How to Write a Book

I recently had a friend tell me I should write about my book-writing process – a meta-book. I laughed and said that it wouldn’t be useful to anyone because everyone writes differently, but they clarified and said I should write about the random things that happen that I don’t expect (like characters doing whatever the hell they want to and I just go along for the ride). I agreed that could be interesting, because it’s not about me. It’s non-fiction involving fictional characters. Definitely entertaining.

However, it got me thinking that I did indeed have a process that’s emerged the past few years, and so I sat down and wrote it out. I’m going to work on the funny, not-to-plan stuff that pops up and put those in a separate post to follow later, but in the mean time, here is my book writing/publishing process!

(I did not expect it to be so many steps!)

1 – Brainstorm rough list of events. Organize into something vaguely chronological, if possible.

2 – Create Word file, format in the proper font and paragraph settings, and then just blitz write!

3 – Read writing dump. Edit, organize, add.

4 – Repeat 2-3 a few times.

5 – Organize and create proper timeline document based on what’s been written, complete with dates.

6 – Review plot, add in ‘Needed’ events to timeline. Reorganize if necessary.

7 – Write ‘Needed’ scenes.

8 – Read, edit, reorganize, clarify, add.

9 – Give to early reader #1 (99% of the time this is Shawn) to read, critique, and propose changes.

10 – Make changes, apply edits, reorganize, clarify, add.

11 – Review changes with early reader #1.

12 – Repeat 10-11 if necessary.

13 – When early reader #1 approves, send manuscript to early readers #2-4(?).

14 – Start over with Step 1 on a different book while the early readers #2-4(?) do their stuff. Usually takes months.

15 – Review early reader feedback. Ask questions to clarify.

16 – Make changes, apply edits, reorganize, clarify, add.

17 – Review changes with early readers #2-4(?).

18 – Repeat 16 and 17 as needed until everyone gives thumbs up.

19 – Do ‘find and replace’ checks to get rid of my terrible writing habits and weird dialect traces. I have a list that I’ve compiled over the years of things that I am apparently incapable of un-teaching myself.

20 – Do Grammarly line-by-line edit. (This is probably where some people would get a professional editor to step in. My publisher doesn’t think I need it. I’m a grammar nazi and mentally diagram sentences – thanks, Mrs. Kessler!) I could probably be a professional editor if I wanted to take the time to read other people’s work.

21 – Put in chapter breaks.

22 – One last read.

23 – Send to publisher and cross fingers that they like it! (Since I already have a publisher and an established contract for the D53 series, this is not as stressful as it should be. Also, the people I work with there are pretty great.)


Addendum, publishing:

24 – If the publisher likes it and wants to print it, then they perform their own edit.

25 – Complete all the necessary surveys, forms, and contracts.

25a -Marketing Survey – this includes summaries of varying lengths for print, web, and the covers of the book; the genres I want the book to sit under; and a lot of other important things that I need to make sure that the book is where it needs to be and gets to the readers that will enjoy it.

25b -Cover Art Questionnaire – This is where symbols, over-arching themes, visual elements of the book are important. If the blue curtains mean something deep, then maybe they should be on the cover. My blue curtains are just blue curtains and are not important (so I delete any description of them from the manuscript and stop wasting ink).

25c -Contract – This outlines a LOT of important stuff, like how much I make from the books, how much I pay for physical copies, rights for not only this book, but future ones. READ IT. And then sign it and send it so the book can get published already.

26 – Review changes to the manuscript and approve or discuss/contest. This was painful for The Dark, but I learned a lot and it was super painless for The Haven. Repeat until no changes are made.

27 – Perform back and forth with the cover artist. Having ideas of what is important in the book is great and gives them something to start with, but unless you also have a graphic design degree, let the artist do their thing and wow you. There’s a reason they’re professionals. I CAN draw, but I have always known that I am no designer, so I trust the cover artists and just provide feedback until I love the finished work.

28 – Publisher creates a print proof. This is literally the file they print the book from, cover and all, so I review it carefully. Read the book again.

29 – Propose changes if necessary. This will cost money if I want to fix it later.

30 – Send approval when everything looks good.

31 – Wait. Breathe. Maybe do something non-writing related. 😮

32 – When the publisher has a print date, it’s time to spam marketing and announce the hell out of it.

-When the cover art is final, share it.

-When I have the print date, share it.

-When the listing on the publisher site and whatever book selling sites I prefer have the book up, share it.

-If I have any events coming up where I’ll be present in an author capacity, share them.

-If I have any fun things to add about the books, my writing, my characters, anything, share it.

-Throughout steps 1-30, share whatever might be interesting to readers, so they know more is coming.

33 – Try not to spoil shit by revealing stuff that happens later, because this process takes a year+. I try my damnedest. x_x It’s so hard. I love what I’m writing and want to share it immediately.

34 – Celebrate! And go check on where the next book is sitting.


Note: The Hunt is at step 14, The Shield is at step 5.


  1. Kari Vaassen

    It is so torturous to wait for the books, but so exciting to be following a series as it progresses. I feel like such a proper fangirl!

    1. ejohnson116 (Post author)

      It’s so torturous to not be able to share everything as I write it! I’m happy to have you following, and I sincerely hope it’s worth the wait!


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