Time’s The Thing   9 comments

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?


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Introducing My Process

Writers are as individual as snowflakes. We each follow our own writing process, often born from natural routines that just “feel” right to us. No two people write the same way.

I am definitely a discovery writer — what some people call a pantser. I don’t enjoy organizing a story and knowing where the plot is going before I get there. It’s not my process.

When I wrote The Willow Branch, it was part of a longer manuscript that I broke down into smaller novels. It took me 15 years of writing to get to a point where I knew how the story would end and felt I could publish the novel.

Clearly, my writing processes has changed since I published that first novel. I have two series in process and am about to launch a third.

Yet, I remain a discovery writer.

What’s changed?

In some ways, nothing has changed. I’m still a discovery writer whose characters tell me their stories and I write them down. Now that I’m writing for an audience instead of for my own entertainment, I set deadlines for myself. If I’m going to publish at least one novel a year, plus probably a short for an anthology, I can’t waste a lot of time being nonproductive.

I’ve never had any trouble with ideas. Inspiration is all around me – from routine situations I see in a new way, a childhood memory I’m coming to grips with, or a conversation I overhear on an elevator. My imagination takes flight whenever I’m not actively engaged in conversation with someone else. If I contemplate something for a while, a character will often start telling me the story of how they interact with that idea or event. I feel compelled to write it down. Their stories are the essence of my novels.

The problem with character-driven discovery writing is I used to never know what was going to happen in the plot of a story until I wrote it.

Obviously, that was going to work for publishing a series

Writing a series takes some organization and long-form planning, kind of like piecing together a puzzle. I actually know how Transformation Project will end. I have the broad outline of the series in hand. Each book just fills in between the major plot points. I never did that before I published a book and then thought “Wait, there’s an audience that’s going to want the next books and remember how you felt when a novelist seemed to get distracted and not come out with the next installment for a half-decade. Don’t be that writer.”

Writing Faster

My plans are broad and each book just fills in between the major plot points which are already known. I’m ready to start writing a single novel in one of my series. I used to not care about word count, but now I have to keep it in view. I can still allow myself to wander off topic a bit — to allow a bit of free writing — but I know I need to provide myself with direction and not allow too much distraction. Writing is a regular part of my day. I still take breaks when I need to, but I know I can’t play around too long or I’ll find myself stressed out in a few months when I’m staring at a deadline that’s about to munch me.

Then Come Revision

I didn’t used to be really concerned with revising. Back when I was writing for my own entertainment, revision wasn’t a major part of my writing process because I could just keep writing and add whatever I wanted to write with no concern whatsoever about what anyone else might think of the story. Now, I need to pay attention to what someone else might think of what I’m writing.

The average novel has between 60,000 and 100,000 words. Some books are too short and others are too long. I want to hit the sweet spot where my readers are well-satisfied, but not bored, where they get all the information they need without feeling overwhelmed. Sometime when I finish a rough draft and I take a good long look at the manuscript, I feel there’s something missing that needs to be added in. Other times, I have to remove details because they’re just too much, extraneous or repetitive. Sometimes I move scenes or dialogue around to improve the pacing of the story.


I really treat revising and editing as one whole process. I know some people take it as two separate processes, but I check for grammar, spelling, punctuation while I’m also revising. As the revision process goes along, I revise less and edit more. I reach for finer and finer grades of editing. One of my last steps is to listen to the manuscript read aloud. I take advice from beta readers and an editor.

Cover Design

This is something that has definitely changed since I published my first novel. My daughter is an artist and she designed the cover for The Willow Branch. It was a lovely cover, but an electrical storm fried my zip drive during a back up and wiped out my cover images, and she wasn’t available to recreate it. She recommended I work with a friend of hers, who encouraged me to design my own cover. He taught me how to use photo-editing software and introduced me to sources. And I played and made a lot of bad covers before I started to make good ones. I’m not really an artist, but my daughter points out that I did okay in college art classes and the art of making covers is really the same technique as making collages.

Then Comes Publishing

I don’t consider publishing to be a part of my writing process. There’s some who would say designing a cover falls under publishing, but I generally start working on the cover early in the writing process, so I include it there.

I’m a soup-to-nuts independent writer, so I have my fingers in every aspect of the writing and publishing process. In my journalism days, we still did typography by hand, so I do the formatting and the layout,

The Main Change

Time. I now know there’s a clock on my production. I try to produce a reasonable word count every day, although I don’t worry if I take a couple of days off occasionally. My goal is to write between a 60-80,000 manuscript in three months, so I can work on other projects during the down times and still have about three months for editing, betas, more editing and formatting.

I find as I work on books that I’m really enjoying the process of completing a book on a deadline. It’s a challenge that I wouldn’t have seen me taking to back when I published The Willow Branch five years ago, but now it’s fun and there’s a sense of accomplishment from knowing I can actually do that, while still being true to my characters and the stories they tell me.

Posted December 23, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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9 responses to “Time’s The Thing

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  1. I’m also a ‘pantster’. I often don’t know how my story will end until I get there! Sixty to eighty thousand words in 3 months is good going… it would take me much longer than that.


  2. I’m another author who has to wait until the end to find out what happens. Apart from the editing, I do everything else myself. I aim for around 2000 words a day, which gives me four books a year plus blog posts. The books can be in series or stand-alone, depending on what comes into my head. Although all my series started as stand-alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve had 2000-word days, but I also have a full-time job, so those aren’t the norm. I aim for 500 a day and this year I think I’ll publish two books and possible an anthology short – plus blog articles and Facebook discussions.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. 500 a day sounds more like my style. Sometimes nothing too – it depends on how I feel!


    • I aim for 500 a day, sometimes get less or none, but then some days my muse is really active and I’ll put out 1000 a day. This time of year when it’s really cold and dark outside, I write A LOT. There’s not a lot else to do, especially come January.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re braver than me designing your own covers. I learn something new every time my graphic artist designs a new cover, and I’m more than happy to let her do it!


    • I was too until my daughter’s friend said “Hey, I’m graduating next semester, do you’re going to need to find another artist, so why don’t I show you how to do this.” It’s a challenge, finding the images and combining them, but I’ve tried hiring a couple of cover designers and how to explain what I want is always a struggle. I ended up mocking up a collage of what I was looking for and then going “Hey, wait! Why am I doing this?”


  5. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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