With the new year fast approaching, it’s time to start preparing for 2022. If one of your goals is to write a novel, I’d be happy to make the journey with you.
But before we ring in the new year, let’s take the next few weeks to think about a strategy for writing, editing and releasing our work.
I always put off my new plan until the beginning of next week, month or year. So it makes sense to use 1st January 2022 as the starting block for a new book.
With a good plan and a touch of discipline, we will be able to put 2022 to good use.
Below are my plans for drafting, editing and releasing the first novel of my second series.
I hope you join me.
Timeline for the first draft
I already have a vivid idea for what this new series will be about, and have a boat-load of ideas for scenes and characters.
This will make it easier when it comes to the planning stage which is in yellow (1st -9th Jan 2022).
Nine days should be long enough for me to draft a rough story arc. If you need longer, simply adjust the calendar to suit you.
I’ve set the weekends as blue to mark rest days. There’s no need to burn yourself out, so take a few days to rest.
- Remember, no one can definitively tell you how long each stage should or will last. Take as long as you need to identify and set your literary milestones.
Words count goal
With a story plan in place, and a good idea of how the narrative will pan out, I can set a daily word target.
To reach an estimated total word count of 80,000 words, I will aim for around 1000 words per day.
This should see the first draft finished in around eighty-eight [writing] days.
This is an achievable and realistic target for a first draft.
Although things might to slow down when we walk ‘the marathon of the middle,’ 1000 words per day can be split into two or three bite sizes of a few hundred words.
Also, if we overshoot this target on certain days, we will get a bit of a reprieve on the following days. But equally, if we underperform, then the total for the following days will increase.
- It’s a bit of a balancing act, but don’t stress if you fall behind. Merely adjust your calendar. You must be realistic. It’s unlikely that we can write every single day for 90 days. So, it’s better to be honest with ourselves and allow for rest days.
A great way to keep a bit of visual motivation is by creating a writing calendar like the ones above.
Let it rest
I will hate this part. And if you’re anything like me, so will you.
Put your pen down (or close your document) and walk away for May.
This is an important step in the process. And despite our impulses, we must refrain from reading our work.
Letting it rest will allow us to cleanse our palate.
To keep ourselves busy, now will be a great time to begin researching and engaging with professional editors.
Although they work on flexible calendars and can sometimes accommodate short notice submissions, it’s worth booking in a provisional time slot now.
I will be aiming for the first week of August for a professional developmental edit, and a copy edit in September. It will also give me some time to save for the expense.
For more on prices, feel free to take a look at How Much it Costs to Self-Publish a Novel.
Self-editing (1st -30th Jun)
**Before we go any further, we need to think ahead. Now is the time to recruit some beta readers. Ask a group of friends/family/members of reading groups to read your novel. Let them know when the book will be ready, and what on what date you’ll need their feedback. **
To give ourselves plenty of time to perform some aggressive self-editing, we will allocate four weeks (and some change). Here is another calendar for a visual prompt.
The first thing we will do is perform a full developmental edit of the overall story arc and character development. For some good advice on self-editing, check out this article.
My approach here will be to set up a manual or electronic story board. Then, I will read through each chapter and create notes on the overall theme of each chapter.
The things I will look for are:
- What is the goal of the chapter?
- Who are the characters in the chapter and how do they develop?
- What came before and what comes after (to show how it fits into the story)?
**During the read-through, I will be highlighting (not changing) spelling and grammatical errors**
This should only take a week because it’s an overview of the whole story and is not as detailed as copy editing.
Next, we will dive into the copy edit phase.
This is where we will read each sentence with absolute focus. The things we’ll be looking for can be found in the article that covers Copy Editors.
Finally, we will get stuck in to formatting and proofreading.
If we tackle some major formatting issues at this point, we will give our beta readers a better product to read. That way, they will be able to focus on the quality of the words rather than being distracted by poor layout.
A few weeks ago, you should’ve recruited some beta readers. And now is the time to use them.
I understand that not everyone can commit to read and provide feedback on a novel in a few days. So, I ask that they take the book for two weeks (1ST – 15TH July).
Draft a questionnaire and give them a date and time to sit down for a cup of coffee (or a skype call).
