The Process, Part 2

Way back in February, I posted about my writing process.  Well, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the topic of the writing process and give more details about it.

The process is not just about how we get from point A to point B (or C, D, E, or anywhere else).  There are rituals that many writers observe.   Music?  Maybe.  Lip balm?  Definitely.  Snacks?  Probably.  Work in pieces?  Only if inspired to write dialogue/action for a later scene.  Start at the beginning and write in a linear manner until the end?  Yes.  Outline?  No.

My actual process of writing a novel is similar to Holly Lisle's One Pass Manuscript Revision.

I write a first draft.  It doesn't always meet my word count expectations, and that isn't a problem.  My revision process is about asking the questions Lisle covers, and more - slaying adverbs, rewording sentences that need to be, er, reworded, and ensuring that there is variety when it comes to descriptions and words that begin sentences.  For example, it is very easy to get bogged down in always beginning a sentence with "I" or "my" when you write in first person.  (Digression: it seems like every book I read lately is in first person, and I'm getting quite tired of it.)

At the moment, the first draft of Project Muffin Man is complete.  Now, you might look at my word count widget on the side of this blog and say, "What?  It says that you've only reached 55% of your desired word count."

That's true.  The first draft was not quite 30,000 words, but it laid out the bare bones of the story.  That's how I do it.  Sometimes the first draft is "meatier" than others.  It all depends on what's in my mind.

Now my second draft (aka revision of the first draft) is tackled on a daily basis with three goals in mind:

1.  Revise one chapter per day over the next 30 days.  That doesn't put a huge amount of pressure on me to finish quickly, though if I do reach my goals, I will have written this novel in a month and a half.  Yes, I was and am quite inspired on this project.  ;)

2.  Add 1,000 words (or more) per chapter, per day.

3.  Email to two betas (in addition to the one who is currently giving feedback on one chapter per day).

I already have notes from the alpha reader, and I keep them open as I work.  The beta has given feedback on each chapter read, and I have incorporated that feedback.  Hence, my goal is to have a polished manuscript no later than October 31 to send to two betas (one of whom has already volunteered to read; the other will probably be someone whose input I value greatly).

The ultimate goal is to have it query-ready by November 30. 

I think some writers would be agog at the idea of writing a novel in a month and a half, and simply tweaking it here and there.  Others probably would say, "Pssh.  A month and a half is nothing!" 

Writing is like many things in life: you have to do what works for you, whether it's an intense twice-a-week 5,000-word sprint, or a leisurely once-a-day 1,000 word stroll.

My desk: where Sweet Tarts are organized by color and eaten in order from least favorite flavor to most desirable flavor, adverbs are slain, bubble gum-flavored lip balm is a must, bits of seed and torn paper are scattered by my caique, and Hermes hopefully blesses my work.  ;)

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan


  1. So you're the one who stole my Sweet Tarts!

    In all seriousness, I have to agree about every writing working at their own pace. I can write a novel during Nanowrimo, no problem. I did that last year and plan to do so again. But nano isn't the only time I sprint.

    I wrote a 35k word story last spring over the span of 6 days, and then did it again this fall with the sequel.

    And then there are the rough drafts that take forever! I cannot recall how long it took me to write the original of The Waking Grove since I first wrote it back in 2001. But for Trueblood's Plight, I think it took me about 3 months, all thanks to a horrible writer's block.

    I do think you cold be query ready by the end of November. However, there's one thing you'll have to keep in mind. Right after nanowrimo until about Feb. of next year, agenst will get query letters from folks who just finished their nano novel.

    Agents are a little (cranky?) around this time because of how many authors query before they're ready. You can still query at this time, but you may face a little more resistance than usual. Which is a shame (one ruins it for everyone, you know).

    Do you have a spreadsheet of agents you want to query, or are you going to use sites such as Query Tracker and Agent Query? I use Query Tracker and love it.

    Wishing you the best of luck on the querying process. It's...crazy ;)

  2. When it comes to tracking publishers or agents, I keep a very basic list with names, dates of submissions and dates of responses.

    Hm, yeah, the NaNo crowd might make it a pain... May just choose to wait until March...

  3. I couldn't imagine revising in one pass. I go through several passes, looking at different things each time. Works for me. Fortunately I love doing revisions. :D

    I'm like you though, Wendy, when it comes to builing things up--especially the setting.

  4. It's definitely one of those things were everybody needs to do what works for them, and embrace their individuality as a writer, yes? :D I love seeing all the different ways in which people build their novel, Stina.