Writing, Editing, and Publishing
So you want to be a writer? Good. Let me tell you a story (pun intended).
My writing for the last fifteen years has been a serious hobby. I've written and published six novels of two hundred thousand-word average length and three compendiums in The Ardwellian Chronicles, The Mercenary Trilogy of novels, and two volumes of The Earthfleet Saga. Yes, I've managed to stay busy with my writing habit.
Something most of us never really considered when we started writing, whether a short story, a novel, or a full series: writing is hard work. It separates you from your family and friends for long periods of time. It requires immense concentration, focus on not only the scene in process, but the work overall and how that scene integrates into it. You have voices in your head all yelling for their time and exposure in the story. Sometimes they stop talking to you because you're trying to get them to do something they don't want, or you won't let them do something they want to do. This is the real definition of writer's block; when your characters stop talking to you.
You’ll go to bed at night exhausted from your daily routine; work, the kids, the family, other activities, whatever. Your head will hit the pillow, then it starts. The voices again. Why is it we can’t hear those voices during the day and write down the things they’re saying then? Why do they wait until you’re tucked beneath the covers and drifting into dreamland? My opinion is, because only then do they have your undivided attention. And they won’t let up on many an occasion. I’ve learned, if the muse decides to visit at 3:00am, you’d better (a) have a recorder in arm’s reach to dictate to, (b) a notepad you can scribble illegibly on, or (c) drag yourself out of bed to type up a few notes so you won’t forget “the best scene ever”. Just do it, as the advertisement says.
Once you've finished your first draft, the real work begins; editing, trimming, tightening, polishing, making a rough manuscript into a real story, something you can show to others with pride and say "see, I wrote this, and it's pretty darn good!".
If you're going for traditional publishing, you will need an agent, or a publisher who will take submissions without an agent. Then you wait, and wait, and wait. In the meantime, if your creative juices are renewed, you want to start working on the next installment, or a new story, or something entirely different. But in the back of your mind is the one you just sent out, and you can't get it out of your head.
If you're self-publishing, you must put a cover together, do the formatting for the service you've chosen, write your back blurb, lay it all out and go through the process several times when you catch errors. You become the publisher, and you suddenly realize, it's all up to you how this book looks on the shelf and whether or not readers will even pick it up. You will need beta-readers, or ARC (Advance Copy Readers), and you MUST find an editor. No, not Mom, or Aunt Nancy, or a friend who says, "Yeah, I can edit". A real, professional editor, one you'll work with to make your story better. And yes, you'll have to pay said editor. Real money. This is a subject for a later talk.
Patience will be tried, nerves will be frayed, heartstrings will be plucked, anger will be piqued. And there's nothing you can do about it. Except carry on.
I always run the full gauntlet of emotions: Relief, amazement, exhaustion, then I move into the happiness, joy, pride, and it usually ends with "dammit, did I forget something???", and I immediately start soul-searching about what I might have left out.
Then I settle back into reality and set it aside for a while, feeling a deep emptiness and sense of loss. But also a feeling of freedom, that I don't have THE MANUSCRIPT chained to my ankle anymore, and I can focus on getting away for a bit. I work in my yard, ride my bike a little more, do domestic stuff I've put off for months, and spend a little more time with friends and family. At last I realize I've completed the task and at some point, dive into the editing/rewriting/polishing phase, which can take longer than writing.
Then I start it all over again with the next book...
Any artistic endeavor is a journey, and that is what draws us to it; the process itself, not so much the end product, but the creation of our ideas and bringing them into physical reality. Holding a book in your hand, that you have written, with characters you have created, and words you have penned, is not like any other process. You have brought people who never existed to life, born of your own mind and heart, living, breathing, real people with hopes and dreams of their own.
And it's nearly impossible to let them go. They are children of your soul, and you have raised them from beginnings to where they are now.
And sometimes you cry. Not of sadness, but joy, like any parent seeing a child leaving home to make their way in the world. And if you've done your best, that's all anyone can ask of themselves.
Relax. Take a breath. Raise a glass.
You're an author.