Writing a Book – How I Finally Finished One

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote my debut book, Blue Violet, two years ago.  It was the first time I’d finished a full book. I’d taken a whack at writing a book about ten times before. With Blue Violet I finally found the method that works best for me!

In previous attempts, I tried to write in a linear fashion. In other words, I tried to write everything in order.  And that’s exactly why I never finished one of those attempts. As soon as I wasn’t sure how to move a scene forward, or connect one scene to another, or plod through creating the “boring filler” parts, I would get stuck. Total writers block. I’d stall out and that was the end of that book.

I took a completely different approach for Blue Violet. I wrote separate scenes in chunks, regardless of how they fit together at the time.  If I got stuck on one scene I’d highlight where I got stuck in yellow and come back to it later.  If I didn’t have a scene to connect it to yet, or didn’t know how to connect it, I highlighted the words “come back to this” in yellow.  Frequently I would be in the middle of one scene and get an idea for a scene that was going to be in a completely different section of the book, and I’d be writing both scenes at once.

I liken it to the way I watch TV. I simply can not watch one show at a time. I flip through all my favorite channels and find two, often three, different channels to watch. As soon as a commercial comes on or I get bored with the scene on the current show, I flip to the next show. DVRs are horrible for me for this reason. It’s a habit that drives my husband absolutely nuts.

Once I had all of the main chunks of the book written, I started connecting the dots, so to speak.  Add a section here, put some filler there, and wham, I finally finished writing a full book. I can not express enough to you how thrilled I am about this fact (sad given that I’m a writer and should be able to express these things in flowing words.)

It makes it a little tricky to keep track of all the details as I go. So I’ve started keeping a separate document to track the details: characters (even minor ones that get a one-sentence mention), powers, and story lines. I now understand how writers of series – books or movies – sometimes get minor details in there that are contradictory or make no sense.

As soon as I found my incredible editor, Wendy, I had my second ah-ha moment. She pinpointed the boring filler that had been added late in the processes in about two seconds. And she was so right. It was boring. And that’s when I learned that you don’t always need the filler – especially if it’s boring or doesn’t move the story along in some way.

So here’s my formula: write the book in scenes as they come to me, keep track of the details, and connect it all later but only with additional scenes that continue to move the story forward.

I’m already in the process of writing the follow-up book to Blue Violet using this methodology. Which is why I know I’ll be successful finishing this one too. So, to mix a few metaphors, I’m on a roll, I’m in the zone, and I don’t planning on jumping off this merry-go-round any time soon.

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