So this might be a short blog post, but I wanted to answer a question a reader posted in my previous blog post last month.
Purple Reader asked; “Thanks for the excerpt. Pretty intense. So yeah, about time is the enemy. I don’t know how authors can manage it all. Which gets me to wondering, how long does it take you to “write” a book, at least to get it to beta version? And with other things that have to happen, how long does the whole process take to going live?”
First off, I don’t invent characters. They come to me.
It can be as simple as a vision of them.
A lone boy lies naked on a dirty mattress, hauntingly beautiful as the low orange afternoon light spills over his skin, but his gaze is hollowed. Eyes dead and vacant of a soul. What happened to him? Why is he lying here in a dusty old motel room, blood on his fingers, chest heaving…. Tears crawling down the sides of his face…?
A man screams at me, his eyes red as he condemns the world. His rough and time-beaten skin in an angry outcry of pain and rage as he clutches a dying man to his chest… As if he is both trying to mourn and yet hold onto the little love left within his dying lover… How did this happen…? What, or who brought them here to this painful point in their life…? And through the soul shattering chaos of death and loss, the man in his arms reached up, cupping his face and whispers, “I will love you always. Never forget.”
Sentence(s) whispered or screamed into my mind.
“I met my mate four years ago. As a lycan and as an alpha I’m both awed and feared for my strength and ferocity. I knew the day would come when my mating call would be awakened. I knew I would claim my mate with the same ruthlessness and deadly dominance I exuded in life, protecting and leading my pack. I met my mate in a mental institution. He’s an adult suffering from level three autism. I have not spoken a single word to him. But I allow myself one hour a week, just to watch him from afar. I don’t know how long I can go on like this.”
“They won’t stop until I’m dead.”
“I’m an exclusive escort to one of Chicago’s most ruthless and powerful crime kings, but I’ve never seen his face during our times together. He always has me blindfolded, and always want me to come wearing women’s lingerie. There’s a problem though. He doesn’t treat me as the johns before him—like I’m just some hole to fill his need and satisfy his fetish… He treats me as his lover and… I’m starting to believe him.”
“I’m falling in love with the demon currently possessing me.”
And in rare instances, it comes to me as a blurb or a title.
HE WHO KISSED THE PALE PALE MOON
You had it all. A perfect life, a successful career, a beautiful home, great friends and an even more perfect marriage with a hot-blooded, handsome stud of a husband.
Until you hadn’t. Until it was all ripped away from you.
Now eight years later the same detective who destroyed your life that fateful night is again standing before your front door.
The same detective who, for four years, had worked endlessly to solve the murders plaguing your hometown. The same detective who accused your loving husband of being the Pale Moon killer.
The same detective that is now telling you the man you once loved with your whole heart, who you had planned to build a future with, who had kept you safe in his arms because you were scared of a little thunder and lightning… has escaped from prison and they have no clue where he is, and he’s more than likely coming for you.
What would you do?
Other times it’s the secondary characters within a book I am writing, speaking so clear and loud I have no other choice but to give them their own story, as was the case with Hades.
Usually these things I just file away for later.
Once I’m ready to start a particular story, that’s where the longest part of writing starts.
I never know the true meat of the story. I do have a vague idea/concept of where it is supposed to go, what the middle point should be and how it ends.
But I never know the characters beforehand, not until I start writing. As you read and get to know them, I too get that same experience while writing.
Some authors plan out their books. I don’t.
Some authors give their character(s) some leeway in driving the story. I don’t.
My character(s) lead the entire story. They have complete control as to where the story goes and where it will end. I’m just here to put their words on a page for them, and sometimes, more often than not, I have a gun or a knife against my skin as the character tells me their story.
Sometimes, though, I can feel ahead of time, that wherever this is leading to, and going to end up in, is not going to be a good place for the reader, nor the character(s).
What I do have control over, is when and how I reveal certain events or internal and external revelations to readers, whether I want the character(s)’ most heartbreaking point in their lives to be the opening chapter or the closing chapter. I get to control the order in which I want the readers to read the story, and I also get to control in which way the events or particular scenes are presented to the reader via writing.
That’s where I have control in my writing, in the mechanics of writing. And to some extent, in the word choices.
