Managing a Long-Term Writing Project: Writing a Book
For many writers, myself included, the idea of writing a book is intimidating. In my case what intimidates me is the length of the project. I write articles that are 1000 words or less routinely, and have written content as long as 4000 words, however never anything close to the number of words that it would take to write a novel or nonfiction book. I admire the dedication that it takes expert writers to write a full-length book, and have been toying with the idea of writing one myself for a couple of years.
I have followed the writing career of a friend of mine, John Daulton, avidly. His first fantasy novel, The Galactic Mage, was published in January 2012. Since that time, he has published three other books and has three more in progress.
Since John took the plunge, and started publishing his work, I decided it was time for me to do some research. I wanted to find out exactly what his process was for writing, completing, and publishing his books. The research started with an interview.
Paula: What would you recommend for someone who is just starting out as an author?
John: The same thing all the books on writing tell you: Write. You have to write every day. Writers write; it’s a verb, so you have to DO it. And read. You have to read all the time, and read lots of different kinds of things, not just your favorite genre all the time.
John is very forthcoming about how he works. He is a regular guy with a family, and the usual assortment of issues that comes with being a husband and father. He starts his day with a double dose of caffeine in Pepsi form and ends it with a beer. He told me that it took time to develop the work habits that he currently has.
Deciding What to Write
John is always collecting ideas and writing them down–from dreams, epiphanies and random thoughts. After a period of collecting ideas, he puts some of them together to form the basis for a novel.
Creating the Structure
Once his concept is set, John creates a vigorous outline. He usually starts at the end of the book and works backwards. Working backwards helps keep the direction the characters are going clear. The outline can be anywhere from ten to thirty pages long.
Writing the Novel
Once his outline is basically complete, John starts to write. John started out writing with a goal of 1850 words per day. He now has a goal of 5000 words per day. He considers writing to be a muscle that gets stronger with time. He doesn’t set a time goal. His work can take a few hours or up to ten hours, depending on how hard it is to write that day.
Paula: Which authors inspire you?
John: I think R.A. Salvatore had the biggest influence on me in terms of getting me to really dig in and be serious about trying to write a novel. His Dark Elf books just blew my mind, and I finished the three Exile, Sojourn, and Homeland back to back to back and was like, “I definitely have to try to do this for a living.”
John revises his outline as he works on his novels. He starts each day rereading what he wrote the previous day, then starts writing from there. While he revises current day’s work as he writes, he continues to rework his book after the first draft is complete.
Once the novel is complete, John hires a professional editor. In his opinion, it is well worth the money to hire a professional and get the job done thoroughly. The excellent editing shows when reading his novels. Proper editing gives a book an authoritative and professional appeal. I know that when I read books that I like and there are editing errors, it disappoints me and takes away from the story.
Making the Impossible Possible
John’s simple work process makes the intimidating idea of writing a book possible. While each author has their own process and style of writing, his methods are easy to follow as a starting point.
Paula A is a freelance writer who works with a cup of coffee at her side to keep herself fueled. When she is not writing, editing or drinking coffee, she is chauffeuring her family to activities, making jewelry, trying recipes or making a quick run for a hazelnut latte.