Last updated on April 14, 2017
This is the first of a post in a series about writing as a business. If you are not sure why I am sharing this with you, you can go back and read the introduction.
So far we have covered that, like any other business, this one has three parts: production, distribution, and marketing. All of these are made up of several different parts, and over the next several weeks we will examine all of them.
Part One: Write some Words
This is the stage at which you plagiarize the alphabet: you are going to rearrange those 26 letters into some thoughts all your own. It does not matter at this point what kind of book you are writing, or if you are writing blog posts, articles, or even brochures. In order to proceed with any of the next steps, you need some words strung together in a manner that your target audience can understand and will want to read.
How do you do this writing thing? Maybe at this stage, you just have a vague idea. Perhaps you have an outline or even an assignment from a website or magazine. No matter what you are writing, there are some keys to finishing the story.
Your first draft should be written quickly. The first draft of a novel length work should take you no more than six to nine months. Why that number?
Every writer writes from the heart, and over time your heart changes. So do you. Think about how much you have changed just over the last year. Now imagine how much you have changed over the last five years. If it takes you three to five years to write a novel, you are a different person by the time you finish. Your voice has changed, so to speak.
It is the same with articles, blog posts, and even novellas. You should complete them as quickly as possible, while your mind is fresh in the subject and your thoughts are focused.
Do Not Edit While You Write.
Yes, you can backspace, or quickly correct the spelling that the squiggly red line shows you, but do not go back and rewrite until you have written the end. The temptation is real, and some will tell you editing as you go is perfectly okay, but as someone who has edited over 50 full-length manuscripts and several smaller ones over the last several years, I can tell you that I can tell when editing that a writer went back and rewrote a section. How?
Because doing so interrupts your flow, and so when you start to write again after editing, your voice has changed slightly. Usually, this causes you to make errors–small ones, but it takes you a few moments, or paragraphs, to get back in your flow.
This increases the length of the editing process: we have to edit out those transitions and smooth them over, recreating the flow that is already there. The more an editor has to work on your manuscript, the more they charge (if you are hiring a freelance editor before entering your path to publication, whatever that is. More on that later in the series).
Fiction Outlining and Research:
There is often a debate between outliners and pantsters, those who research ahead of time, and those who research at the end, putting in nonsense (and marking where they did so) when they don’t have certain facts at hand or in their memory.
Outliners: These writers have every twist and turn of the story planned out before they even begin to write, some of them down to the outline of chapters and scenes. However, most will tell you that this outline, however detailed or loose, is done before they ever sit down to write.
Once they start writing, they do not go back to re-outline or do more research. They simply write until the end, and then go back and make corrections. Many outliners will even confess that things do not always turn out how they outlined them. Characters tend to have a mind of their own and take the story their own direction.
Pantsters: These writers sit down with an idea and a general direction, writing by the seat of their pants (thus the name pantsters). They simply start to write and follow the story and the characters wherever they go. With no outline in mind, they truly do simply experience their book or story along with the characters.
Does this make a mess sometimes? Yes. If the writer gets distracted at some point, they can follow an aspect of the story that goes nowhere and have to backtrack and delete it later, in the editing process.
This type of writing can also produce spectacular stories. Each writer must gauge for themselves how much they can free-flow it, and how much structure they need to make their stories work. Either way, it is still just as vital that the writer writes until the very end.
The Mixer: Some writers start as pantsters, but part way through the book, they outline the rest of the story to make sure they get where they are going.
This is perhaps the most common type of writer I have come across. They blend the two techniques of writing by the seat of their pants for a while and then outlining after that.
How long do they write before they outline? That varies as much as the writers themselves. Some start with a loose outline and tighten as they go. Others create the outline when they are done with the story during the re-writing process, to make sure they have included all of the elements they need in the story, and that it follows a good structure.
No matter what your method, writers write until the very end. The best first drafts are still done quickly, and they are re-written and edited when they are done.
Nonfiction Outlining and Research:
Non-fiction is an entirely different type of writing, and research and outlining are a must. If anyone tells you they are writing their memoir, and have no outline it becomes something called “creative nonfiction.” You can almost guarantee there are errors in the story, and that it has gone into the realm of fiction at more than one point.
Usually non-fiction is linear in some way: usually time or the ordered steps in a process. Often if the order is not followed in some way, the results are disastrous. Think of a recipe book or automotive repair manual: do the steps in the wrong order, or add a “flashback” to what you should have done in step three when you are now on step six will not work.
Even memoir must be written with a linear structure of some sort. Yes, there can be flashbacks (only if they are done well), but there must be a structure it is all hung on. To put it quickly (this will be covered in detail later in the production section) you still should outline and research ahead of time for the most part. There are some exceptions with non-fiction, but we will cover those later.
For the most part, you should write your draft of nonfiction quickly as well. But what are the keys to writing quickly?
Here they are, briefly. We will cover each in detail in the next post.
- Write every day. Even if you only get a page or two, write something every single day.
- Have a writing schedule. Even if it is as simple as 12 Minutes a Day, have a time that is your writing time, and stick to it.
- Allow yourself the freedom to write more. If you are into the flow of the story, keep writing. Don’t stop because a certain amount of time has passed. Follow the flow if you can.
- Leave yourself hanging. Stop on a cliffhanger if you can rather than finishing a chapter. It will be easier for you to get back into the flow the next day, and you will want to.
- Don’t stop believing. You can write, you can finish a story, and you can make it ready for the world. You are a writer the moment you say you are a writer. To get to be a professional writer and get paid, you must keep believing you are who you say you are.
In our next post, we will talk about how to write quickly, and what quickly really means. We will also talk about writer’s block and what it really is.
Until then, write quickly and write often.