Writing a book can be a daunting task for someone who's never done it before. If you ask a dozen authors how they write a book from start to finish, you'll probably get a dozen different answers. There's no right or wrong answer. It's simply a matter of what works best for YOU.
I recently received a Facebook message from someone asking me for some advice about writing books and how long it takes. I decided to go ahead and share a little bit about my normal process. It can vary from book to book, based on different challenges I'm having at the time, but this has become pretty standard for me over the past year:
Approximate Time: 1 Week
I used to be strictly a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants), but I found I was spending too much time going back and reworking parts of my story. I started creating general outlines, but it's normal for me to deviate from them. I don't let it bother me. My characters usually steer the story, and they LOVE throwing plot twists at me.
I've included a bit of a sample outline from the first chapter of By Blood and Magic (The Dragon Portal, Book 2). This will give you a general idea about how I put it together.
This entire chapter ended up being 2800 words by the time I included dialogue, wrote descriptions, etc.
I also frequently color-code parts of my outline so I know which character's point of view I'm writing from.
Writing (& Re-Writing)
Approximate Time: 1 - 3 Months
I have a sign on my desk that says, "Fix it in the next draft." During the actual writing, I rarely let anyone see my work. It's too easy to get demoralized or caught up with minute details. If you're focused on what you've already written, you're not thinking about moving the story forward.
It can take me anywhere from 1-3 months to write a draft (my books are usually around 100k words). Most of the time, the bulk of my first draft is heavy on the dialogue. Once I've written this draft, I'll go back, move scenes around, add in other descriptions (focusing on the five senses), expand upon the characters and really delve into their mindsets. I then go back through and self-edit, and I also run it through a grammar program to make sure it's fairly clean.
I tend to write books in series, and I usually end up having a LOT of characters. I keep a "series bible" for each of my series, which details my main characters, their ages, physical description, mannerisms, magical alignment, etc. This also helps my cover designer when it's time to create a book.
Here's a sample of a series bible from The Omni Towers series:
Approximate Time: 1 Month
I decided to combine these two together in my explanation, but only because I no longer have separate alpha and beta readers. My beta readers have been with me since before I published my first book, and they're fantastic about telling me what works or doesn't work. They point out plot holes, character issues, even some grammar issues. I've ended up killing off characters (or not killing them off) simply based off feedback from these readers. A certain character in Ruins of Fate met an untimely end thanks to one of my beta readers (no names, she doesn't want hate mail). LOL
Seriously... these people are invaluable to my writing process. I love them to pieces.
Based on their comments and suggestions, I'll make more revisions and then I'm ready to send it out to my amazing editors.
Approximate Time: 1 - 2 Months
I usually go through multiple types of editing: content editing, line editing, and proofreading.
Content Editing - Oops. I forgot to feed my character. My character was sitting in the last paragraph, but now I have her standing up. She had blue eyes in the last chapter, but now she has green eyes.
This part of the process can involve reworking entire sections, paragraphs or even scrapping full chapters! Having an outline and a series bible helps cut down on some of this, but a content editor can catch all the other little details (especially when you're moving scenes around).
Line Editing - Grammar Time! My editor goes through and fixes all my commas, any misspellings or improperly used words, etc. I try to give her the cleanest manuscript possible, but there are always errors.
Proofreading - After I've finished with the all the other edits, I do a final read through of my book. I make sure it's as close to perfect as possible and send it to a separate proofreader to double check to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Layout & Formatting
Approximate Time: 1 - 4 Days
Once my book is pretty close to perfect, I'm ready to do the final layout. This includes generating a table of contents, chapter headings, title page, copyright page, etc. I try to keep the formatting consistent for each series.
Once I'm finished, I generate different file formats (for physical books and ebooks).
Approximate Time: 1 Week
I email the final book to myself and a trusted individual (one of my beta readers). We both reread the book, looking for any formatting issues or things that were missed during the editing/proofreading process. Once these are corrected, I'm ready to upload the final files!
Approximate Time: Varies by Designer
(My designers are usually booked almost a year in advance!)
I usually have my ebook cover way before I even start writing the first word of my novel. To put it in perspective, I currently have over 6 covers waiting for me, and another 3 covers scheduled to be completed in the next few months! Eek! Since the time to schedule with some designers takes so long, it requires a great deal of advance planning. If you're interested, let me know and I can create a separate post talking a little about this process later on.
Once I have the final page count for my paperback, I email this information to my cover designer (along with book size specifications). They send me the final image file, and I'm ready to upload it to the printers!
ARCs (Advance Review Copies)
Approximate Time: 1 - 4 Weeks
If you're a member of my ARC Team, you know what this means! If you're not, feel free to sign up for my newsletter and you'll receive notifications when spots open up.
Approximately one month before the book is released to the general public, a small sample group receives an advance copy. This is invaluable, especially since so many people are reluctant to leave reviews or give feedback.
Then the book goes live!
That's it. That's most of my process. As you can see, a LOT of hard work and effort goes into each book I write. I have a trusted team I work with who help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Some days, I'll spend anywhere from 8-14 hours at my computer working on a particular story.
If you'd like to know any more about my process, let me know! I'm always happy to answer questions. :)