I know, I know. This writing exercise was supposed to be a daily activity. I was supposed to do it for 13 weeks straight, and yet I only made it for 10 days or something. So, what happened? Well, to put it simply – edits.
Before I expand on that, let me explain the process of book writing, for those ‘non-author’ types who have chosen to follow this blog. If you’re not interested in learning, or if you already know, skip down to the part where I say, “Anyway, that’s it.”
The first step I will call ‘Creation’. This involves conceptualizing the idea. Now, for some authors that includes a meticulous process of defining the storyline and characters. For others, like me, it includes making a pot of coffee and sitting in a chair. Seriously. I never know what I’m going to write until I start writing. I know, weird, right?
Anyway, on to step number two, also called ‘The First Draft’. Now, this process can take a couple hours (for an illustrated children’s book for example – not the pictures, just the story) to a few years.
The first draft can be sloppy, filled with nonsensical words and storylines that don’t line up. There can be grammar and spelling errors, missed punctuation, etc. It’s a very rough draft. As such, it should NEVER be read by anyone but a trusted friend or another author who’s been there – done that.
Step three is where the story begins to come together. It’s the first time the author starts to revise what they wrote. For me, this includes going back and checking that the timelines all match up, that I’ve properly developed my characters, etc. I read each chapter, one at a time, at least three times before I start revising. Then I work, paragraph by paragraph, until I have that chapter ‘done’.
Once I’m happy with the outcome, I do it again. And again, and again. There is always something I catch, some random inconsistency with the dates or characters. When I’ve reached a point of being ‘okay’ with it, it goes to step four.
What is step four? More edits. But not by me. I honestly believe every author should have at least one, and if possible, two different people edit the book. For me, the first one to read it is always my wife. She teaches 2nd grade, so she’s used to figuring out what her students really meant to say in the stories they write. And she catches most of the grammar, spelling and punctuation stuff.
Step five? Even more edits. This time by someone who will give me both additional little things to correct, like anything my wife missed, and also gives me feedback on the storyline. This editor will leave little comments like, “Was the character smiling here?” or “Share more about the location the characters are in right now.” They help the story come alive.
This is where I found myself just over two weeks ago when I suddenly stopped writing my daily blogs. I find this step to be the most difficult. For me, it takes greater concentration to re-write, to fluff up, or to diminish (in cases where I was far too verbose) what I’ve written. It can mean scrapping entire paragraphs, adding brand new sections, or even re-writing an entire chapter or more.
I don’t know if it’s the same for other authors or not, but for me, I am simply unable to write anything else during this phase. And, it takes at least a few days to transition back to writing again once it’s over.
On to phase (what number was I on?) – formatting edits. “What? We’re not done editing yet?” Nope. Still more. But these edits are different than all the others. For these edits, I transfer the manuscript into a version so it looks just like it will print. I choose the font style, the headers and page numbers, size and style of the chapter titles, etc.
I also kill orphans and widows. I’ll just leave that there and let you decide if you want to Google search to find out what that means or not. Or leave me a comment, and I’ll respond with more.
Anyway, that’s it. The entire editing process, from the moment I hand the book to my wife for her first read-through, to the time I submit the completed project to the print shop normally takes a month, sometimes two. It really depends on the schedule and availability of my editors.
That’s where I’ve been. But, at least for now, I’m back writing again. My project this time? Finishing Brother Thomas and the Guardians of Zion: Book Two – The Paladin of Panama. It should be complete by early April, and released by end of May, early June. I’ll update my progress here as I go.
As Tigger used to say, TTFN!