From Outline to Finished Book

From Outline to Finished Book

Sep 14, 2023

The other day, I saw a post by an author in one of the Facebook groups asking how someone who publishes more than one book a year goes about their drafts. And it got me thinking. To be completely honest, it sent me down a rabbit hole.

How did I get more than one book out in a year?

I’ve had on my tasks list for a while to look harder at my deadlines to make sure things are flowing along the way I want them to. It is something I try to do every quarter in order not to lose track. And I wondered if looking honestly at how I handle a book from start to finish would help ensure I’m not missing anything.

I wrote down my process from start to finish with a pen and paper. Nothing is better than whipping out a pencil and writing things down, don’t you agree? One reason I love a tablet with handwriting abilities.

I made little notes about how long I give myself for each step. On the side, I made some changes I would like to implement to help make things smoother. An example is using my new tablet to do my second read-through before sending the story to the editor since I can use the pen for handwriting the corrections, and they go into the manuscript right then instead of needing to go back through and put them in, like I was doing. It cut my time by at least a week.

I thought I would share this process with you when I was finished in case you were interested in how I take my initial outline to the finished book.

I already wrote about how I do my outlining process. Check out the post here: Outlining

Once the outline is complete, I start the drafting process. This had been taking me roughly six weeks, but since I’ve moved to only working on one project at a time, it takes half that. Plus, I have learned to add in a week to cover any days when something comes up that stops me from writing.

I work on the draft Monday through Thursday, roughly getting 20,000 words weekly. This goes up or down, depending on where I am with the story. The first week is usually slower and picks up speed as I reach the end.

Throughout this whole draft time, I don’t go back and change anything. I don’t jump onto the internet to look things up… usually. I use the cheat sheet I made during the outlining process for the draft. I typically just type out the scenes I have created in my head. I’ll make notes and highlight them or indicate where I need to come up with a character’s name, but otherwise, I just try to let the words flow. I do a great deal of pacing during this process, trying to create the scenes in my head. My daily steps always show when I’m working on a draft.

Once the first draft is complete, I do my first read-through. I put the book on my Kindle and read through it as I would any book, mainly curled up on the couch. I keep my cheat sheet by my side to make notes about anything that needs to be changed or things I missed, but I never do a read-through at my desk.

I couldn’t care less about the grammar or spelling at this point because my focus is on the story. I look for places where I must add more details, miss something mentioned at the end, or any subplots that suddenly disappear. Sometimes, new scenes or ideas pop up while reading. I mark down anything that comes to mind, whether it would work or not. This step takes me a few days.

Then, I take my notes and cheat sheet and simply go through them. I look at what chapters need more because the word count is low. I find where I need to include more of a particular character. I add scenes and ideas that I have marked down. Sometimes, there are a few changes, while other times, like my upcoming release Halloween, Hexes & Handcuffs, it feels like I am changing the complete story.

Now, I sit with the revised sheet and repair the first draft. This process is always enjoyable because the story is now fully formed in my head. I have a better understanding of what happens later in the story. I also find myself adding more details and imagery during this revision. And I do go to the internet or my writing books to help me out. This also is when my family finds me making faces or reacting to a scene I’m writing, always trying to find the perfect expression or reaction to what is happening.

I don’t make too many changes to the outline during this process. I monitor my total word count to ensure I’m not deleting too much. This is also the first time I really focus on grammar and spelling. When I complete each chapter, I run my grammar check. Then I read through the chapter one more time to make sure it flows nicely since sometimes, by the time I reach the end, changing this or that, things aren’t as smooth as I would like. Then, that chapter is marked off, and I move to the next. This whole process usually takes me three weeks, but recently, I got it done in two, but that included some very late nights.

Once this draft is completed, I will do my second read-through. Recently, I have started placing this draft on my tablet and doing a read-through with my pen in hand. Again, I curl up on the couch and, with my pen, make any minor changes that I feel make the story better. These are typically more word changes or ensuring the reader knows who is speaking. This I can get done in a few days.

When this is complete, the novel is off to the editor. She typically takes a week or two to get her corrections back to me. During this time, I get prepared for the release. I make sure the cover and blurb are on track with the final story. When her changes are back, I spend a few days going through them and then move on to the formatting of the novel. This process is simple due to a wonderful program, and it only takes me an hour or two. Then, it is on to the final process of getting the book released.

This entire process, not including the outline, takes me roughly two and a half months if everything goes according to plan. The only thing besides my typical business items that I do during this time is work on the outline for upcoming books. I eventually want to have a few outlines prepared ahead of time, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

So, that is my typical process for writing a novel. I would love to hear what you think.