How to write a book,  Projects,  Writing

The writing process, step by step


We discussed the process of writing in the last post. This post is about the steps in writing a book and getting published. So the first one was about how to get started with writing as a hobby or getting used to writing in general process wise and this is about the process of writing, editing and publishing a particular book.

1) Read widely.

I wrote this the other day and I thought it was the best way I have explained creativity in a long time:

“I don’t think you can be creative without a desire to learn. Creativity [according to neuroscience] is the linking of random things. How can you be creative if you don’t know the random things in the first place?”

Read widely, you never know when what you learn turns out to be part of a plot point.
2) Wait for a “what if” moment.

I’m not saying don’t write. But learn to recognise the what if moments for what they are: signals that you have something you can turn into a novel/book.
3) Start writing.
This is not your first draft. This is is just scribblings. Trying out characters, voices, plot points, styles and so on. Nonfiction: subjects, ideas, examples, references… Keep a note of what you thinks works and what doesn’t.
4) Research.
Was this kind of gun available at this time? Don’t write AK 47s into medieval times for instance. Would that person really be there at this point? Don’t give someone five minutes to travel a distance of several miles (unless you’re writing science fiction and you have a transporter and even then explain to me how your economy works when you can just basically transport anything anywhere? What about trade? I don’t need to pay anyone, I can just get the stuff I need. Crime?  Look, I can transport gold out of a vault.  See what I mean? Research!).

5) Get yWriter.
This is a nifty piece of software that is FREE and was developed by a Perth based fantasy/sci fi writer. It keeps notes and character descriptions in one place and gives you word limits and deadlines if you want to create a routine to keep to while writing etc.
Download it (run a google search for it), install it and dump your notes so far into it. It works for collections of short stories and poetry, for non fiction and fiction. It organises everything into book form and you can use it to write. Far better than scrolling back and forth in MS Word, I can guarantee you that.
MS Word can’t show you gaps at a glance but yWriter can and so when you repeat steps 3 and 4 below (steps 6 and 7) after dumping everything into yWriter, you get even better results. I wouldn’t recommend using yWriter till you get to step 5 because presumably you are at this step after jettisoning a lot of stuff you know won’t work and you have a better formed idea than at step 2 of what you are writing about.
6) Notes, notes, notes and more notes. You will start seeing your structure come together.
7) MORE RESEARCH where you have gaps. RESEARCH for background you might need even if there isn’t a logical place to put it yet. Using yWriter will  help you see where there are gaps.
8) Eventually, you will get to this point where something goes *snap* in your brain and you know that it is… FIRST DRAFT TIME!!! Start at the beginning and just write till you come to the end and then stop.
This is important: NO EDITING, NO REWRITING. If you wrote a scene prior to this stage by all means rewrite it again but don’t touch it once you do.
WRITE ALL THE WAY THROUGH. If you stop at a point for the day, pick up where you left off the next day.
9) Finished the first draft? Have a holiday.
I am serious. Take a break. Don’t think about it. Do something else for about a month or so.
10) Come back to it and just read it through. Flag bits you want changed/edited but don’t edit them yet.
11) Make the edits you think you need to make. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A COPY OF THE FIRST DRAFT AND THE SECOND DRAFT.
12) Send the second draft to an editor. Pay them. Chew fingernails and wait in trepidation. Let them run riot with red pen or with MS Word’s review feature. NONFICTION: Check that you have copyright permission for pictures etc at this stage and check your references so get an editor that can handle all this for you but do take the responsibility to do it yourself as you go.

This is also where the entire thing gets banged into shape in terms of style and structure. Just in case you wanted to know where the major part of the bashing occurred.
13) Make the changes and reread it. By now you should be sick of this book because that’s normal. If you aren’t sick of it, you should be shot.
14) Send THIRD DRAFT back to the editor to see if you got it right. And to a proofreader.
15) Editor approved it? Awesome. Now start sending it off to publishers and competitions. Please send it to publishers who publish in that genre or you will annoy people and get rejected. Ditto for the competitions. And send it through the way they want it formatted.
Why only now? Your chances of getting published are far higher if you send in as completely polished a manuscript as possible. It costs money and time to polish up a manuscript with editing and proofreading and basically the publisher is making a gamble that your book will make a good enough return for the investment put into it by them to getting it on the shelf. Give them a polished piece and they can get it out faster with a bigger margin for profit and they will love you for it.
Also it’s easier if it is polished as much as possible, for them to see if it is what they specialise in publishing and what the message is.
Alternatively, find an agent.
16) Book in the pipeline? Congratulations. Now start writing the next one. Publishers love writers who have a stream of books to offer. And bug all your friends to buy a copy. And market your book as much as possible even if you have PR people doing it for you.

So now for all our edification, where are you in the process? I am currently at Step 8 with Sedition and at Step 2 with my second book. I could go into Step 3 but I am holding off till the first draft of Sedition is done and dusted.



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