If you are a regular reader of my travel blog, where I posted my writing progress for the first few months, you may recall that I finished the first draft of book one in the Murder Travels series some weeks ago. Since then I have had time to wonder what to do next. I decided in fact to start to plan and then write the first draft to book two before editing book one, and I thought this might be a good opportunity to describe my writing progress on high level.
Plan and research
The planning and research phase for book one took a year, as I was traveling full time at that point. I only spent a few weeks planning book two, mostly because much of the groundwork had already been laid down in book one. I knew who my main character was, who the supporting characters were, and somewhere along the line also decided on where the book would take place. And this, dear readers, is why writing a book series is so much easier than writing a set of stand alone books.
I have used two different outlining processes. The first was the post-it method, which I used to get some sense of order into the mess of ideas that was my first book. The second was using a tool called Scrivener, that allows the writer to work scene by scene, with easy tools to create an outline later. Have an idea about a scene? Add a new text snippet file, jot down a few notes, or write the full scene, and decide later where it falls in the narrative. Once the text snippets are all in the order you like, Scrivener can compile it all into one manuscript that you can then print or upload where you want to. I can’t wait to try that.
Having a goal really helped me get started and keep writing every day. I was originally counting pages, but an embarrassing “what is a page” misunderstanding made me change to counting words. My daily goal is around 4.000 words, and weekly goal 25.000 words. Measuring against a typical cozy mystery book target word count of 75.000 words, this goal means finishing a book draft in about three weeks. Based on my progress so far, this seems to work well. Writing the blog and tweeting about my writing process really has also helped in keeping my fingers glued to the keyboard.
Plan, write, plan, write, edit…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that editing is best served cold. Or something to that effect. This jives with most of the advice I have read online, which tells you to let the first draft mellow for some weeks before doing the first edit. The time away will let you get a more objective look at the story, and to see its weaknesses more clearly. As I am writing a series of books, the first three of which will be closely linked, draft book two before rushing to edit book one actually helps to improve book one. The extra time spent writing about (mainly) the same characters improves their complexity, and working on several books in the same series at the same time helps avoid internal conflicts that might otherwise occur.
It is looking very likely at this point, halfway into the first draft of book two, that I will at least draft book three before I publish book one. I am currently leaning toward self-publishing on Amazon, and while it could be done very quickly, to get the best book out there actually requires a fair amount of work. With no traditional publishing house behind me, I will need to deal with editing, proof reading, cover design and marketing by myself. Or, as the case may be, working with experts in each of these fields to create the best books I possibly can.
As a writer, my main task is to write. Everything else can be left to people who do it much better than I ever could. After all, I am not an editor or artistically inclined, and I have never been good at self promotion. But even I know that it makes sense to have a chapter or two of the following book ready when I publish the first book. After all, as a voracious reader myself, I like to know there are more books on the way set in the same world as the book I just enjoyed. Don’t you?