TEAM is. I have so many supportive people around me that I all I do is write. I don't clean the house. I don't have to feed the pets. Hell, I don't even have to get up and get a coffee. My husband, who I affectionately call Mr. Perfect, takes care of that for me. My helpers handle things like scheduling marketing, researching stuff I might need, creating timelines, and so on. This is HOURS of time saved a day. I sit down, and I type, and I keep typing until I'm tired of sitting down. Most don't get that luxury. The Rough Draft:
One thing most novice writers have trouble understanding is that NO ONE writes a book and publishes it. There are a million steps in the middle Writing the rough draft is equivalent to a sculptor putting his clay on the table. It is nothing more than the raw material that a book will be made from. It's not done, it's not supposed to be pretty, and it certainly isn't going to be as polished as anyone else's finished work! The rough draft is nothing more than trying to get all the puzzle pieces to line up, or at least come close. The first draft is when the story has at least passed your inspection and is ready to START being cleaned up. In other words, the basic typos have been removed, the missing periods have been put in. The mixed-up names are all fixed. After that, you can have a second, a third, or as many other drafts as you want. Personally, I stop at 4, because if I'm still tweaking after that, then it means I'm procrastinating. **Disclaimer: a "draft" of a book is nothing more than a "go through" pass. It doesn't matter how long. It doesn't care what you look at. It's just a personal way of tracking that "I checked for this before, and now I'm doing it again, because I'm sure something slipped through." For those of you working alone - I'm sorry. See, this is another place where I'm very, very lucky. I have my Enablers. These ladies have been with me for years now, and they know me. Because of that, we've kinda tweaked things, so that my rough draft ends up a first draft by the time I'm done. Let me explain.
Auryn's Insane Rough to First Style:
I write in a program called Ywriter. It's free, it's bare-bones (so you can't get distracted with shiny things) and it makes moving scenes and chapters around pretty easy. However, I also - simultaneously - use google docs with my Enablers. So, once I finish a chapter, I take it as is, drop it into an ongoing document that will eventually make a book.
Now, because my books are so big, we tend to have a few of these (otherwise Google docs lags horribly). But, chapter by chapter, I build up a story that they have access to. Those ladies read it, fix my stupid (and obvious) typos (now to not, as an example) and mark anything that sounds weird, doesn't make sense, or conflicts.
Granted, my Enablers are really amazing, so they even do more than that. They will not only tell me it's the wrong day (or color, or detail) but then go and find the quote from before that proves it. If I get off track, they notify me immediately, so I fix it and lose maybe 2k words instead of 20k. They're harsh, they're persistent, and they make a chapter look like my teacher hated me by the time they're done.
So when I drop in the next chapter, I go back and fix the one before. I clean up the sentences they marked. I adjust the details, or I mark bigger fixes for later if I can. Sometimes, I have to rethink my plot because they found a massive conflict that will only get worse if I go on.
As a nice little side effect, they also get excited about things, yell at me for cliffhangers between chapters, and their excitement encourages me to write more, write faster, and to FEEL the story to my bones. It's a win-win-win situation.
Once it's all on paper:
When I finally get to the last line of the last chapter, it's done, right? Nope, but thanks to the help of my enablers, all those chapters that were rough draft quality are now in first draft quality. BUT! That doesn't mean it's done. FAR from it.
Now, I have to go back and read my book from cover to cover. For me, this is where I see how all the words flow in a row. Writing is SLOW. Even at the stupidly fast speed I type, it's still a lot slower than reading. That means perception will change with reading. Sometimes I'll find that it reads like 2 seconds have passed when it should be 2 hours. Other times, it's the other way around. A sentence here, a word change there, and that can be fixed, but it would bother a reader. So, if I didn't read it cover to cover, I would miss these things.
I also change up my sentence style, check for "ticks" (I have a few!), and try to remove things that make me go back and re-read a sentence. You'd be surprised how different a word choice feels when you're looking at it with new eyes. But here's where that "not going back" part works out. If you go back and re-read your work over and over and over and over, you get so used to it that you know what you MEANT to say. That's not necessarily what you DID say. Yet, at the author, you already have a vision in your head, and your eyes will do everything in their power to make the words on the page fit that. Expectations and all that. It's why authors should never try to edit their own work - even if they ARE an editor.
At this stage, I also use an editing program to help me out. Something like Grammarly, or a lot of the grammar checks in Word, Google Docs, and so on. And no, they aren't an editor either. Sometimes, they're just flat out wrong.
Time for Beta readers: I'm not going to talk about the beta readers I use in here (we'll discuss that later). Instead, I'll just say that this is where I give my betas the book. Lately, we've been giving them 2 weeks to go through it because they're all either finishing by then or waiting until the last couple of days. So, it leaves me more time for MORE fixes. I use a program called Beta Books for my beta edits. It does have a monthly fee for me, but nothing for them, but I think it's worth it to have all of the edits in one place. Plus, my betas don't see everyone else's comments and get distracted, or think they have to agree or disagree with them. It allows me to have the most honest feedback possible in a single place that's easy to consolidate with my manuscript.
When that's done, my darling Kitty goes through and either fixes the edits (typos, adding in missing words, and such) or makes a comment in the google doc we've been using. Then, I just have to scroll down, find the comment, make the repair (which can often end up as rewriting huge chunks, but is usually a word or new sentence). Slap those though, and now it's ready for edits! So, as you can see, it's all nice, neat, and easy. In the 2 weeks while my betas are reading that book, I'm trying to finish up the next, so all the parts end up overlapping. Yes, it's a TIGHT schedule. For a new writer, this would be HELL, so don't try to copy me. This is MY style, and it's the flow that I find works best for ME. Yours will probably be different.
I just know that when I'm in "the zone" I am efficient, and when I get pulled out, I have to pause, go back, look up details, and I spend so much time chasing my tail that it's infuriating. Watching all of this add up, the word counts grow, seeing my Enablers get hyped? It makes me excited. It's like mowing the lawn or cleaning the house - annoying, but somehow satisfying at the same time.
And when I'm done? It feels so absolutely amazing. I usually give myself the whole evening off, and then I start it all up again the next day. What? Writing is my happy place! No, I'm serious, keeping the words flowing makes me honestly happier than "relaxing" and trying to watch a movie or something.
I think that's why I worked for so long to make a system where I got to enjoy nothing more than telling stories, and all the other non-storytelling bits ended up being delegated. I do the part I like and hired people to do the rest. I kinda consider it the perfect life, but it is NOT for everyone.