So, got an idea for a book that you’ve been sitting on for literal years always reassuring yourself you’re going to start as soon as school ends? Yeah, this summer you’ll write the book!
Well I got good news, and I got bad news.
I’m going start with the bad news, but you can always skip a paragraph ahead then come back to the bad news if you’re a good news first kind of person. And the bad news is, most books can’t be written in one summer.
But the good news is, there really is no reason to limit you writing to summer.
A book can take time. And if it’s your first book, it’ll take more time than your future books. Like any craft, the more you practice the better you are the less time it takes.
So, how long did I take to write my book? Two years. Two years and six drafts and counting.
So, what’s the process?
Well, first you have an idea, this can be a character, a plot or a world. It doesn’t have to be all three at the beginning. The idea you need to know everything about your book before starting, is in my personal opinion, just fear of the unknown/procrastination. Day dreaming about your book is fun, but so is writing it and re-reading it later on.
So with a character, a plot, or a world. You start an outline, usually I recommend a simple bullet outline for you first go. If you don’t know something, don’t worry, just keep outlining. You can always figure this out later.
Remember, procrastination is putting of writing your book, not putting of certain parts of writing your book. Sometimes leavings things for later is the best thing you can do in writing.
With that outline, you write your first draft. Make sure it’s terrible, cause that’s the point.
Your first draft is just you exploring the idea for the first time. If you change a character’s name halfway through a first draft, that’s cool, no need to go back and change that, just keep going.
Once done, print it, or put it on a tablet, however your most comfortable reading. Then read it. Read all of it. Flinch at the absolute horror. But finish it with a better idea of what the books about. Finish it knowing your character’s a bit better and the world a bit wider. Now what you have in your hands, that absolute disaster, that’s your new outline.
If there’s a lot of major changes you want to make to the plot, such as add extra characters, chapters or subplots, it may be worth re-visiting the outline face, either redoing the bullet outline, or pursuing other outlining techniques.
Now, with your first draft by your side, you start over. Not editing. Not revising. Your second draft is a fresh start. Based off of your first draft.
This one you actually care about, but not too much. You actually have some level of care here. Try and keeps things consistent, make things comprehensible and use proper grammar. But if something just isn’t quite right, don’t sit on that paragraph for more than a few minutes, keep on writing. It’s only your second draft.
After your second draft, congratulations you wrote a book! Now you get to edit and revise the book.
You re-read this draft, but this time take note, have a red pen and if you’ve printed it some post-its. Edit, revise, fix grammar, make things clearer, reduce adverbs and all that awesome writing advice you’ve heard a million times over! (or are going to hear a million times over).
Then go to the computer, look at your notes, fix those problems.
Then start again.
How many times do you need to re-read, re-revise and re-edit? Well, depends. But it can be a lot. And sometimes you feel like the quality isn’t improving, or like you’re never going to get to that point where the quality is high enough for your standards. And that feeling sucks.
But just trust me, with each new draft, each new revision, that book is just a little bit better. And one day, maybe there’s still things that can be better, there will always be things that can be better. But you’ll be ready to accept that this is as far as it has come, and you’ll export that book to pdf, you’ll print it and you’ll hand it off to your friends and family to read.
It’ll be one of the scariest moments of your book writing process. But it will be rewarding.
My scariest moment, was handing the book off. I feared above all else, that one of my readers would come back to me and express complete and utter confusion. That my words would mean nothing to them and would be entirely incomprehensible to anybody but myself.
Instead I spent an hour on the phone answering questions about characters and law and it bough me joy. It offered me a confidence boost that is still relevant today and helps me push through the current process of querying and all the stress that brings.
So just remember, if you’re on your second, fifth or ninth re-write, it’s all going to be worth it in the end!