Someone asked me recently about my work method and how I’d increased my productivity. How is it that I used to spend six months writing an Intrigue? Then another month or six weeks editing the book. And now I’m writing three or four books a year-–both category and single title.
About ten years ago, I made the decision that I was going to write faster. I found that I could turn out a rough draft in two to four months. But I couldn’t shorten the editing process. I give myself permission to write a draft that needs work. Then I layer in all the qualities that elevate that draft from rough to polished.
I can’t get it all at once. When the whole draft is finished, I edit on the screen to improve the sentence structure, the character development, the action, and the emotional content of the book. Then I print out the book and start adding what I’ve left out. After I write in the changes, I print out the manuscript again-–then see more places that need improvement.
I usually repeat this process several times before I’m satisfied with the book.
When I’m writing, I start each day by editing what I wrote the day before. That's how I get into what I'm working on. When I read the previous day's work, I always find stuff I don’t like. I’ll want to improve a lot of the sentences. I may not have enough of the characters' emotions. Or I don't have the action quite right. Or the dialogue needs work. I have to add layers to get it right.
I basically set myself the task of writing ten pages a day. I might stop and read e-mail or talk on the phone. But I go back to the story and stay with the day's work until I get those ten pages. I might get that done by early afternoon. Or I might still be working at ten at night.
One thing I’ve found is that writing gets easier the more you do it. If you write consistently, you will be able to increase your output.
Also, I’ve written a lot of books. Because I have a lot of experience, it’s become easier for me to know if the story isn’t working. I can tell pretty quickly if a scene is off. If it’s too far off, I have to figure out what's wrong before I can go on.
On the other hand, sometimes I write a scene that I know isn't quite right--and leave it in the ms. I think of it as holding the place for the scene that will be right--when I figure it out. Those "wrong" scenes usually don't have the character motivation quite right. But I put them in anyway to hold the place for the correct scene, when I figure out what the character would really be thinking and doing.
I know there are some people who can't go ahead until they have each scene right. Giving myself permission to have it slightly wrong is one way I forge ahead.
Of course, if it's TOO screwed up, then it will throw the rest of the book off. So I have to be able to recognize that, too.
I also increase my productivity by having more than one book going at once. I mean, I might be writing one book, but I have another proposal sitting there, ready to go. Or I have to deliver an Intrigue one month and a Berkley the next month. If I'm having trouble with one book, I'll put it down and work on the other one--until I figure out the basic problem with the book that was giving me fits.
I just wrote 100 pages of a Berkley novel, a sequel to BEYOND CONTROL, called BEYOND FEARLESS. It’s about sexually linked telepaths whose powers increase when they link up with their soulmate. But I think those 100 pages are going to turn into 90 pages because the beginning needs tightening. When I edit, I often tighten what I’ve written. And I’m just as likely to expand the text. It all depends on what I think the book needs.
I had to put my Berkley book down because I'd planned a research trip to Boston, for the Intrigue that's due in a couple of months. I'd written the whole draft of that ms, guessing about the settings in some scenes. Once I saw the real locations, I changed some of the scenes to fit the actual settings-–and added missing details that I never would have known unless I’d been there. Now I'm editing the book once on the screen. When I finish that, I'll go on to the paper editing. When that book is finished, I'll go back to BEYOND FEARLESS..
One reason I try to write fast is so that I have time to put each book away for a while. When I pick it up after a few weeks of working on something else, it's easy to see any problems with the ms, because it's like someone else wrote it.
If you’d like to discuss productivity, let me know.