Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Process of Writing a Book

I have seven books available on Amazon. Seven. While each is different - though, obviously, Balor Reborn and The Hounds of Hell are somewhat similar since they're part of a series - there's a process that comes with writing them. Even when I wrote a book in a week, I stuck to this process. It just so happened to be on fast-forward. Here's how I do things.

Step 1: The Idea

I start with an idea. For the Modern Irish Myth books, it was simple. I wanted to write a series of books about the return of gods and fairies to Ireland, and I wanted to start with one of my favourite villains from Irish mythology: Balor of the Evil Eye. For Planning Before Writing and 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block, the ideas came from wanting to write about writing. I wanted to share what I knew, and from a list of topics that I thought I could feasibly write something about, they stuck out off the page.

Step 2: Planning

Not every book I've written has been planned in the same way. The Modern Irish Myth books have a chapter-by-chapter summary written as the plan. They're usually 7-10 pages long, typed, and go into quite a bit of detail.

Planning Before Writing was planned with a mind map on a small piece of paper. I literally just wrote down different ways to plan a book, and different reasons for planning.

25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block was simply a list of chapters before it was written. I decided upon an order for them to appear in, but after that I was writing what was necessary for each chapter, as it came. I didn't necessarily have to write the book in order, but I did.

My other books fell into similar patterns, either a list of a detailed description of each part of the book. The important thing, for me, was to get together even a small document about the book that I could work from.

Step 3: Time Management

This doesn't always happen for me, but it certainly helps. Balor Reborn was written in a week. I needed to  have the time set aside to do it. Planning Before Writing was written while I was on Teaching Placement. I had to have time in the evening to write a chapter, but after my preparation for lessons the next day. 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block was written, largely, during my niece's nap times while I was minding her, or in the evenings. It was affected by Christmas and a suddenly increase in working hours.

When I really get going properly, I have a system in place for writing a book regarding time management. I give it priority over anything else I have to write that day. If I need to have a story written for the next day, it means I have to write the book without distraction. I write every day, without exception, and I make sure I have the time to do so. No excuses, no exceptions.

Step 4: Writing the First Draft

I write rather quickly. This is due to a combination of the previous three steps - the idea keeping me interested, the plan helping me go without stopping, and the time management allowing me to work uninterrupted by other duties - and my ability to type fairly quickly without error. I picked up the latter skill over the years when I was writing my first book. Between the ages of 12 and 15, I started the same book four times. We didn't have an Internet connection in the house, we didn't have USB keys, and we didn't have a way of transferring old files over to a new computer. The final first draft I wrote had to be written from scratch, but that allowed me to develop my typing abilities while doing something that interested me.

With that to back me up, writing the first draft of a book is relatively simple. I could, if I had the inclination, write a full length novel in two weeks. I would need to have the time away from other responsibilities like child minding or bookselling, but I think it could be done. (The maths involved in this speculation: 90000 words, divided by 14 days = 6430 words per day, which is less than 6 hours work at a rate of 1200 words per hour. That's my rough average, taking tiredness into consideration for longer writing periods.)

I follow my plan for the first draft, deviating only if I think the book could do with some padding out and I have an idea beforehand. The last thing I ever want is to expand a book for the sake of it, so any additional extras are there for a reason.

Step 5: Editing the First Draft

For me, editing is an annoying process. I don't like changing my book too much. I always do a proof edit, to make sure there are no typing errors, but when I have my doubts over a story I have to get someone else to read it. Since 2012, I've relied on a friend who reads spectacularly fast. He read and commented on Balor Reborn in an hour. I attempt to remove as much necessity to change a story as possible by working on my plan in detail, sticking to it, and playing out questionable scenes in my head before writing them. (If you ever see me talking to myself walking down the road, that's probably what I'm doing. I can't help myself sometimes, and other times I just like the sound of my own voice...)

Step 6: The Cover

I always need a cover. Since the days of self-publishing technology becoming available to me, I've needed to know what my book would look like with a cover. I've even done covers for books I don't plan on releasing. I just enjoy making them.

Step 7: Formatting the Book

When the editing has been done - and you can include rewrites in there - I also format my book. This involves either preparing it for publication, or just readying it for when I print it off for myself. I like the book to look neat, and to read easily. I even print the cover onto a sheet of photo paper for a nice glossy effect. (Seriously. Even if I don't keep a printed copy of the book nearby, I print the cover. Right now, I have the cover for 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block beside me at my desk.)

Step 8: Celebrate

I have a ritual when I finish a book of getting a cup of tea. I leave my tablet in my room. I don't watch the television. I just sit at the kitchen table and enjoy my cup of tea, and maybe tell a couple of people via text message that I finished the book. That's it. That's how I celebrate. It's not the spuds-and-beer stereotype we Irish are known for, but it'll have to do!

When everything else is done and I've got this new book written and ready for me to do what I will with it, I can start all over again. I'll pick another idea, maybe even a different genre, and I'll write another book. It's my favourite past-time. (Publishing is a different matter. That's business. The writing is for fun.) If I could, I'd just write all the time. Someday, I hope that'll be the reality for me. For now, though, I'll just have to stick with my 8-step process and enjoy writing for the sake of it when life allows.

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