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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writing a Best Selling Amazon NOVEL ~ Why does it take so long?

I am often asked...
"Why does it take up to nine-months for your books to come out?"
"I'm starting a novel, but I'm not sure where to begin..."
"Is it possible to just write more quickly?" :-) :-) :-)

As I appreciate your interest (far more than you know), I thought I would share my process ~ what goes into a single book in the series...

I have fleshed out the characters in my mind, created lengthy (written) profiles, and imagined the most climatic scenes. I've drawn maps and timelines and decided HOW I intend to write it (i.e., in third-person limited with multiple POV's). I've outlined histories and the world-building, and then I sit down at the computer...

This is all about story-telling, pacing, and just getting a "skeleton" down on paper.
I will leave holes all over the manuscript (yep, blanks or notations where words should be), and there are red flags virtually everywhere: "Make this stronger/or softer...add scenery...look this up...this isn't possible ~ fix it!" LOL The point is: I'm just trying to tell a full-length story from front to back, without interrupting the flow. I'm deciding which character will "narrate" each scene and tightening their point of view...and I'm pouring my heart and emotion into the story, alone.

By the time this is done, the pacing, the timeline, and the outline will be set in stone.

Before I can pave the road, I need to fill in all those potholes. This is where I go front-to-back (pg 1 to 350) and check names, places, dates, and details. I do a TON of research as this stage (anything from a type of armament to the anatomy of a wound; to what time the sun set in 1850 to how many times a human heart beats in a minute; to the minerals found in a cave to the type of trees that grow near rivers, etc.). In a series with such complex world-building, I have to check every single fact in my "world" and reference previous books.

By the time this is done, a comprehensive story is beginning to unfold.

I think this is what most people think of when they imagine an author working: This is where I "write" the story from front-to-back for the first REAL time. *This* is the place for particular word choices; using stylistic grammar; and tweaking paragraph shifts, dialogue, & punctuation. And this is where I fill in all those blanks ~ address all those red flags! I read it out loud from start to finish and nitpick my way sentence and paragraph at a time.

By the time this is done, I begin to see a book in my future. :-)

It's time to switch hats! To go from author and storyteller to editor and reader. At this point, I print the entire manuscript out on paper, sit down with a red pen (or pencil), and begin to go through it word-by-painstaking word. I look closely for POV shifts, the sound of each character's voice, and the continuity of the story as a whole. Consequently, this is the FIRST TIME I've had a chance to read the entire story from front to back, without weeks or months between scenes. I use this opportunity to feel the rhythm of the writing (and improve it), to hear how the words actually flow. I also follow a long checklist of edits, such as, search for every unnecessary instance of the word *that* and remove it; search for any contractions outside of dialogue and make them formal-narrative instead, etc! And then I go back and put all these changes into the computer -- ugh!

By the time this is done, I actually have a novel! :-)

At this point, I've absorbed all I can absorb; I've seen all I can see; and I've fixed all I can fix. It's time to bring in a fresh set of eyes: This is when I sit down with someone who really knows and follows the series and have them read a book. Their job is to share their emotions, to catch inconsistencies or glaring errors, and to ask questions whenever they feel confused (if they didn't get it, the reader might miss it, too). It is not their job to edit grammar and punctuation -- unless, of course, it flies off the page.

By the time these changes are made, I feel confident enough to approach the publisher. 

**BTW: The release date is often set here**

Finally, the publisher takes over: The book is placed in the hands of a professional industry editor, who will go through it word-by-word, line-by-line, chapter-by-chapter and send it back for revisions. While this is going on, layout and cover art begin -- luckily, that's not my job, as I'm already exhausted! :-) However, I will make one point of personal preference: Even if I were to publish myself, I would never skip this step! Professional editors are experts in their craft--they eat, breathe, and dream the English language--and since they do this for a living, they're up on the latest trends, stylistic choices, and they know the most recent changes to rules (as well as how to break them :-))... While virtually NO BOOK IS 100% PERFECT, the difference a pro can make is well worth the cost -- if nothing else, it's improves one's writing! :-) Just my two cents on the subject...

By the time this is done, I have already planned the release! 

So, there you have it: the step-by-step playback. The reason my novels take a while to complete (no matter how fast I write :-) :-) :-)), and hopefully, a few ideas here and there that may prove helpful to those getting started. (Of course, you will discover your own instinctive process as you go along).

I look SO forward to those magical days when a new release is finally here, the book is hot off the presses, and you and I can just get down to the business we truly love most: getting lost in the wondrous world of fiction!

Cheers and Infinite Blessings!