Saturday, November 1, 2014

The difficulty rating of writing

A few days ago I was chatting with Cardeno over FB.  Cardeno groaned to me something along the lines of “I’m sitting and staring at a blank document on my computer, trying to think of what to blog.”

Well today, I’m doing the same.  I have no idea of what to blog, so I’m going back to something someone suggested a while ago – write about writing. 

To me, writing a book and getting it published is extremely different from what I envisioned, so I thought I would write down my experiences, before I become too jaded and cannot remember what na├»ve things I thought about publishing before I became one of the published.  So below, is a step-by-step procedure from my point of view.  Now I must stress that these are my own experiences, and of course someone else is going to have a completely different point of view.

Step one:  coming up with a story idea
Difficulty rating:  0.001/10
Time given to task:  2 weeks

I must admit that coming up with a story is never hard for me.  Settling on one story is.  Stories pop into my head at least ten times a day.  Most fade, but some stick.  When I’m ruminating on a story, I will usually think over the characters and their personalities for 2 weeks before putting pen to paper (or in my case, opening up a new Word document and putting fingers to keyboard).

Step two:  writing the story
Difficulty rating:  7/10
Time given to task: 2-4 months

Writing the story can be easy or hard.  Some days you’re on fire, other days you sit there with your head in your hands and stare at a blinking cursor.  I thought this would be the hardest bit of writing.  It’s not.   Read on.

Step three:  finishing the story
Difficulty rating:  9/10
Time given to task: 2 months

I just had a look in my folder.  I have 18 stories I’ve started writing, but haven’t finished.  They are anywhere between 4,000 words (so far), all the way up to 55,000.  These are my SERIOUS stories, not just the ones that floated by.  If I combined their collective word counts, I could have 6 more novels out there.  Given that I’ve been doing this writing thing for less than 2 years, that is a frightening amount of work that will never see the light of day.  What will my count be in another 5 years?

But yes – this is a difficult part of the writing process.  Knuckling down and finishing those novels is something you need to do.  You need to push yourself.  You need to get over “that hump” and finish the damn thing.  The shortest period for me to write a full length novel has been 6 weeks – that was The Shearing Gun and it was started during NaNoWriMo 2013.  The longest has been Shawn’s Law and that took me 4 months, because I got bogged down in edits. 

Step four:  finding the courage to say “this is good enough to publish”
Difficulty rating:  6/10
Time given to task: 2 weeks to 22 months (and counting)

I have a book I don’t think is good enough.  It still lives in my computer, unheard and unseen.  One day I might bring it out.

But getting the guts and courage to say “I think this manuscript is good enough”?  Ouch!

Step five:  researching publishers, writing a synopsis, writing a covering email
Difficulty rating: 6/10
Time given to task: 2-4 weeks

Someone recently referred to it as a “sucknopsis”.  Whether this means that it’s a piece of writing to suck up to the publisher, a piece of writing to say how much your book sucks (or not) or whether this name is just a reflection of how sucky it is to try to write that sucker, there is a lot of sucking going on.  A writer who has just written 60,000 words but can’t write 2,000 words to explain what the book is about seems rather ironic.  But from my observations, writers all seem to find this hard.

Step six:  waiting
Difficulty rating:  4/10
Time given to task:  about 2 hours stressing per day for 8 weeks

Yes.  Publishers get their kicks out of making us wait.  For most m/m publishers, the wait for reply seems to be about 8 weeks.

Step seven:  The Contract
Difficulty rating: 0.5/10
Time given to task:  30 minutes

When that contract comes in and it says “Would you like to sign?”  I believe this is another piece of irony.  I submitted the story to you, I want to be published, OF COURSE I want to sign!  Sometimes it takes a little to go through the small, fine print, but unless you’re a lawyer you just sign.  (I’m exaggerating here – but please grant me license).

Step eight:  editing
Difficulty rating:  10/10
Time given to task:  3 weeks of my time over 2 months

Of course this is going to differ from author to author, but for me, the editing process takes around 3 weeks of my time – that 3 weeks of editing and not writing a single word on another manuscript.  First round edits take me about one week to do what I need to do. Then back to the editor for round 2, which takes them another week, then back to me.  Then round 3 and so on.  Of course, at the end then you have proofing as well.  The whole process can take up to 3 months!  For me, it is about 3 weeks of my time over a 2 month period.

I stupidly thought this would be rather easy.  I thought that editing was a little bit of a spellcheck, little bit of “put this paragraph over here” and voila!  (Okay – exaggerating again, but you get the picture).

Personally I find it very difficult, and very emotionally draining.  You have an editor who is picking apart your masterpiece, sentence by sentence.  He/she is telling you that some things just don’t work, that some things need improvement, and some things you wrote are just plain wrong.  As an author, I find the emotional part of this process shattering.

But then, you need to pick yourself up, put aside that bit of self-pity, and work on your story, sentence by sentence.  Fixing it up, shoring it up, cutting it down.  Until something much better appears.  This is hard.  Very, very hard.  As hard as those months you spent on that one chapter that never quite worked so you scrubbed it completely.

Step nine:  promo
Difficulty rating:  13/10
Time given to task:  Never ending

Do you know how hard it is to put yourself out there?  To tell people to spend their money on your book?  To tell them that they will enjoy (and hope they do)?  You write blogs (like this one) hoping your name and cover will be seen and picked up.  You chat to readers, to other authors, to reviewers.  You beg and plead for spots on review sites.  You pay for ads.  You bribe people with free copies.

OMG – it is so hard!

At times you want to say – “Just go away!  I just want to write!”  But what good is writing if no one reads?  So you put yourself out there, and wish for the “good old days” when writers banged away at their typewriters and publishers did all the promo.

To illustrate how hard I find promo?  I’ve given birth twice.  Once via planned caesarean, once naturally after a 55 hour labour.  Now pushing a 4kg baby into the world?  Recovering from having your stomach cut open from what seemed like a samurai sword?  I give that about a 7/10 on the difficulty rating. 

Promo?  It has the unhappy task of being 13 out of 10 on the difficulty rating.

And guess what?  Promo doesn’t end.  You can’t ever put a time frame on it.  It is there all the goddamn time

Step ten:  sitting back and reading the good reviews
Difficulty rating:  1/10
Time given to task:  whenever I am feeling down

What makes it worth it?  The people whose lives you touched.  The people who gave their attention to your book.  The people who got it.

 Renae's newest release is now available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press.

Blurb: In the late-night quiet of the caravan park shower room, Lon Taylor washes away the filth of the Western Australian mines. He’s not looking for anyone, but when Casey offers, Lon doesn’t turn him down.

Welcoming the young man in his big, hairy arms, Lon provides a safety to Casey that he has never known, and Casey wants to stay forever. Still reeling from the breakup of his family years ago, Lon’s not sure he’s ready for the responsibility of the comfort and security Casey craves.

But perhaps Lon can risk opening his heart again and hoping for a brighter future. Casey has some pretty big skeletons in his past to deal with. And Lon wonders what Casey will do when he finds out how badly Lon failed at protecting the ones he loved eight years ago.

How to contact Renae:

Twitter:  @renaekkaye

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