5 Stages of the Book Writing Process

Writing books is hard, y’all.

This is an incontrovertible fact.  Ask any writer and they will probably say the same on any given day (depending on where they are in the process and whether the writing is going well or not).  We’ve all got our own methods, our own habits, and our own patterns, but we still, collectively, all go through more or less the same stages of the book writing process.  Every.  Time.

In the beginning.

out of the starting gateThis is when inspiration is coming at you so hard and fast, the ideas are slapping you in the forehead like bugs against a windshield such that you’re coated in the guts of their awesomeness.  And yeah, okay, that was kind of a gross image, but it gets at the whole rapid fire BAM BAM SPLAT of initial inspiration.  For me that’s the sprint out of the starting gate through Act 1.  I get that green light and I’m putting pedal to the metal, burning tires, drifting around corners…

The blow out.

blow out

Somewhere in Act 2, I lift my head from that sprint and look around to realize the stands are not quite as full of those necessary details as I thought they were.  And I have to stop and flesh things out some more.  It’s kinda like changing a flat tire.  You pull back onto the road with a little more caution than you had before, drive along at a more reasonable speed.

Somewhere around Albuqurque.

lostAnd maybe it happens before you hit the midpoint, or maybe you make it all the way into Act 3 before you realize, well damn it, I should’ve made a left turn at Albuquerque and the GPS (the outline) is broken and you have to decide whether you’re going to brass ball it all the way to the end of Act 4 and circle back or if you’re going to retrace your steps and sort out where everything went wrong (which is almost always my choice).

A new direction.

ROUSSo you ditch the GPS for an old fashioned road atlas (yet another outline that takes the bare bones basics of every thread and traces them out so you can see where the holes are–if you got REALLY desperate, you made a color coded spreadsheet for this purpose) and start back wherever you need to–for me, usually back in Act 2 again as that is the beginning of the Dreaded Valley of the  Shadow of the Middle.  This happens with varying levels of enthusiasm.  Sometimes I’m so excited to finally be back on track, I manage to pick up steam.  Sometimes I’m already so mired in the muck that it’s just one foot in front of the other.  Plodding to get out of the DVSM.  The DVSM is totally like the fire swamp, except instead of flame spurts, lightning sand, and ROUSes, you’ve got rabid, psychopathic plot bunnies trying to lure you away to a New Shiny, pits of doubt and self loathing, and scenes of unusual stench.

“Wooden roller coaster txgi”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Over the hump

But there comes a point in every book, sometimes somewhere around the end of the Black Period, sometimes not until I hit the SPP, where writing is like hitting the crest of that tallest hill of the roller coaster (that’s the Texas Giant over there) and starting the plunge toward the end.  You can SEE the end.  You finally know where you’re going and it’s so close you can TASTE it.  And that’s the point where the words are flowing, fast and furious, geysering out of you almost faster than you can type–and so what, that’s what editing is for.  Nothing matters but the book and getting to THE END OF THAT STORY.  The housework starts to slide.  You start pulling out parts of your wardrobe you haven’t actually worn in three years because you can’t be bothered to do laundry and you have to pray you don’t get into an accident because you’re not wearing the reputable underwear for the same reason.  You’re sneaking writing breaks while your coworkers are off smoking, and writing on your phone under the conference table in meetings.   Dinner is anything easy and what do you mean turkey doesn’t go with frozen waffles?  Shush and have an apple.  I’m busy…

Y’all I am there.  Over the hump.  My husband is wonderfully tolerant when I hit this point of a book.  If I plan well (and this time I did), I’ve actually got a stockpile of real food in the freezer, so getting through the next ten days shouldn’t be too bad (The man can and has lived on meatballs alone).  Not like what I had to dig out from when I finished To Get Me To You last fall.  I am so so ready to get to the end of this book.  Other characters are kicking and Liam is, frankly, really pissed at the level of unholy glee I took at scaring ten years off his life.  Shut up, man, you’re a Marine.  You can take it.  Give me ten more days and I’ll give you your happy ending.

Kait out.

typing fast

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

I’ve barely been updating lately.  First because I had the flu and wasn’t doing anything but resting and marathon watching various and sundry things on Netflix and then because I was over the flu and have been playing a great big game of catch up.  And also because I’ve been putting my focus on more practical matters than creative ones, as the university has mucked up my teaching salary for six weeks and I’ve had to focus on beefing up other sources of income (that’s finally getting straightened out Friday, thank you lord–and can we get a great big Boo for idiot bureaucracies?).

