Amazon Bestselling Fantasy Author
Elemental Experimentation, Week 1

Elemental Experimentation, Week 1

I don’t know how I write a book.

It’s not that I don’t know how to write a book (I’ve detailed the process here, here, and here). I have written ten books so far, most of them publishable, but I don’t know how I write a book. I still cannot predict how long a book will be based on the outline. I cannot predict how long it will take me to write a book. Even more nebulous: I cannot predict how long it will take me to edit a book.

I’m sure my process is riddled with inefficiencies! Plus, the inability to put each step into a reliable timeframe has prevented me from being able to set solid deadlines. This has been my largest take away from A Fistful of Frost.

Since I started Frost, I have spent 137 hours outlining, 236 hours writing, and 203 hours editing, and I still cannot tell you how many more hours this book will require before it goes to the copy editor. I can tell you that each of the steps I thought would take half the time it has. I can also tell you that I did not expect this book to be almost 150,000 words long.

Continuing to run my business without understanding how to measure all these variables is unacceptable and detrimental to my career. So I’m going to try something new with the next book:

I’m tracking everything with this book.

If you are newsletter subscriber, you already know that I’m writing a novella in the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles universe next. It doesn’t yet have a title, so I’m calling it Elemental for now.

Here’s a breakdown of my time on Elemental in the last two weeks:

  • brainstorming: 6.5 hours
  • outlining: 3*
  • beats: 4
  • writing: 4

(*This number is deceptive, because it does not include any time I spent thinking about the story while not at my desk. If I tracked all that time, the number would probably be closer to 20 or 30 hours.)

Beats are a new experiment for me. They take the outline, which covers the key plot points and the emotional arc, and drill down to the specifics of each scene before I begin writing. If an outline were a map of the state, the beats are the map of each city I’m going to pass through.

I have finished creating the beats for about half of the outline for Elemental, and it has really fleshed out the story in my mind. Earlier this week I began writing, and I found myself going a lot faster already, so I think this will become a permanent part of my process.

I am also trying a talk-to-text software to help me write faster. It’s an ongoing experiment, and one that I’ve tried twice before in the past when arm injuries prevented me from typing. As soon as my arms healed, I immediately went back to the keyboard without giving the software a solid chance, but this time I’m making an effort to use the software as much as possible. The goal is to become as fluent in speaking stories as I am in typing them.

I plan on doing regular weekly updates of my progress through Elemental here on the blog. I hope that it enables me to see the places in my process that are holding me back and slowing me down. The best thing about this is once I have figured out how to measure my process, I should be able to get more books out to you faster.

As always, I’m open to questions or comments!

Weekly Elemental Teaser – The Elevator Pitch

When a young air elemental journalist investigates the unrest of the local dryad population, she uncovers a deadly threat intent on destroying everything in its path—including her.

That’s right—Kylie is getting her own story! And as promised in my newsletter, there will be a gargoyle in the novella.

4 Responses to Elemental Experimentation, Week 1

  1. I love the gargoyles and am ready to read more in their world!!! Some time you will have to explain beats to me more. Is it a computer program, a way of writing, a way of tracking your outline?

    • Beats are a way to break down an outline into the chapters and then again into the pieces of a scene. I’ve done this sporadically in the past, but for the most part, I’ve just included notes about the scenes in whatever jumbled form they occurred to me. This helps me get organized before I’m writing, which should help the process be faster.

      It also helps me make sure I have the right tension in a scene, that each scene has a change in emotional value (the characters might start happy, but end scared, or vice versa but a scene without emotional change is a wasted scene), and that scenes end with a hook that keeps you reading, and reading, and reading!

  2. Hi Rebecca, when I read a book I’m always amazed at how it unfolds, some writers appear to have a goal in mind from the first word and some seem to be letting the story take them, then every now and again they try and reign it in a bit. Of the two methods I like the second becos you canna predict where the story goes, I read a lot, do you always know where yr story is going?

    • Hi, Floris! I ALWAYS know where my story is going by the time I start writing. The first few books I wrote in the early days (high school and college), I let unfold as they wanted, which meant the story branched in a dozen different directions, the heroine’s personality skewed every which way based on my mood that week, and the story had no cohesion. I know that some authors can write by the seat of their pants and get an actual finished piece, but I need the outline as a map.

      For me, all the “let’s see where this storyline goes” sort of thinking happens when I’m outlining and brainstorming. I typically fill 20-50 pages of a Word document with different “what if” tangents before I finalize an outline. I would actually LOVE if every word of my novel spoke to the goals of the book—the theme, the plot, the character arc. If they don’t I feel like I’m wasting scene/words.

      That said, I work really hard to create stories that don’t feel predictable to the reader. I want my stories to be novel and intriguing, and I want to take your imagination places you don’t predict. It’s a fine line to balance!

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