The Question of Writing and Editing

An awful lot of people have asked me what it’s like to get a book published, and my editor is on me to blog about it, so I’ve finally given in. Here we go. Patrick’s best instructions for how to write (or revise and publish) a novel (in case you’re of a mind to do something like that)…

First, let’s throw away the romantic notion that you’re sitting in a log cabin somewhere in the winter time with a wood fire and a glass of wine, typing the last page of your “finished” manuscript, to send it to the publisher and be done with it. That’s just something they made up for the movies.

There is no dramatic pop of a champaign bottle when you’re through writing, and there’s no signature lighting of the Cuban cigar you’ve been saving for just such an occasion (if you smoke, which you shouldn’t). In fact, you probably won’t even know when you’re through. You’re still in the middle of what you think is a million and one changes, and then you get an email from your editor, telling you that the text is declared. And that’s it, you’re done. Soon you see your book up for pre-order on B&N, and all you can think is that there were still about two thousand changes you could have made.

The fun stuff is what happens in between the first time you ‘finish the manuscript’ and the actual time you finish the manuscript. The fact is, when you hand your manuscript to your editor, you quickly find – to your shock – that your book isn’t done. In fact, even though you’ve written 500-plus pages to this point, you haven’t even started yet. You must add a new character and your “concept” of the story has to change. This needs more development, that needs more description, and your bad guy isn’t actually bad enough yet. You need to figure out where you’re ‘going’ with the book, and even with the series. Your editor quickly becomes your best friend and your worst enemy. You start dreading his or her emails, but if he or she doesn’t email you back quickly, you get obsessed with watching for the response. Treat him or her with respect and a watchful eye, because their job is to make or break you! You’ll probably write your manuscript 30 to 40 times during the process of editing (honestly), and you may learn to hate every word of it by the time you’re done. And then suddenly, just when you think you might scream if you have to revise one more time, it’s over. You get the email that says ‘the text is declared, hope you were done with it,’ and that’s that.

Then it’s time to start all over again, with the second book that’s due to come out next year, and that’s now incomplete because of how much you added to the first book.

It’s a whirlwind, and that doesn’t even start to describe it. But it’s all worth it in the end. When it’s in print, it’s worth every minute of the hell you went through. And that’s the best way I can describe getting a book published … at least the writing part. Next time I’ll talk about the marketing, public appearances, tweeting, Facebooking…

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