Last week I shared on my facebook page that I had written almost 100,000 words on Heir of Hope (the third book in the Follower of the Word series). I had one person leave a comment that she had written 10,000 words and that was hard for her. She couldn’t imagine writing 100,000 words!
You know, she’s right. I remember back in high school and college writing a 15-20 page paper and I thought that was a killer (and I had weeks to work on it). Now I write that much in less than a week. So how do I do it? How do I not only write 100,000 words, but actually write something worth reading? Here is how I write a novel.
1) I plan my novels out years in advance. I have an idea and I create a folder for it on my computer. As the idea grows, I add to the folder (like scenes, dialogues, character information, etc…). I also recently started using Pinterest as a place to keep images that inspire me. By the time I am ready to sit down and write the novel, I pretty much know who is in the book and what is going to happen.
2) I take one day and do a storyboard. I condense every scene/chapter into one sentence, write it on a sticky note, and pin it to my board. This becomes my map. I don’t always follow it exactly, but it gives me the big picture and major events so I don’t get writer’s block.
3) I write the rough draft. Usually the rough draft comes out to be about 120,000+ words and takes me almost a year to write. I will admit every time I start a novel, I feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing that much. So I break it down. I remind myself that to eat an elephant, you just need to take one bite at a time (no, I don’t eat elephants, but it is a great picture).
My “bite” is 500 words a day, 4x a week. Every week, every month, until the novel is done. Most of the time I write more, and sometimes 5 or 6x a week. But there are some weeks when writing feels like pulling teeth. I groan and gripe and drag my computer out and make myself sit and write 500 words.
I had one month not too long ago that all I could do was write 500 words a day, and that is all I did. Usually this happens in the middle of the book. I’m tired, I hate everything I’ve written, and I don’t know if I will ever reach the end. But I press on. I don’t go back and change anything, I just keep writing a little bit everyday. Usually I find my joy again when I reach the last third of the book and see the light at the end. I also realize what I wrote wasn’t bad. In fact it is quite good and worth keeping (one reason why I don’t go back, usually it’s my emotions rather than reality that is telling me my writing is junk).
4) After almost a year of writing, I finish the rough draft. At this point, I am sick of this story and need to do something else. I put the rough draft away for a month and recharge, usually by reading gobs of books or playing games. Then I come back and spend 2-3 months tightening all the scenes, checking for continuity, adding description, and making sure the flow is good. I don’t do a lot of rewrites, probably why it takes me so long to write a rough draft. I put most of my energy and thoughts into the story during the rough draft stage. When I come back, the meat of the story is there, it just needs some clean up.
5) I do one more glance over for grammar and typos, then I am done. I have completed a novel. Is it ready for publication? Not at all. I’ll explain next week how I publish a novel. This is simply how I write a novel: one bite at a time 🙂