Monday, December 2, 2013

Undertakers of Rain: The process

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As a writer, I've learned that it's only the first draft that's any fun. After that it's self doubt, tedium and a certain level of suspicion that torture is waiting for you at ever turn. That being said, if you are a writer, or if you know a writer please know it's only the first draft that's fun. I'm amazed at the writers I know, or even the would be writers I know who labor over the first draft. The first draft is not for self editing, self doubt or self censorship, these things only lead to bad ends.

When I consider the first draft, for anything I've ever written, well, it was good times. Every manuscript is a pile of notes and grand ideas and endless possibilities. Every first draft is like endless gin and tonics on a clear bright warm summer afternoon and it's the sort of gin drinking that is a comfy buzz, never a drunk, and never a hangover. The first draft is the only part of writing that's any fun, have I said this already?

There is plenty of time for tedium.
There is plenty of time for self doubt, self censorship. There is plenty of time to think about how horrible it is, how awful, how short of the mark. This is the second through three hundredth draft.

The second draft.

The time comes to start working. That pile of notes and the endless possibilities begin to become a short list of notes and limited possibilities in the second draft.

Choices. Decisions. Realities. That's that.

Then comes the formation of a manuscript. Here things must be in a reasonably readable form. For me this happens long after the second draft. It happens after the third draft. In fact it comes much later on. Undertakers is not exactly different. I remember being very keen on this manuscript after the third or fourth draft.

Here's what happens when the excitement clouds good judgment:

September 2009: The first draft completed
December 2009: After a few revisions, I thought this was ready publication.
January 2010: I let a few trusted friends read it.
April 2010: I submitted this to a small press contest. It was rejected, thankfully.
April 2010: I submitted this a literary agency. It was not a blind submission, I knew someone there. Again, a rejection; again, thankfully.

The manuscript got one or two reads and revisions in 2011, and again in 2012.

January 2013: I submitted it again, this time to Ring of Fire. There are a couple of reasons why the manuscript was accepted this last time. First, it had several revisions over a period of three years. Second, I already had a relationship with Ring of Fire because they published my first novel, Dysphoric Notions in September, 2012.

For those of you who have never thought about the process of publication here's a thumbnail.
November(2012): I received an email from my publisher that they wanted a second novel.
January: I submitted the novel.
February: It was accepted. We drew up the contract.
March: It went to the publisher's editor.
May: It came back to me. I reread the novel, I looked over the editor's notes. I sent the novel to my editor (That's Janice). I read the novel again and looked over Janice's notes.
June: I sent the novel back to the publisher.
July: I got the electronic version of the novel and reread it again. I sent a few changes to the publisher.
August: I got the “PROOF” copy of the paperback. Those beautiful letters P-R-O-O-F, those five letters meant only one thing to me—I would not have to read the novel again. I read it for the last time then.
September: I sent the last changes and corrections back to the publisher.
September-October: I got some input on the cover. As a bragging point here, the cover image is one of my photos. Steve Penner, my publisher, designed the cover. We came to the final product some time in early October.
November 1: The book released.

The whole process took four years. I wrote the first draft in the first 8 weeks of the four year process. And the last several steps to the novel's release took an entire year, and that is very-very quick by comparison. So, that's the process.

The whole process has really yet to begin by November 1, 2013, when the novel released. Now comes the marketing, now comes the promotion, now comes the selling of the novel. This process, although a direction relation between action and results, is not what the first days of the writing of draft number one.

The process of a novel is not dissimilar, I'd think, to the process of anything. The process of writing a novel seems to be of interest to many people. I think about National Novel Writing Month, also in November, and I think of the number of people who do it. I recently looked at a continuing education catalog and I was both surprised and delighted to see the number of novel writing courses offered. True, it is an incredible process, the writing of a novel, and that process takes patience, vision and discipline. But, writing is only a small part of it.

Anyone out there endeavoring to write a novel, this is all I have to say to you: just write it. Write it no matter what. Write it knowing that it may never get read. Write it because you want to write it. Write it because you must. I have long held the belief that there are two pursuits: making love and making art. Write your novel because it's the right thing to do.

Last thoughts

Thank you for your support. Thank you for buying my book. Thank you for reading.  

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