Some people ask me how I’m able to write so fast. When I’m writing by myself and not with a co-writer, I’ve developed a process that speeds things up. Like many writers, I have so many story ideas and I need to get them out of my head.
I’ve learned to focus on what my readers want, not what the haters, or the Grammar Nazis, or fellow authors want. Marry what my readers want with what I’m passionate about writing and I have something that feels right.
What should I write about?
First, I start with a sub-genre that has many rabid fans and low-competition.
Then, I think of a hot idea I want to write about and marry that with the tropes that the readers of that sub-genre expect.
I’ve learned that many readers want a series. So, lately I’ve been releasing trilogies all at once rather than making the readers wait. Don’t you hate watching a great TV show and you have to wait until next week or next season? I don’t mind a cliff-hanger as long as the next episode is ready when I want it and as long as the end of the series is completely satisfying. I do the same with my books.
Creating great characters.
I make sure to design a “dream guy” that’s the type of guy that we wish our partners or husbands or boyfriends would be or that they are on their best day.
They shouldn’t be perfect, they can be flawed and that’s fine. What gal doesn’t love a good fixer upper project, someone who has the potential to be a great love interest. I think about my reader too. Do they want a husband or do they want a hot boyfriend? That determines what kind of character I design too. The easiest way is to just take elements of people I know already and merge them together.
Then, I create a protagonist we can relate to, who is a hero and can act the way we wish we had the guts to.
Outlining the story.
Then, I outline the story. Just a couple of sentences per scene is fine. It shouldn’t take any more than 1-2 hours to outline the entire book and I do this by asking myself one question: Does this scene make us long for these two to be together? If not, I change or cut it.
My secret sauce for speed writing.
When I’m done, I “scriptment” it. Meaning, I write only the dialogue of the scene and I start from the climax of the scene until the end. I don’t worry about writing how the scene began and I have just enough description to hold the dialogue together. Sometimes I don’t even worry about quotation marks or dialogue tags. I leave all the typos in-tact. I skip the sex scenes until later. Scriptmenting the story should only take 1 full day to do.
Making a list, checking it twice.
Then, I go through each scene and ask myself, “What would the dream guy do/say/feel in this scene?” and “Is the protagonist acting like the person we wish we could be if we had the guts?” I’ll make little notes on the side if there are changes that need to be done. If I get stuck, I ask myself, “What do the readers want to happen here?” and I have a checklist of questions I ask myself about each scene, a bag of tricks I noticed my readers want that I use if I need to. Other than that, it’s just my gut. Does this scene feel right? If so, I go with it. I don’t rewrite and rewrite. To me, that’s ridiculous. I’ve learned to stop doing that and to stop over-analyzing. It doesn’t make the story any better and doesn’t gain one more reader. I learned to trust my subconscious mind. I know what feels right. We all do. I’ve read enough books, watched enough movies, listened to enough people’s anecdotes to know if a story feels right.
Then, I go through each line of dialogue I wrote and make sure that there’s a variation with the dialogue tags. Although I only use “said” or “asked” (rather than snarled or replied or yelled), sometimes I’ll say “said Bob” or other times I say “Bob said” or sometimes I start the sentence by saying “Bob said,” rather than ending the dialogue that way. Just to give the reader variation.
If I’m working with a co-writer
At this point, if I’m working with a co-writer, I hand this scriptment over to them with notes about the characters’ backgrounds, links to photos of actors or settings; whatever I think they might need. I tell them not to touch the dialogue and usually the opening or closing paragraphs because I have a feel for those.
Then, I go back and read what they’ve written, sometimes all at once, sometimes in chunks of chapters, and totally rewrite sections or just edit sentences here and there to make sure it’s in line with my vision of what I believe my readers want. I make sure the voice is exactly like my writing voice. Sometimes that means throwing out thousands and thousands of words they wrote and totally rewriting them. Other times, it means just changing a few key things.
I’m not focused on grammar and spelling. That’s for the copy editor. I focus on what I love and what I believe I’m best at telling a great story and creating great characters. By the time I’m done with my work, the reader shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between what I’ve written myself and what the co-writer has done.
Filling in the details.
The last step is embellishing the details. The way I do that is starting with the opening line of the chapter or scene. If something doesn’t come to mind, I start with writing what’s at stake for the protagonist in the scene.
Then, I write what the character is sensing (all 5 senses) about the setting about the characters. I write what I like to call an opinionated description about that setting or character or even prop piece.
Writing the setting and descriptions.
The last step of the embellishment process is when I write what the protagonist of the scene feels about what was just said, how we know from their actions and last what they’re thinking right now in that moment.
By the time I’m done with each line of dialogue, there’s about 1500-2000 words in the scene, sometimes more. I’m able to write about 3000-4500 words an hour this way using the 2nd secret sauce ingredient.
2nd secret sauce to speed writing.
To speed up this embellishment process, I sometimes use Google Voice Typing, which dictates what I’m saying. I don’t bother correcting the errors until I’ve done a bunch of scenes or even until the end of the day if I’m on a roll. I’ve worked with transcriptionists on this type of work as well. It depends on the timing and budget.
I will sprint with other writers in our secret Google Chat group. Usually 15-minute sprints, with 5-minute breaks. Sometimes I will do 6-8-minute sprints before my A.D.D. sets in. That may mean writing long hand to keep away from the computer or using the Writer’s Block software which blocks out the whole screen except for the manuscript you’re working on. Or if I’m working with Google docs, I might use the free Strict Workflow chrome extension which is like a Pomodoro timer and an internet blocker rolled in one.
Sex scenes are about more than just plugging a hole to me. There’s always a goal, an agenda. Sex is just a tool for the characters to get what they want. Is it to be loved? To punish, to reward, to use sex as a transaction? Is it to gain revenge? And I think what can I do differently this time in terms of positions or where they have sex? Sometimes that requires lots of eh-em … “research” online or asking my readers questions about what they enjoy or wish their partners would do. I think about my own fantasies too.
What about editing and proofreading?
Other than punctuation and a handful of grammatical things I like to be aware of (such as reducing passive voice, show don’t tell, and reducing extra words like “just”) which I do with find and replace or running it through grammarly and/or autocrit, it’s ready for my alpha readers.
Working with alpha, beta readers, copy editors and proofreaders.
These alpha readers are given 24-48 hours to read it. They love the challenge and I love them, I couldn’t do my books without them.
Then it goes to either a copy editor and/or proofreader. Sometimes I’ll send it to a copy editor before the alpha and beta readers. But I don’t focus too much on being anal about editing. Real readers, my fans, don’t care about passive voice, etc. They just want a great story they can read and not too many typos.
Focus on what matters (tip: it’s not grammar and spelling)
No matter how many editors, beta readers, proofreaders, etc., that help you with your book, there will always be errors. The Big 5 publishers’ books have the same issues. And taking out passive voice or not ending your sentences with prepositions never sold one extra book.
If your readers are mostly Grammar Nazis, Ivy-leaguers, educators, fellow authors, etc., maybe they prefer what they deem as a flawlessly edited story over one that is a page turner. I write under different pen names. Jamie Lake is one of mine and those books are sometimes for a different audience than books written under my real name or other pen names I may have. Only you know your audience, focus your energy on what your readers care about, not the haters. Haters gonna hate and lovers gonna love.