This post could also be titled, “Allow Me To Disillusion You, Part 1”
“YOU’RE A WRITER?”
After I tell non-writers my occupation, I get two common responses. The above question is almost immediately followed by my conversation partner either telling me that they’ve always wanted to write a book, too, but just haven’t “gotten around to it yet,” or, they express amazement at people who have a connection to the muse, and ask me how long it took to write the book.
I think this is because movies, television, (and even books!) really skew people’s perceptions of certain “glamorous” professions. Sure, sometimes cops get to go on high speed chases after escaping convicts, but speeding through the heart of New York while completely ignoring all traffic laws, collateral damage, and pedestrian safety…? Probably not gonna happen.
For a GENRE writer (and by that I mean novels primarily meant for entertainment, e.g. mystery, thriller, science fiction, romance, fantasy, and horror) we don’t have to sit down and agonize about the meaning of life while waiting for the ephemeral muse to guide our fingers. Anyone can write, with a bit of imagination (something you should already have, but can work on strengthening if Life somehow killed it in you) and a lot of hard work. You can still slip some commentary about the meaning of life in there, though. 😉
The idea that you just sit down and do it is a lot closer to the truth, but it’s more like, “Sit down, do it, do it again because you sucked the first time, do half of it again, send it to someone else to tell you that you still suck, do it again…” Because craft matters. It takes time to learn what you’re doing.
I love numbers, especially when they deal with money, time, or any combination of the two. I track my own productivity, partially because it helps me to get faster and faster. And so I know how much time it takes to write and publish a 120-140 thousand word novel. For the people who don’t spend enough time staring at a word processor to memorize how long that comes out to, that’s about 400-466 print (paperback) pages.
This is an estimate of the hours I’ll have put in before my current book, Gods of Rust and Rot, is available for purchase. Hopefully by the time I’ve written a few more books, I’ll be faster.
Planning/Plotting: This is exactly what it sound like. I plan out my novels in scene/chapter segments, so I have a good idea where the story is going and don’t get stuck halfway through, having written myself into a corner.
Writing: This includes both the actual typing, and something I call Brainstorming. Before I write a scene, I sit down for a few minutes with a notepad and think about the things that need to happen in the scene, jot down any cool ideas for dialogue, turns of phrase, etc. It’s just another thing to make the flow of writing smoother, so I don’t get stuck staring at the blank page.
Revising: Revising is what some people might call editing, but it’s done over the scope of the whole novel, and deals with things like character, plot, pacing, and setting. It’s a high-level view of story, rather than a line-by-line prose makeover. It’s one of the most important steps toward a book that makes me proud to have written it. It also still takes me a long time, and a lot of thought and analysis. It’s something I will get faster at as I write more books, because there won’t be as many things to address.
Editing (+): This is what most people normally think of when they say “editing.” Working on the actual words of my novel, line-by-line, looking for wordings I can clarify, grammar, typos, and the usual. The “+” is because I also do a Mini Revision during this time, for any problem I inserted during the first revision, or things I missed. I’m not a crazy perfectionist, but I do read over every sentence in the book twice.
Publishing: This is the stuff that’s not “craft.” The stuff a publisher would do for me if I wanted to split my profits with them. It’s hiring another editor to be a second pair of eyes, beta readers, and a proofreader. Then going over each of their work to see what suggestions they have to make the book better. It’s writing a blurb, illustrating the book cover (I do my own), ebook formatting, print book formatting and proof copy review, pre-launch marketing, launch promotion, arc giveaways/contacting book reviewers, setting the book up online for sale.
110-150 hours, and a good chunk of cash
Total: 679-719 Hours (and cash)
That’s actual work time. Not time spent staring into space, browsing the internet, doodling, going to the bathroom, getting a snack, or any of the other 300 ways I subtly procrastinate.
So, yes. Part of it is just sitting down at the computer and typing. A large part of it, actually. And part of it is brooding over the meaning of it all. “Why would my main character possibly do something so STUPID!?” “What is this side character’s purpose in my story? Should I backspace him out of existence?”
But mostly, it’s just butt-in-chair time, dedicating myself to getting better at my craft and my business. It’s work. And the best kind of play.
Do any of you guys work a job that is always over-dramatized in the media? What is it actually like to be a cop, a pilot, or…a member of the CIA? If you work for the CIA, wanna be interviewed by a not-yet-famous author? 😆
Also, in case you didn’t notice, I have discovered Danbo.