The Phases of Writing a Book

Love BooksI’ve been meaning to write a post for a while with an issue I’ve been working with. Namely, how to write the best quality books I possibly can in the shortest time possible.

Some people believe that you should spend as long as you can writing a book in order for it to become as good as possible. That each word should be carefully selected within the book for impact.

That certainly sounds good. After all, wouldn’t you want to read a book where every word has been carefully chosen to be the right word for the job?

I believe this is a misapprehension that a lot of writers have that I personally don’t think is true. I think most readers don’t care what word you use if the story is intense and the characters gripping. In my opinion, anyone slaving over finding the right word is using their time in the wrong place.

Of course, I could be wrong. I’ve thought I’ve had the best approach for years and I never have. So this is my opinion at this current point in time: The work a writer puts into a story should happen before the first draft even begins.

Book PhasesHere are my current phases in writing a book on the right. I start with an idea. I then move through a lot of world building, character building and planning. I then write the first draft when I already know where the story is going to go.

If, when I’m writing the first draft, the characters won’t do what I want them to do, then I change direction. The planning and outlining is to give me a map, the characters can throw the map out and go their own way, if they want.

However, if the characters go their own way, it takes me longer to write the book. I then have to go back to my plan and rewrite it to match what the characters have done. It’s a better book for it, but it still takes time.

Once the first draft is done, I then have to write the second draft. I’ve been trying to drop the second draft from the process for a while now. Second drafts are boring. The story is already written, I’m just cleaning up the text, adding descriptions and fixing obvious mistakes.

I then edit the finished second draft until I can’t find any more problems and then ship it to an editor.

My process is constantly trying to eliminate one thing: Boredom.

Pantsing Writing PhasesI used to write a book like this on the left. I would “pants” or write without a plan. If you’ll notice, each draft took longer than the last.

That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? After you work out the story, each draft should take less time. However, boredom is the reason for it.

When I get bored while I’m writing, I take longer to write something. When it starts taking that long, the quality of the book declines dramatically.

I wrote screenplays for a while and the thing that I liked about that, was that you could write a new draft quickly. It only took a few hours total. If there was an inconsistency in the plot, I would see it, because I’d only just rewritten the relevant part.

That’s what outlining gave me that pantsing never could. I can rewrite an outline in an hour. I can’t rewrite a book that fast, no matter how hard I try. You see, boredom affects quality.

Time Per Writing Phase highlight second draftHere are my current phases with approximate times taken for each. You can see that the second draft is highlighted in red. It takes the longest by far because it’s kind of boring to write.

The only trouble is – it’s necessary. My first draft just isn’t good enough to edit and publish. So at the moment, I’m in a struggle to eliminate that second draft without eliminating any quality.

If I could do that, I could write ten books a year and all of them as good as I can make them. Without it, I’ll struggle to manage five.

I want to write and publish more. I just don’t want them to be drivel. I want to publish the best books I can. I’m going to keep working on my writing phases until I get rid of that second draft.


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