I read a great deal and always have. I read books I love, books I almost hate, and books I would never read again but there are those rare few, the diamonds sparkling among the gravel. If you’re a reader, then you know what it’s like when you happen across a good book. It captures your imagination and holds your interest. The characters are drawn true to life and you almost feel as if you know them well. Their story becomes for a span of time your story and you can’t wait to see what happens next. Although it’s become almost cliché, you find you can hardly put it down.
For me, when I’m working on a new work-in-progress or WIP, writing becomes as intense and often as enjoyable as reading a new favorite novel. I’ve often described writing fiction as reading intensified because it is. I’m not sure all authors share the same type of process. We tend to be individuals and do things after our own fashion. There’s no one size fits all procedure or standard method. The one thing which holds true is you’d better love your story because you will spend a great deal of time with it. I have many ideas but what determines which project I’m working on is simple – it’s the one which consumes my interest and calls to me.
There’s the initial first draft stage, a time of sheer pleasure in creating the story. This is where you get to know your characters well. You learn how they act and react, how they think, what they feel and the way they view the world. The story takes shape and form, the way someone who knits or crochets sees a pattern emerge from the first threads. There may be research involved but it’s fascinating as you learn new details and facts to use in the tale.
Once you finish first draft, it’s best to let it sit awhile, kind of simmer like a slow stew. Let it gain some seasoning and flavor before you dive back into it. Then you self-edit. You look for obvious errors, misspelled words, grammar problems, and plot holes. You tighten and correct until it’s the best you can make it at this point. Sometimes you let a beta reader go over it to catch what you didn’t or offer an opinion.
Then it’s time to submit it and the wait begins. If it’s accepted, down the road, your manuscript will return to you with red edits and you will go through it once more, one word at a time. If you loved your story, you still will. And you’ll see where the changes make it stronger and better and somehow more. You complete first edits and sometimes up to two more as your editor rakes over it with a fine-tooth comb, making sure every comma is correct and there’s nothing which could be fixed or improved.
After that, you might think you’re finished but it’s time for a last read through of the final manuscript. It’s the final chance at correcting anything. Although you’d think after several sets of eyes have poured over the work, there wouldn’t be anything but there are often a few errors remaining, sometimes more. The more you apply yourself to write better and cleaner as you learn, the fewer edits you’ll find at any stage.
I’ve got edits in hand for an upcoming work and more in queue behind it. In the meantime, after several starts, I’m working fast and hard at a new title, enjoying the process as the story comes alive in my imagination and beneath my fingertips.
So when you find a favorite novel which grips and holds you, think for a moment about the author who created it with pleasure and toiled to make it the best it could become. Then enjoy!