I replotted She’s Got A Way because Liam and Riley told me in no uncertain terms that they are a full novel, not the piddly 40k novella I had allotted them.  My mistake.  I’ve got the new outline and will be diving into that by the end of the week.

I knocked out a guest post I promised.

I’m about half through the print layout for my cookbook, Help!  Food Allergies Coming To Dinner, which I hope to finish today.

I did our taxes.

And I am ALMOST ready to reveal my new website.  I’ve been working hard on designing a new one that combines everything that’s already here, plus my cooking blog.  I hope to get THAT sorted by the end of the week (and as such, probably won’t be posting while I get content migrated and such).

I had a fantabulous writer weekend with Lockwood Monk, which contributed to general writer recharge and the plotting of and planning for an anthology novella that’s my next project after Liam and Riley.

I saw Jupiter Ascending, which I totally loved.  The score by Michael Giacchino, btw, is fantasatic.

And of course there’s been a crapton of catching up to do at the evil day job.  Which I must get back to.

Sunday Summary and #ROW80 Update

  1. Super late post today because it’s been a BUSY WEEKEND.
  2. We’ve had family in town all weekend.  My husband’s grandmother has been moved to hospice and all the cousins were coming in for what may be their last chance to see her.
  3. Between visits, I’ve been busting my hump to finish a new project, and I’m ready to get back to fiction this week.  I’ve been up to my eyeballs in recipes for the cookbook I’ve been working on.  I’ll post more about that tomorrow.  But…16500 words this week.  A lot of that was converting existing recipes from my food blog, but still.
  4. Middle of last week, I got bitten by a big pregnant mutant plot bunny and I dragged 7 other authors in with me.  There’s an anthology happening later this fall.  It’s gonna be epic.
  5. …Yeah…tired.  Headed to bed.

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

So Monday went well.  I knocked out a fair chunk of a scene that’s been giving me trouble.  Did some playing in my sandbox for the new website I’m designing (Lord knows when that will be rolled out).  Picked out a new theme to go with that.  And the rest of the week feels like a wash so far.  I HAVE gotten a crapton of plotting done for the next novel though.

I had planned to finish said troublesome scene yesterday, but I totally cheated and watched the latest episode of Hart of Dixie during lunch (OMG, take it slow? REALLY WADE?), and then my neighbor’s five year old twins popped over for a visit during my writing block, after I’d already gotten home late.  So I wound up finishing the book I was reading instead, then had taekwondo and…yeah.

I’m also in the development stages for a couple of new classes for writers.  One is an expansion of my Prepare to Launch class about self publishing, which is based on a presentation I did for WANACon last year.  The other is more to do with busting excuses about not having time to write and improving productivity.  I’m still kind of refining that concept.  That said, you can help me with that.

Tell me what your excuses are for not writing.

Yes, I turned comments back on.  Turns out I missed them.  Since I learned I can block trackbacks and pings, that eliminates a crapton of the approval emails I was getting in the first place.  🙂

Also, what areas do you feel you need more help with in terms of productivity as a writer?

This week’s new recipe over at Pots and Plots is Gluten Free Dairy Free Bacon Corn Chowder.  For those of you wondering, yes I do my grilled cheeses in a waffle iron.  I used Go Veggie’s Vegan (not the Lactose free–ACTUALLY dairy free) cheddar slices for the grilled cheese.

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

I don’t have a WHOLE lot to report.  It’s been…well, one of those weeks where I’m pretty sure Monday is stuck in a Groundhog’s Day kind of loop.  On the actual Monday I went out to leave for work and my car wouldn’t start.  So I wound up having to get my MIL to take me to pick up hubby’s truck from where he works, then spent lunch running around getting a new battery.  Then had to pick hubby up when he got off work at 7.  I was absolutely not in the frame of mind to produce prose and  had a narrow window to boot, so I actually sat down with one of my brand new legal pads (these are my favorite), to work longhand on some plotwork for She’s Got A Way.  I was revisiting the outline because at Pinch Point 1, I was already sitting at 19k…which was a clear sign this was going to be longer than the 40k novella I had planned.  After finishing up the outline revisions, it’s going to come in at a solid category length novel.  Which is fine, but necessitated some adjustments to my lunatic production schedule for the year.