Then, we will listen to all the feedback from each beta reader and consider the points they make.
Over the following two weeks (18TH – 29TH July), make all the changes you think are needed, and prepare your draft for a developmental editor.
In May you should have researched and approached professional editors.
If you’ve worked with an editor before, and you liked how they worked, you are off to a winner.
A development edit takes time. When you approached your editor with a sample and estimated word count, they will have given you a rough idea of how long it would take.
Professionals will often overestimate this timeframe to afford themselves some flexibility. But for 80K words, it’s usually 2-3 weeks.
All you can do after submitting your work is wait. Or to be more precise, pull your hair out in anticipation and check your emails every few minutes for the feedback.
But, when you do get the document back, you’ll want to spend about two weeks working through each point they made.
Remember, not every point has to be changed or acted upon. But it’s worth giving each point due consideration. After all, your editor has done this hundreds of times on hundreds of different novels.
Their experience is worth its weight in gold.
Again, with some pre-emptive work, you should have a copy editor lined up to begin working on your novel after the developmental amendments are finished.
Let’s round it up to the beginning of the first full week, i.e. 5th September. And enjoy a few days of rest between the 1st – 4th.
This is a deep-clean of your novel and will probably require the full three weeks. And now, you’ll be back to checking your emails over and over again.
When you receive the document, you will need to take the same approach as you did before. Spend a week considering and applying the suggested changes.
Do not rush this part.
Read the sentences out loud with and without the changes. And remember, your editor doesn’t suggest changes on a whim. They make these suggestions based on years of experience.
** When you know how long it will take to make your changes, you should approach some proofreaders. According to this calendar, I will need proofreaders to take receipt of their copies around the 10th Oct.**
If you’ve been forward thinking during your writing and editing, this should only take a day or two. But if not, you should allow for five days.
Allocating a few extra days will give you enough time to get up and walk away from the screen for a few hours.
Formatting when you’re tired or bored is what allows errors to slip through the net. So, only work when you are focused. If it begins to feel like a chore, take a break.
** Early October will be a good time to identify a release date. I will be aiming for 1st December.**
I will also begin a marketing campaign. Share images and snippets from the book and start beating the drum. You want all your followers on social media to know that your new book will be out soon.
**You will also want to engage with Online Influencers and try to get involved in blog tours. This is also the time to recruit ARC reviewers. Inform them of the release date and set out some dates where they can receive, read and review your book BEFORE your release date**
For my proofreading, I’ll be asking friends and family to this time. Although I champion professionals at this stage, I’m going to try to make a saving at this point.
Remember, we are not looking for major changes now. They are only looking for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and formatting problems.
This will take around two weeks between the 10TH – 23RD October.
When this is stage is complete, I will take the last few days of October as rest days.
I will be releasing my novel on Amazon because it’s quite straight forward.
Amazon is so easy; it only takes a few hours to tweak the document for KDP and upload. However, you’ll want to make two versions: one for ebook, and one for paperback.
Amazon are also trailing hardback books, so it will be worth making a document for this too.
Again, very much like formatting, you must pay attention to the changes. After all, people will be paying for this so you must make sure it’s flawless.
Give yourself four days (1ST-4TH November) to research and carry out the Amazon publishing process.
But do not release it yet!
When the book is uploaded successfully, it’s time to order an author’s copy. You will also be able to download the ebook version.
Take your time and read through both copies to ensure there are no errors. If you find any, write them down, and carry on. When you have finished reading both copies, go to your publishing documents and make the changes. Then, re-upload the newest version.
In the mornings and in the evenings, get the word out on social media about your book and the approaching release date.
Get those fans excited about your latest novel.
Take part in blog tours and share any ARC reviews
On 1st December 2022, I will release the first book of my next series, and I hope you are releasing yours. I know it seems like a long way away, but it’ll be here before you know it.
The upcoming year could be the year you write and release your novel to the world.
Unless you carve out the time for all of the above, you might never do it. Please, don’t let that happen.
You might be telling yourself that nobody would ever read it, or you’re not good enough. And I am here to tell you that this is perfectly normal and every writer feels the same way.
Set out your calendar, sprinkle in some flexibility, and go for it!
This time next year, you could be a published author.