Did you ever wonder what happens from inception to the end of the writing process? If you’re a fellow writer, you probably aren’t unfamiliar with it. However, for readers, the writing process seems like a magical ritual where words spew forth from a writer’s brain and appear on a page right before their eyes as their eyes roll back in their head and they chant some dark spell.
Fact Check: very few of us actually invoke the dark forces to write our books. I’ve done it twice at the most.
Like any other job, writing a book (or anything) has a process. Steps that have to be taken (not necessarily in what’s considered the “proper” order). Today, I’m going to give you all a Behind the Scenes look at what happens when I write a new book.
From the beginning…to the end.
Desperately try to think of an idea.
Scour your brain every second of every day. Wring your hands. Pull your hair out of your head. Hiss at the sun as it rises and growl up at the moon. All day long, think of what would make a dynamic story.
Finally, like a bolt of lightning to the brain, have an idea strike you while you’re showering and do not have access to your phone or other ways to jot down notes as the ideas invade your brain like ravenous zombies.
You can also wait until you’re just drifting off to sleep to think of your idea(s) and then grab your phone from the bedside table to take down your thoughts, thus shining blue light in your face that will keep you from falling asleep for another half hour. Up to you.
In all seriousness, ideas come from a lot of places. Maybe they’re prompted by a single idea for a character. Or a quote. A movie. A song. Something from the writer’s life or something they observed. It doesn’t really matter where the idea came from.
It’s just the first step.
Once an idea starts to form, notetaking and mental filing begin.
Outlining, plotting, character sheets, world-building, and lots of other things that keep you distracted from having to write that perfect first line that will draw readers in immediately.
Okay. So, this step looks different to every writer. It depends on if they are a plotter, pantser, or plantser. Or a combination of two or three. Some writers choose to just dive in and see what happens (pantser). Some writers choose to make a few notes and a rough outline (plantser). Other writers want to do all of the things mentioned above (plotter).
Regardless, a writer needs to have–in their head, at the bare minimum–who their characters are, what’s going to happen, and where it’s going to happen. They need to know the POV. They need to know the beginning, the middle, and the end.
The rest is negotiable.
Then again, if a writer is a true pantser, they might just wing it. Some amazing things can happen when a writer gives themselves the freedom to just write and see what comes out.
I’ve been a pantser, plantser, and plotter at different times, depending on the book. Sometimes I am a combination. Things usually go best when I plants.
Write those words.
Right after checking Twitter, the DMs, emails, Buzzfeed, CNN, BoredPanda, Wordle, a few rounds of Among Us, and going into your husband’s office to see if you can annoy him in some way.
For me, the writing is the hardest part. Whether I am winging it or going off of an outline, getting the words down is difficult.
This is because it takes focus, concentration, as few distractions as possible, and discipline. Even if you’re an average typist and can manage 40 words a minute, you’re only going to manage to get 2400 words down in an hour of writing.
Most writers I know can manage a half-hour or one hour of writing a day. Maybe less. Most writers have day jobs because until a project takes off and finds a huge audience, writing for a living is not possible for many writers.
So, at best, a writer will get 2400 words in an hour of writing. That’s if they know exactly what they want to write. To technically qualify as a novel, 50,000 words are needed, and most novels are longer than that.
Technically, a writer, as described above, can have a novel in 20.84 days.
But that’s incredibly unrealistic. Unless it’s NaNoWriMo season.
Plenty of writers have written 50k+ words during the month of November, year after year. It’s pretty rare that what’s written during that month because a complete and ready to go novel, though. To do that, tons of preparation work is needed during the first ten months of the year. And those aforementioned dark forces are called upon.
Regardless, let’s assume that a writer needs 1-6 months to write an “okay” first draft manuscript.
Developmental editing. Alpha readers. Editing. Beta readers. More editing. Sensitivity readers. More editing. Line edits. Proofreading. Cover design. Interior design. Getting ISBNs (or not). Copyrighting (or not). The next several months or years after a first draft is done is all of these things.
This is if the writer is self-published or indie.
If a writer goes the traditional publishing route, this process is definitely years. Querying agents. Rejections, half-requests, full-requests, rejections. Then…they (hopefully) get signed before they give up on their book. The agent and writer work together to make the manuscript even better. Maybe get more readers to give it another pass. Try to sell the manuscript to a publisher.
And the process of editing and reading starts over again.
Writing a book is an arduous process that might produce a product that never ends up in the hands of the general public. Even if it does, there’s zero guarantee readers will even care. Or like it.
It really makes you wonder why writers…write. Right? Right.
Well, I write because it’s a big part of who I am. I can’t not write. I’ve also addressed why I write here.
Regardless, here is how one of my latest projects went through the steps mentioned above.
In September of 2020, I came up with an idea for a quirky little town and the teenage boy who ends up there after spending most of his life on the road with his mother.
For two months, I plotted and drafted and brainstormed. I knew the first third of the book would be introducing the town, the cast, and setting several plot lines into motion. And it would be at least 50k. So, I focused on that part of the book. There was NO WAY I was going to write the entire book in one month. But I could get in the first 50k words.
When NaNoWriMo 2020 commenced, I wrote those words in 21-ish days, declared myself NaNoWriMo Winner, and moved on to other things for the rest of 2020. All through the first six months of 2021, I plotted and planned the rest of the book, wrote words when I could–in between other projects–worked with my developmental editor, had alpha readers read it, edited, beta readers, blah blah blah.
I made playlists and character sheets and fleshed out scenes and went back and changed dialogue and mythology. Changed scenes and dialogue that gave too much of the plot away too early. I rinsed, repeated, then rinsed and repeated several more times.
I worked, worked, fucking worked.
And now…POSSIBLY TEXAS is done.
Seventeen months from idea to completion. Right now, I’m dying to get the book in the hands of readers.
I hope they love it.
It’s not magic. It’s commitment, focus, and drive.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,
PS – Don’t forget to check out the first ever Author Quick-Fire Questions with Jessica Calla!
PPS – Have you seen my “Indie Recommends Indie” on Armed with A Book?