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So… I used to consider myself a “Turtle Writer.” And, my friends, it took me 8 years from when I started the first draft of my first book to when I published it. My second novel took me 4 years from start to publish.

For comparison, for my next release, Time’s Orphan, there will be 11 months between starting and publishing. And for my YA sci-fi launching in April, there were around 15 months from starting to when Whimsical Publishing acquired it.

And trust me, my two newest books are *way* better than my first two novels. (I still love my first two, but objectively, I’m a much better writer than I was 10 years ago, thank goodness.)

There are much faster writers than me out there, and much slower ones, but in any case, I halved my writing process time from Book 1 to Book 2, and by Book 8, I will have cut the time by 88%. One of my writing friends recently asked how I made that happen, so I thought I’d break it down here.

Image by Ralf Designs from Pixabay

Why did my first two books take so long?

This answer’s pretty easy. First, I didn’t actually believe I would publish it. I thought it was unsavable, and I thought by writing it, I had accomplished my writing goals, so I shelved it.

In 2017, I picked it back up, but I was still lost. I revised and edited as best as I could, but I wasn’t until I found the writing community on twitter, that I even thought about getting critique partners and an editor. After getting that feedback, I ended up *heavily* revising the first half of the book.

And there so many stops and starts during that time. I would say it’s because life got busy, which is true, but it’s also because I hadn’t found a rhythm. And more importantly, I still was unsure of my commitment to writing. I still thought Odriel’s Heirs would be the only book I would ever write. (Oh, silly me. 😂)

With the second book, I found indie author friends online as well as consistent critique partners, and that changed everything.

Image by Alan from Pixabay

So what happened with the third book?

We can break it out into a few important eureka moments:

  • I gained confidence. I’d put myself out there, been rejected dozens of times, had a few reviews that smarted, but had a lot more that encouraged me forward. With all that under my belt, I no longer had that paralyzing fear of failure that had kept me back. Even if the next book doesn’t get picked up by an agent, I can publish it myself – and that’s still very fulfilling to me.

  • Also, I realized I could work on multiple WIPs at one time. This was absolutely crucial. Right now I have *FIVE* (😱) WIPs – querying one, editing two, revising one, and plotting one. I cycle through them to give myself some perspective when I come back through drafts, and that way I can always be working on one thing while I’m waiting on responses to queries, CP feedback, editor feedback, etc.

  • Juggling WIPs also forced me to establish a process that worked for me. My experience allowed me to come up with realistic timelines and goals for myself to meet. It’s incredibly motivating for me to cross things off my list, and it lets me see the things I have to look forward to.

  • I found CPs & Betas I can depend on, and in a pinch, I knew how to find others quickly (psst Their objective feedback is invaluable to help me find problems EARLY in the process so I don’t get into the editing phase and have a huge “Oh Sh*t” moment. They also continued to teach me valuable writing lessons, and I hone my own editing skills on their work as well. These relationships are also a bulwark of support and encouragement which is also vital to a process heavy in critique.

  • I studied up on writing craft books which have given me epiphanies that also helping in every phase of the journey. But most critically, Save the Cat Writes the Novel gave me the framework I needed to learn how to plot effectively. Once again, it allowed me to identify problems very early, which eliminated a lot of time-consuming rewriting.

  • Inertia is powerful. I am *not* an every day writer by any means… but I usually do something writer-related (almost) every day, even if it’s something incredibly small like a tweet-sized story for vss365. The most difficult part of writing for me is starting *anything.* So by keeping that positive pressure, I can keep rolling without mentally having to do the thing where I show up to write and think “Um… how do I do this again?”

Anyways, those are just the tips that have worked for me. Ultimately, every writing speed is completely valid. As long as you’re enjoying the journey, that’s what’s most important.

Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful, and if you have any other questions, let me know!

7 thoughts on “How I streamlined my writing process

  1. Hi Hayley! I don’t remember if I ever told you this, but I look up to you, my friend. You inspire me. One reason why is how you try out a lot of things (i.e. fencing, running, writing, publishing, etc) and you bring a lot of positive energy. When I read about how you gained confidence, that reminds me of how you kept going and how you keep writing. I’m really glad you’ve continued to do so beyond Odriel’s Heirs. You’re a good writer and I enjoy your stories :). I’m glad you had a lot of encouragement also.

    How do you usually determine timelines for your WIPs? That is a lot to juggle!

    Do you plot extensively or are you more of a plantser? I’m more of a pantser, so I’m curious if you think that Save the Cat would be helpful for me.

    Great point about vss365. Before I took my social media break, I did something writing-related daily. I probably should pick up something like that again. I’ve felt burnt out and lacking motivation to write lately (and I have been struggling with writing a lot in recent years). How do you usually stick with a story that you’re working on in spite of the hardship along the way?

    Take care. I’m really proud of you 🙂 Take care.


    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Alex!

      I usually determine my timelines roughly on how long the last book took me, but when in doubt, I try to be conservative. That way it’s always a pleasant surprise if I bet the timeline!

      I really think Save the Cat would definitely be worth a try. I started out as kind of a plantser, but become more of an in-depth plotter with every book. It really helps me get ideas down quickly and catch plotholes super early in the process.

      Ah yeah, writing can definitely be mentally tough! Especially during revision when you’re really looking at it with a critical eye. If I’m having a tough time with a draft sometimes I have to put it down for a while and recharge with something non-writing (reading, shows, exercise etc) but setting *really* small, achievable goals for the day or week also helps me. I live to cross stuff off to-do’ lists!

      Also, in general, just being kind to yourself! I try to really restrict my self-talk to mirror the encouragement/critique I would give to another writer, and that kind of internal positivity definitely helps me power through.

      Hope that helps and thanks so much Alex!


      1. You’re very welcome, Hayley 🙂

        That makes sense :). Do you try to take on like one WIP for a couple weeks and then shift to another WIP a few weeks later? Or do you try to tackle them both during the same time period? I think it’s cool that you have conservative goals – that’s the safest and best way to go.

        That’s cool. I haven’t been patient enough to plot, but I can see how Save the Cat would be helpful. It might get me to change my ways too. :). Which other writing craft books did you like? And did you read Save the Cat at the same time as reading fictional novels? 🙂

        That’s great how you take breaks while writing too. I need to set more small goals 🙂 Like you I LOVE crossing things off to-do lists. I need to be kinder to myself. It’s something that I’m working on. Great advice. It definitely helps!

        Thank you, Hayley! You’re a good and kind friend. I appreciate you.

        -Alex :). :).

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      2. My preference is definitely focus on one WIP task at at time before switching to another. (Like I would love to finish this Nano first draft before doing something else) But with publishing, sometimes my timelines get crossed when proofs/line edits/beta feedback comes back sooner than expected.

        I can only focus on one ebook/paperback at a time, so I think Save the Cat was probably between fiction novels. I liked Stephen King’s On Writing, Story Genius, The Elements of Style, and the Emotion Thesaurus – but Save the Cat is still my favorite. I appreciate you too, Alex! Happy Sunday!


      3. Understandable. Publishing has so many deadlines I bet. You’re doing great. 🙂

        That’s cool. I have Emotion Thesaurus :). I also have Save the Cat, but haven’t read it yet. I will though :). Thanks for the recommendation!

        Happy Sunday, my friend!


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