The Three Stages (not Stooges, mind you) are as follows: Writing, Editing, and Publishing. That's it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Why? Because if you have too many phases of your book, it's going to look and feel tiresome to write it and you'll end up never getting it done. But these are the universal stages of writing, and even if you use a different plan than I do, all the parts of that plan are going to fit into one of these three stages.
Okay, so about writing. For writing, or any of the three stages, you need to set yourself some goals. The two main ones in this stage are:
- A definite amount goal, in words or pages
- A definite time frame, such as a month or three months
For your time frame, you want something short. You don't want to go lax a month into your year-long writing period and say "I have eleven months left. What's there to worry about?" Next thing you know, the year's over and all you have is a few pages of manuscript.
I tend to set my goals around 1 to 2 months. Most of my work is completed in 1 month or less, with the exception of Terminal Velocity, in which I was extremely lazy. As a general rule of thumb, don't go more than three months. You'll lose your drive to write.
Also, another good thing to remember is to have your period begin at the start of the month and end at the end of the month, or the next month, or wherever you set your goal. That way you can have a better idea of how long you've been writing it and keep track of how many words you should be at each day.
Besides setting goals, you need to remember to avoid over-planning your book. You don't want to spend so many months coming up with the ideas for your book that you don't want to actually write the book. You want to give yourself a week to plan, two weeks as absolute tops.
Remember that your first draft can be anything you want it to be, so don't self edit as you go along. Just go for getting the words out on paper. This is the easy, seat-of-the-pants part of the writing process, and you should take advantage of that. Have fun with it and go wild.
You can find the best tips on writing a first draft from one of my favorite books on writing, No Plot? No Problem!. That's where I derive most of my writing rules, but I have added a few such as the stages of writing and more arbitrary time goal. However, I do set myself a rigid limit of 1 month and 50k words, but you can make your own idea of how your novel will be written.
I'll write back soon with Stage 2: Editing!