Axioms of Light

The Daily Writing Session

Writing is a craft, one that I am not perfect in. Everyday, I believe I become a little better through study, interaction with other authors, and application. By far, the most important thing a new (or experienced) writer can do is write daily. Study and advice will only go so far. You must jump in to truly feel and experience it for yourself. That no-brainer out of the way, I recently was asked by someone how I structure my daily writing sessions. Is it just from the hip? Well structured? How much forethought goes into what I’m planning on writing before I sit down at the keyboard?

My first blog post last year was about my process as a discovery writer. I talked about how it took me 5 years to write Circle of Reign and that I truly did not know the beginning from the end until it was over. In fact, if you’ve read it and know the very end (big cliffhanger), I did not know whom I was writing about in the epilogue until the last two words of the book. I really thought I was writing about someone else. That discovery process is energizing and has the power to knock you out of your chair, even though it’s your own book. Your characters will surprise you.

Since then, I’ve become much more of an outliner. I’m not as thorough as, say, a Justin Cronin or a David Farland; but, my writing speed has kicked up dramatically since outlining. For example, the next book I wrote, Altar of Influence, being a prequel to The Dying Lands Chronicle, I wrote in 8 months. That included all the revisions, editing, artwork and audiobook. Yes, it’s only half the size of Circle of Reign at 92,000 words, so let’s double it. I still think 16 months is quite an improvement over the 5 years it took me to write COR, being 182,000 words.

What made the difference? I outlined Altar of Influence. Originally, it was to be 50,000 words and 10 chapters. My outline was fairly detailed as well. But, alas, the discovery writer in me came out and I deviated. Bad thing? Nope. I took detours, learned new things about my world and characters, and then snapped back to the outline. My story is much better because of those detours, and the speed of writing increased because of the outline. So, I use outlines as guidelines, Jell-O solid not rock solid. Your characters will often correct your outline for you.

Okay, great. We’ve got that small detail of outlining the story but allowing room for pockets of discovery along the way. What about each writing session? Here’s what I currently do and absolutely love it. I take my global outline and zero in out what portion I am going to write that day.

I DO NOT GO STRAIGHT INTO WRITING ONCE I HAVE MY SESSION OUTLINE.

Then, I outline that portion in greater detail. It might take 5 minutes or an hour. This happens, then this, then that. I don’t do dialogue in this session outline, but will write down key phrases or descriptions I like. That’s in the morning. I let it sit and marinate (or fester) until my writing session in the afternoon. If you like to write in the morning, outline the night before. I do NOT go straight into writing once I have my session outline. That’s important for me (but yes, sometimes the muse does wake me at 2 AM and I do get up and write…I still have a discovery gene in me).
Once I sit down to write, I review my session outline. Any new thoughts or quick edits are made and then I blitz down the bullet points, fleshing them out as I write. I often go back to a now-fleshed-out bullet point and add as I go. I usually have a very tight, clean scene when I’m done that is anywhere from 2-5,000 words. Writing time? Never more than 2-3 hours because…well, 4 kids and other obligations. I wish I had 8-10 hours to devote to straight writing, but I just don’t.

Environment is also key. This is tough for some people, and I’ve experienced frustration here as well. Now, this is going to sound odd, but that’s all right.

I write in the dark with the colors inverted on my screen. I have the Lord of the Rings Pandora station going on my phone, which is in do not disturb mode, with ear buds in. I turn off Wi-Fi on my computer. My writing station is a simple desk with no drawers. My chair does not lean back. I have nothing on the desk except for my computer, global outline, and my journal, which contains my session outline. The room I’m in is the farthest removed from any noise or distractions, which can be tough when the kids are rambunctious. Some writers have to leave the house, but I’m lucky enough to have a space that is completely removed from the rest of the house. In short, I have no distractions. I have literally sat my wonderful family down and laid out ground rules for when I can be interrupted during a writing session. They are:
1. There’s a bad guy in the house
2. You, or a sibling, are throwing up
3. You, or a sibling, are bleeding
4. You, a sibling, or the house, are on fire
5. The dog attacked and killed the mailman
6. The advent of the zombie apocalypse
7. JJ Abrams or Josh Wheddon is calling
Maybe a little comcial but you get it. Protect your writing time. My family knows I will not get their texts, phone calls, emails, or hear them calling. They must come into the room and get me. Dinner time? Doesn’t matter. Someone at the door for me? Doesn’t matter. I’m busy. I’m at work.

I mentioned the journal that contains my session outline. I carry a journal with me almost everywhere I go. I brainstorm and take notes on it. Why not on my phone? Because I’m not going to be looking at my phone while writing! Duh! Neither should you. “But I have a word I need to look up!” So what? Make a note and do it later. Do not open that phone. You will peak at Facebook, email, Twitter, Instagram, check your latest reviews…and then your writing will suck, if you even get to it.

This is my formula for effective and faster writing. It works. You may have your own spin to this and explore a bit to find what’s most effective for you. Next year, I’m sure I’ll have tweaked this here and there, but I’m very happy currently with this set up.

Did my writing suffer in quality since turning away from pure discovery? Well, every book or story I’ve released since Circle of Reign has consistently received greater reviews and ratings than the previous. I have a lot to learn still, but I apply the lessons I learn and am better for it. You should, too.

My award-winning, #1 bestselling book, Circle of Reign, is available on Amazon and Audible.

Altar of Influence: The Orsarian War on Amazon and Audible.

My two short stories, The Red Grove and Remnants and Shadows, are also available on Amazon and Audible.

TAGGED: CIRCLE OF REIGN, DISCOVERY WRITING, DYING LANDS, JACOB COOPER, OUTLINING, WRITING, WRITING FASTER