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How to Write a Book: Step One

Insecticide is published. It is a relief to be done. And, it has been nice to get good initial feedback—albeit amid meager sales. When I think about the sales, I remind myself that marketing the book was not one of my initial goals. My goals were: 1) to finish writing a book I liked, 2) self-publish, and 3) to not have the book be an embarrassment. I chose those goals because previously I’d been writing in circles. I started writing one book then realized I didn’t know how to end it and that it probably wasn’t interesting to anyone but me. I started writing a second book and did a little planning/outlining, but not enough to prevent from running into serious plot and technical issues midway through. I would go back to the beginning, rewrite to plug holes, then find more holes midway and start again. It became an unproductive, unfulfilling cycle resulting in approximately 500 pages of a book, which I don’t know how to finish and generally don’t want to look at.

So, I switched to Insecticide and spent more time planning, 27 hours to be exact. That was enough to get me through a first draft—which took 102 hours­—with no major holes. I showed the draft to family, then finished a second draft in just 21 hours. After getting more feedback, the third draft took 189 hours due to a lot of proofreading and shifts in character traits and behaviors that had to be interwoven into the entire story. Then, I moved onto formatting, what little marketing I did, more proofreading, and ultimately publishing. In total, the book took 457 hours. I know it’s not perfect, it could have been better with more work, but it satisfied­ my first two goals and hopefully the third.

Now, I have new goals for a new book and a new plan.

My first goal for the new book is to get faster, or at least more efficient. If I produce a better written and better marketed book in 457 hours that will be fine. But, I think I can get faster as well as more efficient. Second, I want the book to be better written—I think Insecticide was a little too long and meandered at points. Third, I want to vary my writing style to suit a different main character. Fourth, I want the book to be set in the same world—at a similar time—as Insecticide for readers who enjoyed Insecticide. I don’t think it will be Insecticide 2, but more likely a standalone book in the Winged Survivors world. I tried to interweave the struggle between delusion and reality into Insecticide and would like to carry that theme into the next book­—if not all books I might write. I’m thinking the main character in the next book will have flashbacks recalling extremist ideologies from contemporary life and how the fears they were predicated on turned out to rooted in delusion.

For now, step one is planning. I want to take more time planning than I did with Insecticide to fully solidify the ideas in this book and to try to think of meaningful character traits and behaviors that will make the book feel real early in the process this time.

So, that’s step one in my process of writing a book: plan, plan, plan via an outline and accompanying spreadsheet where I keep track of the story’s minutiae. I’m already at 23 hours of planning and think it might take double that before I’m done. I’ll include marketing in my plan this time and this post is an early effort in that direction. 😊


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