4 Things That Develop As You Write More Books

I finished my second book (kinda). Yay, go me. By kinda, I mean it’s all but on it’s way to beta readers, which means it’s had a big edit and a proof from me and Mr Grammarly, the cover is done (cover reveal coming soon) and the blurb is looming like a nasty plague eyeing my self-doubt hungrily in the corner.

I thought, given it’s my second book, and it feels like a milestone, I’d do some reflection. I’ve done a couple of these posts, one when I finished my first book (9 Secrets Successfully Completing That First Draft), and another after all the editing and completing the second draft (13 Things I learnt From Completing Draft Two)

This post is entirely selfish and just my observations about the development of my writing process, maybe you’ll find it useful, or maybe you can have a good chuckle at my incompetence.

The book I finished is 13 Steps to Evil, my non-fiction writing craft book that will teach you how to craft Superbad villains.


Completion of my first book was like watching paint dry or the slow mummification of my hope. It took a fucking age, and I swore I could not do it again. I HAD to speed up.

I’m not sure if it was the fact it was my second book, therefore, I had a modicum of a clue about how to write one. Or the fact it was non-fiction. Whatever the reason, writing it was faster, a shit load faster. Like Roadrunner tripping on acid faster.

The first book (Keepers, YA fantasy) two years to draft and edit to the point I could send it to beta readers. The first draft was 87k the second 78k.

13 Steps to Evil is only 49k, but still, instead of two years, I went from a title to handing it to beta readers in 11 weeks. ELEVEN.

That is ridiculous. Now I look back it all feels like a blur and is it really a surprise at that speed.  I must’ve spent my days in some kind of catatonic trance saving my energy so that I could regurgitate word vomit at Mach5 every evening.

All it’s done is make me extraordinarily hungry. And not the sausage and chips in your gob hungry, the – my insides are on fire, my head full of character screams, I gotta finish these fucking books before my ears bleed and my face melts into a gooey marsh pile of unfinished manuscripts – type hungry.


Me trying to wade through the confusion of figuring out my process! Image from Gratisography

It wasn’t just a speed that changed with this draft either. My process did too.  I’d heard a lot of good things about Dragon Dictation and the ability to write at supersonic light speed and who doesn’t want that in their life? Light speed is good; Lightspeed is wise. Lightspeed means pumping out a tontillion books a year and I’ll gladly take that, thank you very much.

I googled, I read, and I spent, a fuck bucket of money on getting tools and gadgety toys of word-speed joy and I started to use dictation. At first, I was sceptical, I mean 5000 words an hour? Pssht please, don’t give me that, nobody can write 5000 words hour. Except they can, and before long, I will too.

I’m going to write an extensive blog post about dictation and why I think you ought to use it, so I won’t go into too much detail today.  Suffice to say, the dictation gods, even using a crappy online app allowed me to triple my output, and now I have the glorious, sparkly, word churning machine that is Dragon dictation. And boy, does it give me literary O’s.

I used to get maybe 1000 to 1500 words per day, on a good day (for non-fiction). But I went to 2000 on the first dictation attempt and on the last attempt before I finished my book, I wrote 4500 words in one evening. ONE FREAKING EVENING PEOPLE.

Crazy shit is going to happen this year. Be scared. Seriously scared.


NB. Picture from Pixabay, these are not, in fact, my pants! Mine are black, obvs.

There is a second part to this process nonsense. I swing worse than a ‘keys in a bowl as you enter party’ my process is continually evolving. I’m not arrogant enough to think I found the right/my way to write a book yet, but I did think after a royal fuck up (involving the total rewrite of my first book) that I’d at least found some semblance of a process.

But no, I have not.


My first book I pantsed entirely through NaNoWriMo and let’s just say it was a pile of turdsickles. You know balls of scrunched up white paper smothered in blackish brown lines of drivel that you once thought were the equivalent of modern-day Shakespearean prose, only when you re-read it you realised it was less Shakespearean and more utter Shitsparian; a wonderful hybrid of utter shit and total despair.

But I soldiered on, and this time I didn’t need a rewrite.

What I did discover, though, is that my 100% pantsing days are over. One of my goals for 2017 is to write better quality first drafts as well as faster first drafts. Unfortunately for me, the more structure and outline and planning I do, the better my first draft.

But plotting induces a face pulling, eye gouging out, anvil to the head feeling. I’m hoping that feeling will get back in its box because I’m not giving up, once I set a goal, the outcome is mine, or I’ll die trying. If that means I need to implement a bit more rigour to my planning in order to write faster and produce better first drafts, then so be it. My inner whiny little bitch pantser is going to have to suck it up.


Image from Pixabay

I don’t know what I expected when I started writing non-fiction. I mean, I’m a fiction writer, a Young Adult fantasy writer no less, what the fluckins was I thinking embarking on writing non-fiction? Except I write non-fiction every week. Everything I’ve ever learnt about writing, I’ve written up and slapped in a blog post.

