Friday, August 2, 2013

Diary of an Unemployed Mad Writer

            Being a writer is something that takes more work than most people realize. Let’s say that the standard book is 80,000 to 100,000 words. I shot for 100,000 and actually hit it, for the first time in my life. It took me just over two months to do it. Add a couple of weeks to that and I just might finish the book. I don’t always get 1,000 words a day, but I try to write every single day, even on the weekends. Unlike my personal habits, paid authors usually have office hours. Set times every day where they park their asses in a chair and do what they do best, write! How many words they get a day varies by writer because everyone works at different speeds. But let’s take one writer I know of who, according to her Twitter, averages about 7,000 words a day some times. If that doesn’t seem like much, let me add this. With the font and font size I use, 7,000 words is about fifteen pages. Can you write that much a day and have it make sense? My senior seminar paper was twenty pages, about 5,000 words and that was months of work in that.
            So, say that the writer is shooting for 100,000 words like me for her novel. She gets 7,000 words a day. Times by the standard five day work week, that’s only 35,000 words a week. But this writer works on the weekends too. That’s 49,000 words. At that rate, she could finish a book in a little over two weeks. Time to pack it off and send it to the publisher and just wait for the money to roll in, right?
            It was hard work, but senior seminar taught me many, many lessons. The first lesson was how to get back up after a huge failure. The second lesson was how to rewrite. You see, you never turn in a first draft and expect it to be the best thing your professor has ever read. It may be brilliance on paper but the first draft is just a rough sketch of that brilliance. You have to wipe all the grime and dirt off it, polish it up so that it shines, and this usually takes three drafts.
            If you write a 100,000 word novel in two weeks, it may be complete but chances are it’s not ready for publication. In fact, it probably sucks. I’m sure different authors handle this process differently, but there’s the first draft. And then revising. And then maybe you send it off to your publisher, if you have one. If you don’t, well…*laughs* We’ll get to that in a minute. So you finally send it off to your publisher after polishing the first draft up a bit. Maybe it was a full second draft. I don’t know. But anyway, you send it off. Do they publish it right away? Hell no!
            I’m going to go by the process J. R. Ward describes in The Black Dagger Brotherhood Insider’s Guide. When she finishes beating the manuscript until it’s smooth, smooth, smooth as she says, then it is sent to her editor. Editor reads it, they discuss the content and what might need to be changed and what works, and then it’s back to the computer for more writing. Well, revising. Up next is copy edits.
Copy edits. J. R. Ward has some interesting comments about copy editors, but that’s another story. They send the manuscript back to you all marked in red with things you need to fix. You fix it, then send it back. Are we ready to toast the new book? Not yet. After that’s done, it’s on to galleys, which are “eight-and-a-half-by-eleven printout of exactly what will be in the bound book.” And you have to go through it to make sure it’s all right and good. I think that’s the final stage.
            And if you don’t have a publisher yet? You have the joy of finding one, which involves the agent or no agent debate, query letters introducing yourself and the project (mainly the project), and waiting and waiting for an answer. I learned early that rejection will be part of the game. Stephen King used to put his rejection letters on a nail sticking out of his wall. He had enough rejections that the nail was beyond full.
            There is e-publishing, particularly through Amazon. It cuts out a lot of the hassle which comes with dealing with a major publishing house, but you still have to revise, revise, revise. If you have crap, no one will want to read that and unfortunately for writers, I do believe Amazon has a short term return policy on e-books. They get their money back and that cuts into your profits.
            I’ve noticed a pattern with writers. The ones who put out larger books only do maybe one or two a year. The 7,000 a day average writer? Her books are medium sized and she puts out three a year, and she wants to up it to four at some point.
            Writing is a lot of work, which is why not everyone does it. Not everyone can or is willing to park their butt in a desk chair to stare at a blinking cursor which often seems to be mocking you. I do it because I love it, and I’m at the very beginning of the process to publication, even as long as I’ve been writing. I love it and in a time when the only reply I get from potential employers is thanks but no thanks, writing gives me some sense of purpose and of being productive with my day. It is what I ultimately want to do with my life and the only way to get there is through hard work and dedication. And revision after revision after revision because I am smart enough to realize this book is not ready for publication. It still has a long way to go until it’s ready, just like me.

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