I promise I’m not whining

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

3.       Submit

4.       Immediately get informed that story is most wonderful thing ever, and get offered contract

5.       Celebrate

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

4.       Revise

5.       Work with beta editor(s) to get input and to improve prose

6.       Revise

7.       Repeat step 5

8.       Revise

9.       Write brief summary (ugh!) and synopsis (ugh! Ugh!)

10.   Submit

11.   Wait many weeks

12.   Get offered contract

13.   Celebrate

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

22.   Wait

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.

19 thoughts on “I promise I’m not whining”

  1. Here, have a bottle of Kahlua. Make that two. Oh wait, that’s what I do. Um… do you like chocolate? It’ll either help or put you in a nice relaxing coma. *hugs* Seriously, though… yeah. Sometimes writers just curl up in the fetal position and whimper. :-/

    1. I think Kahlua *and* chocolate is always the safest choice. Have you ever poured Kahlua over chocolate ice cream? 🙂

      I have to say, being busy with many writing projects is the best kind of torture!

  2. Yeah, that about sums it up.
    Although for me, at number two I rarely have trouble finding the right words once I sit down to write. But most of number two is preventing me from actually sitting down!

    1. You’re lucky about finding the words! Sometimes mine come easily, like a day last week when I wrote 5000 words. And sometimes they crawl. But finding time to sit is an issue for most of us, I think.

  3. I loved reading this:) I followed your link from the DSP yahoo group. I am currently waiting on step 17 (for the first time!!) and it’s really reassuring to see the process described so concisely. I’d probably include struggling with the fact that story idea seems the best and at the same time the worst idea I’ve ever had throughout steps 1-9. XP
    Thanks for this.

    Suki Fleet^^

  4. Loved this! In so many areas of life, the fantasy does not match the reality. You captured it well.

    Best wishes for continued productive juggling!

  5. Oh I hear you here. It is overwhelming and exhausting and is definitely the ‘work’ side of writing. My last round of edits (on a novella of all things) actually whipped me so bad I had to beg a few days extra time since I couldn’t work it around the chaos of having lectures canceled every other day due to weather. Good luck on yours.

    1. The worst is when the writing obligations butt head-on with the day job obligations. Sometimes I sit in meetings and think, “I could be writing now….”

  6. An excel spreadsheet to keep track of one’s insanity due to working on multiple stories at once — genius!! 🙂 Glad to know someone else has the “But my story is perfect just like it is!” moments.

    1. I think my insanity exceeds the limits of Excel, but spreadsheets help.
      I think we all have those moments, even those of us who know better!

  7. I love your fantasy process — it closely resembles mine! And I’m in awe of your output. Would that I could have as many works in various stages of the actual process. Thanks for this, it made me smile.

  8. I’m excited to discover that you are so prolific because I just finished Brute, and I wanted to tell you, it’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. Thank you.

  9. I adore your octopus – I just wish there was a way you could get your octopus to talk to MY octopus and tell it to stop getting side-tracked!!

    I’ve just finished point 17 and should be working on some WIPs but keep getting distracted by lint and sleep and generally anything but writing something original. Your octopus act puts me to shame!!

    P.s. hope you had a great birthday!

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