During this corona-virus pandemic, when we all need to pull together and work toward a common goal, it seems a fitting topic to talk about what it takes to go from an idea in the writer’s mind to a published book on the shelf.
The Nigerian phrase “It takes a village” has become familiar to many Americans, partly because of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book. I recently thought how appropriate that sentiment is to writing and publishing a novel. Before I was a writer, I never gave any thought to what it took to get a book written and published. Now I know it takes a lot of people! A lot!!
Of course, I can only speak for myself but I believe I am representative of many authors.
After I have written my rough draft, I turn to my college friend MAS who has generously offered to listen to me read my draft out loud to her on the phone. This is an enormous help because I hear things that I don’t see when I’m writing or reading my manuscript on the computer or on pages I’ve printed out. I hear mistakes, repetitions, boring bits, and other things best left out. MAS suffers through that very rough rough draft. She also offers insights on plot, character development, and, most of all, she tells me when I haven’t written well enough and she is confused.
After we’ve finished, I return to my draft and rewrite it. I let it simmer for a week then reread it. I fix things that jump out at me as awkward, confusing, or slow. I enhance the characters and setting. I add all the layers I wanted to do earlier but was too focused on getting my basic ideas down. I make sure there are enough historical details. I go through a pile of notes that I’ve accumulated over the months when I was writing the first draft, selecting and discarding ideas and sentences. After letting it sit once more, I read it again. Hopefully there are only minor tweaks at this point.
Here is where the village takes over. I send the completed draft to my Beta readers and anxiously await their comments and critiques. I am blessed to have talented friends who are also extremely supportive. Lifelong friends MH, MLM, SSW, and KL take anywhere from 1-4 weeks to read the copies I’ve printed out for them. They write notes in the margins about things they like and I should keep, as well as things they suggest I should change. They also write out several pages of notes much like my editor does in the developmental arc edits. As I receive each batch of notes and comments, I decide if I agree with what my Beta readers have said or not. If more than two people make the same comment, I definitely address that issue. I go through the manuscript 4 more times implementing each person’s comments, one at a time.
At some point while the Beta readers have the manuscript, I contact GM, my go-to cop. He reads the novel and tells me where I have made mistakes in the police procedure. Naturally, I fix most of those. For the sake of the story, I occasionally leave something I know is wrong but I note that in my comments at the end of the book.
Once I’ve incorporated all my changes and reread the manuscript a final time, I email it to my editor. She reads it and, in a month, she’ll send me what are called developmental arc edits. These are notes on plot, character, pacing, dialogue, and action scenes. I’ll rewrite the manuscript again to incorporate her suggestions−or explain why I don’t want to make a certain change. Luckily so far, we have ended up agreeing on things.
After all the writing and rewriting, a copy editor goes over the manuscript for errors in punctuation or verb tense. The interior designer decides what the inside of the finished book will look like in terms of margins, spacing, page color, font, and any artistic elements that might be added. The cover artist designs the artwork and cover. It finally goes to print. Then, hopefully you will be interested to read it!
I would like to give a huge and heartfelt Thank You!! to my village. I couldn’t do it without all of you.
If you’ve read previous posts, you will have noticed that I like to include photos with each one. I couldn’t think of anything appropriate this time, so I decided to simply post pictures of some of my favorite villages. Enjoy!