Virginia is usually the first person to read one of my books. Sometimes she even reads first drafts (not very often anymore.) When I finished the first draft of Valentine I sent it to her because I was debating whether or not to make some major changes and I wanted her opinion.
The response I got back was something like this: “So how long until this is released, because I think it’s pretty much done.”
To which I responded, “Uh, no. I’ve barely even started.”
Through the conversation that ensued, she told me I had to write a blog post about what it takes to finish a book.
My favorite part of writing is creating a first draft. This is where the story transfers from my head to the paper. I usually draft very quickly, finishing a book in 3-5 weeks. My drafts are short, only about 2/3 the length of the actual book. They usually are missing descriptions and internal thoughts. Sometimes I will outline a little bit, but I’m what writers call a pantser (instead of a plotter). Often I don’t know what will happen in a book until it is written down. I’ve tried heavy outlines because that’s supposed to make it easier to write, but I find them stifling. I tried it with Secrets and I hated that book until I threw the outline away and just allowed the story to go where it wanted. Currently, I’m just getting ready to start The Dragon Kings book 4. (It has a title, but you’re not allowed to know that yet as it is a little spoliery.) This book has been in my head for a VERY long time and I can’t wait to get it out.
After that I send it to my developmental editor. It normally takes her about two weeks to do the edit. She looks at the big things, like plot holes and weak character development. I almost always have a panic attack when I get the book back from her because I feel so overwhelmed by the process. But it’s rare that when I actually sit down to the edit that I disagree with her. After her edit, it takes me 3-5 weeks to fix it. This is where the last third of the book comes from. To me, this is the most difficult part. It where a story becomes a book with a solid plot and characters you can relate to. My books wouldn’t be half as good as they are without a developmental editor. I just finished this process with Valentine and I wasn’t sure it was going to happen on time. But I’m so, so pleased with the changes.
As soon as I finish up with the developmental edit I send it to my line editor. It normally takes her about ten days to go through it. She catches a lot of minor issues, like small plot holes and continuity. She will look for sentence structure and she also corrects grammar and looks for words that I use too often. Once she sends it back to me, it will take me a week or two to fix, depending on how much work I have to do. Then I send it back to her for the copy edit. She’s does a more in depth grammar check and looks for more repeated words and typos.
Once I fix all those mistakes, it’s off to a proofreader and then on to my superfans and beta readers.
And that’s it.
A lot of work, but worth it to make my stories the best they can be.