Guest Post: My Writing Process Before vs After the Book Deal

Amie says: Ever wonder how things change once your book has sold? Today we have a book post from the very lovely Amy Tintera, author of REBOOT! She’s going to talk to us about how her writing process changed–including the things she thought she’d do forever, that she threw overboard instead!

RebootHi Pub Crawl readers! As an avid reader of the blog, I’m so excited to guest post today!

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 Author PhotoAmy 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.


14 Responses to Guest Post: My Writing Process Before vs After the Book Deal

  1. Anita Jun 12 2013 at 7:30 am #

    It makes me happy to hear that I’m not the only one that likes to write first drafts by hand. But my process is a little different in that I’ll write a chunk in a composition notebook (maybe a chapter or half a chapter) and then type it out with a little bit of editing. Then repeat. I am trying to get myself to draft on a computer, but sometimes I’ll just end up staring at the screen.
    Thank you for talking about your writing process.

    • Amy Tintera Jun 12 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      I’ve heard you use a different part of your brain when writing by hand, which is interesting. I sometimes still miss drafting by hand! I may go back to it one day, if time allows.

  2. stephanie garber Jun 12 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I think being flexible is great advice! You have a great attitude. I really enjoyed reading about your writing process and how it’s changed. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy Tintera Jun 12 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  3. Romily Bernard Jun 12 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Oh this is really cool! I’m changing my process around too and, for Bk 3, will probably try something completely different…that is to say “try” I’m not sure outlining the entire book before writing it is going to work AT ALL, but I need something to speed me up.

    It was so nice getting to meet you at the Harper-Collins party. I thought REBOOT was wonderful so it was super cool for me to see you 🙂

    • Amy Tintera Jun 12 2013 at 5:59 pm #

      It was so great to meet you too! I can’t wait to read FIND ME! 🙂

  4. Alexa Y. Jun 12 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks for sharing about your writing process! It’s interesting to see how it changed from before publication to what it is after publication.

  5. Ifeoma Dennis Jun 12 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I agree with Stephanie and I really loved reading about your writing process and flexibility! It’s important and just last night, I was thinking in a similar vein (to be specific, whether I should stick to Word or give Scrivener a try)…
    Good luck with everything!

  6. Kim Jun 12 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    This is a really interesting post, thank you for sharing! Writing your entire first draft by hand is really impressive. I could never do that. Mostly because my handwriting is pretty horrible, so I wouldn’t know what I wrote. I hope your next non-Reboot related book sells 🙂

  7. Margaret Alexander Jun 15 2013 at 5:31 am #

    I couldn’t imagine writing an entire draft by hand as I’ve never done it. Everything’s been purely on the keyboard for me, but I like to change it up now and then, so I’m starting to drift a bit more to handwriting. Something about putting yourself in a new environment or giving yourself a different tool to work with makes you think differently. I find this helps especially when writing a scene that just doesn’t seem to be working. The solution, most often, is to rewrite it completely, and sometimes that takes a new mindset. Thanks for sharing your awesome writing process 🙂 Super excited about Reboot!

  8. Sorcha Jun 15 2013 at 8:53 am #

    I find I write very differently by hand or while typing. I’m so quick at typing (even on an iPad) that what I write becomes so sparse because I’m flying through things too quickly. But by hand I’m PAINFULLY slow and 100% sure I don’t hold my pen properly, whoops? I think a mix of the two will probably work best for me — but it’s great to hear from your experience that sometimes as your circumstances change what works for you (or what you have to make work) changes too. Makes sense!

  9. SBibb Jun 19 2013 at 12:04 am #

    Interesting post, and very informative. I would go nuts writing the draft by hand (I’ll make notes by hand, but trying to decipher them later is interesting). I also don’t like showing my first draft to people before hand. I’d at least want to make some edits, though I might be more willing to edit sections before the draft is done. (Not yet published, but working on a series of manuscripts). Kind of neat to see the process of someone who currently has a book deal, though. 🙂

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  11. Joe Ponds Nov 11 2015 at 10:01 am #

    This is a good book which I want to read. Thanks for sharing.

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