The Reality of Book Publishing
This article falls under the category of doing what I say and not what I do for I am the first to admit that I do not follow the writing process the way I taught it to my students.
About eight months ago I self-published my first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today,” and it was at that point that I realized I had not consciously followed any of the accepted steps that are suggested when writing. I used the word ‘consciously’ intentionally because there are writers, like myself, who seem to follow the suggested writing process almost instinctually.
When I had finished my novel I realized that the writing process had been followed but it was done in an almost abstract form. Since then I have reflected on all the writing I have done since the novel was published (close to 200 articles) and not once did I sit down and do the step-by-step process as it is suggested and yet the process was completed in each article.
Perhaps before we go any further I should explain the writing process as it is taught and suggested to many would-be writers.
The following are the main steps suggested when one sits down to write:
· Pre-writing: ideas, random thoughts, looking for a direction
· Planning & Structure: organizing the work in your head. This would include brainstorming, outline and character development.
· Writing: this is basic free-form writing, letting the story flow without concern over grammar or sentence structure.
· Revising: moving the pieces of your story around so that a natural flow is apparent.
· Editing: much different from revising. Here is where the nuts and bolts of proper grammar come into play.
· Publishing: how do we get that finished piece out to the reading public?
Now It Is Time for a Reality Check
Could I see a show of hands from the number of people who actually do this process the way it is outlined above? I have no scientific data to back this up but I am guessing few hands were raised, especially when we are talking about writing daily articles of the sort one might find on HubPages. Why? Simply because this is a time-consuming process that requires more hours than most of us have. We have lives to lead, children to raise, spouses to visit with, errands to run and on and on we go as we sort through our daily lives. Time demands that we use the free-form style that I mentioned earlier so we still have time to live.
I have found that the good writers do this instinctually. The ideas just come to them. The planning and structure happen as they are walking from the kitchen to the den. The writing tends to be nearly at final stage on the first write and revising and editing is done as the writing is being done so that once the article is completed the final draft is basically done. There may be one read-through to check for mistakes but that’s about it. The whole process consists of the time it took to write the article once and re-read it once.
In fact, this writer has found the last step, that of publishing, takes as long if not longer than it took to write the article. Posting the article on different sites, making sure the search engines pick it up, putting it out on the social media, adding all the bells and whistles so that the article looks good, these steps take a great amount of time.
The ball game changes greatly when discussing the writing of a novel.
My Novel Process
As I have stated earlier in other articles, when I wrote my novel it began as a challenge. Having read a book by Tom Robbins I challenged myself as a writing exercise to write the most bizarre short story that I could create. When I had finished the short story was basically the introduction to a novel that took on a life of its own. The story literally just came to me and I could see the entire outline in my mind.
Not once did I sit down and write an outline; not once did I sit down and sketch out my characters and develop them. Not once did I formally brainstorm or plan a particular structure for the novel. I basically began with step three, namely the writing step, and then moved on from there.
The outline for the story magically appeared in my brain and I followed it without notes. I knew where the story was going as I wrote. I pictured characters from my past and added them to the story as I was writing, molding them into the ethereal outline in my brain. Since this was a strange fantasy to begin with it was not hard to find characters from the 60’s who I had known who would perfectly fit into the story. When I felt it was time for a personal anecdote I pulled from my past stories that I felt would work with the novel.
Only when I had finished the first draft (after about six months) did I begin the revising and editing steps and those were combined in a series of revisions. While doing these steps I added to the book, developing the characters more, adding to the scenes more, basically giving the skeleton some muscles and tendons. In fact, I am fairly confident in stating that the revision process took much longer than the original draft.
Oh, the nightmares of publishing! As I have stated before, my novel was met with great indifference by agents and publishers so eventually the decision was made to self-publish and that, of course, meant that it also had to be self-marketed. As of the writing of this article that process is still going on simply because marketing a book without a working budget is an ongoing process that requires patience and a great deal of creativity. If you care to read about the self-publishing you can see another article I wrote about that topic at this site.
- Freelance Writing: It Really Is A Job!
Freelance writing takes a ton of work but with passion and determination it is possible to make a living.
How do you write?
As I stated earlier I suspect that most writers of articles follow the process of writing that I have adopted simply because of time constraints. However, I seriously doubt that many novel writers follow my writing style when writing a 355-page work of fiction.
I make no claims that my process is better than another process nor do I recommend one way over another. I am a big advocate of the writing process as outlined above; I simply don’t follow it because I have one of those minds that works better in freestyle mode. My writing style seems to be an extension of my living style; I have always been a seat-of-the-pants kind of guy, never really knowing which direction my life is going to take but rather reacting to some silent voice in my mind. It works for me but might not work for many other writers and that is fine for all of us.
Bottom line is a writer needs to find what works for them. If a formal following of the writing process is your cup of tea then by all means follow it. If you are a willy-nilly writer such as myself then by all means follow that style. A writer has a passion to write and that is the great secret ingredient. If you have a passion to write then write! Just as a writer develops a writing voice a writer also develops a writing style that works for them and them alone. I have known writers who could only write in the morning; others who wrote better in the middle of the night. Some have to have complete quiet while others need Mozart cranked to the max on the stereo to get their creative juices flowing.
Who really cares? Just write!
One other word about writing and then I’ll leave you for today. If writing is your passion then you need to believe in yourself. There are many who will tell you that you aren’t good enough or your writing isn’t good enough. There will be days when it seems like the only one who believes in you is you and that is shaky at times. You need to believe and write. I can recall off the top of my head at least a dozen instances of famous writers who met rejection over and over again and yet they kept writing.
If it is your passion then feed your passion and write.
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."