Is it safe to assume you like books? I do. I’ve inhaled my share, marveling over the words, the characters, praising the author’s imagination and research. So many small miracles caught between cardstock covers.
But what’s involved in getting those books onto your shelf? Why does it take forever to go from a manuscript to a product in your hands?
Someone has to write the book. You knew that. For my first book Sixty Acres and a Bride the process of writing and re-writing took about a year. This got the manuscript into the smoothest form that I and my critique partners could manage. When I mention my first draft, it’s this one, although it actually represents scores of rewrites and drafts.
Sixty Acres was purchased at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011. (The story about getting the contract is here – My Publication Story.) The release date was set for the Spring of 2012 – more than a year away! True, I needed time to work on the second book, but a whole year before I could hold it in my hands? Unmitigated torture.
It was a long time to wait, but the publisher wasn’t idle. They were busy getting the groundwork started for a great release. Before the marketing department could introduce Sixty Acres to the reading public, they had to read it. That first draft was sent around the office so they would know what they had to work with. Their first decision – the name. I’d titled it Forty Acres and a Bride, thinking Weston might agree that his stubborn bride and a mule shared many common characteristics. Marketing wasn’t as amused by the allusion, so we made the farm bigger by twenty acres and had a less offensive title.
The first draft was also read by a team of editors. They put their thoughts together and presented me with a “Substantive Edit” letter. This listed enough problems with the characters and the plot to make me wonder why they bought it in the first place. Imagine winning Miss America and then the pageant coordinator tells you that you need a make-over. That’s what it feels like.
But truly, the story did need work. There’s this mysterious gulf between my best and suitable for publication that only editors can see across. What is it they glimpse on the other side of the crevice that tells them this story will be worth all the work they are going to put into it? I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll get a guest post on that question.
So rewrites on Sixty Acres were due in April. Plenty of time, but the synopsis for the second book was due by the end of January so I’d have time to write it. In fact, just imagine as I describe this process that between every sentence I’m writing a few more chapters of the second book. Right there. And there were some more.
The synopsis is single spaced and usually between three to five pages. Evidently the editor thinks it’s important to know what I’m going to write before I turn it in completed a year later. I understand that in theory, but I’m not sure exactly what the story will be until I’m about halfway finished with the manuscript. That means I need many words on pages before I turn in my synopsis. It also means that many of the words might not make the final cut, but that’s the consequence of driving without a map. Maybe someday I’ll learn.
That brings us up to 9 months from publication…a veritable literary pregnancy.
That’s all for this week. Next week – the (awesome, gorgeous, breath-taking) cover and more edits.
And a question for you. What would thrill (or did thrill) you the most about having your work published?