I get asked a lot on how to get a project from start to finish, and today I want to share some tips on how to get a book and script from start to finish.
The most important thing to becoming a prolific writer is to create a process that works for you and master it. e.g How many books/scripts do you want to write in a year? How much research do you need to do for your creative work? What are the things that stand in the way of you meeting your goals? (be honest with yourself)
Let’s go through the process step by step.
Whatever your target, now open your calendar and look at the 12 months in a year you have. Be brutally honest with yourself, are you able to write the same number of hours every month? Are there months that you are less productive? E.g for me, as a work from home mum, April, August and Dec are months that I’m less productive because kids are on school holiday and no matter what I set for those months, I will never be as efficient as the rest of the year. (You can imagine my life now with COVID and kids at homeJ but somehow I’m finding a way around it) So anyway be honest with yourself about your life circumstances e.g a job or consultancy, that might keep you from being prolific every month of the year.
TIP: Don’t start a project and leave it resting for more than a week, you will forget about it and will have to do a refresher on characters and the whole story when you resume, I’ve learnt this the hard way. You are better off scheduling 15 minutes of writing every day even in those crazy months than not writing at all as it will cost you weeks to get your mind back to your story.
So once you know how your months look like and how many books/scripts you want to write that year, then…….
- How many words/pages can I write in a day? Before you answer this, ask yourself, are you a plotter or a pantser? I.e Do you outline your story or do you discover your story as you go along? If you don’t know, then you might want to experiment with both and see which one gives you better results. There is no right or wrong way of doing things.
I am an outliner i.e plotter, I like knowing where I’m going before I come to sit down to write. So if you are an outliner, you need to schedule in time to outline your work. You could set aside an entire week to simply think through the story and outline it, then get writing it down. If you are a discovery writer i.e pantser, no need for this, simply jump into it, but of course having an idea of what your story is? Who wants what and is having difficulty getting it, an idea of some of the obstacles in their way, and of course being sure of the genre you’re writing helps you stay on track with your writing.
So anyway once you’ve nailed down the idea bit, you also need to know how much research you need for the particular story and how much time that will take you. You don’t necessarily have to nail all the research you need, you just need enough information to get you writing, the rest you can spend time in the evenings calling experts, googling and so forth.
Again, it’s time to be honest with yourself, this is not for show but for you. How many words are you comfortable to write in an hour?
If writing a book, If a script, how many pages are you able to write in an hour? Multiply this by the number of hours you’re able to write in a day*how many days of the week are you able to write? This is not the time for being a mackmende(hero) this is the time for brutal honesty. You might want to test out your writing process for two weeks, experiment, time yourself and see, then use what’s happened in your two weeks as the average. There are writers who write superfast! There are those who write super slow!
It is not a competition, know what works for you and make the best of it. So do the simple math. If you are writing a 90 page script. If you write 5 pages a day then you will be at 90 pages in 18 days! If you’re writing a 50k word novel and are writing 2,000 words a day=25 days.
TIP: Your writing improves the more you write and you’ll find yourself writing faster and better with more and more practice. Just like with sports, I can’t come out of my house and just decide to run 20kms! I’ll get injuries, but if I start small and keep practicing, staying consistent then 20kms might be a joke soon enough. That’s true of your writing.
3. The Editing Process: By the time you get here, you should have done some research on the type of editor your story needs. For books there are different types of editors.
There’s a copy editor or proof reader who deals with the grammar of your work, from the typos to grammatical sentences, to comas and so forth.
There’s a structural editor who deals with your story structure; is it flowing from beginning- middle- end, are stakes raised, do we have suspense and so forth.
There’s also a story editor or developmental editor who delves deeper into your story and characters to help your story and characters become the best they can be.
There’s a line editor and so forth.
As a book writer you need to figure out what kind of editor your story needs, so that you can do the best for your work and grow as a writer.
For scripts most times it’s the same editor doing it all and it works.
So the question to ask yourself is can you afford an editor? If you can then I highly recommend you do so as it not only makes your work great, but it grows you as a writer.
If you absolutely cannot afford an editor, then you want to find likeminded individuals who write in your genre, basically a group of friends and you can do each other favours by reading and critiquing each other’s work. No w/man is an island, if you don’t want to help others, no one will help you, it’s a give and take. So find someone or two to read your work and give you feedback.
Don’t rush to make changes, don’t rush to defend your work, be still, internalize the notes, don’t be stubborn if something tags at you based on some comment then it might mean it’s not working. At the same time, this is your story, you want the best for your story, so think through notes, implement them or not. You also need to give your readers/editor timelines so that you’re not waiting for feedback forever. Also give them the date you intend to send the work to them and check about their availability, don’t just drop it into their inbox.
