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The many stages of writing...

I'm sure the stages of writing are different for every writer, but these are the stages I go through as I write...

The first stage is Writing of course.

Writing is, or can be, a very lonely process. I've long had the habit of writing by myself, and it's rare when I share my writing as I go along. In the early days, I used to write with a black marker, on lined notebook paper, and keep the sheets in a binder. That way I never had to delete any of my words, and more importantly it was not easy to share. Of course, this was in the days before the internet and easy sharing, but it was my comfort zone to write that way.

Eventually I made the switch over to writing on a computer, but I could never fully get rid of my black marker. So, I ended up getting a series of blank journal books to keep notes in. Now when I write, I need my journals, but again, they are too difficult to share.

Writing is a joy, at least for me anyway. I love immersing myself in the world of my characters. At times, I become so involved with them that I feel their emotions almost as though they are my own. When this happens I become very protective of them, and that comes into play later on in the journey when reviews start coming in...but more on that later.

Sometimes during this stage I get impatient. This usually happens when I get to a portion of the story that is difficult to write. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I want to get to the good part. The hell with shopping and wrapping, let me see my loot! In other words, I don't want to write about the strife, let me skip to the part where they make up!

In the end, however, the writing phase is one of my favorite parts of the process. Once the story is past the first chapter, and the ideas start coming fast and furious, I feel very invigorated. I especially love it when I can leave the day job behind for a few weeks, and just concentrate on the writing.

When the writing phase is over, there's the self-editing, the revising, the final gnashing of teeth before the next phase. During this part I turn my baby over to my most trusted reader. She can be quite ruthless, which is why I trust her so much. Although we are friends, she picks over my manuscript with a fine tooth comb.


The next stage is the Waiting.

Of course, first I have to sit with the email open, all the i's dotted, and all the t's crossed. Sometimes it's like a game, should I or shouldn't I? Once the button is pushed though, the manuscript goes out in the world, and I'm left sitting by the mailbox waiting. Honestly, I don't know how writers did it long ago when they had to physically box up a hard copy of a manuscript and send it through U.S. mail. That kind of waiting would have done me in I suspect.

I was lucky the first time I submitted a manuscript, The King's Tale was accepted by Dreamspinner Press roughly three weeks after I sent it. Although I knew this had to be an exception to the rule, I was very glad it happened this way the first time. I liken it to when my son was born. I'd heard the stories of having to wait hours and hours, sometimes days through the labor process. My son was born 12 hours after my first labor pain, he must have known I can be impatient. Every manuscript I've sent since that first one has taken much longer to hear about.

I'll admit, I can be quite sensitive. The waiting process is quite hard on me. With both Promises and Lies, and The King's Heart I got to the point in the waiting process where I was convinced they would be rejected. Perhaps with my next submission I won't suffer quite as much, but that remains to be seen. I make my best effort to keep this agony of waiting to myself, but I'm not always successful with that.

When the waiting period ends, there is either a rejection, or an acceptance. Believe me, I've been through both. Promises and Lies was rejected the first time I sent it, as was Blue Moon. Instead of focusing on the negative though, I'll move on to the positive...at the end of the waiting period is acceptance, and then more waiting.

The next step in the process is Editing.

When I went through this process with The King's Tale, it was relatively painless, and I'll admit I didn't spend a lot of time reviewing the edited manuscript. I was new to everything, and I think I was under the impression that the publisher would notify me of all the changes they had made. Turns out that wasn't the case, and now the final copy says "bed springs" in several places, where I meant "bed strings." I'm much more careful now, but then again, so is my publisher.

The editing phase usually has three parts. There is the first phase where I have to explain myself, compromise, read the whole story again multiple times. This part usually is relatively painless.

One big problem I always have is that I like my characters to speak softly. Yes, I'm a dreaded adverb user! I love my adverbs! I guess my cross to bear is that I'd much rather use an adverb than a vivid verb. One time an editor counted the number of times I used the word "softly"....wow.

When the first stage of editing is over there's another period of waiting. I am the kind of writer that freezes up during these waiting periods. If I have other works in progress, it's hard for me to tackle them because I'm still waiting on the one I know is accepted. I don't work well with lots of irons in the fire!

