Blog Hop, Business of Writing, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Twitter, Writing

How a Discovery Writer Learnt to Read Maps (part 2)

PlottingAs promised, here is the sequel to How a Discovery Writer Learnt to Read Maps (part 1), where I’ll share more about the strategies I use to plot and write my books.

These strategies are the result of several years of practice, of learning from others, of tweaking, honing, and adapting. This didn’t come to me overnight, and, for the last two books I’ve started, the strategy has slightly changed again. It is, and always will be, fluid. I’ll forever be tweaking it, finding new ways that work better, and abandoning others that don’t.

For one thing, I’m never simply working on one book at a time. I always have at least two books on the go, sometimes three. But never at the same stage. A first draft requires me to be fully, and undistractedly, immersed into the world of that book. I only ever write one book at a time. But, I may well be writing one, plotting another, and editing a third.

I break down the book writing process into five basic stages:

  • Plotting
  • Writing
  • Editing (which includes the beta reader stage)
  • Publishing (which includes cover design and formatting)
  • Marketing (which is never-ending)

Writing is the only stage that is sacred and exclusive. One book at a time. But, if I can market all of my books at the same time, I can also work on more than one book in the other stages of book production, right?

Plotting is the section that has seen the biggest changes over the last year or so. This is the place where my strategy will either speed up my production, or slow me down. This is the vital part. I work to a story structure. I’ve looked at loads and loads of these over the years, and they’re basically, by and large, the same, they just call all the different sections different things. They’re not hard to find online. Search, and find one that sits well with you. So, before I even start plotting, I know what my basic structure is going to be. That work is already done for me.

I take my time over this stage. It doesn’t matter if plotting a book takes as long as writing it, because I’m concurrently writing another, so my production is still up. I plot in notebooks, always handwritten, and that notebook goes everywhere with me. For me, this is an important distinction. I plot by hand, I write on my laptop. It keeps the books separate in my head by separating them physically (and allows me to indulge my notebook addiction.)

My plotting notes differ. Some chapters may just be bullet points, and nothing more. Other chapters are almost completely written in my notebook; description, dialogue, everything. As I plot, I am also updating my series bible (or book bible for standalones), where I keep all the vital details that I’ll need to refer back to. Another trick to speed things up. When I move to the writing stage, I can fly through the chapters that are more heavily plotted, stumbling only when I’ve written something like ‘big fight scene here’. (Writing me never thanks plotting me for that one!) The more detailed the plotting notes, the faster the first draft is. And so, I never worry about plotting taking me a long time. While the first draft is my favourite stage, plotting is the most important.

Beyond that, I’m not doing anything special or different. I edit like a snail trying to get blood out of a stone (lots of coffee and cake required), and while my book is with beta readers, I get on with the next one in the chain.

While it may sound like I’m running a book factory, just churning out books, don’t be mistaken by that analogy. Every single book means the world to me, and includes my heart, my soul, my tears, and my blood. They are my babies, and I love every single one dearly. This is just how I work. My head is busting with more book ideas than I could write in my whole lifetime, and they itch in my fingers, keeping me awake at night, until I write them.

Because that’s one important lesson I’ve learnt; creativity attracts creativity. The more I write, the more ideas I have, the more come. While the brain being like a muscle is a tired old cliché, it’s true: the more weight I lift, the stronger it gets, and the more weight I’m able to lift.

But, this is me. This is what works for me, and it’s never going to work for everyone. You need to find your own way, and remember that you’re not in competition with anyone else. It’s not a race. It’s a path that we’re on together, and some people walk it, enjoying the scenery, while others sprint. There are turtles, and there are hares, and any one of us could burn out, retire, or gain ground at any time. Find your speed, find your route. That’s what matters.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Blog Hop, Got Goals?

