There are innumerable resources out there on the art and craft of writing for children… and the actual creative process (for eg. How did I know the ending?) is still a mystery to me and even if I try to explain, I will probably do a dismal job of articulating the process – after all, I am only one book old!
But I can tell you the physical method of writing a chapter book in a month – at least the method that worked for me.
Step 1: Outlining (2 days)
Step 2: Writing (2 weeks)
Step 3: Resting (1 week)
Step 4: First edit (1 week)
Bonus step – Beta testing (optional)
STEP 1 – OUTLINING
Spending a couple of days on creating a rough outline puts me in the Concept Zone a.k.a the mood to get immersed in that book. I don’t outline like others (if you want to know why, click here) and outlines are not must for fiction writers, I feel like everyone would benefit from plot doodling. The more I scribble and doodle on my outline journal, the clearer I get about the direction of my book.
Make no mistake, it can still veer off in a totally direction direction… but I need these 2 days to get myself excited and committed about the characters and their journey.
STEP 2 – WRITING
Ah, the actual part of writing, which has always been the toughest step for me. Since I am a master procrastinator, it takes a lot to get me started on a new, non-paying project… but challenges are another matter. I love challenges! So I will just use the BOC method, spend an hour every day early morning – it takes me around 15 min to write one MS word page (including frowning, day dreaming and head-banging on the monitor) – and keep writing.
See? It’s simple. Just pick an hour everyday, morning, evening, night, any one hour, sit tight, and keep writing until you have completed 4 pages (roughly 1000 words, which is the minimum you should write on any challenge. Really.)
If you are attempting the one-hour-a-day method, feel free to go beyond page 4. I usually stop on Page 4, because I am also working on other projects plus my laser-treated eyes tend to go too dry and I don’t want to burn out before noon (My magical time to write is 6-7am). So, based on your schedule, customise your writing time.
STEP 3 – RESTING
Wow you finished a draft! Good for you – now let it rest.
Whether you are writing a chapter book or a magnum opus, you have to let it rest for a few days – no leeway here! “The perspective, or the ability to see your work for what it is, rather than what you hoped it would be, is impossible to attain when you are caught up in the frenzy of the creative process,” says Ray Morton, in the article Rewriting is writing (which is more about script writing, but the principles are the same).
I can’t stress enough how important this step is. You need to step away from your story for a brief time, to let your eyes and mind switch off from writer mode and switch on editor mode. As soon as you write THE END, close the document (or notebook) and don’t open it again for at least a week (ideally 2 weeks, but I find that a week is enough for a chapter book). For more articles on letting your story rest, click here and here.
STEP 4 – FIRST EDIT
Now, this step differentiates your initial manuscript from utter crap to manageable mess. Just because it is a first draft, there is no excuse for it to have glaring spelling or appalling grammar issues. A first draft should be readable, not disposable. When you read through the ‘rested’ manuscript, you will be able to fix most of the grammar, punctuation, and language issues.
You may, possibly, fix more too – like, change a name that suddenly feels unsuitable for a character, or check if a certain consistency is maintained throughout the story (“why does the heroine have red hair in chapter 2, and black hair in chapter 8?“). And now, your manuscript is truly a first draft – a workable, edited first draft ready for beta testing. In a later post, we will look into how a children’s writer can greatly benefit from a beta testing phase after the first draft.
Does CBC 12×12 seem too much for you? Then consider another challenge to write one chapter book in one month! Sign up for the ChaBooCha in March at http://chapterbookchallenge.blogspot.in/p/sign-up-for-chaboocha.html