If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews

9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder

9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers

9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity

September Guest Bloggers

9/19 Judy Alter

WWK Weekend Bloggers

9/5 V. M. Burns

9/12 Jennifer J. Chow

9/26 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Monday, March 26, 2018

How I Wrote a First Draft in a Month by Debra Sennefelder

Hi my name is Debra, and I'm a Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) dropout. So imagine my surprise when I wrote a 70,000-word first draft in less than thirty days. Twenty-six days to be exact.

I didn't set out to something so crazy when I began writing the first draft of book three in my Food Blogger mystery series. I'd actually scheduled the first draft to be finished in May. Three months seemed a reasonable amount of time to write the first draft. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd finish the book in less than a month. I guess in this case ignorance was bliss.

On February 1 I sat at my computer and began writing, and 3,000 words later I called it quits for the writing part of my day. Accomplishing such a high word count in one day was an awesome feeling. It felt good to get off to such a good start on my new project. In the past, I rarely wrote more than 2,500 words a day. Pleased with my productivity, I jotted down the word count on a piece of paper. The next day when I showed up for work, I was encouraged to meet the previous day's word count and by the end of the day, I had 6,092 written. 

Along with the little piece of paper where I recorded my daily word count was my detailed outline of the manuscript. The outline was over twenty pages long and was detailed. It included snippets of dialogue, links to online research, and pieces of description. The outline is the foundation of my novel and now looking back I believe it gave a big boost to my productivity.

When I write a first draft I'm all in, typically writing seven days a week so it wasn’t unusual for me to write over the Super Bowl weekend. Home alone for those two days, I'd cleared my calendar and managed to write 10,000 words that weekend. When I started my day on Monday morning I had over 16,000 words written in my story and I was stoked. I wanted to keep the momentum going, I wanted to challenge myself to write a minimum of 3,000 words a day until I got to the end of the story. Since this was a first draft I knew from previous experience it would fall short of my contracted word count so I just wrote until I got to the last chapter. I typically write three drafts of a book. The second draft is where I dig deep into the first draft and flush out what I've written and the third draft is where I fine-tune and polish after feedback from my critique partner. 

I officially finished the manuscript on March 2 with 70,008 words. When I reviewed my log of my daily word count, I'd found I'd taken four days off during those thirty days and there were two days where I didn't meet my daily word count. Thinking back to my attempts at Nanowrimo I remembered not hitting the daily word count, stressing out about it and eventually giving up. That didn't happen this time. I was surprisingly stress-free. I just added some extra words here and there and kept moving forward.

With the first draft completed, I’m taking some time to reflect back on what I did to achieve a completed manuscript in such a short period of time. Even if you aren’t looking to write 3,000 words a day, these tips might still be useful.

Be prepared - However you prepare to write a novel make sure you do it. And don't be afraid to try something different if what you're doing isn't working for you.
Show up - I consistently showed up at my computer to write. Yes, I took a few days off but I got right back to work after my brief absence.
Set a schedule - For this draft I committed to writing first thing in the morning before I did any other work. I knew the hours between 8:00 and 10:30 were solely for writing. And if I didn't meet my word count during that time, I scheduled another writing session later in the day.
Celebrate - Throughout the month I wasn't bashful about sharing my productivity. This was a big freakin' deal to me. A little extra bonus to sharing publicly was that this made me accountable to others.

On March 2nd when I typed the last sentence of the manuscript I was relieved, happy and proud of what I'd accomplished. And I was looking forward to taking a couple of weeks away from the manuscript before diving into the second draft.

Will I try this again? Yes. In late summer I’ll begin writing the second book in the Resale Boutique mystery series and I will attempt to write that first draft in a month.

I would have never known writing a manuscript in a month was possible for me if I hadn’t tried and gone for it. Probably the biggest takeaway from this experience is to not define myself based on the past. I’m not the same writer I was back then and trying something different is okay because if it doesn’t work then I can just regroup and go back to what had been working for me.


Jim Jackson said...

As a pantser, I can't even imagine the angst I would have experienced while producing a twenty-page outline. I did participate in National Novel Writing Month two years ago, and wrote over 60,000 words that November. It was the lion's share of the first draft of what became Empty Promises, whose official release in April 3.

KM Rockwood said...

What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing it. And best of luck (although I know there's really very little luck--it's mostly hard work) with your projects!

E. B. Davis said...

How long did the twenty-page outline take to create?

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I banged out a bare-bones 55,000 word manuscript in 6 weeks. It felt good. Twenty-page outline? That seems more daunting than a complete manuscript.

Gloria Alden said...

I can't imagine writing that much in that amount of time. I have so many other things going on I wouldn't have the time to write that long, plus I can't sit that long without getting up and moving around. I have critters to take care of and at least one or more times a week I have places to go. Also, I have a weekly blog to write which takes time. I did write two chapters of my latest book in two days last week, a total of 15 pages, but I never pay attention to word count only when I'm writing a short story for a contest that has a word count limit. I admire your sticking to it.
My collie would bug me, and I have a daughter who lives out of state who calls me everyday, too.

Warren Bull said...

When I write an outline for a book, I feel like I've told the story and I never get beyond the outline.

Grace Topping said...

That was quite an accomplishment, Debra. When I first decided to write a mystery I took an online class on "How to Write a Mystery" at my local community college. I came out of that class with an outline for my story. Similar to your experience, armed with an outline, I was amazed at how the text flowed. My challenge now is to come up with another outline.

Debra said...

E.B. Davis, The outline took about two weeks to write. Then I set it aside to work on another project before writing the first draft of book 3 in the Food Blogger series.

Debra said...

Grace, It is amazing how the manuscript comes together when I have an outline guiding me. Of course, things change along the way to writing the end. But it's all good. Good luck with your next outline.

Shari Randall said...

Debra, this is amazing - and inspiring. I'd love to write an outline, but I start writing one and then end up writing whole scenes. I think this pantser may never be able to change her ways.

Debra said...

Hi Shari, Whatever works and gets the book written!