Refining my writing process. Image of open laptop with notebook and pen.

Refining My Writing Process

To get your books written, it helps to find the writing process that works for you. Some authors prefer to get the plot down in detail while others take an idea and begin writing from there. Writing first thing in the morning is best for some while evenings is preferable for others.

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Writing my first book, The Stonemason’s Secret, I have discovered a process that works for me.

First Drafting Attempt

I began the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2018. I got up each morning and wrote for an hour. I knew if I didn’t get the writing done first thing, it might not happen.

I also knew that I was a plotter. What I quickly realized was I prefer have a detailed outline in place before I begin writing. One I start putting words on the page, the detailed outline lets the words flow. I’m not stopping to check many details of setting and the plot is already in place. Surprises will come up, but not so many that I can’t move forward.

Refining the Process

Fall 2020 gave me the chance to further refine my writing process. November was approaching and various authors I follow on social media and YouTube were preparing for NaNo 2020. I was tempted to participate but knew I needed to continue working on my novel. (Yes, the one I drafted during NaNo 2018).

I finished the latest revision in mid-October and wanted to let it sit for a few weeks so I could return to it with fresh eyes. I was interested in starting something new, to give me a break from revising.

I had roughly outlined a prequel novella that I will use as a reader magnet. I had already signed up for a plotting workshop and decided to spend the remainder of October working on the prequel.

To NaNo or Not To NaNo

Now it was November 1st. Should I sign up for NaNoWriMo and write the prequel?

I did. Well, in a way. I never registered the project on the NaNoWriMo website. And the first writing I did was to take the plot and create the detailed outline I need. In many ways, this outline is my first draft. It lets me get the ideas out of my head and onto the page while also helping me sort out details of location, movement of characters, and refine any holes in the plot that appear.

By mid-November the outline was finished. Now I had my next decision -go ahead and write the draft or put it aside and return to revising The Stonemason’s Secret?

Realizing I was on a roll working on the prequel, I opened up Scrivener and began writing.

For the next month I wrote most days. Some days I struggled to write 300 words. Others, the ideas flowed and I wrote over 1000. I found a few plot issues that I worked out, and I spent a bit of time double-checking locations to be sure there was doorway where I said there was, or a flight of stairs where I needed them to be.

I completed the draft by mid-December with about 20,000 words in my Scrivener files. While I never registered with NaNo, I felt like I was doing it. I made sure to write each morning most days and I tracked my daily word count. I ended up writing for 30 days and while I didn’t hit the 50,000 word mark, I knew I wouldn’t with this novella.

What I am most pleased about is how well the writing flowed once I began, having taken the time to plot and outline.

I have found the writing process that works for me right now.

I realize this process may change as I become a more experienced and better writer. I also realize that as I move further into revisions of both works, I may need to find a different process for that.

For Authors

While I have found a writing process that works for me, I not suggesting this is what will work for you. Here are some thoughts and tips to help you find or refine your writing process:

  • To find the writing and revision process that works for you will require you to try different things. Hearing what works for someone else can give you ideas, but don’t think it is the answer for everyone. Experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for you. And be prepared – it may change over time.
  • If you like the idea of NaNoWriMo but November doesn’t work for you, do it when it does work for you! Choose a calendar month. Choose a 30-day period. Or a 45-day or 60-day block of time. Schedule it when it works for you, not when the calendar rolls around.
  • That said, one of the great things about NaNoWriMo is the group of people around the world who are participating at the same time. There is no shortage of articles, videos, social media groups, and local groups that are there to get you started and keep you motivated. If you are doing a NaNo another time of the year, create your own support group. Even if they aren’t participating, having people to give updates to, having them cheer you on and encourage you can be highly motivating.
  • When you are working on a writing project, track your daily or weekly word count. Put stickers on your calendar or mark it in some way. Give yourself a small reward when you reach certain milestones.

What is your writing process? How has it changed over the years? Please leave a comment and share.

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