New York Times  Bestselling Author

My New Process

The Midwife’s Confession will be out in late April and I can’t wait, but it’s hard for me to believe that I need to turn in another book before then.  As my faithful blog readers know, I spent a couple of extra months revising The Midwife’s Confession, and while I’m absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out, those revisions cut into the time I have to write my current, still untitled, book. I knew I was going to need to find a new way to work or I’d need tranquilizers to deal with the panic of the next couple of months. Sooo…here’s what I did.

I’d read an article by author Laura Resnick in a recent NINC newsletter in which Lynn discussed her consultation with a life and writing coach to help her reach her deadlines. I contacted the coach, April Kihlstrom, and wow, what a help! First, I have to say that every writer is different and is dealing with different issues and has different ways of working, so what was suggested for me may not be right for another writer.  But here are the basics that I took away from my consultation with April.

By the time I contacted April, my book was already outlined within an inch of its life. I’d worked on the outline for a couple of months because the more clear I am on what happens, the faster the writing will go. (In theory, anyway. My characters are still surprising me on every page). So I was ready to begin the first draft and knew I had only about a month to devote to it. My books are about 400 pages/100,000 words long and a rough draft is usually about 300 pages.  My schedule has always been to aim for ten pages a day, but often I didn’t make that goal. I’d get sidetracked. Some of the interruptions I couldn’t help: doctor’s appointments, vet appointments, grocery shopping, balancing the checkbook, etcetera. Then there’s keeping up with this blog and guest blogs, staying in touch with my readers through Facebook, and doing author events. And finally there’s the stuff I consider self-sabotage: computer games and getting caught up in Internet research for an element of my story–things that are so much easier than putting words on paper. All of the above equals one big giant horrible word: GUILT. Maybe it goes back to my Catholic upbringing, but I was always feeling guilty if I wasn’t writing. Therefore, I rarely planned anything fun in the few months prior to deadline. I am sure that my friends and family are sick to death of hearing me say I can’t go to a movie or out to dinner or chat on the phone because I have to work.

Anyhow…I explained all this to April. She made many suggestions, but the following three have made the biggest difference for me.  

  • In the evening, jot down exactly what I need to work on the following day so that in the morning, I know exactly what I need to do. 
  • Aim for twenty days of fifteen pages a day instead of thirty ten-page days. That allows wiggle room for those days when I just don’t have the time to do ten pages (or I want to do something fun instead) and allows me to have those days without feeling guilty.
  • Work in hour long increments without interruption. No zipping over to Facebook. No picking up the phone. When I think of something else I need to do, jot it down so I don’t forget it. Just keep working for that hour. I bet this sounds like a no-brainer, but to me it’s been a revelation. After an hour, I can catch up on phone calls and Facebook and play a game or two. Then I start a new hour.

I made an adjustment to this schedule by changing “pages” to “words”, because a page of dialogue feels like cheating to me. So I need to write 3,750 words a day for twenty days to reach my rough draft goal of 300 pages. I’ve been at it a week and a half and have reached my goal nearly every day. Sometimes I’m over. Sometimes, like today when I had two medical appointments, the dog groomer, and two blog posts to write,  I’m under. But I’m taking it one day at a time and it’s amazing how that eases the guilt. I’m discovering that if I don’t allow myself to be interrupted–and I know where I’m going–I can write nearly 1000 words in an hour.

Now,I have to admit that these are bad words. As Anne Lamott says, this is a “shitty first draft” as my first drafts always are. I will have a ton of work to do by the time I reach the end of it and I’ll need to come up with a whole new process to do the first and second rewrites in a timely manner. But at least right now, I’m not feeling anxious and I’m not feeling guilty. 

I’ve just described the mechanics of writing a novel and they are important, but I haven’t for a moment forgotten that it’s all about the story. My characters need to be real, the suspense needs to be electric, the pacing needs to be tight. All of that work was done during the outline stage so that now I’m able to focus on the writing. Next draft, I’ll figure out what’s missing in the story. Third draft, I’ll pretty up the writing. Then it’s off to my editor and at least one more draft will follow.

I just hope by then this poor book has a title!

24 Comments

  1. Margo on January 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Diane, I’m really happy for you that you’ve found a system that is working for you with no guilt…You’re accomplishing your daily goals and it has to feel good!
    Hopefully your new plan is allowing you some restful time at the end of the day, altho knowing you I’m sure your mind is constantly working overtime for the next day’s work.
    Can you share anymore tidbits on this story?…maybe we can work harder on helping to develop a title that will fit.

  2. Margo on January 21, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Diane, can you tell us the setting for this new book?…is it near the Outer Banks?
    As far as MIDWIFE’S CONFESSION, I can hardly wait!…if my memory serves me, this idea was formed while you were on one of John’s photography trips.

  3. Diane Chamberlain on January 21, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Margo, I think we may have a title, at least for the US and the UK, but I’m not going to mention it until I know for sure. (and it’s one that one of my readers suggested, so I’m hopeful. It’s up to the powers that be at this point).

