Spend any time with writers, and you’ll hear a thousand different approaches to writing and revising.
Here’s my fool-proof method:
The first letter is the most important, of course. Write! You have to write if you’re going to publish. This can be hard; I’m the first to admit it. I spent years not writing. I wasted years not writing. I wanted to be a writer — some day. And I thought “When we’re rich, when I retire. That’s when I’ll write.” But I’ve always said that I want to die with no regrets. Not writing was a HUGE regret, so I stopped making excuses and almost exactly three years ago today I sat down with my laptop and called up a new Word document. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
If you are a writer than you know that starting any new project is a leap of faith. Starting the first project? That’s a jump of faith. Sit down right now and get started. Don’t even finish this blog post — I’ll be here when you get back.
Your job is to write 60,000 words. I’m giving you 3 months to do it. That’s about 650 words a day. Some days you will write more, much more. Some days you probably won’t write at all. It happens, and it’s fine. In the course of these 3 months, don’t look back at your writing. Now is not the time to revise. Of course you may need to read back over the previous page or two to pick up the creative thread, but resist the urge to go back to the beginning because that is a trap. You could spend months rewriting the beginning, and that’s useless.
While you are writing, under no circumstances can you show your work to anyone.
Anyone. Not your spouse, your friend, your dog, no one can see it. Well meaning people who know that you are embarking on this grand adventure will ask to see your work. Tell them it’s not done cooking.
The second letter is another W. But it stands for Wait. You have got to set the draft aside and wait at least 2 months, preferably 3-4 months before you look at it again. And no one else can look at it either.
During this waiting period, your brain is forgetting the story, forgetting the character’s motivations, fears, and dreams, forgetting all the nuances that you may or may not have added to the story during the writing phase. Time is the only thing that will allow you to return to the draft with eyes that can see the problems, see the gaps in logic, see the confusing parts, and where you need to expand, change dialog, add another character.
So let it sit undisturbed while you start another story. When you’ve finished the draft of your second story you are ready to move to phase 3 on the first story:
Revise. Because you waited, a lovely bit of alchemy happened — you are both the writer and a reader. Open up the document and get your editing hat on! As you read, note places that need work and do small edits. The heavy lifting will come with the second read-through. You’ll want to have the full story clear in your mind before you start doing any serious re-writing. And, as you work on your revisions you will be fueled by the knowledge that when you get the revisions done, you can finally show it to someone else.
Which brings us to the next letter — I which stands for Invite! Now that you have revised the story, you should ask one or two of your nearest and dearest to read it. Only show it to 2-3 people at most because you will (hopefully) be showered with feedback, and you’ll have more work to do based on their critique.
Remember that some people will not want to read your work — it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Be prepared as well that someone may say they’d like to read your draft; you give it to them, and they never mention it again. Ever. That’s OK, too. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, or that they are a bad friend. People get busy.
Based on the feedback you get from your friends/fellow writers, you will now Tune Up the story. This is your chance to accept or reject all the suggestions that your readers have made. It’s important to note that you don’t have to act on all feedback. As the writer you have final say about the shape of the story and the fate of the characters.
Once you have finished your tune up, it’s probably not a bad idea to have a new person read the story — someone who hasn’t seen it already. This could be another friend or fellow writer, or it could be a professional editor. Because of the hard work you’ve put in, the money you spend on an editor will be money well-spent because he or she can focus on high level aspects of the story and not get bogged down in grammatical errors and logical fallacies.
There are many avenues for publishing, depending on your goals. Maybe you want to make money, or build a readership, or simply make the story available freely for everyone, whatever your plan, there is a platform for it, from Amazon Kindle to Smashwords to Wattpad and beyond! Take some time to decide where you want to publish because each place has its own requirements, and you’ll want to tailor the book file accordingly. You’ll also want to make sure that your story gets the cover it deserves — people really do judge a book by its cover.
Once you are done with this whole process, it’s time to look at your second story! By using this formula you can get at least two, if not three books published each year.
Please let me know what you think of my method and post any questions you have. Thanks for reading.