I wound up taking my non-Wishful related project and pushing it back to time unknown.  That one is going to require considerable worldbuilding that I’d intended to do over Christmas break but didn’t due to illness and people and busy busy.  I’d rather continue the forward momentum I’ve finally got going with Wishful and come back to that project when I have adequate time to put into it.  I’m still looking at getting out She’s Got A Way, the Choose Your Own Romance on the blog (novella length, I HOPE), Autumn and Judd’s novel (still untitled), and two or three Meet Cutes as time allows and inspiration strikes.  So that shaves 70k off my ridonculous word count goals for the year and puts it back into doable territory.  Hooray!

I did get back to writing last night.  Low word count (558), but I knocked out the scene I’d been floundering through, and with the work I did on the outline, I feel like my brain has finally clicked into Go Mode for this book.  Which is awesome.  Except there’s company coming for dinner tonight and tomorrow I’m out of town for work and…yeah, that’s the nature of the beast.  That whole Life Thing.

This week’s recipe at Pots and Plots is Gluten Free Dairy Free French Toast Bake.

And finally, LAST DAY to take advantage.

Coffee free days promo

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

Well we’re hardly begun, but I still have a little bit of progress to report.

One of the things I really wanted to do this round is get back into food blogging over at Pots and Plots.  I set a goal of putting up at least 6 new posts this round (which is NOT much, but hey, baby steps). Yesterday, I set up 3 new recipe posts (one a week), so I’m half there on that goal.  I expect I will wind up with more than 6 by the end, which is great.  I started an Evernote notebook for recipe development, where I make notes on recipes I want to convert to allergen friendly (and how), new ideas I have for what might be good.  Or, actually, simply writing up stuff I cook all the time but realize I’ve never made a post about.  So I can get all the text portion of the posts done there, tag them as relevant (ready to post, needs pic, or whatever) and then getting the post actually UP is much simpler than it used to be.  Next up, to actually haul out my good camera and get back to taking professional pics of my dishes rather than snapping stuff with my iPhone.

On the writing front things started well on Monday with 1361 words.  And then yesterday I struggled to get more than my test mile of 500 (574).  Pretty sure I’ve taken a misstep with my current scene.  I’ve learned to trust my gut.  If I struggle for more than a day on something, I’ve done something wrong.  So today’s project once I get to my writing block (or maybe while I do my grocery shopping over lunch) is to sort out what I need to do instead.

I actually looked at my production schedule yesterday, with estimated word counts and projected release dates.  Did some math estimating number of additional words related to revision.  Concluded that I have completely lost my mind.  And we move on.

Seriously, though, I’m going to learn to fast(er) draft this year or bust!

#ROW80 Round 1 Goals 2015

I already talked about my annual goals and some of what you can expect from me in 2015, but this is where I look specifically at what I want to accomplish this quarter.

  1. Write at least 20 out of 30 days.  This is an oldie but goodie.
  2. Average 1350 words per writing day.  In order to meet my ambitious project goals for the year, I need to up my wordcount.
  3. Develop at least 6 new recipes for Pots and Plots.  I took a hiatus from food blogging a couple of years ago when life was just really overwhelming.  And then last year I was coping with the denial and anger phases of finding out I have a dairy allergy.  Now that I’m past that part, I’d like to begin moving forward with recipe development again.
  4. Finish and release my current WIP, a Wishful novella called She’s Got A Way.  I’m about a third of the way into this one now and anticipate finishing the first draft in February.
  5. Finalize the plotting for the next WIP.  I’ve done some solid work on this already, but I need to finish it up.
  6. Bonus goal: Write another Meet Cute Romance.  I’ve got this one half plotted already and a cover already done (I like to play with covers to relax).

That should do me for this Round.  I may actually get more than this done, but this is the core.

What’s Coming In 2015

I can hardly believe it’s already January.  I think I missed most of December.  Mentally, I’m starting to make the shift from vacation mode to back to work.  That’s Monday.  I’ve got big plans for this year, lots that I hope to accomplish.  I’d love to give a bit firmer declaration than “hope” but there are big doin’s going on at the Evil Day Job, and I don’t yet know how much that’s going to impact my ability to produce.  But let nobody ever accuse me of not planning big!

So what can you look for from me?