Got Goals? Feeling the Heat

Big Goals BloghopLast month, I didn’t post a Got Goals? blog post. And I’ll tell you why: just two hours into the start of the summer holidays, my two year old son had a nasty fall and broke his femur. He’s still in a plaster cast now, and will be for another three weeks. Which means life can’t go back to normal until then. Not completely.

And the summer has been tough. Really tough. All of our plans had to change, and I faced a summer of entertaining a toddler who can hardly do anything (beach is out, playpark is out, most things are out), while saving my five year old from losing out on his summer holidays too. It was hard. There have been tears and meltdowns, and all of them from me. But, I’m not going to go on about that. If you’re interested, you can read all about my adventures with that here.

While We Were WaitingSo, let’s get back to the writing. July was Camp NaNoWriMo which, against all odds, I managed to complete to my set target of 25k. I finished writing While We Were Waiting, and moved onto starting my following book, The Notary of Gotliss Street. While We Were Waiting was subsequently edited (slowly), and sent out to beta readers, and will be released on September 18th. A month later than I’d originally planned, but there you go. I can’t control everything, and I need to learn that.

Other than that, the summer has been a bit of a bust, with me missing goals all over the place. But I can forgive myself for that, and I learnt a lot from it, about my limits, my time management, and what happens if I push myself too hard. Next summer will be entirely different, because I’ve learnt my lessons this year.

So, what’s in store for September? Obviously, the release of While We Were Waiting, which means final edits, dreaded formatting, and the joy of ordering a paperback proof (which, with the merging of KDP and CreateSpace may not go as smoothly as I’d like. We’ll see.) I’ve also been reading ‘Mastering Amazon Ads’ by Brian D Meeks (highly recommended by the way), and I’m hoping to start on that new adventure next month too.

But, it looks like I’ve rambled on enough here, so I’ll sign off now. September’s going to be busy. In fact, the rest of the year looks set to be pretty manic with two literary conventions where I am a guest author. Wish me luck!

How did you do with your August goals? Join the Got Goals? Bloghop here.

Blog Hop, Business of Writing, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Twitter

How a Discovery Writer Learnt to Read Maps (part 1)

PlottingI started out as a discovery writer, setting off on the journey of my stories without any kind of plan, and with very little, or even no idea where I was headed. It was exciting, like exploring. It was also slow going, and the editing stage could turn out to be pretty epic. But it worked for me. At least, it did then.

I shunned plotting, scorned it even, insisting that it ‘didn’t work for me’. And I was right, it didn’t. At least, not then. In fact, there was one year that I decided to hit November’s NaNoWriMo event with a fully plotted novel. I worked on it throughout October, and faced November 1st with confidence. I had a map for my journey, I knew where I was going. But, once I had hit around 15,000 words, the characters took over, and pulled the story off in a direction completely unrecognisable from my plan. All I could think, was that I’d wasted an entire month plotting, only to end up with a completely different story.

In 2015, I started publishing. I started up my own imprint, purchased a pack of ISBNs, and suddenly, writing wasn’t just a hobby anymore. And I had to get serious about it.

I started out publishing two books a year. It took me, from conception, to hitting publish, 6 months to produce a book. But the more I learnt about the business of indie publishing, the more I realised the benefits of upping production. And I know indie authors who are releasing a book every month. Over the last two years, I’ve gone from publishing two books a year, to publishing four.

I’ve had a lot of writers asking me how I do it recently. I’ve had people call me ‘lucky’ to be capable of it, for being a fast writer. But, you know what? I’m not a particularly fast writer. I’m just a hard-working writer. And it has nothing to do with luck.

But people don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. They don’t see the sacrifices, the lost sleep, the stress to hit pre-order deadlines. They don’t see the work I’ve done on honing my skills, on tweaking my approach, all the experimentation it took to find the perfect formula for me. They don’t see the daily 5am wake-ups, or the notebook balanced on my knee whenever I sit down, no matter where I am.

