I told you I’d be back to show you the progress I made for the rest of March. It’s fairly uneventful compared to my first week. That first week drained me. I knew I needed to slow down, so I started bingeing Hulu’s The Good Doctor to give myself a mental break.
At least 50% of the time, you’re going to slave over a prologue only to delete it later. You don’t want to info dump on your reader. That’s exactly what prologues do. Very rarely are they needed. You’ll see them a lot in thrillers as an excerpt of an event that happens later in the book. They do this because thrillers can start slow, but they want to capture the reader right away. Basically they cheat.
Make your opening chapter good enough that it doesn’t need a prologue. Write a prologue if you must, but be prepared to delete it.
First off, you need to make sure you have enough characters to support the plot, but few enough that you can develop them. Also note that you don’t want to repeat characters in future books (as in your next series), so make sure each character is unique. The more you have the harder that will be to achieve.
You have to think ahead to your next books. If you have an awesome main character name for a future book, don’t waste it on a character here. I recommend never repeating character names series to series. Readers who like all your books will thank you.
I recommend a generator, so that you’re not attached to the names. I only want to attach myself to the main character’s name. Those carry the most weight. I went more in-depth on names in my 7 Days to Launch a Penname & Book Series post.
3 Book Plots
If you have multiple MCs, you should plot the book in each of their perspectives, even if some of the characters aren’t together in the beginning, you need to know what’s happening in the background. You should also do this for your villain. This is how you will find twists you weren’t expecting and find plot holes before you write them.
Day 9 – Write Chapter 1
The first chapter of a new book will probably be the hardest you will write. Just suck it up and write it. If you’re a good writer, you’ll wind up rewriting chapter 1 several times. This is the case even with an outline. Characters should not pop out exactly the way you intended. You as the author might know everything about them, but you don’t know them until you write a few chapters or even a whole book. It’s okay if they contradict you.
I thought my character was going to be this girl who let everyone make decisions for her and didn’t believe she could be powerful, though she pretended she had confidence. I started writing her, and that changed. She is the most resourceful characters I’ve ever written, a real MacGyver. She is slow to stand up for herself with people who have hurt her in the past, but she has no problem challenging people she doesn’t care about.
You can’t know the exact instances your character will react to until you put them in those situations. If you do, your story is too rigid and you’re a puppeteer. Granted, I’m talking about the first few days writing them, not when you’ve been writing them for years, though they should grow as people and surprise you regardless. If your story never surprises you, you’re doing it wrong.
Book Page Setup
You’ve already setup an Amazon account. Now it’s time to create a title. Start doing some keyword research, upload your cover if you’ve gotten it back. Upload a temp file of an old work with your target word count if you have one. This will allow you to move to the next page and enter pricing information. Basically all you’ll need to do after this is launch your pre-order and upload the final file before the deadline.
Revise Chapter 1
I told you changes would come. Revising is not editing. Revision is fitting the chapter to a story structure, adding and deleting large chunks, adding descriptions, and changing dialogue tags to action tags. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, spend some time on the internet researching. These are basic 101 terms you should know if your book is going to stand a chance. That’s just the hard truth.
Revise Chapter 1 Again
Yep, you added large chunks, didn’t you? Trust me, they weren’t perfect the first time. Revise the whole chapter again.
Write Chapter 2
Chapter one should cause chapter two, unless chapter two is an alternate pov. If chapter one didn’t lead to chapter two, you’re story lacks structure. This isn’t hugely important in the first draft, but if you’re structure sucks, you’re going to be in store for some full rewrites.
Day 12 – Write Chapter 3
Yep, just keep chugging. You don’t have to do any revising in the first draft, thought it can be helpful in chapter one which is why I had three versions before writing the rest.
Day 13 – Launch Pre-order
This happened to be 90 days before my book release, so I launched the pre-order. You don’t have to do one, but it’s nice to have a link. Plus, it takes three or four days to see what categories you will rank in and gives you plenty of time to switch up your keywords to see which ones will work best. I recommend a 90 day pre-order the first time because prepping your book will always take longer than you expect.
I’m writing short episodes, so my goal is to have 2 episodes fully finished and 1 in edits by the time I publish the first one. I need the pressure of a deadline, but I want it to be reasonable. God forbid someone close to me dies and I can’t write for a week. Also, Amazon strips your pre-order privilege for a year if you don’t submit your file on time.
Day 14 – Take a Break
Yep, you need a break, especially if you worked at my rate. I saw Captain Marvel and Five Feet Apart. This was also my actually birthday weekend, so I celebrated with my parents at a Mexican restaurant.
Day 15 – Finish Rough Draft
As you come to the end, you’re going to rush the hell out of it, and it will suck. That’s okay, you’ll rewrite everything anyway. Rewrite? Yep.
Day 16 – Add Additional Chapter
Oh look. I read my draft and saw that I needed another chapters, so I popped it in.
Day 17 – Start 2nd Episode
You’ve got some momentum going! Yeah, just keep reading.
Day 18 – Continue 2nd Episode
Day 19 – Read Books on Writing Craft
To make your second draft good, take a refresher on story structure and nonverbal language so you won’t have every body movement a nod, a smile, or an eye roll. Boring!
I recommend The Emotional Thesaurus as well as their other books. I bought them all for about $35 and got a physical of The Emotional Thesaurus because I needed it on standby. Body language is my biggest writing failure. These books help.
For chapter structure, check out the Advanced Fiction Writing website.
For story structure, refer to the plotting section in my 7 Days post.
Day 20 – Make Character Cards
If you have a ton of characters, I recommend making note cards with their physical description as well as their unique characteristic and speech pattern (catch phrases, etc.). This will keep you from stopping a wordsprint to find what color eyes a person has on a random file. Pull the characters you need for the scene you’re writing. It’s much quicker.
Abandon 2nd Episode
That’s write. Moving forward wasn’t a good idea. Stay focused on your current draft. You’re going to change a bunch. Why waste your time on the next one, leaving yourself twice as much work.
Plan Chapters for Draft 2 of Episode 1
Which chapters for episode one will you keep? Which will you cut? Do you need to add more, switch time lines or characters causing the action? Jot down a sentence for each chapter you need.
Day 22 – Draft 2 Chapters 1 & 2
I do a complete rewrite. Yes, I wrote 8k words of draft one, but I’m not using any of those here. This time I’m following the chapter structure.
Day 23 – Plot Draft 2
First two chapters are done. It’s time to make sure it’s heading in the direction you wanted. If it’s not, you need to re-plot and adapt. Let the characters guide you.
Day 24 – Write Chapter 3
Day 25 – Write Chapter 4
Day 26 – Continue Chapter 4
Day 27 – Write Chapter 5
Day 28 – Revise
Day 29 – Revise
So that was the rest of March. In short, I researched story structure and craft, launched my pre-order, and wrote Draft 1 (8K) and Draft 2 (6.5k). I also gained 100 followers on Twitter without any follow for follow schemes.
Follow this blog for weekly progress updates. The rest will be short (maybe) and discuss accomplishments and failures.
In the meantime, what are you working on? (Elevator pitches only, no links.)