That was a realisation in itself. Of course, I knew that my non-fiction voice was radically different to my fiction voice. But I didn’t know, know.

It was both significantly easier, and much harder to write 13 Steps To Evil. I’d been inadvertently practising my non-fiction voice for several years on here, so without meaning to, I’d developed it into a seasoned wrinkly granny with years of experience, that made it easier to write fast. Oddly for me, I feel my non-fiction voice is more developed than my fiction one.

The lesson here is, any kind of writing will develop your voice, not just book writing. 

The major difference was that the structure of the book for non-fiction is vital. You don’t have characters to make your story flow in a non-fiction book, the chapters and flow of content have to do that for you. That means more planning, (there’s that little plotter bitch again) more understanding of the content and lessons are trying to teach people and all before you start writing. You can’t just pants your way through a non-fiction book unless you want it to read like puke flavoured moth balls. The structure is essential. I won’t talk about the five full restructures I had to do, because even the thought is making my eye twitch!


If you liked this post, why not get even more awesome writing tips in the book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad VillainsClick this link and just tap the logo of your device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet and a villain’s short course by joining my mailing list just click here.

Read Keepers, the first book in my Young Adult fantasy series nowOr to hear more about the release of the sequels as well as get regular CogMail updates you can do so here.

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  1. My writing process has evolved so much. If you peek on my laptop, you’ll find a pile of drafts abandoned within 1k words of 15k. That’s because I always used to start writing with an idea of how the start of my book would go, and it took me 15k words to get that start down. Then I’d have no idea what came next until the climax, which was too far away to be reachable. The book died.

    Last time I planned a lot more thoroughly right through to the end (initially with fewer details, of course) and, surprise surprise, I actually reached the end. I certainly haven’t discovered my perfect method, but I’m closer than I used to be.

    1. Yeah I’ve lots of stories like that too although unlike you they never got to that length. No more than 1000 words ish when they were abandoned. Glad you’ve found some methods that are working. It’s an irritant to me not to be able to just vomit it out, but for the sake of speed, I’ll have to plan more, as hard as that is. For me, the more I write, the more I’m able to plan I think that’s only because I’m writing a series though as I know more of the story/characters.

    2. Those short starts aren’t bad. (I have them too and still finished seven or eight novels.) They show me the idea isn’t as write worthy as I originally thought, but it takes three pages to three chapters to see it.

      1. That’s an interesting way of looking at it. In some cases I think you’re totally right about my story starts, but some I think could be part of wonderful books. I just need to spend some time thinking about what happens in the rest of the book. 🙂

  2. Well done, Sacha! Looking forward to trying out dictation for myself. 11 weeks??? That’s incredible! Can’t wait to read it. I think I will forever be a pantser. It will be interesting to see if that changes with dictation, cos I can ream off whole chapters in my head while I’m trying to get to sleep, or when I’m driving. Mind will probs go totes blank when I Switch on the dictation! ?

  3. No, writing anything is not that easy, not really. Sometimes it seems that way, but those are the best kind of days. But even on those days when I feel like shooting myself in the head, I have no intention of stopping…

      1. Steady girl, I didn’t mean to suggest you did, I was kinda agreeing with you. In the beginning, I suppose I was hoping it would get easier; the more I learnt, etc. It does seem to be getting more fun, so I’ll settle for that…

        1. Oh thank god, I was so confused I tried to re skim my post to see if I’d written that! Agree – it doesn’t get easier although the process for me has been smoother ?? Maybe that’s not the right word. Quicker definitely but no less emotional!

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve finished a few books, but none I’ve ever considered publishable. Now that I’m working on ‘the one’ it’s like my muse has suddenly floated away. “Completion of my first book was like watching paint dry or the slow mummification of my hope.” – THIS. Thanks for giving me some hope that things will get better! 🙂

    1. Well, thank you for reading it. Oh man, take a break, fill your inspiration bucket up, go see museums, and forests and weird and wonderful things. The muse will come back. I promise, just keep pushing.

  5. I think we can work over a manuscript over and over again. We still find something (stupid details which only the author bothers about) or get inspired to add something. At one point we simply need to say: This is it! All my other ideas go into my next book!

  6. A whole lot of changes to my writing process especially this year past. I’ve learned so much about grammar, how to put sentences together real proper like lol and I’ve learned that when an idea hits, write it down……..I’ve learned the timing process really has to happen and that you can’t go off chasing butterflies until you’ve proofed and re read and re read. I think I’ve grown up a lot, only to do with writing mind you.

    1. Ah, it’s amazing, isn’t it? Just churning out words brings vast development. I’m using Grammarly now, and that’s teaching me TONNES about grammar. hahahaha NEVER, and I do mean NEVER grow up for real!

  7. I don’t write non-fiction, Sacha, but I think your observations apply to fiction as well. Like anything we do, we get better and faster, more skilled and efficient with practice. Whether we are painting, cooking, budgeting, raising children or writing. So write write write. 😀 And congrats on completing another book!

