Writing on Writing, PT 3. Process

In my last post and the one before that, dear readers, I wrote how the idea forms and how writing every day will bring you a fighting chance to getting published. Now I will talk about the process I go through getting the book written, re-written, revised and checked.

As usual, the standard warnings apply: Its different for every writer and my way may not work for you, time length depends on the writer but I manage to squeeze out 2-3 completed books a year and some people it takes 3 years (or longer!) to write a book. As such, Your Mileage May Vary, the coffee is hot and strong. Got your snack? Nice and warm? Lets start this!

Zero Draft/1st draft

Zero Draft AKA the First Draft. The draft I do not let a soul see. In this draft is, of course, the raw wordage. There’s a couple of little tools that I use throughout the draft. If, for example, I’m having trouble wording exactly the type of feel I want, I’ll make a note. And I’ll do it like so.

(tK – Check on that quote on William Faulkner, look up if I’ve spelled the street name right.)

Gotta keep it simple or I’ll get overwhelmed.

This makes it CTRL+F friendly throughout the text. I also used tK for notes for future plot points or stuff I want to remind myself about the story. Like, for example, in Zero Draft of Blanket of Lies, I did not research beforehand exactly the type of street I wanted the MC’s house on. So I inserted a fake street then put a tK marker telling myself I need to research the specific street that I want this to happen on.

The difference between a zero draft/1st draft and a 2nd draft is that in the 2nd draft I’ve dealt with all the tK notes that I’ve written throughout the draft. I also use tK to emphasize a specific feeling I’m trying to get across so when I go headfirst into revisions, I’ll look at the tK notes and I’ll know the intention I want to get across because I’ve already worked that out in the first draft.

After I’m finished with the 1st draft, I’ll let it sit for a while, usually a month but sometimes more. I think the longest time was over a year before going back to edit it.

2nd draft

In this draft, I look over and correct continuity errors, changing POV shifts and the general hoohah in deciding which ending I will end with. Sometimes I write two endings to a novel. Generally, I leave the spelling errors and awkward phrasing for last before letting it sit.

Next I take all the scenes I’ve written with one character and compare them with each other to make sure that the character I’ve written is in character. Meaning, early on in the draft, if I’m writing about a cold hearted serial killer and by the end he’s into fluffy bunnies and ponies and the like. That does not include the transformation my characters go through, this is just checking to make sure I do not put modern words in an epic fantasy set in the 800s ACE or something of that sort.

Next part of the second draft (or what I sometimes call 2.5) is where I work on awkward phrasing and transitional points. Strengthening the action scenes and cutting out the excess I don’t use. I have two phases of the 2nd draft: Before cut and after cut. After cut of the second draft is when I will allow someone to read it over and offer suggestions. Generally I have specific things I want them to look at depending on the project. Sometimes I just want to know what the reader feels at the end of the piece to see if I’ve made my intention clear enough.

I have a graveyard, sitting on my hard drive. A graveyard of words. Since, I’m pretty anal about keeping things in order and making sure I backup my stuff I’ll frequently save as a new document name. That way I have a clear trail and if I screw up, I can go back and find all of the words I cut out. I can easily cut out 40K or 50K and rewrite it.

Second draft, after cut. Sometimes I might call this the 3rd draft (confusing, isn’t it?)

After the book is properly addressed, I sit down and do a straight read through once again, marking any strange sentences or things that feel ‘off’. I’ll send snippits, a couple of scenes to a couple of people that would give me an honest answer. I don’t have an official beta reader or a writing partner but I do what I can with what I got.

Reading over their suggestions/feedback, I may make any changes. Then the book is, as far, as I’m concerned: FINISHED! By the end, I would have read the book at least four times if not more.

The book gets sent off to be looked over by people who know way more about books than I do and if I’m lucky, I’ll get an offer for my book.

Writers differ greatly in their way of getting to the end of a completed book. This is just one of many ways of doing things. Kind of like wizard behind the curtain status, there’s a lot that goes behind writing a novel. For some people, writing a book takes years while some people read that finished work in a single night. A lot of people do not realize that it takes a lot of effort and time to get all the words down and it does not come out all perfect on the first try. Aspiring writers, do not despair, keep writing and practicing and challenging yourself. It adds up in the end.


This wraps up my mini series on Writing about Writing. Got a question? I’m happy to answer!



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