TIP: If you’re writing a thriller, make sure your editor/readers know their stuff in as far as thrillers are concerned. Don’t get a romance editor to edit your thriller.
Don’t send a first draft to anyone. Make sure you reread your work, rework it before sending it to an editor/reader. Also don’t get into perfectionism as this is what kills most projects and stops them from seeing the light of day.
If you need some help on self-editing as well before taking your work to an editor. Check out a blog article I did on self-editing.
While your editor/reader is looking through your work, don’t sit nervously waiting. Get on with the next project. You can be outlining or researching and so forth. I’m currently writing a book series and when the first book will be with the editor, I shall get on with the next book. For scripts, get onto the next idea as well.
4. Copyright your work: In Kenya you can copyright with the copyright board, check them out online and the requirements. This is for both scripts and books. Please copyright your work before submitting it to any other person. It costs 1,000 In Kenya. Check out for your various countries. I cannot over emphasize why you need to copyright your work, protect yourself from thieves.
5. What next after editing: You give the book/script another pass, fixing notes etc. Then release the work to a would be reader (beta reader) for books, for scripts, give to a fan of the genre, a trusted person, plus a grammar teacher or someone good with their grammar to make sure they catch some things that might have missed your eye.
6. Book Cover and formatting: You could do this earlier or simultaneously as you write the book, get someone to design a cover for you. Unfortunately, with books, we judge a book by its cover so make sure you give it your best shot. You can also try designing your own if you have a hand in that check out www.canva.com among other sites that could help you design. Book cover designers are generally not expensive in Kenya. You can get designers from 2000bob. You can also format your book yourself or get someone to do it for you. www.booktemplatedesigns.com I once got a template from here but I didn’t have the brain bandwidth to do it, the formatting templates are as cheap as Ksh 2,000. I’m currently experimenting with a software called vellum. www.vellum.com because it’s been highly recommended by international indie-published authors. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s a one off purchase and I can format as many books as I want, both e-book and print. As I’ve been saying before, people spend money on their hobbies, clothes, phones etc. Writing books is moving from a hobby to a business for me and I’m willing to invest in it. I have and continue to make a living writing for film and TV since 2007, I intend to add books to my list of money makers, so I’m investing in it, I’m here for the long game. For script writers, before you make it big and can buy a formatting software such as www.finaldraft.com, you can use www.celtxt.com which is totally free and professional.
7. Pitch package: For script writers, this is the time to prepare a pitch package for your project. From the Log Line, Synopsis, Character Bios, Treatment. You want to have these ready because you just never know. You can try pitching the script to various competitions like Berlinale, and many others. If you just google, you’ll find.(and I update my email subscribers weekly on current competitions and opportunities) You could also put your pitch package up on www.inktip.com. I think for book people as well, you might try shopping it around if you want to get published. You might also read my article on why you should self-publish. www.damarisirunguo.com It opens your eyes to many possibilities. Don’t wait to be picked. Pick yourself, the publisher will find you as you move along. No publisher is eager to market a little unknown writer at the moment.
8. Indie-Publishing: With the click of a button, your books can be in some of these e-book stores such as Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google etc. You can also get your books into bookstores in Kenya such as Jumia, Nuria, Rafu books and many others who are selling indie-published books. They take 30 percent, you are left with 70 percent, the same is true for the e-book stores, all dependent on the price of your book. You can also sell directly from your website. I will write more on that in the future as I’m at this stage (Sept 2020) with my first Indie-published book.
Printing companies are many all over, make sure you ask them for a sample of work they’ve done for others before you use them. When it comes to a printer, I am working with one who a friend has recommended after getting satisfactory results from them, so do your research before rushing into it and getting poor results.
9. You’re a business: I think we sometimes forget that art is a business and we need to make money. The only way to make money is to repeat the process, avoid the next shiny thing syndrome, where you have lots of half-baked stuff and don’t get anything finished. Focus on one, finish, move to the next. The more units you have, the more money you’ll make in the long run. Books are assets. I know many script writers who don’t want to even think that they’d have to write books, I urge you to consider it, why? If Netflix approaches me today and want to buy my script, then I will sell them the script and I can’t write a book on the same topic after they’ve purchased the script or it might become a challenge. If I had a book, they would only buy the script, but the book rights remain mine, and if they want both, they would pay a very high amount for both. The trend is that, once a book becomes a TV hit, the book sales go up. It’s a different muscle to flex, and I won’t say that its easy, it isn’t and despite years of excellent TV and Film writing coming out of me, my few couple of books won’t be as great and that’s okay. I’m just doing it because I know the value of having a book in hand which I can adapt into a screenplay or a TV series.
So friends, consistency is King. Find a process that works for you and keep at it! Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!
I hope this helps you nail your process for your writing!
Feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
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