This was written for Self Published Authors’ Lounge but not sure when it will post there so I am going to go ahead and schedule it here.
Everyone writes a book differently and each author swears by their own methods. As far as I see it, the only wrong way is the way that doesn’t work for you. That said, I’m going to share my bizarre way of novel creation. When I say it takes a village, I mean it.
- Rough (bad) draft. Ideally, I like to do this in a month without an outline. I have vague ideas for some plot elements, or even a handful of scenes, but that’s about it. I also don’t research beforehand, but rather as I’m writing because I don’t know what I will need.
- I reread and fix anything major I notice. I won’t lie, this is often not a lot.
- It’s off the beta reader number one whose job is to find major typos. I have a lot of them because, yes, I’m a bit dyslexic. It means some extra work on the polishing end and that we have to go over it more times than some other authors need to, but it is as it is.
- At this stage it used to go to The Mighty Ed (alas I have lost her because of other commitments, though I have a new Ed in training). She would read through and point out scenes that needed cut, scenes that needed expanded, parts that didn’t mesh, places where the characters acted out of character etc. This step is absolutely vital to any book, and I can not reiterate enough the need for an “Ed” who respects you enough to tell you what needs fixed without being mean or lecturing you. It may also be hard to take said advice the first (few) times because essentially they tear your book to shreds and stomp on it – but hopefully in a nice way.
- Now comes rework. I incorporate 99.9% of her suggestions, even if this means massive rewriting, which it has before. I prefer to go over the whole thing two times afterwards to make sure the changes flow.
- Beta number one tirelessly pours over it again for typos.
- Now it goes to beta number two. He corrects more typos and points out the flaws in my fight scenes and suggests where I need more gore (or explosions). He’s also what I call an honest beta, in so far as he will flat out say “this sucks”. Again, this is very necessary.
- Another round of edits to incorporate his suggestions and probably some rewriting.
- Beta number one looks sad, but looks over it again.
- Now it goes to beta number three. She’s the romance expert but also makes suggestions on other scenes, catches typos and grammar and points out anything that might be confusing to a reader. This is invaluable.
- Another round of edits to incorporate her suggestions.
- Beta number one cries, I feel bad, and just send it on the beta number four.
- Beta four wades through it, fixes typos and some odd phrases and may or may not point out a handful of scenes that need to be redone. For example, in book four I ended up doing some large chapter rewrites after he pointed out that a pivotal scene just wasn’t working (if you’ve read the book, it was the truck stop scene.) He is also not a regular vampire fan, so he points out anything that non-vampire readers might find confusing. This is another super important person.
- I rewrite, re-edit, etc based on his suggestions. I also have several long plot arranging conversations with him, so he gets to be the sounding board, as have poor Mighty Ed and betas one and two throughout the whole of this process.
- Then it is off to beta number five. She is a whiz at catching typos/grammar, plot inconsistencies and things like magically changing hair color or magically clean clothes (these have both happened!) etc. and, like The Mighty Ed, she understands the universe and the characters. This is something that is very hard to find and so, so important!
- Another round of edits and rewrites and then poor beta number one looks it over again. By now beta one and I have it memorized and are both sick of this book.
- Mighty Ed gets the final copy, which she double checks for punctuation (my commas are wild). With book four, Mighty Ed was pretty busy, so beta five got the final round. She did a fantastic job, as evidenced by the nice clean copy.
- Now I make a bunch of other changes. Beta number one sobs and threatens to beat her head into the keyboard. I moan and complain that this must be the worst book ever written. I would rather stab out my eyes than read it again.
- I format it and send it to Create Space. My paperback version arrives and I read it one more time (it reads differently in paperback). Then poor beta one looks at it again as does beta two. We draw circles, squares and chickens on the pages (beta two does the chicken art).
- I redo all of the marked things. On the last boo this was just typos and such, but on the others I have randomly added whole new scenes at this juncture.
- Ideally I get a second proof and go through it a final time, but not always.
- I publish the sucker and vow never to read it again because i would rather be stampeded to death by a herd of water buffalo than ever read another word of it!
As you can see, this process is a bit long. I need to try to streamline this because, as you can guess, it takes months and releasing only one book a year is not doing my career any favors. It’s occurred to me that a lot of time is spent polishing scenes that get deleted or changed after beta reader’s input, so with my current WIP (PATRICK) I am trying a different method. I sent out the initial bad draft (from step 4) and will compile the comments, notes, etc, and the do a BIG rewrite, thereby hopefully meshing steps 4-15 into only a couple of steps. Hopefully this will also save beta one’s sanity and keep me from completely hating the book by the time it’s published. Or maybe not. Cutting out some of the rewrite steps may result in more typos slipping through, or more little bits that needed added but got missed. I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out. That’s the beauty of indy publishing, you can try new things, make mistakes, learn from it and try something else if it doesn’t work.