The Writer’s Workflow

Writing this past month became easier when I found my natural rhythm for the workflow. Since the project manager at my job told me to walk away from work at lunch time, I been taking my lunch breaks in my mobile office—a 1994 Pontiac Grand Prix—to edit the current manuscript. As for eating lunch, I’m following a low-fat, sugar-free diet of crackers, granola bars, puddings, and yogurt that I eat during my 15 minute breaks at work.

Depending on the material I’m editing, I can usually get two to five pages done per day for 10 to 25 edited pages per week. I spend two to four hours each night after work to finish editing, updating the e-file with changes, and/or composing something new in longhand or on the typewriter for two to five pages.

The weekends are for pursuing other creative endeavors, like making Japanese Noh masks in clay, running errands, playing video games (*cough* research for my novel *cough*), and reading dead tree books. I don’t write on the weekend unless I have a self-imposed deadline or an inspiration to do so. This is working out quite well even though I want to push myself to do more writing than I have time for.

While editing the first draft of my vampire novella for a month felt like downing, editing the second draft over a two-week period went by much faster. Editing a chapter per day made a huge difference in my productivity. Whatever concerns I had regarding the other chapters relative to the chapter that I was editing, I wrote down my concerns on a notepad and made the changes later.

The second draft ended up being 97 pages long, divided into 14 chapters, and the 19,000+ word count was equivalent to the word count for the 22 short stories I had previously written. Editing the third draft starts the next week. I expect this will take two to four weeks to finish since this will be the last draft. The finished manuscript should land on the desk of an unsuspecting editor next month.

When I put aside my novella after finishing the second draft two weeks ago, I decided to restart my first novel based on my six years as a video game tester. Editing the novella taught me a few things about handling longer works.

The first thing to toss out was the poster board and index cards for the outline. I downloaded, evaluated, and bought a license for OmniOutliner, an electronic outlining program for the Mac. Working on the outline became a form of pre-writing that expanded my limited vision of the novel.

The half-dozen scenes that I had in mind for the first few chapters became separate chapters in the outline. I started rearranging the outline as needed when writing the chapters. The first chapter is already written. The second chapter will get done this week. My current plan is keep writing a new chapter every week until I complete the rough draft with 35 chapters. The manuscript of my first novel should finish by July 2009.

“The Uninvited Spook” got published in The Storyteller (July/August/September 2008). An envelope came in the mail with $3.02 USD (a quarter-cent per word) in cash for the story. No contributor copy. I’m not vain enough to order a copy that cost more than I got paid to write the story, even if it is my first published story to appear in print. The sad thing is that $3.02 USD doesn’t cover a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread in this economy.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.