I have a very specific strategy in place that really has taken a long time to perfect. But it works for me, at least, it does at the moment. Because that’s the thing with writing; a strategy that works for me now, might not do so in five years. It’s all about being adaptable, about being willing to try new things, being open to changing things up.

This blog post is pretty long already, so I’ll write a second one explaining my strategy, showing how I mange to write and publish four books a year. Check out How a Discovery Writer Learnt to Read Maps (part 2)

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Blog Hop, Got Goals?

Got Goals? High and Lows

Big Goals BloghopReading my post from last month, I was full of excited energy, and feeling really positive about things. It’s bittersweet reading that now, because the mood has changed to a far more sunken one. That’s the thing about this writing game; it’s full of ups and downs. And June has definitely been that!

I had hoped to have finished writing While We Were Waiting by now, but it has been very slow-going, and I’m not there yet. So, I’ve signed up for another dose of Camp NaNoWriMo through July, so that I can use the NaNo effect to get this thing done. Because, there is nothing quite like the NaNo effect to get the words out!

On some better notes, I received a very exciting email (that, I’m afraid, I’m not allowed to talk about yet) that has allowed me to cross one of the things off my author bucket list. So, the beginning of the month had me happy dancing all over the place!

I’ve also finally launched my podcast. I’d been sitting on that plan for far too long, always finding excuses not to do it. But, last Tuesday, I finally sat down and recorded my first episode. It’s called The Great Western Woods (Narnia reference!) and it’s all about worldbuilding. Check it out here. Alongside that, I’ve started a related project which I’m moving forward with, albeit slowly.

To be honest, I think I’m pulling in too many different directions right now; doing a bit of this, a bit of that, some of the other. I need to focus on less, but all these new ideas keep popping up and demanding attention. I’ll get there.

Did you manage to hit your goals for June? Join the Got Goals? Bloghop here.

Blog Hop, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Twitter

The Importance of Habit

WritingLast month I didn’t write anything new. May came in off the back of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and it was a month of editing, plotting, book releases, and marketing. I wrote nothing new.

June came, and I duly sat down to write, to create, and I found myself empty.

Getting words out of me was like torture, it hurt, and I found myself stopping after just a couple of paragraphs, too frustrated and exhausted to continue. It felt like it might actually kill me. Slowly. One unwritten word by another.

I needed to rediscover the fire, the passion, the creativity that had, evidently, buried itself so deep inside me that I couldn’t find even a hint of it. After taking advice from my peers, I turned back to a tactic I’ve used before. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself, but, sometimes, you need someone else to tell you. It’s not always so simple to take your own advice.

I began reading what I’d already written during April, from the beginning, gently editing as I went. That’s where my mojo was. Not in the air, in the clouds, not in words I hadn’t even thought of yet, it was in the solidity of what was already penned. It took just two chapters. And then I was ready to go. The story came flowing.

So, that’s my lesson learnt. I can’t take a month off. I need to write, every day, even if it’s something that will never come to anything. Creativity can dry up, albeit temporarily, but it’s far better to keep it burning.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Blog Hop, Got Goals?

Got Goals? She’s Here!

Big Goals BloghopIn my post last month, I was sailing towards the end of Camp NaNoWriMo, which I did complete with a 25k wordcount goal. Really happy with that, and a good chunk of my next book, While We Were Waiting, is now written.

May has been a little big of a mixed bag. I’ve been busy plotting the rest of While We Were Waiting (and finally worked out what the ending would be just yesterday!), and I returned to The Memory Trader series with the final edits and formatting of The Sister before its release on 22nd. So, yes, another book is now out, and the reviews have been absolutely amazing!

It really feels like things are moving forward, and picking up momentum now. Like I might, soon, be able to actually justify all this! Something’s definitely shifted, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

So, looking forward to June, it would be great to get While We Were Waiting fully plotted, fully written, and maybe even out to the beta readers. Too much? We’ll see!

How have you done with your goals in May? Join the Got Goals? Bloghop here.