Writing Process: WISH book launch countdown

When I tell people I have a book coming out, one of the first questions they ask is, “How long did it take you to write the book?” There’s not a simple way to answer that question because I’m never sure if they mean the first draft, or the whole process from start to finish, which is a lot more complicated, since there were multiple edits involved…and then, do they mean actual total hours logged or the amount of time between the day I first put pen to paper and the day I release the book… The real answer is: it’s a process. My process may be very different from another writer’s; in fact, no two are alike. Here is what mine looked like:

I like to begin my day with exercise; it clears the cobwebs and gets my blood moving. I usually spend the rest of the morning writing. I began writing WISH many years ago, in between working on a bunch of other freelance projects. I’m a very visual person so I always create a vision board. I cut out pictures of characters and settings from magazines and put them together in a giant collage. The vision boards hang right next to my desk so I can refer to them. I also write character sketches for all of my characters. It’s important to understand your characters’ motivations, likes and dislikes before you put them in action.

photo by My Lovely Husband

photo by My Lovely Husband

Through writing WISH I’ve become a big believer in outlines. Creating a good, solid outline before you start writing makes it much easier to look at things from a big picture perspective. For instance, you can tell beforehand if the transition between the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next flows well. I think outlines save a lot of time and headache, but they’re not for everyone. Other writers I know prefer to wing it a bit more.

Ballet and other forms of dance have been a huge part of my life since forever so it felt very natural to weave ballet into my story. I knew it was something that would interest readers because almost every little girl (and many adults too!) dreams of becoming a ballerina and for those who never experience it firsthand it’s an absolutely fascinating world.

The first draft took me a little over a year to write because I wrote in very short bursts, about 30 minutes at a time. But first drafts are usually nowhere close to polished (although I’ve heard that John Irving gets pretty close with his first drafts). I spent the next several months editing and patching up holes in the plot. I put it away for awhile after that. When I looked at it again months later It was actually kind of painful to read at that point—all I could think was oh my God! This is terrible! I have to fix it!

I knew I needed other peoples’ input so I found a critique group through SCBWI. It was fun to meet with other writers around a big table, share yummy treats and give and receive feedback about how we could improve our work. My critique partners asked a lot of questions, often about things that I hadn’t thought about.

Eventually my critique group read my whole novel but it still wasn’t finished, even after the work I’d done revising and implementing some of their suggestions. That was a little hard to sit with but I wanted the book to be as good as it could possibly be. I tinkered some more, focusing on the beginning because it still wasn’t quite there. I read a lot online about what makes a good beginning; I found a lot of helpful tips from agents and editors.

I gave the entire book a final pass by reading it out loud, word by word. Errors or clumsy language in your writing are much more obvious when you hear it aloud. This made a huge difference – not only did I trim thousands of words, everything read more smoothly.

Of course, finishing a novel is just the beginning; there’s still a lot of work to do! I’m now busy writing HOPE, the next book in the Indigo Dreams series. You can find me there most days (after I walk the dog).

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