Methods of Novel Writing: One Author, Two Books

I'm working on several projects at the moment. Actually, more than several. In order to keep myself working as efficiently as possible, I've given up on working on one project at a time. I've developed enough as a writer to be able to handle switching back and forth between projects.

When I get tired of working on a project for the day, I take a break and shift gears to a different project. This, honestly, lets me get twice as much done in a day. Just because I tire of working on one novel doesn't mean my creativity has curled up and died. All it means is that I simply can't continue working on one specific piece anymore for that day.

Working on something new (for the day) lets me overcome my natural boundaries and make the most of my time.

That said, I've noticed something very interesting about how I'm working on two of my novels.

Storm Surge by RJ Blain - Small No TitleExhibit One: Storm Surge.

This novel releases in mid April. Editorial is already going fast and furious on the book. I'm also working on the climax arc of the novel, changing things up, expanding, and otherwise improving the story. I'm also fixing the things that my editor tosses to me as I'm working on the ending of the book.

I like working this way because I know that if she spots something that impacts the ending of the book, it's significantly less work for me. So far, there hasn't been anything of that nature yet–thank goodness!

Storm Surge has been a fun but difficult novel–but not difficult in the same way Winter Wolf was difficult. It's difficult because I'm having to rearrange and correct a lot of arcs.

I made a substantial change early in the novel. I had to correct everything from chapter four onward, roughly. This was a lot of work, and boy, do I mean a lot of work. I'd probably already be finished this book if it hadn't been for this alteration.

I'll be done on time, of that I have no doubts. Now that I'm beyond the major alterations point, the novel is a lot of fun to work on. I'm really enjoying the continuation of Requiem for the Rift King.

I know this series isn't going to be a huge money maker for me, but damn, I love telling this story–even if I break all of the rules for the sake of telling the story I want to tell. I don't know how much of an audience I have for this oddball epic fantasy, but I really love telling the story of these characters, exploring their relationships, and delving into what makes these people tick.

It appeals to my love of a slow burn and characters living in the moment. The plot arcs aren't what people expect–sometimes, I choose to end a novel because it's a place where they have a chance to catch their breaths, not because ‘this is the end of an actual story.'

Often, the ending of the novels in this series is really just the beginning of another story. Ideally, I would have written the entire ‘series' as one gigantic novel, but that's a bit beyond my current abilities and scope. So, as a result, while I try to give as much of a proper ending to the novels I can, this series is the lives of the characters dealing with ever-worsening problems.

I had to compromise in a lot of ways on Storm Without End (Book 1), and I opted for the more open end leading into the second book rather than tying every loose end up and making it feel like the novel was really one story, when it's really a catalyst for the rest of the series.

Hopefully those who enjoyed Storm Without End will come back for Storm Surge. Even if they don't, I'm finishing this series because it's my baby. So there.

Back on subject: I wrote this book by writing it by hand first. (Yes, I need a mental examination, how did you guess?) So far, Requiem for the Rift King has filled two moleskine journals and a cute little Italian leather journal. I've already started book three, which is in a Hobbit special edition Moleskine.

Once I finish handwriting the novel, I transcribe it, doing all of the edits as I input it into the computer. This is a long and often tedious process, as I'm doing a lot more editing than I am writing.

RJBlain-BloodDiamond-Concept1Enter Exhibit Two: Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond is book three of the Witch & Wolf series. (Seriously, if you want to support this novel, go buy Inquisitor and Winter Wolf–or Storm Without End / Storm Surge. More books happen when fans speak out by buying books.)

I am writing this book scene by scene in a Moleskine. It's a large, soft-covered one, and I love it to bits. After I write out the scene by hand, I go and immediately transcribe it. I do my editing, I fix things earlier, and handle the input into the computer before I start the next scene.

This is proving to be a much faster way of writing. I'm catching problems and plot issues as I transcribe and edit right away. There's very little adjustment to the overalls, because I'm doing those changes as I write. So, this novel is taking far less time than any of my other books.

At the rate I'm going, I will finish Blood Diamond far, far in advance. This is bitter and sweet–sweet that I'll have the book in the wings waiting for its turn to be published, but bitter that I have a pretty set publishing schedule at the moment and simply can't afford to push it ahead right now.

But I'm writing what really interests me right this moment, which is Storm Surge and Blood Diamond. I'm also throwing in some Project Zeta love, too. Zero will be my main publishing project after Storm Surge, which will be my debut into Science Fiction.

I'm looking forward to it.

But, back to the point again–two books are taking two totally different routes from concept to finish.

I didn't outline Storm Surge. I wrote it freestyle/pantsing. I outlined Blood Diamond aggressively. The outline is approximately 17,000 words. I've changed substantial parts of the introduction, but the key components are still present.

I wrote all of Storm Surge before transcribing. I'm writing Blood Diamond and transcribing on a scene-to-scene basis.

I didn't really use a beta reader for Storm Surge. I have one, but she's there to enjoy the story, not spank me into writing better. (Hi, Sue! I love you!) For Blood Diamond, I have a very aggressive beta reader who is also scolding me each and every time I make even a single spelling error. (Bite me, Beta Reader. I hate you… sorta. Okay, I both love and hate you, but you keep making me fix my spelling errors while transcribing. It's not fair!!)

Hey, even I need pats on the head and told I'm doing a good job. I'm fragile, okay?

Why are you choking on your beverage? Hey, don't laugh… that's not nice! I'm a delicate and fragile flower, didn't you know this?

Maybe I should stop handwriting all of the novels I'm working on and haul ass on transcribing them, thereafter adopting Blood Diamond's method… because holy shit, it's working. It's really, really working.

Leave a Comment:

SA Merk says February 25, 2015

Thanks for this. Awesome info. Keep up the good work.
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Cy Wyss says March 3, 2015

You mentioned you have a set publishing schedule. I’m curious—how did you come by it? Do you sit down at the beginning of a year and set exact dates? Does the schedule change as you’re progressing along it? Also, how long do you allow for draft zero to finished? Thanks, RJ!

    RJBlain says March 3, 2015

    I have to work around my editor, who has medical issues, so I have to set a schedule in advance and bust ass to keep as close to it as possible. I set the schedule (with my editor) in January up until June. We’ll adjust it more to her needs than mine, but it works well!

    I set publication dates depending on what I think I can do and add three or four weeks. That typically ensures I’ll be ready on time. I work best under deadlines, as I don’t like missing them–but I try to make certain I give myself leeway in case I do. For example, I’m a bit behind on Storm Surge, as real life things have happened, but we’ve adapted to make sure I reach my publication schedule. It’ll be okay, though my next set release date I’ll give myself more time on.

    I typically determine my schedule by my editor’s need.

    As for draft zeros, I hand write them, so I give them however long they need. I tend to be more militant about the transcription phase, as I don’t have any excuses there.

    That said, the handwriting process is my favorite part of the whole thing, so I don’t tend to need as much time for my draft zeros as I do for my ‘first drafts’ which are the ones input into the computer.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t tend to need a second draft any more. I just polish and repolish and repolish the first draft.

    It takes me 1-2 months to finish a draft zero if I’m really working hard at it.

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