    1. Yes absolutely, I agree. It’s even the small things, like tweaks to process here, or being able to spot an impending dead end in a chapter earlier. They all add up, and after a while our process is radically different. Which reminds me, I must read the compound effect – sorry – now random stream of consciousness while I reply… annnnnd I’ll stop now. lol

  8. Your energy and enthusiasm leaps off the screen. I had that once but as I have aged, I’ve also slowed down and my bucket of energy leaks. The older I get, the more it leaks.

    In my 20s, I’d get up to write at 3 a.m. and if it was the weekend or a holiday and I didn’t go to work, I’d write 16-hours straight through.

    Now if I can keep at the writing for a couple of hours a day, that’s a good day for writing.

    About that Blurb.

    Most of the sites I advertise my books through limit the blurb to 300 characters or even less. That’s between 50 and 60 words.

    On that note:

    And since you are close to publishing, just in case you don’t have this list, here’s a list of the sites I’ve used with some success. What “some” means is the ad actually resulted in sales even if I didn’t earn the cost of the ad back. BookBub has been the only site that earned the cost of the ad back and even turned a profit, but that ad costs a lot. I ran two 99 (US)cent promos and one FREE through BookBub. Can’t make your money back if you give your book away, but that BookBub ad that offered my first novel free, resulted in more than 40k downloads and trippled the number of reviews on Amazon; 80 percent were positive.



    The first two in this list (above this note) are the ones that have always had the best results. The rest are mediocre, but in “my book” mediocre is better than zero. And the mediocre ones usually have much-lower ad prices. I’m not listing sites that did not result in sales. The ones in this list all sold 5 or more the day the ad ran.

    Bargain Booksy



    Choosy Bookworm

    Riffle Select

    Book Sends

    The eReader Café

    Many Books


    World Lit Café
    PLEASE NOTE: Submissions must be received TWO DAYS PRIOR to the promotion AND your PRICE MUST be changed and in effect by 9:45pm EST the THURSDAY prior to your event.

    Then there’s eBookBooster.com For a fee, they do the work for you placing ads on sites that don’t cost any money. If you offer your book as a free promote the cost is $35 and they promise to submit your book to more than 45 sites but with no guarantee those sites will run the ad. IF you book is prices 99 cents (US), then the cost is $25 for 25 sites.


    1. WOW. What a generous thing to do. Thank you so much, I’ve lifted all the links and put it in my marketing notes – Next month I really need to start working on finalising my plan for it, so this is MEGA helpful. Thank you, in fact a million thank yous. AND BLOODYHELL, 40k downloads?! wowza, although I know its SUPER hard to get a bookbub now. 🙁

        1. AND a HUGE thank you again 😀 :D. I have popped this one in my list too, you’re so generous to me. <3 I am just writing my marketing plan now, well, trying... Feel woefully out of my depth, so these are useful:D

  9. Intriguing thoughts. My writing process keeps evolving all the time, and it sort of remains the same. Some days I’m faster, some days not. Some days it’s easier, some days harder. Kind of ups and downs.

    1. Well, that’s the magic of writing, it’s so wonderfully unique to all of us, and it’s one of the reasons the writing process fascinates me so much. Thank you for reading.

  10. The more you write, the more your writing improves. Will have here for three years next month and I’ve come a long, long, way with my writing. I’d never have believed that three years ago I would have written something like ‘The Truth App’. And rewriting it made it even better (as far as I’m concerned anyway, although a lot of the reviews do mention it’s the jewel in the collection).

    Well done on getting that book completed. I’ll have to talk to you about the diction software. It sounds right up my street. ❤️

    1. Absolutely I agree whole heartedly. Hey, when does your competition end? I need to make sure I slot your book into my schedule before it’s too late. The Truth App will go down as iconic Hugh, it’s amazing I cannot wait to read the edited version.

  11. I had it all lined up; shopping trip with daughter, inc buy dragon gizmo…. we never got to it; her ‘needs’ seemed to blossom and swamp mine. So it will come but not quite there yet. But yes I’m excited to try. As for process I’ve reached a point where I pants the first third, review it, decide if it’s going anywhere and re write. In so doing I plot the next third, albeit pretty much in my head still and write it. I then review that lot, usually completely rewrite the start — always the flapdwadling start and then plot tot he end inc wroitign down my ideas in some detail. I then begin the edit…

    1. Wait, you listened? you’re going to try Dragon? Have you bought the software already? Okay, that is an odd process, but I like it. I have to say, I tend to stop around the 30,000 word mark, it always seems pivotal reaching that point for me, and a pause for thought is needed. That’s about a third, right?!

  12. Looking back on my first project, I still marvel that I managed to get it out there. I continue to learn so much with every writing project whether it is on the blog or novel. I love that there is always an opportunity to change up your process from time to time and learn more.

  13. Okay, I have to get this Dragon Dictation thingy. I spend so much time thinking and talking to myself or my characters (much more time doing this than actually writing). I think this will help.

    Love you sharing your process as you move along. And look forward to your books this year… <3

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