The Process: How I Write A Novel (Part 2)
 
So, it's been a little over two weeks since I finished my outline and I'm 30,000 words into the first draft. (If you missed the first installment, where I detailed the outlining process, you can read it here.) This is when the real fun begins. Oh, wait. Perhaps I should mention I usually struggle on the first 10,000 words or so.

This time was no exception. Opening  scenes and chapters are difficult for me. I have to decide how to jump  into the character's mind, how their thoughts and feelings have evolved  since the last book. Has time passed in their world and what  events occurred? I also have to figure how much back story to recap from  the previous novel: Too much, and binge readers just finishing the  previous book will get bored. Too little and people who are following  over the years it takes to write a series will feel lost. I think I  struck a good balance in Harbingers, so I'm going to use the same ratio in the sequel.

After getting through the opening chapters, things smoothed out, as I knew they would.  This is when writing a novel really gets fun. The story flows smoothly,  and you build a chain of events readers will enjoy. My outline is super  handy at this point, helping control pacing and making sure I'm heading  towards the key conflicts and events.

That's not to say it's always easy or flows perfectly.  Sometimes I get bogged down when I have to create the swaths of detail  for a new character, faction, or ability. Certain sections of dialog or  action come out perfectly, and others take more effort. I've learned to  embrace these swells, and not be too hard on myself when things take  more effort than usual.

Earlier, I mentioned I had written 30,000 words on the first draft.  Some of you may be wondering what that means, since we usually think of  a book's length in terms of pages. A typical paperback page averages  (depending on who you ask) somewhere around 300 words, so 30,000 / 300 =  100 pages complete.

Most sci-fi novels end up in the 100,000 word range, so that means I'm roughly 30% done with the first draft.  I say "roughly" because, as an independent author, I write my story for  my readers, and not the publishing industry. If I need more words to  tell the story properly, I keep writing. In the same spirit, I don't add  filler just to make the book seem more epic on a store shelf.

There  is also a lot of variability on the first draft because when I begin  editing, I might end up cutting or adding large portions of story as  need be. A 100,000 word first draft is my goal, but that has more to do  with pacing rather than a strict indicator of final length.

Since I  am a full time writer, I have quite a bit of time available to devote  to this manuscript. As an indie author, however, I have a lot of  responsibilities outside of just writing novels. I must continue  promoting my previous stories and novels. I have a community of patrons I write for on a monthly basis. I work on cover art, sell paperbacks, study marketing, and grow my social media presence.

During  this stage of novel writing, I typically spend mornings (my most  creative, motivated time) working on the first draft, and then  afternoons on promotions, blogging, short stories, and poetry.  By the time I quit work for the day, my brain is usually fried, but I'm  content. Depending on my other obligations, I find I can write between  10,000-12,000 words a week (meaning this first draft should take about  2-2.5 months start to finish). Writing at least my goal words per week allows me to get through this stage in a timely manner.

Process step 2: Start stringing words together, write solid opening chapters, stick to schedule, enjoy the process.