How One Writer Writes

pen head
Ever wonder how writers write? I do and I am a writer. I’ll share what I do and hope that some of you out there will share what you do.

I have a quirky writing process. Drafting the first fifty to a hundred pages is, for me, the honeymoon stage. I’m introducing new characters, falling in love with the hero, and creating worlds. At about page 100 when I start the second act I get out the note-cards and begin outlining because that’s when things get complicated. I’ll start at the beginning and give each scene a note-card with a sentence or two of the key purposes of that scene. If the scene doesn’t propel the plot in some important way, it needs to go.

Looking forward, I create note-cards for all the future scenes. I jot down settings, the beginning and ending emotions of each scene, making sure that the settings and emotions are varied from scene to scene and yet coordinated or opposed (i.e. an angry debate at a child’s birthday party or a gentle first kiss in the middle of a storm.) I bore easily so it’s important to me that each scene carries its own dynamic and yet unique energy. For example, I find some action movies tiring because the pace never varies from overdrive. I love Monty Python because I can’t second guess what will happen next. Unfortunately, I’m not Monty Python zany so I rely on my note-cards after page 100 and let them carry me through the first draft.

On my second read-through, I don’t edit or tinker, I simply read and put one of these @ and a note to myself in red when I hit a spot that needs tweaking. On the third pass-through I search out the @s and try and resolve what wasn’t working. I start serious editing and rewriting on my fourth reading. Then I give it to beta-readers and start another project.

About a month later, I return to my book, consider my beta’s comments and address them (or not) give it another read through before sending it to my editor. By this time, I’m sick of the thing and generally honeymooning with my new work in progress. When I get it back from the editor, I’ll buckle down to edit, but I’ll continue with my new project. Because I love drafting and hate editing, I like having simultaneous projects.

I try to write 2000 words a day. Sometimes this will take me two hours, and sometimes it will take m u c h   l o n g e r. Recently I started what I call a writer’s widget. You can find it on my blog, I like it because it holds my feet to the fire, and also because as I write, I find myself looking for that “favorite sentence.” It would be great if I wrote so many awesome sentences that it would be hard to choose just one. I’m not there yet, but I think the widget is helping.

What about you? What keeps you motivated? Any widgets?

widget to look like this:



 10/9  10-3  2000  blog posts -my own and  Why did Emory need to be the world’s babysitter, Dudley Do-right, doing whatever he could to save mankind from Satan’s grasp?



2000 words

Swap chapters with M&B

10 10 7-8, 9-9:48 1700 blog post, Losing Penny The heart and liver would be up to Emory. Dog groomer write at library
3000 words
10 11 10:45- 1:45 2690 “He tried to kiss me.” Petra took a deep breath and tried to calm her racing heart. “I might have over reacted.” Monday’s goals
volunteer at employment center, 2000



About Kristy Tate

USA Today bestselling author Kristy Tate has come a long way from small-town Washington. Her avid curiosity and love of reading have carried her to thirty plus countries. (She loves to travel to the places she reads and writes about.) She's the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling and award-winning Beyond Series and the Kindle Scout winning Witch Ways series. She writes mysteries with romance, humorous romance, light-hearted young adult romance, and urban fantasy. When she's not reading, writing, or traveling, she can be found playing games with her family, hiking with her dogs, or watching movies while eating brownies. She is also a popular public speaker and presents writing workshops for schools, libraries, and fundraisers. All proceeds donated to charity. References available upon request.
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6 Responses to How One Writer Writes

  1. E. Ayers says:

    I wish I was that organized! I draft in my head until I know the story is going someplace important. Then I just write. Reread and reread and reread – it’s boring! Each pass, I tweak, layer, and add until I’m happy with it. Then I get into comprehensive self editing before it goes out to my readers. Then I do more clean up when I get their comments. (It’s amazing what other people see!) Eventually, it goes to my editor. I seriously hate edits! After I’ve fixed everything, I read it one more time and sometimes two more times before I format.


  2. susanrhughes says:

    Sounds like a great system. I don’t usually start at the beginning when I write. Once I have an outline (or part of one) I start at the scene that is most fully formed in my mind. I might write a few scenes here and there to see if my idea has potential. Then I go to the beginning, polish up the first chapter or so and give it to a couple of friends for their opinions. They enthusiastically ask for more, of course(!), I keep going and eventually it all comes together.


  3. Tori Scott says:

    I just start and let the characters lead the way. I don’t plan (except in my head as I’m falling asleep), though I will make notes in a separate document if an idea hits. I also don’t write fast. Getting 2000 words written in a day takes a lot of effort for me.


  4. leighmorgan1 says:

    Organized and disciplined routine! Great word count too.


  5. Carol says:

    Great organization, Kristy. Your widget looks like something I need to adapt. Once an idea forms, I let it perk while my mind accepts characters and plot. I use 4X6 cards to jot down chapter information. Chapter #, POV, Characters, Setting, Scene Goal, Scene Conflict, Scene Disaster, Sequel Ending Goal. Not everything comes at once of course, but card structure is movable and I can throw away at will and begin again when the story begins to jell. I also have a Whiteboard, but haven’t used it in a while. Great post.


    • Carol says:

      I also fill in temporary chapter #’s at the top and page #’s at the very bottom. That way it’s easy to find in the manuscript, if I’ve updated at that point. At any rate the page #’s give an approximate area so I don’t need to search forever to find a certain scene.


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