    Actually, the idea for this book came to me at the Opium Den. The settings are Raleigh, Beaufort NC, and Carolina Beach, NC. . . and a truck stop near the Virginia border. LOL.

    A little bit of cool news: CeeCee hit #1 on the Kindle list in the United Kingdom! She slipped a bit, but both CeeCee and Breaking the Silence are still in the UK Kindle top ten. Exciting!

  4. Margo on January 21, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Wonderful news for CEECEE!…I’m not surprised.
    Thx for sharing the settings…I’m excited!!!!

  5. Chantal on January 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Diane I can’t wait to learn more about your next novel. I can’t take enough of your books. I’m still waiting for your next e-book I’m so happy that you make them available has I have not been able to find them used.

    I can’t believe that I just discover you last year. Continue your fantastic work.

  6. Denise on January 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, I love that CeeCee and BTS are on the top 10 in the UK! That’s fabulous!

    Did any of our title suggestions for the new book help at all? 🙂

  7. Diane Chamberlain on January 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    possibly, Denise. Still waiting to hear from the powers that be.

  8. Brenda on January 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Diane
    Ironically those are strategies I give my students in doing their work and I use in my own work. Good luck

  9. Brenda on January 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Love love love locations for book
    Time period??

  10. Gina on January 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Wow Diane that’s a lot of work! I am in awe of you wonderful authors. Is there an issue date yet for the midwife’s confession? I’d like to read it now please. 🙂

  11. Diane Chamberlain on January 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Gina, TMC pub date is April 26th.
    Brenda, time period is present day.

  12. brenda on January 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

    On another subject…although I will still buy books and use the library, this Kindle has become one of my best friends-along with my IPHONE. I seldom go to my computer when I can do everything from IPHONE. One great thing about Kindle-the battery has the LONGEST life…

  13. Diane Chamberlain on January 22, 2011 at 11:23 am

    heh heh…Brenda, I had the feeling you’d get hooked.

  14. Ann on January 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Perfect time for the publication of your book – we leave for Topsail Island on the 30th. Hope to have the book packed in my suitcase then.

  15. Brenda on January 23, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    You can say I Told You So

  16. Brenda on January 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Have to admit wrong again
    I thought the title chAnges would
    Be no big deal
    Not so
    Friends and teachers buying books such as Shadow Wife not too happy
    I now see the problem

  17. Diane Chamberlain on January 25, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Brenda, it’s a huge problem as far as I’m concerned. I’ve lost track of all the unhappy and angry emails. The fact that this book now has THREE titles is making me nuts. I have no idea what it’s going to be called in the UK. I’m nervous!
    Cypress Point: original title
    The Shadow Wife: new title
    The Forgotten Son: Australian title
    UK??

    ACK!

  18. Dee Hodgson on November 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Hi Diane I can’t work out why you called the book ‘The Forgotten Son’. Why SON this has really got me puzzled.
    ps I loved the book
    Dee
    Gold Coast, Australia

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Dee, I didn’t call it The Forgotten Son. The original title is Cypress Point and when it was reissued, my US publisher changed the title to The Shadow Wife. But when it came out in Australia (where you live), the Australian publisher gave titled it The Forgotten Son. I didn’t know about it until after it was published and I was as confused as you are. Many people have written to ask me who the forgotten son is, and it’s embarrassing to say “I don’t have a clue!” I will have a new publisher starting 2013 and we will all work hard to be sure my books have the same titles in the US/UK and AU. I’m glad you enjoyed the book anyhow. It’s a story I love.

  19. Amyd Dudfield on March 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Hi Dianne! I have just finished “the forgotten son”
    And had the same question as dee but I sincerely hope you get your wish of the same name books worldwide because with the three titles I was thinking “yay!! So many more books to read!!”
    Anyway I just wanted to say you are such a fabulous storyteller and I can not ever put your books down. I hadn’t read in 1.5 years since my son was born but I’ve since read nearly 6 of your books and he’s only 2.3years! I sacrifice sleep for your amazing stories! I now have a big desire to visit North Carolina one day, although I must admit I feel like I know it well through your books.

    Thanks so much, I enjoy every book of yours I can get my hands on.

    Amy 🙂

  20. shar on May 25, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Hi Dianne
    I too have just finished the forgotten Son thinking where does that fit in !
    Loved the book and cant wait to read your next novel

  21. Susie on October 22, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Thankyou for writing such wonderful books, I have many favourites. I also had the same question about The Forgotten Son, thankyou for clearing that up!.
    Another interesting point, I have Before the Storm, published in Great Britain 2010, which has the same cover picture as The Forgotten Son, published in Australia 2011!

  22. Diane Chamberlain on October 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Yes, the UK publisher is the same as the AU publisher and they chose to use that cover for both books. I can’t explain why, though! So glad you’re enjoying my books.

  23. Margaret Stephens on May 31, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Well it looks like I am not the only one with the question about the title “The Forgotten Son” How strange that it should be changed as per its sale point country. Thoroughly enjoyed it though . Thanks and blessings

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