I used to write books just for me. No publisher was waiting for them (although I certainly had the fantasy that once publishers saw the finished book they would fall all over themselves buying it). And the books were done when they were done.
I’ve had 13 books published in 13 years. Most are written under contract, which means they have a fixed due date. (Although I still sneak off to work on a ‘spec’ book now and then.)
My current writing process is now more like this:
One year before the book is due: I have plenty of time. And I deserve to relax after how hard I worked to get the last book done. I might make some notes and brainstorm a little… after I clean out the basement.
Nine months before: This plot idea is intriguing. The characters are starting to seem like real people. Maybe I should create a thorough outline… after I finish alphabetizing the spices.
Six months before: The outline is finished. This is going to be so easy. I should outline all the time! I’ll just take it step by step, like paint by numbers. The book is practically going to write itself now that I have all the hard work done. I think I’ll call my friend and go out for ice-cream to celebrate.
Three months before: Holy crap! This outline doesn’t work at all. And why do my characters keep doing things I never planned on them doing? This one guy was meant to be a secondary character but for some reason he thinks he’s the real love interest. And my main character refuses to do this one dangerous thing the outline says she should do. She says it’s a bad idea.
Two months before: I will never be done in time. Never. The only way I can do it is to write two thousand words a day, every single day. Didn’t manage more than three hundred today? No problem, I’ll make it up tomorrow.
Two weeks before: There’s too much blood in my caffeine stream. I’m writing like a mad woman. But I can do it. If I just give up on this sleeping thing.
Due date: There. Finished. Is it any good? I’ve read it over but, to be honest, I have no idea. I hit the send key. I really should celebrate. Or work on that other book that’s due. But how long has it been since I swept behind the couch?
April Henry’s author website: www.aprilhenrymysteries.com
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