November 4, 2010

My workflow

Right now, I'm at that horrible juncture where I'm waiting for readers to get back to me.  The book is done and it's out there now to four readers.  (I thought it was five, and might have said that earlier; four are reading it.)  There is nothing I can do now except wait to hear how they liked it.  I think of this as "waiting for the reviews."

Fortunately, the first reader to complete Xmas Carol, my third book (the horror novel), informed me last week that she really enjoyed it.  She also pointed out problems, of course, and I fixed those things in the text.  Readers find all sorts of things you just can't see on your own.  After reading my first sci-fi book, a reader gave me shocking news.  I had two main characters, one male and another female, and I'd named them Janna and Jonno.  It's as obvious as a brick wall, but I hadn't noticed.  We are totally blind to the most glaring things.  Thankfully, these things stick out like neon signs to readers so they can save us from ourselves.  Jonno became Jeremy.  Phew.  Embarrassing.

But, getting back to the chase, the first reader liked it!  And last night, another reader called me and, in an excited voice, said, "This book is so good!"  (She's still reading it).  It is incredibly rewarding when someone likes your work.  But, back to the workflow issue.

When I finish a book and release it to readers, I've already edited it at least three times.  This happens as part of the process of writing the book.  When I'm halfway or three-quarters of the way to completion, it's sometimes hard to remember all that I've written, especially in a long book (and the last was 220,000 words).  I need to know everything in order to move forward in the best manner for the story.

So I go back and read what I've written.  I do this onscreen and edit as I go along.  After three or four edits, it sounds fairly good.  It's far from perfect, but it's pretty close to final form.  That's when I hand it out.  I give it to readers so that I can obtain their input before I do a final, massive edit of the whole book.  Only then is it "final".  And then I move on to writing the next book.

(I know, I know.  There's this publishing thing I seem to leave out.  I'll get to that in a later post.)

Right now, I'm in that in-between place: I'm waiting for the reviews to come in.  I still have three more book reactions to assimilate and then I'll dive into the final edit.  It will be an arduous task -- it always is.  But after that last go-through, I usually end up with text that makes me happy -- and other people too, apparently.  I'll never get over that.  (I know I keep saying that but it never gets old.)

So this is how my workflow goes:
  • Write a book in six or seven months
  • Give it to readers
  • Edit once more (taking into account the readers' reactions)
  • Move on to the next book 

I can't dive into a new project until I've finished the previous one.  But once that's done, I tend to move along swiftly.  I'm no spring chicken and if I want to produce at least ten books before I die, I need to write.  That's why I blog as writenow.

Mind you, the urge to write doesn't leave me while I'm waiting for reviews.  I sometimes write short stories to fill in the gaps.  I've written five so far, and one's a killer.  I'm still trying to decide whether to post it here . . .

One last point: this is why I have the time to blog right now -- I'm waiting for the reviews to come in.

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