Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Draft #743 | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process


This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about book cover design. Today, I’m going to share how I managed to get from Draft #743 to a version that I could send out to beta readers. {More on beta readers in a future post.}

I can just imagine what you’re thinking. “Draft #743! How long exactly did it take you to write this book?”

Okay, let me let you in on a little secret—I’ve been known to have a tendency to exaggerate. I really didn’t write 743 drafts, although it sure felt like that at times. I wrote five. Let me break it down for you.

Starting a Blog

Once upon a time (2013 to be exact), I started a blog—The Cynical Sailor—which was focused on our transition from landlubbers to buying our first boat, cruising on it in New Zealand, selling it and coming back to the States in search of our next boat, and our ongoing liveaboard and cruising life. I shared my fears about sailing and tiny house living on a boat, our misadventures, and stories about our nomadic life.

People told me that they enjoyed my blog posts and strange sense of humor. Some even said that I should write a book. Sure, people say nice things all the time that they don’t really mean, but I got enough positive feedback and was enjoying writing so much, that I started to think maybe I should write a book.

Then my mother said, “You should write a cozy mystery, Ellen! It can be about a woman who knows nothing about boats or sailing, ends up buying a sailboat, and solves murders along the way.” You should always listen to your mother, right? Both of us enjoy reading cozy mysteries, so I decided to go for it. After all, wouldn’t it be fun to write a book your mom wants to read?

“Going for it” means something different in my world. I am a champion procrastinator, so “going for it” involves thinking about an idea, thinking about it some more, and doing nothing about it.

NaNoWriMo Attempt #1—Failure

My mother kept asking how my novel was going. I was running out of excuses, so I decided to actually go for it by signing up for NaNoWriMo in 2015. This is an annual event where people set a goal to write a 50,000-word novel during November. It’s a slightly deranged idea. Writing 1,667 words a day? Crazy! But crazy is good, or so I told myself.

I turned on my computer on November 1st with a vague idea about writing an epistolary cozy mystery. Epistolary novels take the form of written letters, diary entries, emails etc. I had just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and was a bit obsessed with the whole epistolary approach.

Turns out it was a complete and utter failure. I had nothing to show for that month that was of any use. I made the picture you see below to “commemorate” my lack of success.

The Stench of Failure

I then spent the next year starting half-hearted drafts, deleting them, starting yet more drafts, doing some more deleting, and eating a whole lot of chocolate chip cookies to compensate for my lack of progress.

NaNoWriMo Attempt #2—Success & Draft #1

In 2016, I signed up for NaNoWriMo again. This time I was a winner! I had made a good start on Draft #1 of Murder at the Marina during the month. (Don’t worry, I had ditched the whole epistolary thing by this point.)

Then I slacked off. I would periodically open up the manuscript and attempt to finish Draft #1, but my progress was slow. I finally managed to cross the finish line in March 2017. It was a bunch of nonsense and needed some serious editing, but I felt like I had cleared a major hurdle. I had a manuscript that deserved a number and, thus, Draft #1 was born.

After that, life intervened in the form of boat projects and cruising in Florida and the Bahamas between April-August 2017. As fun as it is to write in the cockpit in a pretty anchorage, I wasn’t able to focus as much as I would have liked, spending more time on blog posts than on my novel. I made some attempts to work on Draft #2 while we were out on the water, but it wasn’t until we tucked the boat away for hurricane season, that I got serious.

Edits Boat (800x449)

Getting Serious & Completing Drafts #2 and #3

While we were at the marina during hurricane season, I buckled down, did some editing, and finished Draft #2 during September. My husband read through this version, offered lots of great suggestions, and then it was back to editing some more.

Knowing that I’m very pressure-prompted and work better with a deadline looming over my head, on November 1, 2017, I announced on the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop that I would have a draft ready for beta readers by the end of November. {Gulp}

I had so many offers from people to beta read, that I had to finish up Draft #3. No excuses. And I did, typing The End on November 20, 2017. It was a good feeling. It was also a scary feeling because that meant I was ready to send it out for feedback. {Eek!}

So, to sum up, it took me from November 1, 2015 to November 20, 2017 to get from a blank sheet of paper to a beta reader draft.

But, Wait, There’s More

Of course, you don’t stop editing after your beta reader draft. I ended up doing two more drafts:

  • Draft #4—Quite a few revisions based on beta reader feedback (which I got back in January 2018). I sent this version to my editor on February 12, 2018.
  • Draft #5—Minor changes based on my editor’s feedback, which I received on February 25, 2018. I sent this version back to my editor on March 15, 2018 for a final pass.

Which takes us to the final manuscript, the one that will be published on June 21, 2018. {Yippee!}

Paperback version available closer to the release date (June 21, 2018). Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

Other Posts in my “Cozy Mystery Publishing Process” Series

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

If you’re a writer, how many drafts do you do before publication? How long does each draft take you?

Murder at the Marina - Pre-Order Banner (All ERetailers)

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

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19 thoughts on “Draft #743 | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process”

  1. The number of drafts I write depend on the contrariness of the project. I think I wrote 7 drafts of Champion in the Darkness, but then I wrote only three drafts for books 2 and 3 of The Champion Trilogy. Those 7 drafts of the first book helped me nail down a lot of world-building dilemmas because I was writing in a fantasy setting.
    I am in a similar struggle with my current WIP, but I am hoping it only takes me three drafts to get the world-building mess figured out so I can get feedback from betas (4th draft hopefully), then an editor (5th and final draft hopefully).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d say I wrote two serious drafts of LSCK, and they were entirely different. I revised a WHOLE bunch of times after that, but it didn’t feel like I was writing new drafts, just re-reading, tweaking, re-reading, tweaking, ad infinitum until my husband forbade me from touching it again. The Kowloon Jukebox is turning out the same. I wrote it. I realized when I was done that it was all wrong but knew EXACTLY how the new draft needed to be, which is what I’m working on now. And I mean, it’s ENTIRELY different on the second go round.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Three does get to be a point where you have to put the pen down/turn off the computer and say enough is enough. It will be interesting to see how the process of writing the second book in my series goes compared to the first. I’m currently on Draft #1 🙂


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