One of the questions I frequently get asked is "How do you come up with an idea and work it through to publication?" Great question!
It works differently for every author, so I'm speaking only for myself here. Step-by-step, off we go!
Step 1: AN IDEA
This can come anywhere, anytime, and from anything. I've had story ideas that hit me in the middle of the night, in a dream, driving, or showering. Ideas, unfortunately, don't ask my schedule before just showing up in my life. I'm ALWAYS thinking about something book-related.
As for where the ideas come from, well, from anything. A name. A song. A scene. A title. Scenery. Absolutely nowhere.
Step 2: MENTAL WORKOUT
It's like calisthenics for the brain. Now that I have this great idea, I have to work it out in my head. I need something more solid than just an idea before I put it down on paper, so to speak. I don't need everything about the story, or even the ending, but I do need to know where it's going to go. This step usually takes a few months and continues until I turn it into my publisher.
Step 3: THE ROUGH DRAFT
I pick the story that won't leave me alone. It's that one that's forcing me to tell it. Sometimes I'll write up a rough outline, sometimes I won't. It's constantly changing, anyway.
Now I type out the story as I see it in my head. Depending on tons of factors, this can take me 6 weeks to 4 months.
Step 4: EDITS
The rough draft is the fun part; Editing is actual work. Line by line, chapter by chapter, I dig into the story. This includes content, copyedits, revising, re-writes, and cutting. The whole book gets a complete make-over.
Step 5: REPEAT STEP 4
Whoa, wait a sec? Again?
Yep. Again. From beginning to end.
Step 6: REPEAT STEP 4
This isn't an accidental step; I do another round of edits.
Step 7: CRITIQUE PARTNERS - 1
When I have the manuscript as good as I think it can be from my perspective, it's time to start swapping chapters with my amazing critique partners (CP's). These are other authors or inspiring authors that go through my work line by line, chapter by chapter, giving their thoughts and trying to tighten up my book. In exchange, I do the same for them.
Step 8: EDIT
As I get my chapters back from my first CP, I consider their comments and make changes.
Step 9: CRITIQUE PARTNER - 2
Then I give it to my next CP to work their magic.
Step 10: EDIT
And edit all chapters, taking in CP #2's comments.
Step 11: CRITIQUE PARTNER - 3
You get it by now. Per book, I usually do at least three rounds of CP's, and this can be happening fairly simultaneously. One CP might be on chapter 10 when I start exchanges with another, beginning at chapter 1.
Step 12: EDIT
If this is my last CP, I not only take their advice, but I comb through the manuscript one last time for my own benefit. There's always stuff to edit. Art is never finished; it's just abandoned.
Step 13: BETA READERS
Almost done! Now I send the polished manuscript off to beta readers, people who read through my book, beginning to end, as if they're reading a novel. They make sure it flows well, it's consistent, and there's no logical errors in the storyline. Again, I use at least three.
Step 14: EDIT
Yeah, there's definitely a pattern here. After talking with each beta reader, I make my final changes and do one last round of edits.
Step 15: SEND TO PUBLISHER
Ahhh, that feels good. Now, I sit back and bite my nails to see if they want it or not. (I try to lave it alone, but I always end up making more edits!)
Step 16: FIRST ROUND EDITS FROM EDITOR
YES! They want to publish it! For a while, everything is out of my control while they send the manuscript to the editor and cover designer. When my editor is finished, they send me their suggestions.
Step 16: EDITS
I bet you didn't see that coming? LOL! I make edits suggested by my editor and send it back.
Step 17: SECOND ROUND EDITS FROM EDITOR
This goes on until everyone is happy!
Step 18: EDITS
And I keep editing until I'm happy!
Step 19: FORMATTING & FINAL EDITS
The formatter sends me the final formatting for my approval. This is my LAST chance to make any edits, so of course, I do! As soon as I send it back, it's finished!
And that's all! The book gets published and all the amazing readers have the chance to read what I've been working on the last year or so.
It takes me 8-9 months from start to publisher. From publisher to public depends on their schedule. During the editing-CP phase, I'm usually working on my next rough draft, though, so it doesn't seem like that long.
I love writing novels, and as long as you keep reading them, I'll keep writing them!
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