That’s probably the thing that writers want to hear the least. It makes us feel soooo guilty.
And our readers, family, and friends just don’t get it. They look at us with skeptical, accusing eyes when we evade with a self-deprecating grin and a “well, it’ll be a while.”
As a writer you’ve learned that, try as you might, you can’t really explain why writing is such a long process. Especially with books that are based in the real world and partially on historical fact. Research, alone, takes a long time and is an ongoing process over the course of the entire book. You really do want to get your facts straight if your story is based at all in reality, because if you mention an actual place or event, you had better believe that someone is going to correct you if you get it wrong.
And when you’re a writer who also has a day job, a house, a family, pets, and travels a lot, it can take even longer to finish that book.
But, although you try to explain why it’s taking forever for your book to come out, your prospective readers don’t want to hear excuses. They want the goods!
Gentle readers, please give us a break! Writing is hard work!
Here, in a nutshell, is why it takes so long to produce a book:
1. The First Draft
It takes a long time to write your first draft. You sacrifice hours, days, months of precious time, agonizing over a plot and then pouring your heart and soul into your manuscript. You give up family time. You give up time going out with friends. You give up time that could be spent taking care of your home and your health. You spend long weekends dressed in your pajamas all day, with messy hair and unshaven legs. Or you don’t, because you feel guilty neglecting every other aspect of your life. And so you eke out time on your lunch break, after work, after the kids have gone to bed, and late into the night when you should be sleeping.
Then you finally finish. You shout for joy. You jump up and down. You call your best friend or your mom and tell her that you’ve finally done it. You even cry a little.
But you can’t publish just yet.
2. Revise. Revise. Revise.
Now you set your manuscript aside for a while–a week, a month, two months–however long it takes for you to be able to come back to it with fresh eyes. You have spent the last six months to a year researching, and the last three to six months writing, and you are so familiar with the text that your brain refuses to see any mistakes.
When you finally come back to it you decide that it needs a little (or more than a little) revision. You rewrite parts (or all) of your manuscript and are satisfied you have a great story that will entertain readers. Then, using your superhuman powers of discipline, you set it aside again for another month or two. Afterwards you read the entire manuscript aloud. You find a few glaring mistakes, you wonder how you ever missed them, and you correct them.
3. Beta Readers
You send the manuscript off to your beta readers, who may love some parts of the book and hate others. They may give you recommendations on how to make the book better, or point out critical flaws and plot holes that you didn’t see, or correct your grammar or spelling.
4. More Revision
You make another round of revisions based upon their feedback.
Then you send it to your editor. Depending on your level of experience/skill/talent, you first may need to send it to a developmental editor–who promptly proceeds to rip your baby to shreds! You subsequently spend a few days in a major depression questioning your very worth as a human and wondering if you should even be a writer at all. Then your stalwart friends and strongest supporters finally convince you to dive back in and do the revisions your editor recommended. Then the manuscript goes back to the developmental editor for another pass to make sure you’ve not majorly screwed everything up again, and then it moves on to a copy editor.
The copy editor goes over your manuscript to make sure everything makes sense, that your grammar and spelling are correct, and that there are no major holes in it anywhere. It comes back to you for yet another round of revisions. Next, you send that manuscript–which, by now, you may hate because of all the torture it has put you through–to a proofreader who makes sure that every i is dotted, every t is crossed, and every comma, period, and semicolon are in their right and perfect place. Finally, you send the manuscript to a formatter, who does the work of making the inside of the book look good.
6. The “Perfect” Cover
In the meantime, while all of this editing is going on, and before you send it to your formatter, you find a cover artist and have the perfect cover made for your book.
7. Getting Ready to Release
You also start doing some preliminary promotion of the forthcoming book on every single social media channel you can subscribe to. You arrange for cover reveals on Facebook. You schedule your book launch. You talk to bookstores and schedule book signings.
8. Final Proofing
Finally, after all of the above happens, you get your final, formatted manuscript and beautiful book cover. Then you proof everything again. If there are no mistakes that need to be corrected, you’re ready to publish that baby!
9. Hitting “Publish”
At long last, you can send your completed, perfectly polished book out into the world!
You make an account on Amazon and publish to Kindle. You make an account on Apple and publish to iBooks. You repeat for every venue that you can publish on.
10. Announcing the Birth of Your Book Baby
And then, after all of that, you can finally tell your friends, family, and fans that your book is ready for them to read!
And that, my friends, is why it takes so long to produce a book.
*These are only the steps for indie published books. If you’re publishing traditionally, add in another few steps and several months to two years!
First published on http://blog.annisatangreen.com.