Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.
Finally finish your first book: I know how to write a book!
Finish books 2 and 3: Yep. I got this! I know the process and all the secrets! How I write a book is how you write a book! Ask me and I’ll tell you because I know how to do it.
Reach 2/3 mark on book 4: Oh crap. My process isn’t working. I have to change how I do this. There was a secret I didn’t know before now.
Complete a series: Okay. Now I know all the secrets. Not only can I write a book, but I can finish a story. I know all.
Start writing 17th novel: I know nothing.
I know, seems strange, that on my 17th novel I’ve come to a point where I admit that I don’t know how to write a book. I mean, obviously I’ve done it a few times now, but things are just never the same.
Most of my books have taken me between 60 and 90 days to write the first draft. There are some of those books between 1 and 16 that I wrote in under 30 days. But those are the ones where I am on fire and everything is clicking and I’m cranking out 4-6k words a day.
Words a day. Now that’s a phrase that freaks people out. We often hear the phrase “Real writers write every day.” I get this phrase, I really do. I applied it to my process for the bulk of my career, but I don’t take it quite as literally as many others do. For me, writing every day means 5-6 days a week that I’m drafting the first draft. That does not mean writing 8 hours a day. It means writing until I’ve reached a goal or I’ve come to a natural stopping point for the day. Sometimes that’s just 1 hour. Sometimes it’s 5. Depends on the book, the scene, and the day. And I do allow for 1 or 2 days off, like any “regular” job, you wouldn’t be there 7 days a week.
But this book, the 17th, has been so different for me.
I feel like Sisyphus and that rock is getting harder and harder to push uphill.
When I was first starting out, writing books 1-3 and the first 2/3rds of book 4, I never outlined. Then I hit a wall and had no idea where to go. So I loosely outlined the end of the fourth book and learned that I could, and maybe even should, outline a story before writing it. As a young writer, I couldn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, feeling like I’d already done it. So it took time and practice, but now I need an outline to help me get from A to Z.
So every day that I plan to write, I review my outline and get my daily goal, be it 1k words, 2k or 5k. Some days are hard and I may only get 500 words, but I get something.
But this book. This book. I want to write this book. I like my characters and their heartbreaking story. It’s a new world with new faces and a new story. I want to get to the end of it. But I started writing this book at the beginning of January and I’m only halfway through. I don’t even have a complete outline because it has been such a difficult story to figure out.
I take a week off from writing at a time. Some weeks I only write 2 or 3 days. And I’m not even getting huge word goals when I do write.
This book is taking so much out of me.
But just like with my 4th book, I’ve learned to adapt to it. I have other projects going on at the same time that need attention, so I’m not just sitting around. But I’m telling myself not to feel guilty. I am working on it. I am always thinking about it. I even had a plot knot unravel itself the other day that will help me expand the outline when I come to the end of it.
So what’s the point? The point is, none of us hold all the secrets. Processes will work for you until they don’t. You just gotta be able to roll with that and figure out how to carve a new key to unlock the next secret. Even if you’ve written off the idea of something, like outlining vs. pantsing or writing every day vs. taking days off, try it if you’re stuck. It might be the thing that gets you unstuck.