I want to talk about writing today, but first let's be clear on our definition. Encarta English Dictionary gives us the following:
Writing writ·ing n
1. words or other symbols, for example, hieroglyphics, written down as a means of communication
2. written material, especially considered as the product of a writer’s skill
3. the activity of creating written works, especially as a job
4. the letters and words formed on a page by somebody using a pen or pencil, or the style in which somebody writes
I'll take #3 for two hundred, Alex.
For me, the creation of a book tends to fall into definite stages. These are arguable, of course, and are composed of different factors for different writers, but the following are mine:
1. Plotting. This is a big one. This encompasses all the what-ifs that meld together to create a cohesive journey. For Danita, it might include a dream. For me, it's a lot of thought centered around a core idea from which massive extrapolation takes place, layer upon layer, building a viable backstory from which a current story springs. Add a precipitating event, light a match to the end of the fuse, and stand back as the clock starts ticking toward the culminating explosion. It starts here, and again, arguably, forms the most intensely creative act of all.
2. The submission package.
• First paragraph
• First three chapters
• Query letter (for some)
3. Contract. This is the checkered flag that begins the race. As I believe Sherlock would say, "The game's afoot." Of course, the game can start without this step, and the quality of the game is not challenged by its absence. I'm just relating my take on things.
4. The three weird sisters:
• Beginning (and here I am referring to chapter four. The first three were part of the submission package and in their own way, contained an arc of their own. Chapter four is a struggle most of the time as it's been awhile since I looked at the book or maybe even thought about it, and I need to get back in the mode.)
• Middle. I know writers who love these chapters the most. The initial event and tension is taking a deep breath, there's time for a little character growth and revelation. To me and a lot of other writers, these middle pages can sometimes seem like a stretch of never ending desert, rife with wavering mirages, the distant cool mountains never seeming to grow closer until one day you wake up and see it's time to begin thinking about the…
• End. The final chapters. Complicated, challenging, exhilarating. Did I tie up all the pieces? I've spent months with the first page of this book and on a tight deadline, I can spend, literally, a couple of days with the last. Doesn't seem fair.
5. Revisions, rewriting. As has been mentioned many times on this blog by many of us, this tends to be a love it or hate it chore. I like it, but I think that's because I rewrite as I go along so the end rewrite USUALLY isn't too horrible. Some people write the book, go back and rewrite the book, go back and rewrite the rewrite… Of course, there is no right or wrong, just personal preference.
6. Send the book. It's all over but the waiting. Will it work? Will this be the one that your editor calls and says, "um, about that book, um…"
7. Art pages, final title, dedication sheet … all the little stuff.
8. Copyedits. Last chance for major rewrites, time to weed in and consider editorial comments and your own second thoughts.
9. Galleys. Little tiny changes for this read through. A misspelling here, a wrong date there… and all the time wondering how you can possibly read this book ONE MORE TIME (but you do.)
10. Now it's really gone and your mind begins the endless what if all over again. For those of you who promote, that part of the challenge is just beginning….
11. The cover shows up on Amazon long before the book is printed. Then a box of books arrives. Reviews drift in, maybe a few nice letters from happy readers, members of your family and your friends read the book and say nice things -- if they're smart….
My question to you is this -- For you is there a favorite part to creating a book or one you loathe? Have I missed something major here? If writing a book was an assembly line job like making a car and you go to choose only one job to do, what would it be?