One of the questions I’m asked most often is about my writing process. Before I was published I could answer pretty easily, because I’d been writing for years, and I had a process that worked for me. But now? I’ve made a lot of changes, either because of deadlines or because I just needed to do something different.
When I wrote Reboot, I had several things that I thought were non-negotiable about my writing process. I’d figured out what worked for me, and it was exactly how I needed to write a book:
1. Write the entire first draft by hand.
I’d been writing my drafts by hand since middle school, it was just what worked for me. I wrote Reboot during my lunch breaks, on my yoga mat waiting for class to start, on the patio of a coffee shop. A notebook worked much better than a laptop for me.
2. Finish the entire first draft before editing.
I didn’t go back and fix things, I just kept moving. Finishing was the most important thing, because once I finished I could see the problems.
3. No one gets to see a first draft.
I didn’t let family, friends, and crit partners see manuscripts until the second draft, at the earliest. My experience with in-person critique groups (with screenplays) was not good. I hated showing people my work as I wrote it and having their feedback before I’d even figured out the plot myself. My first draft was just mine.
So let’s see what happened to my “non-negotiable” writing process after I got a book deal.
1. Write the entire first draft by hand. (A lovely idea, but not time-efficient.)
I started writing Reboot Book 2 by hand, and a did a few chapters that way. But I was a full-time writer now, and I didn’t need to squeeze writing in on my lunch break or on my yoga mat. I was faster, and more efficient on a laptop, and writing by hand just wasn’t going to work for Book 2.
2. Finish the entire draft before editing. (HAHA! You have time for that?)
This one turned out to be my most unrealistic non-negotiable. Everyone’s editor is different, but mine wanted to see a few chapters and a synopsis of Reboot Book 2 about five months before the whole draft was due. Or, about three months after I started writing it.
I tried to write fast, but when I got to about 45,000 words (I write short first drafts, so I was about 75% done), I looked at the calendar and realized I had to go back to the beginning and start editing if I wanted to make my deadline for the first few chapters.
3. No one sees a first draft. (Except sometimes they do.)
I stuck to that rule for Reboot. No one saw the 45,000 word first draft. But now it’s time to work on a proposal for my next (non-Reboot) book. I’m aiming to have at least a few chapters and an outline done to give my editor. And if I’m asking them to buy a book based on a few chapters? Those opening pages need to be awesome.
So, with only about 5,000 words done, I sent some pages to a writer friend. It made me cringe to think about someone reading my work at such a messy stage, but I really needed the feedback.
I think the most important lesson I’ve learned since getting a book deal is this: Be flexible. Know what you need to do to write a book, and then be willing to forget it all and try something else.
Amy Tintera grew up in Texas and now lives in Los Angeles, California. She has degrees in journalism and film and can usually be found staring into space, dreaming up ways to make her characters run for their lives. You can find her on Twitter, at her website, or on Tumblr.