The Writing Process, Part II: Drafting

Lately on Twitter I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about the writing process, how people go about the actual labor of constructing the book, and how authors revise, edit, and prep their book for submission or self publication. I know I do things a little differently from a lot of other writers, so I though I’d take some time to walk you guys through my personal process. This will be a multi-part series running on Fridays through March and April. I hope you find it interesting, and if you have any questions about any part, please feel free to leave a comment! You can find part one here.


Last week I talked about all of the work that goes into a book before I ever start working on the draft. Today, we’re going to dive head first into the deep end.

In other words, this is the part where I usually realize I’m in over my head.

The Draft

Much like boot camp, this involves a lot of crying and laying on the floor feeling like I’m going to fail, like I can’t do it.

The successful author, however, has their own inner Drill Sargent who can get their ass in gear and into the chair no matter what the circumstances are.

Some authors write every day. Others don’t. Both are valid. Personally, I need to write every day to keep the energy moving. If I take more than one day off, I loose my momentum.

My usual goal is to write for at least 2 hours, 6-7 days a week. I’m allowed one “pass” per week, just because schedules change and life happens, but in general I write every day for a minimum of an hour when I’m drafting a book. That’s just what works best for me.

When I’m writing a first draft, I follow Nanowrimo rules: get it on the page, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s good. There’s no editing allowed.

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If I need to skip over something, I leave a comment so I know to go back to it later. If I change my mind about a character’s name or where something happens or something like that, I leave a comment and then continue with the draft as though it was already done.

My drafts invariably differ from my outlines. There is no shame in having to re-outline halfway through the book, or adding scenes that weren’t in the original outline, or combining a scene from chapter two with one from chapter five. No one is going to stand over your shoulder and judge you at this point. What you share is completely up to you, so if you’re working from a messy, coffee stained outline written on a Starbucks napkin with an eye pencil, that’s your business (though I would recommend typing it up at some point, or transferring it to a notebook. Napkins don’t hold up very well, and eye pencil smudges).

As soon as I have a draft (start to finish), I go back to all those comments, add or change the relevant information, and then the draft goes “into the cooler” as I say.

Usually, from completed outline to the end of the first draft and “fill in” takes 6-8 weeks. Then I set the project aside for about a month (cooler time) while I either outline and research a new project, or work on revising and editing an older one.

Next week, I’ll show you how I do my revisions and edits.

Like what you see? Check out Things I’ve Learned about Writing.

3 thoughts on “The Writing Process, Part II: Drafting”

  1. You sound so organised – even with all the crying. My first draft involves me writing whatever comes into my head, scenes flying around all over the place, and quite often writing the same scene several times in slightly different ways. Once my handwriting becomes so impaired I can’t read it anymore, I switch to typing it all up. It takes about three drafts before I’ve even figured out what the story is!


    1. You should have seen me drafting The Spider’s Web for the first time. It had a different title back then. I wrote all the scenes out of order, printed them out, cut them up and rearranged them on the living room floor, then used highlighters and post-its to mark where I needed to add things.

      Then I rewrote the entire book 6 more times.

      I decided I never wanted to go through that again, so I experimented until I found another way that worked better for me.

      But if that is the method that works best for you, then that’s great! We all write and think a bit differently.

      Liked by 1 person

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