  • Coming sometime in the early spring, you can look for the next Wishful novella, She’s Got A Way, the story of Liam Montgomery and Riley Gower.
  • The next thing on the docket is another contemporary romance, the subject of which is a surprise.  I’m planning a bit of a contest to go around the reveal (and you lot who already know what I’m doing, keep your mouths shut!).
  • Next up in the world of Wishful (which may or may not be done by the end of the year) is the next full novel, currently untitled, which follows head librarian Autumn Buchanan and Chief-of-Police hopeful Judd Hamilton.
  • A grand experiment on the blog.  I want to write something of a Choose Your Own Romance, where you readers will have the opportunity to vote on where YOU want the story to go.  The plan is to have an “episode” or a vote each week.  I’m still working out the logistics of exactly how that’ll work and when it’ll start.  More details on that to come.  Once it’s done, I’ll pull it together in proper ebook form.
  • You may have noticed a new button over in the sidebar about The Daily Grind.  For those of you who don’t know, The Daily Grind is the coffee shop in Wishful, run by one Cassie Callister.  It’s one of the two primary gossip hubs in town.  The thing is, since I started working on this series, there’s been the most delightful side effect that people have started sharing with me all sorts of small town stories and gossip.  This has the benefit of giving me plenty of fodder for books as well as a great deal of entertainment.  So I’ve created a portal where all of YOU can submit YOUR small town gossip–anonymously of course.  Cassie never reveals a source.  And once a week, she plans to take over the blog to give you the scoop about what’s going on in Wishful (because, Lord knows, there’s a lot that never makes it into the books).  Not quite sure when this will start as a regular feature, but it’s on the horizon.
  • And I expect there will be a  Meet Cute or two in there, as the mood strikes.

This is a lot of writing, and it’ll necessitate I maintain the 30% average increase in wordcount over the course of the year (I’ve done that for the last 5 years running…but eventually I’ll hit my max out point).  My daily word count needs to be about 1400 words (up about 300 from last year).  In order to do that, I absolutely have to start employing my StayFocused app on my browser again.  And I also aspire to write a slightly cleaner first draft.  I had about a 38% “waste” rate of words in terms of loss in revisions or edits.  A lot of that was because I rewrote the middle of To Get Me To You three times due to procedural concerns.  So I’d like to get the waste rate down to closer to 30%.  See, look at that, no longer aspiring to a perfect first draft (doing that once in a lifetime is probably a fluke). I’m learning!

On a more personal front, I hope to get through my next two belts in taekwondo.

On the homefront, I want to redo the fireplace surround with Airstone and redo our master bathroom cabinets with Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations in espresso.

And that should be quite a full year!

2014 In Review

Last day of the year.  Always a good time for review and reflection.  2014 was the year of the contemporary romance for me.

Cover Attempt 9  Cover Attempt 2  Cover Attempt 2  Get Me You_1

  • I wrote 318,561 words.  Of that, 228,153 were prose, 81,641 was plotting on 22 different projects.  Running out of ideas will never be a problem.  Of that prose, I had a 37.9% rate of “waste” as it were–with revisions, edits, etc.  I’m hoping to get that down some next year.
  • I averaged 26,547 words a month, which is up 32.5% from last year.  
  • I wrote 291 days, an average of 1,095 words a day.  That’s up from 279 days and 862 words a day from last year.
  • I read 77 books this year, not counting the 4 I’m in the middle of now.  That’s down a bit, but I spent a LOT of time writing this year and didn’t get through as many audiobooks as I usually do.
  • I fell in love with Monarch of the Glen, Modern Family, and Hart of Dixie.  I still haven’t gone back to Downton Abbey–I can’t forgive them for the end of Season 3.
  • I’m still shipping Olicity on Arrow.
  • I went to my first RT Reader’s Convention in New Orleans, which was hella fun.  I met quite a few of my online writer pals, and I also found several new favorite contemporary authors, among them Candis Terry.
  • Other favorite new authors include Kam MacKeller and Cindy Spencer Pape (The Gaslight Chronicles).
  • I survived my first year being dairy free.  I’ve adapted pretty well, dropped 7 pounds from last year, and seem to be past the angry phase (most of the time).
  • I went back to taekwondo after a fifteen year hiatus.  I’ve spent the last 6 months relearning everything up to my current belt level and unlearning some bad habits from my original school.  I’m hoping to test in January or March.

All in all, it was a very productive year.  Here’s to 2015 being even better.