I was talking with another author recently and he was stunned at the myriad of steps I take before I consider my book ready to let go of. Well, ready to be willing to let go of.
I finished the first draft of FLAME GAME several days ago. This book took me forever to write and it's not all that complicated.
My schedule has not only been backed into a corner, but shoved up the wall. Not pretty.
Here's how birthing a book happens in my world:
- Finish the first draft. This is by far the most difficult thing for me to do. During this phase I will do a lot of light edits. And I have a good friend who tries to read some bits and pieces in spurts. Not the most effective way to improve a story, but she's good and I take what I can get.
- Let it sit. If I'm luxuriously ahead of my schedule, 3-7 days is wonderful. With this book? 24 hours was all I had, and that was a stretch.
- My first self-edit is to read it through. Make notes, write stickies, try and answer all of the silly things that need answering. Incorporate those edits. This is where I begin to believe I have a book. This is where I really begin to love the process.
- Listen to it. The text-to-speech function is incredibly robotic and boring. But maybe that's the point. (This is the step I'll begin next.) Incorporate those edits. More loving.
- Beta Readers. These are the angels in my life. Writers and readers of my genre who are willing to read a manuscript that's still pretty raw. I have a general list ready for these angels to keep in mind as they read, but of course they're free to add whatever they desire. These take a little more time and evaluation, and there will more edits to incorporate. At this stage I've actually coughed my book out to readers.
- Professional edit. This is where I go when I can't possibly pull together a better story. When I need a professional to evaluate and probe and pick and push. It's a strange mix of collaboration and admonishment. I love it.
- Proofreading. With all of these edits there's likely to be details that are missed. A word that has been unintentionally deleted. Quotation marks that need to be adjusted.
- My cover designer and I have already been in communication. We're working to create a cover that will put my book in a place where a reader who's never heard of me might be compelled to take a closer look.
It's all better with friends.