Finding Process

November has been over for ten days now, and I stopped writing Paragons two weeks ago. That was my fourteenth run at generating a manuscript during NaNoWriMo. I’m not going to assert that what I write during November is necessarily good, but it is written — I am going to claim that I have the word generation game* down.


What I am still searching for is a reliable method to convert those rough manuscripts into readable books.

My usual process so far has been:

  1. write the roughest of rough drafts in November
  2. stick it in a drawer for six weeks (pace Stephen King’s advice in On Writing
  3. read it (usually)
  4. do a typo and consistency edit
  5. flail around on a second draft
  6. return to step (1) for a new story idea the following year

Clearly, something must be done.


One of last year’s books, of course, was the exception. Livia and the Corpuscles (available now! Makes a great gift!) followed a different arc:

  • I read the book immediately
  • I drove it through a second and third draft where I was tracking errors and improvements in a structured way
  • I designed the cover
  • I got a friend to copy edit it
  • I put it out into the world

I am proud of Livia but it also felt hasty. There are things I would have added with more time, and another revision pass wouldn’t have hurt. What it is is good, but it could have been better.

I have also tried other editing processes:

  • I have redrafted several books
  • I did a detailed outline breakdown of one book (including a prototype of the detailed tracking I used to push Livia‘s editing)
  • in previous Novembers I’ve completed drafts and generated new material for others (“injecting plot” as I termed it at the time)

… but so far these have all run into the sand, or the weeds, or the snaggly barbed wire. I’ve lost my way on the changes I was making, or the next November rolled round to disrupt the work, or I simply ran out of steam. Or, in certain cases, the book simply collapsed under its own weight.

So, I am still looking for a process and I keep looking where I have already been because that’s what I know.

Something must be done, but not this.


I abandoned my regular goal posts last year fundamentally because it required too much energy to update them. Those posts were rather a victim of their own success – some goals worked, so more goals must be better, right? Well, not exactly. I liked the traffic lights and the performance metrics, but writing those posts was onerous.

What I am going to try for 2017 is the “three things” approach – set three things to do for each day, week, month and year. I’ve been using this at the day job for a few months now, and it’s been quite useful. It’s simple enough to be sustainable, but with the different ranges of the goals you can instil quite a lot of nuance into the things you’re trying to achieve.

So, look for a 2017 goals post coming up soon in which I will discuss a bit more about what process I am going to synthesise from one that produced results, and the ones I have used before that produced material I liked better.

It’s going to be an exciting year.

[*] starring Bruce Forsythe!

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