Eventually the manuscript is sent back, and this second stage of editing becomes more painful. In this stage the rules of style, or whatever they're called, come into play. There's not as much room to groove with the second edit. My mantra during this stage is, these edits make the work stronger. It's reminiscent of the writing stage, when I pass the work by my friend. Harsh realities are revealed, and my fragile writer's ego has to take a backseat.

Next comes another round of waiting, and then the final stage of editing, the galley proof. This stage is exciting, it's like getting a little peek at the final product.



The next stage, Publishing, encompasses a lot of things. A lot.

It starts with all the little things, writing a dedication, approving a blurb, filling out the cover spec sheet. The dedications are the easy part. I'm always amazed when I read the blurb, the whole book narrowed down to two paragraphs!

There's another stretch of waiting here...waiting for the cover. I've been lucky with my covers. The King's Tale has my dream cover. It's almost exactly how I described it. Promises and Lies has a wistful cover, to fit the mood of the character portrayed. I tried something new with Blue Moon, and was extremely pleased with the results. It's difficult to find pictures of the men I see in my head, but the two on that cover are very close!

Once the release date is set there's more nervous waiting. During that time I will regularly go to the publisher's website to see the book on the coming soon page.

And then, at long last, it's release day! I'm so goofy, I'll admit I have trouble sleeping the night before release day. Maybe it's back to that ego thing again, but seeing your name in print is a thrill. Knowing your baby is out there in the world is really something, nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time.

In the early days after one of my books is published, and remember, I admitted to being goofy, I make the rounds more than once a day. I look at Amazon, I look at the publisher's website, I look at ARe. Then I start looking at Good Reads. There's a lot of ups and downs in the early stages. I may never be a New York Times bestseller, but I know I've been an Amazon bestseller! And for some reason, I covet the gray bestseller star at ARe. I have two of them now, and I'm proud of both of them!

It is my dream one day to find one of my books in an actual bookstore. I know they're out there, but I don't know where. One of these days I'll muster up some gumption and take my book to a bookstore, see if I can interest them in ordering a few copies. Or not, since that goes against my shy nature.




The final stage in this adventure is getting Reviews.

This is the part I still struggle with. This isn't friends gushing over my book, because I really have a small amount of that. It isn't that I don't have a lot of friends, I do. But, most of them don't read gay romance novels. They're thrilled for me that I have books published, but they are probably never going to read or review my books. The few I have that do read them just tell me personally if they like or dislike the books.

I've been fortunate in that most of the review sites who take the time to read my work give it good reviews. When The King's Tale got its first reviews I remember having the sensation that I was going to pass out as I read them. A similar thing has happened with Blue Moon

One of the things I like the most about reading these reviews is that many times the reviewer sees things from a different angle. I think maybe I am too immersed in the characters to see them clearly from the outside the way reviewers do. I treasure all these comments, and it does help me become a stronger writer. I was particularly blown away with the observations that Blue Moon had strong character development. I was so afraid, after I played my should I or shouldn't I game when submitting the novella, that I'd failed with developing the characters. I was on pins and needles, expecting the same reaction that Promises and Lies had received, which was not much. Happily, the response was more like what The King's Tale had received.

Reviewing is hard work, and I truly appreciate all the reviews I've ever received. As well, I appreciate the reviews I have not received. If a reviewer has read my work, and determined the review would be less than favorable, then I am glad the review is not written.

Then of course, there are reader reviews. I know better than to confront readers over their reviews, and so I would never dream of doing it. I guess the only thing I would say is that I read them, and I have feelings. Some things people have said really hurt my feelings. It's especially distressing to me when I am misunderstood. As I mentioned earlier, I get very protective of my characters, and that makes it even harder for me when they are misunderstood This is all part of the process though, and I embrace every part of it.

