At a social event in the distant past when it was possible to attend such things as social events, the woman I was conversing with over our plates of snacks asked excitedly when my next book would be released. I thanked her and told her I had just completed the first draft (of Hidden Obsession), and I wasn’t sure how long revisions would take.
Her expression went blank, the clam-dip laden cracker halfway to her mouth. “But,” she said, when she recovered, “if it’s finished, doesn’t it just go to press?” In a magical world, my first, rough draft might be perfect and ready for publishing, but I didn’t say that. I thanked her for thinking my first draft of a new story was publishable. Calling it a first draft implies there’s more to do, I said. I picture the writers out there now nodding sagely, maybe layered on a sigh, because they know what’s next.
I have just now finished the first, rough draft of my next book, to be titled Genuine Fake, which will be in my Devlin Security Force series. Keep in mind I write romantic suspense, which is suspense/mystery interwoven with a central romance. Here’s a sketch of the plot. Gemma is a painter and the granddaughter of a famous deceased artist (think Andrew Wyeth stature). Attempts on her life are tied to recent forgeries of her grandfather’s works. Boyd, an operative for Devlin Security, must keep her safe until his company and FBI Art Crime stop the bad guys.
Writers employ varied methods to create that draft. I’m generally what is called a plotter. I do character sketches and devise major points in the plot ahead of writing scenes and chapters. I’m sure approaches to revising are as diverse as approaches to writing. I can describe only what I do.
My next job is to use the notes I’ve made as I go through each scene. Have I adhered to the framework of the three-act structure? Have I included enough details and sensory impressions to make scenes come alive? Am I increasing tension from chapter to chapter? Are my characters behaving in consistent manners? And so on. I see if I’ve ended paragraphs with a punch and scenes with questions or other hooks that keep readers going. I edit for word usage and clarity, grammar and punctuation. Oh, and the typos, because they do happen.
When I wrote for a publisher, at this point I sent the story to my editor, who sent back a list of further revisions. That completed, the publisher would then take care of the rest. I am now publishing independently, so the rest is up to me. The next step is writing the back cover copy, that is, the brief description of what the book is about. This must lure readers to buy the book. It must be long enough but not too long and include conflicts in both the suspense plot and the romance. This is the most challenging aspect of preparation, and the one I dislike the most.
I do not hire an editor as some indie authors do. So at this point, I add front matter—title, copyright info, list of my other books. You can see the front matter for On Deadly Ground in this image. Then back matter—a letter to the reader, a brief bio, and possibly an excerpt from another book. I also copy all the pages into a template for a print book. You may think this is tedious, but I find it a soothing way to decompress from the actual writing.
As an indie author, I pay for formatting and cover art. My digital formatter works her magic so it has clickable links and fits Amazon’s guidelines. Next, I send a request to my cover artist, with cover ideas and character descriptions. Sometimes it takes a few first drafts of those before I’m satisfied. As yet, I have no concrete ideas for the cover for Genuine Fake. But it must fit with the general look of the other Devlin Security Force books.
Once the cover and formatting are completed, I set up social media announcements, send a newsletter, and book ads for the book’s launch. Finally I upload both digital and print versions to my account at Amazon and go through their process. Finally, I click “Publish” and cross my fingers.
Wish me luck with Genuine Fake!
Great information. I like the step-by-step description.
Thanks, John. I was afraid it might be boring.
I absolutely love the title. Reminds me of the movie True Lies. I don’t think most people (writers included!) realize all the work that goes into that book they want for 99 cents, or better yet, free. And I envy your organization! I’m organized in every other aspect of my life (except the closets) but when it comes to writing, I never know what’s going to happen.
Thanks, Maggie. I don’t organize the whole book, so the characters and plot lead me where they need to go, even if I don’t know ahead.
Great information here, Susan. This is very helpful. And of course makes me want to read the book right now! I dream of hiring someone to do the launch stuff, which I am terrible at! But so far, it is only a dream.
Thanks, Kate. I dream of having someone do the launch stuff too, and write my promo ads and my bcc. But it’s a dream.
Hey, Susan. Great description of what happens after you write The End the first time. It’s great to get to that point, but then the real work begins. I used to me more of a plotter–though not to the extent you do–but I’ve morphed into more of a pantser. OMG. The rewrites are horrendous. Much easier to do when I plotted and had notes of what happened when. But you know what I’m most impressed with? The fact you don’t have to hire an editor. That’s impressive, and I say that having read lots of your books and not remembering seeing any issue. So congrats. I’ll be sharing your post. Folks need to get a glimpse into how hard it is to write a book. Look forward to reading this next one. 🙂
Marsha, thanks so much! Plotting does make revisions easier than if you don’t. I’ve had more pantsers than you say the same thing you do about revisions. I didn’t say I don’t have to hire and editor, only that I don’t hire one. lol
Susan – even though I am an indie writer (and a pantser, at that) and know the process, this post exhausted me – YES, we writers do work hard. When I see you lay out the whole process in a blog (on stuff, it sometimes take me years to do,) it seems like an overwhelming task, indeed, Great post!