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131 Steps to Writing a Novel

Posted: 12/19/11 02:47 PM ET

After my second book, Pharmacology, came out on Dec. 6th, a few people have asked what my process was. Got me thinking about everything that not only goes into writing one of these beasts, but how crazy I drive my marketing, editorial and design teams.

So, here it is: Full Frontal Disclosure of the Madness:

1. Sit down.
2. Pace.
3. Write 20 pages.
4. Wonder if you can go further.
5. Pace more.
6. Eat.
7. Don't sleep.
8. Push forward.
9. Look in phone book for character names.
10. Push forward to 50 pages.
11. Don't look back.
12. Complain on Twitter that you're characters aren't cooperating.
13. Write email to your editor telling them you're almost done and can't wait to send it to
them.
14. Be happy when they send you email back saying they can't wait.
15. Write another 10 pages.
16. Listen to your characters who are now talking to you.
17. Believe that people in the subway talking to themselves are really telling you
how to finish your book.
18. Don't believe it.
19. Write another 30 pages.
20. Sleep but not deeply.
21. Wake up early and try to push more out.
22. Realize that now, nearly 100 pages in, you've just now found the beginning.
23. Make yourself believe it was all character development.
24. Figure out a way to make what you thought was the beginning, the ending.
25. Realize that there is a life out there and you might be wasting it by siting inside writing.
26. Go outside.
27. Realize that nothing matters until you've finished and go back inside.
28. Find it impossible to communicate with actual people because you can't control what they
say.
29. Talk only to your characters.
30. Finish the middle and know that it doesn't make sense.
31. Eat a full meal.
32. Sleep and worry that you don't have an ending.
33. Take a walk and try to forget about your book.
34. Think about other books you should be writing instead.
35. Start yelling at your book.
36. Be lost in the darkness of realizing that you're not doing enough for humanity by writing a
book.
37. Talk to yourself about how great it would be to make something with your hands and sell
it in a small town somewhere.
38. Laugh.
39. In that moment of laughter, catch your ending.
40. Write. Write. Write.
41. Put "The End" on the page.
42. Know that you're only at the end of draft #1 and you now have to start editing.
43. Write to your editor again and tell them any day now.
44. Think about all of the other manuscripts that they're reading and how none are yours.
45. Get motivated by that and start editing faster.
46. Map out the paths your characters took.
47. Write outlines for all the events that have taken place in your story.
48. Beat yourself up for not having done that in the first place.
49. Cross out.
50. Delete.
51. Rewrite.
52. Sleep but not really.
53. Tape up your outlines on the wall.
54. Be happy you're not looking at blank walls.
55. Finish the rewrites.
56. Take out characters that aren't needed.
57. Combine multiple characters into one.
58. Tell yourself that's your process and you meant to do that all along.
59. Finish second draft.
60. Show it to that one person you trust to be real with you.
61. Start on 3rd draft.
62. Tell yourself that you'll be sending it to your editor after this pass.
63. Give yourself a must hit deadline to get that done.
64. Turn down every social invitation to hit that deadline.
65. Alienate everyone who wants to help you.
66. Tell yourself that the book will serve as an apology.
67. Take that final weekend and finish.
68. Finish.
69. Try to share the joy in finishing and realize you've pushed everyone away to finish.
70. Look out the window and smile.
71. Write your editor and let them know it's on the way.
72. Send that email and realize you now have to live life until you get a response.
73. Email comes saying they like it.
74. One day of sublime joy.
75. Introduction to the person who will copy-edit your book.
76. Fun times of complete trust of a person you never met.
77. One month of back and forth.
78. You develop deep love for someone taking time to go into your work and help it where it
has fallen.
79. It's ready and copy-edited.
80. Release dates are lined-up.
81. Cover design time.
82. No.
83. No.
84. No!
85. Not Close.
86. Almost.
87. Yes!
88. Your designers and editors can't believe how many emails you are sending them.
89. You switch over to maniac level of cry baby.
90. Proofreading.
91. Accept everything. Just accept all changes!
92. Marketing people time!
93. Everyone is happy on the first phone call.
94. You tell them how important the book is and how you think it can change the world and
that you are hoping they can get everyone in the world to love and buy it.
95. You want Chuck Palahniuk to write a blurb for you and mention it three times to them.
96. You write them a thank you email and casually mention again that you are looking forward
to getting that Chuck Palahniuk blurb.
97. You wait because it's 4 months until the book comes out and there's nothing any human
can possibly do for you but hell, you've just written your book and everyone in the world is
waiting for it! Marketing people are drinking heavier because of your emails.
98. Final Proofs come back.
99. ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) is ready!
100. Now you can.... wait.
101. Hello: publicists phone call!
102. You tell them how your story will be great in Rolling Stone and Vice!
103. You ask them if they know Chuck Palahniuk because the marketing folks have already
contacted him and he's probably excited about your book!
104. Advanced reader copies (ARC) go out and you... wait.
105. You send countless emails to the marketing team expecting them to do amazing things
with an ARC that are impossible to everyone with a sense of reality. You are not one of
those people.
106. You think you're bothering the marketing people too much, so you switch your attention
to the publicists.
107. When is your review in the New York Times coming out?
108. Is Chuck Palahniuk's quote in there or are they saving it for the back of the book?
109. The publicists and marketing folks are telling you to calm down but you can't hear a
word they're saying.
110. Your editor is trying to calm you down.
111. Don't they realize your whole life is riding on this book?
112. They are taking their time to make calls on your behalf and don't have time to babysit
you.
113. You start thinking that maybe you've been too much of a maniac with the 34 emails over
the last two days.
114. Doorbell rings and the UPS guy hands you your books.
115. Only you can understand this moment.
116. It's lonely. Sublime. Frantic.
117. You wait.
118. Marketing people lay out the plans.
119. Publicists tell you who's giving reviews.
120. You wish those phone calls with them would last forever.
121. Silence.
122. Release date.
123. Check Amazon for sales rank 146 times.
124. Check Chuck Palahniuk's sales rank and realize he's not writing you a blurb.
125. Marketing and PR folks write you congrats emails and call you and send you Scotch.
126. Your editor tells you to enjoy and drink. Please drink.
127. Flood their inboxes with questions they can't possibly answer and make them promise
your book will be a best seller.
128. You realize how insane you are once you send of those emails.
129. There is no way-back machine
130. Pray to the book gods for love.
131. Repeat.

 
 
 

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