First off, this is not a complaint. I feel tremendously fortunate to have found publishers willing to publish my stories and readers willing to read them. And I actually really enjoy the editing process. I learn a lot from it, and it’s truly gratifying to see my prose polished up all shiny. I even enjoy the discussions about em-dashes versus semicolons, the to comma or not to comma debate, the debates about whether asshat should be one word or two. But, as my teenager would say, OMG! Until a few years ago I never realized how much time editing takes.
In my fantasies, the writing process works like this:
1. Get brilliant idea
2. Effortlessly write thousands of words every day until story is complete
4. Immediately get informed that story is most wonderful thing ever, and get offered contract
6. Sign contract
7. Book is published
8. Watch book reach top of bestseller lists
9. Grant rights for movie starring some combination of Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Chris Hemsworth
10. Meet actors, who insist on chatting at length with author about their characters
11. Win Pulitzer Prize
Yeah, well, here’s the reality:
1. Get brilliant idea
2. Struggle to write while also working day job, dealing with family, doing research, and occasionally having no idea what words to type next
3. Give self pep talks
5. Work with beta editor(s) to get input and to improve prose
7. Repeat step 5
9. Write brief summary (ugh!) and synopsis (ugh! Ugh!)
11. Wait many weeks
12. Get offered contract
14. Sign contract
15. Wait many weeks
16. Round 1 edits
17. Round 2 edits
18. Edit blurb
19. Fill out questionnaire about cover design
20. Galley proofs
21. Look over cover design
23. Begin marketing book
24. Book is published
25. Continue marketing book
26. Fail to receive phone call from Johnny Depp
You’ll notice there’s a bit of a discrepancy between these two lists.
Not only that, but if an author is at all prolific she probably has several projects going at once, each in a different stage. Right now, I have one story at step 1 (and that one has a deadline), a novella in step 5 (also with deadline), a novel in step 11, a novella in step 15, a short story in step 17, a novel and a novella waiting for step 20, and a novella in step 23. (I keep track with an Excel spreadsheet.)
Again, I’m not complaining. I mean, wow! A few years ago getting even a single story published seemed like a distant dream. And I am hugely appreciative of all the people who support me in my efforts, who partner with me to make my stories as good as they can be.
But this process can be a little exhausting. Or energizing. Depends on how you deal with deadlines and to-do lists. Fortunately, aside from brief moments of despair and anguish, I do well with a busy agenda. It may be a juggling act, so I'll aspire to be an octopus. And I’ve certainly gained a greater appreciation for all the time and work that has gone into creating other authors’ works. That book I read in a single day took months and months—maybe even years—of hard effort.
So I’ll keep plugging along. My story ideas list is 12 single-spaced pages long and growing.
And Johnny? I’m waiting for your call.