What I Learned From Writing Book #2

Leslie Jones' AvatarLike most beginning writers, I took a long time to write my first book. I had a rough draft in 14 months, and spent the next 3 months editing based on feedback from my critique group. Then more revisions stemming from other input. Then further revisions once I signed with my agent, and even more from my editor. Altogether, I spent 3 years writing and marketing my debut novel, Night Hush, before my publisher accepted it.

Then came the contract, and Book #2.

Suddenly, it wasn’t solely about the creative process. I couldn’t wait until the Muse struck, or until it was convenient to sit down to write. I had a deadline, and it wasn’t for 3 years into the future. The deadline was, in fact, a mere 6 months away. My publisher wanted to capitalize on initial reader enthusiasm by providing several more books in short order, so all 3 of my books will be released in 2015. How did I handle such a compressed timeline?

  1. I panicked.
  2. I realized I didn’t have the luxury of panic.
  3. I established a routine. Mondays I sprint with other writers. Tuesday through Thursday, I write or edit from 11:30 to 4:30, varying my locations so I won’t become bored. Friday, I join my critique partners from 1:00-4:00 to write. Weekends are for blog posts and tweets.
  4. I created two spreadsheets — a Word Count Tracking Spreadsheet and a Timeline Worksheet. The word count tracker does several things for me: It tells me how many words I write in any single day; what my total word count stands at; and the percent of the book I’ve finished, based on a 300-page draft. I can then backward-plan, so I know that if a book is due October 1st, I need to be halfway through it by about the beginning of June.
  5. The timeline tells me if I’ve struck a good balance between POV characters (I color code each POV character, so I can see at a glance if chapters are balanced), if I’m varying the length of my chapters, and gives me a very brief overview of what happens in that chapter.
  6. I learned to sprint. Author V.S. Nelson holds a sprinting workshop periodically, both in Arizona and online, in which she teaches writers to ignore their inner critic. I learned not to stop typing, not to correct grammar or spelling, and to write non-stop for a set period of time (15, 20, or 30-minute sprints) and then take a break. My productivity skyrocketed! From 500-750 words in about 5 hours, I began producing 2000-2300 words instead. Yes, the prose is rough around the edges. I ended up with more passive voice and telling rather than showing. However, you can’t edit what isn’t written, and those things are easily fixed.

The biggest message I took away from writing Book #2 is that it’s possible. I did it once, right? Or, if you’re like most authors, you’ve done it 3, 4, or 5 times already. While those early efforts probably shouldn’t ever see the light of day, each manuscript teaches you valuable lessons about your craft. The most important of these is: “You can do it!”

While the prospect of writing Book #3 is no less daunting than books 1 and 2, at least I now have some tools in my tool belt that will help me stay on track.

Have you established a writing routine? Share it with us!


4 thoughts on “What I Learned From Writing Book #2

  1. All first drafts are rough and most of us spend way too much time on our first books. Three years is not unheard of, but once that contract is signed, once we get that motor running we don’t have the time or luxury to spend that amount of time on each and every book. The key here is to get that voice out of our head and onto paper. The old saying, “you can’t fix what isn’t down on paper,” come into play. So glad I could help in some tiny way by sharing my sprinting secrets with you and so many others. Hugs, V


  2. It’s important to be consistent. And if you don’t/can’t write every day, then have days/times when you do write and stick to it. You’ll never be published if you never finish the book(s). I also find the support and camaraderie of other writers e.g. Virginia sharing her sprint tips is key to being productive. We can’t have too many tools to get the book written, edited, etc. on the path to published.


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