So when do we get to the beta reading part of the process?
Once a chapter is completed, I send it out to my first line of betas. This consists of a team of; a grammar Nazi: someone who focuses on the overall feel, tone, tempo and flow of the story: another person who focus on plot, and development: and finally someone who focus on plot holes and inconsistencies.
First, second and third drafts are done while I work on a chapter. I will not move on to the next chapter or send out a chapter to my betas unless I feel happy with it. (Why do I do this? Because I have no idea what will happen in the next chapter. My shit’s not planned. I Just. Can’t. Write. Like .That.) I also try to edit it as I go, to the best of my abilities, before showing it to the first line of betas. Some authors prefer to write an entire first draft, then go back to do the second, third etc. And only then send it out to their betas.
Once my novel is done, I open a bottle of wine, cry for my own death, drink myself silly and give myself a week or two break from the story. Then I’ll read it from start to end, making sure all events are linked to each other and all ends are tied up. (If the story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.)
Now, with all that said, writers block gets thrown in there at random intervals. Life shit happens that pulls me away from the story. Some authors can vouch for me on this; once you’re in the ‘zone’, you don’t want anything pulling you out of it, because it can be so hard to get back in there.
Some days, I just don’t feel like writing, and that usually means I need a break from the story. This is usually when I spent that time hunting for a cover model and start to work on the cover itself.
So, a simple novel from start to end, (100-120k, because a 60k book is a short story in my eyes, and 80k a novella), just getting the story down can easily take up to 6-12 (sometimes more) months to finish.
If I’m lucky, one chapter (which can be anything from 5k to 10k for me) can take up to two weeks to write. Because I think about what I’m putting down onto the page, what weight that single sentence carries, and how best to portray it to the reader. So they can perceive it how I want them (and sometimes need them to) perceive the words.
I also have a big problem of overshowing, but to me, that is not an issue as I would rather overshow than tell.
Finally, we come to the point where I do my read through. Now I send the whole manuscript, from start to finish, off to my second team of beta readers. This consists of a selection of random readers, and mostly they focus on the overall feel and general feedback of the story. Some do catch the occasional misspelled word, or misused word, comma etc.
This process can take anywhere from two weeks to one month. I never pressure my beta readers into a time limit. I don’t like to do that because like me they too have a life, a family, a job. I prefer my betas to rather take their time with something and focus on it, than force them to rush.
Once I get those manuscripts back, I go through feedback, fix what needs to be fixed, and have an overall, general feel of what reviews might look like.
By that time, I do one more read through and then I contact my editor.
That does not mean that the manuscript immediately gets sent to them; they too have a life and job, and other manuscripts to focus on. The thing about editing is, you need to find an editor you work well with. Sure, you can hire the best editor in the world, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the best for you or your work. It’s the same as saying; an editor works for you vs your editor works with you.
Now, if my editor can’t take my manuscript right away, and I do have to wait, let say two months, before they can look at it, I will wait the two months for my editor, rather than going out to find a new one, because I trust them. Even if they come back to me and tell me, it’s going to take a year before they can look at my manuscript, I will wait a year for them.
Some reader might frown on this or call it ridiculous, but to me it’s crucial. Because my writing is so different, it took me a very long time to find an editor I work well with.
And it shows. Most authors complain when they get edits back from their editors. Me? It’s a freaking joy and the easiest part of writing the book.
Usually, depending on book length, and when the freelance editor does their freelance editing, for example only Thursdays and Fridays, it can take between a month or two to work through three sets of edits.
Only when I sent the book off for the third (usually final) set of edits can I more or less determine when to release the book.
Again, I do not give my editor a deadline, nor do I expect them to give me a deadline because life happens every day and in every moment.
When it’s done, it’s done.
When I finally get it back and have worked through the last edits, I get the ARC ready to be sent off, and the promo processes of the book start.
A week before the book is to be released, I begin the painful task of compiling the manuscript into the different E-reader formats and paperback format, and start uploading them to the retailer platforms.
So easily, even though the book could take a year to be written (sometimes less), there are still three to four months after where it goes through editing and being readied before readers get it in their grabby hand, to destroy and relish, or maybe it will destroy them in the end…? Who knows…? I’m evil that way.