Every writer is different in the way they approach writing a book. I can be a bit perfectionist about it. . . . But just a bit, I swear. ;) Since I talked about editing last week, I thought it might be interesting to share how my entire process works. (So far. I'm hoping for some changes in that process when I get something published.)
Writing My Book
Before I discovered NaNo WriMo in 2008, I hadn't completed a novel. I had about a million 8-30 page starts of novels. Either I'd get stuck and stop, or I'd get a new idea and abandon the old one. (Which still happens occasionally, but I'm much better now.) But here is not the place for a lecture on the merits of NaNo WriMo. (That's here. And here. And a million other places because I'm a true believer.) This is just where I say, now I stick to a WIP whether it's working or not, whether it's going somewhere or not, whether I hate it or not. If I LOVE the idea and have a good idea of what I want to happen, I'll write a book in three to four months. A really crappy, pulled together, choppy first draft.
Are you asking yourself: wait, didn't you miss a step? Like you know, outlining? Outlining is such an insignificant part of my process it doesn't deserve it's own category. Sometimes I have a great outline with a lot of detailed points. Most the time I just have a list of characters and their basic specs and at least four points on my outline: beginning, middle, middle, conclusion. :D I'm a pantser, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Once I've finished a novel, I usually do a quick read through right away to catch any little thing I missed. Make sure timeline makes sense somewhat, look at typos and small issues. Then I set it aside for at least a month, usually more because I always have a bunch of ideas roaming my head. Many demand to be put on paper right away. Once some time has passed and I feel I can look at it with fresh eyes, I do an in-depth edit to fix every issue I can catch. I do a search and replace to catch words I know I overuse and to make sure I'm using contractions. Once I've finished that first major edit, I beg for beta readers and send it off.
Ideally I get two people. It's not too many. (Have you ever tried to please four or more people with something simple like dinner? Try attempting to fix a novel with that many voices in your head.) Two people seems to be my sweet number. If both readers notice something, I know I need to fix it. If it's something only one reader commented on, I know I can choose to ignore it if I want. When I get it back, it's usually been a month or two, so I'm ready to start editing again. My biggest edit begins after I get it back from beta readers. I tend to change A LOT.
Getting More Help
I'm needy. My major edits after a beta read usually involve lots of emails between me and my readers asking for help brainstorming or fine tuning problems I hope I've fixed. Sometimes, after I've finished such a big edit, I'm lucky enough to have readers willing to read through again to see if the changes make sense. (By this point, I've spent so much time with the book, fresh eyes or not, I can never trust if it only makes sense to me because I wrote it!) If not, I find some more willing people to read again. Another round of edits follows.
This is a step I would recommend EVERYONE trying. I usually order a proof copy from CreateSpace to do this for a few reasons: 1) It's just cheaper than printing on my computer. 2) Seeing your MS on paper as opposed to a computer screen actually helps in finding mistakes. 2) Reading aloud helps you find awkward sentence constructions, too-formal wordings, and scenes that can be cut. I like to read to my husband, and since I write YA that is--nine times out of ten--geared to teenage girls, I always know what's not necessary, because I usually cringe before reading it to Adam. It also helps to discuss with him, because if I can make him love a book meant for a 15-year-old girl, I know I can make it work for the intended audience! (His advice usually includes some form of the words "more action.")
This is the most painful part for me. It includes writing a query letter and throwing my MS out into the world for scrutiny. This last time the first wave of rejections included 10 out of 10 form rejections. Yipes! Usually I rewrite my query four or five times. This time I've actually sent out three different versions, trying to see which one causes the most interest.
For me, this is as far as I've gotten so far. And for everyone the process is different. Hopefully you can look forward to some guests posts that highlight how other authors do it, both traditionally published and self-published. I'm off to look for volunteers now. ;)
I'm so close to 1000 followers on Twitter! Follow, enter here, and tweet about it to win a copy after I get 1000 followers! a Raffle...
I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.