When all stages of this process have been met for a book, there is a period of let-down, much like the feeling one gets at the end of vacation, or when leaving Disneyland. To counteract this feeling I usually start all over again with a new project. I don't write for a living, so I don't have several works in progress bubbling along at the same time. At this moment in time I have a tentative start on a novel, I have ideas for 2 novellas, and I have a few short story ideas. With two works being published this year, I'm not sure when any of these projects will be completed since usually this process cuts into new writing, and I'm about to continue the process with The King's Heart in a month or two when I get it to the editing stage.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and if you have a comment, don't hesitate to leave it!

Images purchased by author at http://www.bigstockphoto.com/

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Rj Scott
Feb. 18th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this... very interesting... I love getting an insight into other author's minds.

I am half way through writing a *the process of writing gallows tree* expose ROFL... it's almost as hard as writing the book itself!

RJ X
rowenasudbury
Feb. 18th, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
Oh I hear you....writing this took the better part of the morning!

Thanks for taking the time to read it :)
anne_barwell
Feb. 18th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing this. It was good to know I'm not alone in some of my reactions to the 'process. I hate the waiting and I know I shouldn't take some of the review comments on board - can't please everyone all of the time, right?

I think we're all a bit protective of our characters. They move in and become a part of the family and often stay on even when we're done with writing their story.

Good luck with future writing, and the edits for The King's Heart - I'm looking forward to that one :)
rowenasudbury
Feb. 18th, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

For me anyway, I feel very isolated and in some ways lonely as I'm writing. At times I want to wave a magic wand and say "done!" but at other times I really relish the process of writing.

Waiting I'll never get used to...and same goes for the reviewing. I think in these days of the Internet, people forget how much impact they can have on someone.

I'm super excited about The King's Heart...even though some of my "fans" are not... ;)
anne_barwell
Feb. 19th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
Curious as to why some of your 'fans' aren't excited...

Writing can be very isolating. Being frustrated by a second draft at the moment. Not because it's not working, because it is and the story is much better for it, but I have the story down, I know what happens, so I want it finished /now/ but of course it can take as long again to get the wording etc just right.

I'm not sure anyone gets used to the waiting. I do wonder sometimes whether people remember there's another person on the other side of another computer screen reading what they wrote. With teaching - and before that - I was always taught about the feedback sandwich, the not so good between something positive. Not sure that's common knowledge anymore sadly although some have definitely got the hang of it.

It boils down to writing for yourself and writing a story you're happy with because you can't please everyone else. Sadly I'm way better at giving that advice than taking it ;)
rowenasudbury
Feb. 19th, 2012 04:05 am (UTC)
I had to delete the bookmark to the Amazon discussion thread where they were talking about it...something about in their opinion the story is done, and if I write a sequel it's just to torture my characters. Of course, I don't believe I'm torturing them, and I also *know* the story is not done. Heh.

I know what you mean though on getting the wording right, and the like. That was what was so frustrating about The King's Heart...getting through scenes that were delicate, when all I really wanted was to get Dafydd and Christopher back together. (oops....that's what the fans are miffed about methinks).

I know that theory, I've heard it called the One Minute Manager, where you say something good, then something not so good, and then something good again. People on the Internet don't think that logic applies to them. I had a friend tell me she regularly goes about bashing books because she doesn't think about the author reading her comments. Now, she says she does.

I write 90-95% for myself, and 5-10% for the friend I mentioned above. IE: mostly for me, but there's a part of me that wants to make her happy too...it's hard to explain. ^^
anne_barwell
Feb. 19th, 2012 04:31 am (UTC)
I think you've explained it perfectly. I have a couple of friends I write for as well (they beta for me). It makes me happy when they enjoy what I write :)
rowenasudbury
Feb. 19th, 2012 04:37 am (UTC)
She and I have been friends a long time, and she regularly gives me ideas :)
knowmefirst
Feb. 22nd, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
This is a lovely insight to a writers mind. Specially because I sometimes feel that it comes really easily to the writers that do it for a living. Now I know that no matter if you write for a fandom or a publishing company we all go threw the same stages in writing :D
rowenasudbury
Feb. 22nd, 2012 02:18 am (UTC)
It's true! Writing for me is so up and down. Some days it comes very easily, other days it takes me all day to write a few hundred words.

To me, *any* writer is precious...not matter what you're writing!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )