When I originally envisioned this four-part series on process (here are parts 1, 2, and 3), I thought part 4 was going to be solely about how I’ve changed my schedule, but there are a few other elements worth mentioning too.
These days I write for a few hours first thing, THEN work out/shower/whatever, then write some more… instead of doing the getting-ready routine before 9AM like I used to. I’ve learned that a couple hours away from writing in the middle of the day gives me more juice to keep producing in the afternoon. A typical lunch break wasn’t enough of a break for a creative reset.
That change has been straightforward—and who knows, maybe I’ll change back to the other way in the future! What I’ve learned in five years as a full-time writer is that I work best when I adapt my schedule to the writing, not the other way around. 8AM-12PM are my golden hours for creativity. If I’m behaving myself, you will not see me posting online or writing newsletters at that time. I try to save all the other stuff that goes into being an author (email, social media, newsletters, book club meetings, interviews, networking, accounting, etc.) for the afternoons and evenings.
Around 10PM, for whatever reason, my brain wants to start working creatively again. Often it resolves plot issues then. Sometimes a perfect sentence drops into my head. I used to get SO much brainstorming done in bed while trying to fall asleep. I have since learned from a sleep therapist this was one of the primary causes of my insomnia, so have sadly had to give that up. I do adapt my schedule to the writing, but I no longer sacrifice sleep for it. Now I try not to think about my project at all in the last hour before bedtime. (It’s hard! The work is effortless then!)
Tangentially relevant: I admire authors who write entire novels in fifteen-minute chunks, but that is my idea of hell on Earth. Similar to exercise, my biggest resistance to writing is the lead-up to actually writing. If I can push through that first 5-10 minutes, I can happily write for three or four hours without stopping. In fact, my husband can attest that I get quite grumpy if pulled out of a writing session. (It’s like someone suddenly turning the TV off in the middle of your favorite show!) My mind is in an entirely different world when I’m writing, and it sometimes takes a while to return to the here and now. All that to say: I don’t do writing sprints. I like long uninterrupted stretches of time where I can leave this world behind.
In the past, while writing first drafts, I have alternated between goals of 2,000 words/day and one chapter/day. One doesn’t seem to get me to “The End” faster than the other.
This time around, I’m being less rigid about word count and operating more on gut feel. I know by now when I’ve given all I can creatively in a day vs. when I’m half-assing it. (I love writing, so it’s not something I’m tempted to half-ass often.) This new “gut feel” process still ends up being either a chapter or ~1,600 words a day. As long as I reach 1,000+, I’m happy. Remember, because I’m pantsing, I’m writing slower. I’m also editing as I go more often now. Which leads us to the final, biggest change I’ve made to my writing process.
I think many, if not most, authors with ongoing publishing contracts write an entire first draft before sharing the manuscript with their editor. That’s what I did with DRGand TMH. I’m doing things differently with my current WIP by sharing smaller segments of work with my US and UK editors. They signed off on Chapter 1 once we all agreed on my protagonist's voice, then Chapters 1-3 to make sure we were on the same page about the story's direction, then the first 30k words for essentially the same reason. Next week I'll share 60k words. With each submission, they provide feedback, which I then incorporate into the next draft while also writing forward.
I’m taking this approach because it prevents me from wasting time. Instead of spending six months writing an entire draft only to learn the voice isn’t working and that I have to throw out all the work I’ve done, we iron out those issues in a matter of weeks. Regular sharing not only reassures me I’m on the right track, it also lets my editors weigh in mid-process. Some authors bristle at that idea (the rumors are true, we writers tend to be control freaks!), but for this project I’ve been craving input along the way. I suspect this early feedback, more than plotting/pantsing/schedule/tools/so on, is going to be the major game changer. If things go according to plan, I will finish this book in ten months—from seed of idea to copyedits phase. Stay tuned!
A final thought
Much of this series has focused on how to become a faster, better writer. Speed is not critical to art, but it is to getting paid. If you want to make a living from your writing, I promise you will spend more time than you’d like thinking about efficiency. You’ve gotta keep moving even if the muse ain’t musing. (Did I just find my newsletter title??)
Thanks for following along on this four-parter. I’ve received a reader request to talk about how I tackle edits, so that will be the focus of my next few posts. If there’s anything else you want me to discuss—it doesn’t have to be on writing process, but no, I can’t tell you about the book I’m writing :)—let me know in the comments, or just reply to this email.
Thanks for being here,
Darling Rose Gold
This Might Hurt
work in progress
So interesting. I totally get the approach of sharing chunks at at time with your editor but that would freak me out. So much of my story changes as I go, and that is why I've always said I'm the most INEFFICIENT writer. I always love hearing how other people do it though! xo