A few people have asked me about the steps I take when writing a story. There are a TON of steps involved in writing a story, so today I’ll just share about the numerous drafts I produce and a few tidbits about each of them. This is by no means the Holy Grail of all processes, I’m sure there are hundreds of writers out there who have a better process than this, but I thought it might be interesting to readers to see how my stories come together.
The first draft I call my WIP (work in progress) draft. It’s rough and messy. Sometimes this takes me a few days, other times it takes me several months. For example, I took on a short story project last week and it’s done already. It took me about 4 days to complete the first draft. I have another WIP I’ve been working on for over a year, it’s a novella, and it’s still not done. I have other WIPs I’ve started and have a chapter or prologue done, but that’s it. This is the part of my process where all my creative juices need to be flowing. I don’t push it, if the story isn’t talking, I stop and work on something else. Near the end of this draft, or upon completion, is when I’ll announce that this story is happening. Since it can take anywhere from a week to a year to put it together, I don’t like to say anything until I know publication is imminent. Yeah, I have a WIP or two that people know about, like Joey’s story from the JACT series, but that’s because it’s a series and it’s expected. I haven’t “officially” announced it yet, and I won’t until it’s complete.
The next draft is my WIP-II. This is my re-write phase. I re-read the story and make sure everything appears cohesive, make some changes, and sometimes end up re-writing huge chunks of the manuscript. This part of the process is so important because when I write a story over a long period of time, I need to make sure it all meshes together. I might have been feeling a particular way when I wrote the first three chapters in June, and then differently when I wrote the next four chapters in December. So it’s important to make sure there’s a nice, smooth flow. This usually only takes a couple of days, unless I’m planning a major overhaul, then it might take longer because those creative juices need to be present again.
Next up is BETA. I send the manuscript to my beta readers unedited, and request a turnaround that makes sense with the length of the story. Usually, it’s about two weeks. It also depends on my planned timeline. Generally, I’m pretty easy going when it comes to my timeline. I’ve released four books, and out of those four, I’ve only put one on a strict timeline, Right Place, Right Time, because I wanted it to be released before a signing I was attending. Otherwise, I just go with the flow and wing it, allowing lots of room for error in my timeline. And I err a lot.
After BETA, I have my beta feedback implementation phase. This is when I…you guessed it…implement beta feedback. Sometimes this involves an overhaul. Not fun, but it happens. It happened with Our Moon and Right Place, Right Time. I changed A LOT in those books after BETA. I try to plan about a week for this. Sometimes it only takes a day, sometimes it takes longer than a week.
Next is the editing phase. I send it to my editor and she works her magic. The length of time this takes varies depending on how many mistakes I make and the length of the manuscript. When I get it back from my editor, I accept her spelling/grammar changes, review her notes and recommendations, and make the necessary changes.
Then we have proofreading! I send the proofread version of the book to my proofreader and she highlights any misspellings that made it through all the previous stages and I make those corrections. She also points out anything else she sees wrong with the formatting and/or story line.
Last is the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) stage. Somewhere along the way (I’ll talk about my publication timeline in another post), people have signed up to receive ARCs, so this is the point where I’ll send it to them. This takes place about 20-30 days before the scheduled release. It really depends on when editing is finished.
The only thing that happens after the ARC is polishing the final manuscript file, and making sure all the metadata is good to go and the cover is ready. Then I’ll upload the ebook and paperback files in the appropriate places and proof them.
I think the most important things to take from this is that it’s not an exact science, there needs to be room for error, and it’s a process. I’m sure no two writers work the same way, but this is how I operate. At least for now. And it works for me. It’s not super intensive (which is exactly how I want it to be), there’s just a lot of reading and writing involved. It’s a good thing I like to do both!