The Wrong Way To Write A Book

1When I’m writing a story I don’t outline. Sometimes I think I’d like to, but I don’t. I fly by the seat of my pants and sometimes I struggle and sometimes I find inspiration. Often though, I sit and hammer out words waiting for the story to happen. I don’t recommend this method to anyone. If you’re currently an outliner and it’s working for you then stick with it. I’ve had the privilege of speaking to several writers groups recently and to my surprise I’ve been asked several times questions about my writing habits. So, in the interest of documenting my writing process I’ll share with you the wrong way to write a story.

I start from the beginning each time I sit down. I do a revision/rewrite each time. Sometimes I skip a chapter because I’m tired of working on it or I think I’ve got it pretty right but for the most part I skim over what I’ve already written, chopping words or phrases, adding more or trying to change the tone or feeling. Then, when I’ve reached the point where I left off the day before I pull some new words out of my head and try to keep the story moving. The advantage to this is that the flow or feel of the story can stay consistent. When I’m in the groove and the rest of the world has turned itself off for the night I can usually move my story along fairly well. I get caught up in the tale and I find it pretty easy to immerse myself in to that imaginary world. But, it’s just as easy to lose it and not remember what it felt like the next day when you pick up your work again. That’s why I find it advantageous to start at the beginning again each time.

One of my goals this year is to strengthen my discipline in terms of writing. I don’t mean writing posts on Facebook or tweeting, I mean writing. This is my life now and I want to become a better writer. So, I need to get more words on the paper and continue to hone my craft. In order to do this I made a commitment to write a minimum of one thousand words a day. I began this on Jan 24th and I realize it’s still early in February, but to this point I’m exceeding my goal. You can read about my 1,000 words a day project here.

The one thousand words that I need to produce each day don’t begin until I reach that point in my manuscript where I left off the day before. New words count, not revisions or rewrites. Yes, it sounds like a tiresome process, but it’s my process and so far it’s working very well.

My optimal writing time is in the afternoon. If I have a project that I’m under the gun on I’ll begin earlier in the day but I feel most comfortable writing from early to mid-afternoon until sometime after midnight. Those of you who are picturing me awakening from my slumber in mid-morning can delete that image immediately. I rise fairly early and after I’ve attended to my duties (a black lab called Brandy), I begin my writing day. Once I’ve walked Brandy the morning and early afternoon is devoted to non-writing writing. I keep an old-fashioned “things to do” list on my computer and I check out what’s on the daily agenda. I check in with assorted Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and if there’s a worthy article I pass it on. I confer with other writers. I check my rankings and sales and generally do whatever it takes to keep my product looking fresh and professional. Sometimes that involves rewriting a blurb or submitting to a review site or comparing my books to others in the same genre. I speak on the phone to other folks who are also in my same self-publishing business and I examine my monthly and annual goals. I always keep a monthly list of how and where I’m running promotions. I think it’s important to plan ahead. And, I hunt out new promotional opportunities. This includes interview requests and promotional sites. Then, finally when all of that has been completed I write.

I love it, all of it. I get to talk to some of the most interesting, creative, giving people in the world. And, they really are all over the world. And, as I mentioned not all of it is virtual. I find it helps to chat on the phone to the authors and reviewers who I’m communicating with online. It’s too easy to forget that this is real life and there are real people out there. Writing can be lonely so I enjoy taking a few minutes to talk to other folks who are doing the same things I’m doing. In an ordinary day I can talk to authors who are selling tens of thousands of books a month and reviewers who are reviewing books that are being lauded by major literary newspapers. Two years ago nobody knew who I was and that’s the same for many of us. So, we made our own world. We were presented with a way to connect with our readers and we grabbed it. And today I get to hear the excited, enthusiastic voices of others who are breaking ground all over the world.

So, for better or worse, that’s the process I go through each day. It varies sometimes depending on personal commitments and as I get toward the end of a project and I can see the finish line I become quite obsessed and I’m writing virtually all the time. So far it’s working. In the past two and a half years I’ve published five books and my one thousand words a day commitment may even help me increase that output. Now, it’s 2 pm so, I have a couple of books to write…

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Karen Magill says:

    Very well stated Martin. Then again, you do get your point across very well in everything of yours I have ever read. Keep up the good work, you leave us mere mortals in awe!

  2. Brenda Perlin says:

    Yes, we could all write more. So many distractions! I can relate. Though, whatever you are doing Martin, don’t change a thing. If it works, don’t fix it. In your case you can afford to spend a little more time “playing” with us on Facebook. 😉

  3. Margaret Mitchell wrote the last chapter of Gone With the Wind first and named her heroine Pansy originally. I wrote my first book like you. I wrote, then edited a few chapters, then imagined what would happen next. I just began my story structure for the sequel yesterday. I need to have a sense of where it’s going, then will flesh it out. Direction plus spontaneity 🙂

    • Martin Crosbie says:

      “Direction plus spontaneity” – Love it! Makes total sense to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jennifer.

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