I set out a month ago or just under to start publishing a book a month. This is a look at my first month trying to do that.
How did I do this?
Well first of all, this is my job. I don’t have a traditional job, these books pay my bills. I just wanted to be clear that I can spend 12 hours writing in a day if I need to, so this may not work for those in full-time jobs.
I need to write in the latter half of my day. I struggle to write when the sun’s up, I get the vast majority of my writing done when it’s dark out. I spend the first half (sometimes more) of my day doing the admin, marketing, housework etc etc I do as well as writing.
Once that’s wrapped up I settle down and figure out what I’m going to write that day. That time’s usually spent screwing around on social media while my subconscious pulls everything together. Now, I could not do this without a chapter-by-chapter outline. However! I don’t always have that outline down the day before.
Sometimes I’ll settle down, open up Scrivener, and put that outline down about 30 minutes before sunset. I’ll do 8 – 10 chapters, enough that I can hit my wordcount goal for the day (somewhere between 5k – 10k depending on the day). Other times I’ll be in the mood to get the entire outline down so I can just open up Scrivener, glance at the top of the chapter I’m writing next, and start writing.
Either way, I absolutely cannot write at this pace without a detailed outline. I’ve tried and far too much time is spent trying to figure out where the fuck I’m writing next. When I say detailed I mean detailed by my standards… a chapter header (outline thingy) can look like this:
‘Niko super grumpy after the news from Saoirse. Bring in Rhys and Lark to shit stir and push their agenda. Cue fight with Made.’
On the actual act of writing I write in sprints. I very rarely time them, although I will do sprints with other people if I’m in the mood and people are around. I tend to sit down, write a chapter straight through (900 – 1200 words) then check Twitter and Facebook, talk to a person or three, rinse and repeat. When I start to find myself struggling I’ll open up WriteorDie and use my competitive streak to get the words down. I set it to write 650 words in 8 minutes and push to go past that 650 mark before the 8 minutes are up.
I’ve found that having a scene ahead of me that I’m really looking forward to writing helps keep me going and pushes me on. One of my bigger wordcount days I was determined to get to a big emotional beat and I refused to give in until I’d reached that particular scene.
As many other people have said, putting in <name> markers and <word for spiky thing> or whatever word you’ve forgotten helps a lot. You can keep rolling and come back to fill in those gaps when you edit. Naming things takes me forever so I end up having to name a lot of things in edits, which I hate when I’m editing but here we are!
I also have a small reward to mark the end of the work day. It’s usually a small bit of white chocolate. That’s become my psychological marker than work day is over, I can relax, unwind, and let it all go now. I don’t get the chocolate unless I’ve written 1,000 words though. Having that allows me to switch off and get some peace which leads to better quality sleep. Working from home is also known as living at work, you need to form those barriers and distinctions for your own sanity.
When I hit a road block I walk away. Beating my head against just stresses me out and makes it all so much worse. I physically get up and do some cleaning, take a hot bath, or do some cardio. Something to get me away from books and the laptop. That usually loosens up whatever I got stuck on and I can carry on. If it doesn’t then I call it a night and read a book or watch Netflix. My mental health is very important and I need to look after it. If I don’t I’ll burn out and lose months of work. Again.
And yes, these drafts are clean 😉 My editor does a developmental pass on all of my books and these drafts come up even cleaner than those I write over the course of 6 weeks. He’s made a grand total of five developmental notes on Broken Accord, each of which were just where I needed to tweak a sentence for clarity or tone.
How do I write such clean drafts so quickly?
Practise and a dedication to learning my craft and genre. I was a developmental editor, I know my craft inside and out. I’ve also devoted a couple of years to really learning the Urban Fantasy genre. I can tell you the tropes, structure, and such half-drunk without any effort.
That probably sounds bitchy, but the fact remains. I can do it because I put in a serious amount of work.
And on that note, I think we can safely say I’ve covered everything you might want to know about how I wrote a book in eight days.