I am beginning my second manuscript with new found knowledge of the journey. This time I have a better handle on when to expect a completion. Here is what I know from my first effort:
- First you need a story idea that is mapped out into a story line. What is your protagonist after? How do they get there? This part was completed in a three-hour layover in Atlanta’s massive airport. The rest was going to take more than a delayed flight.
- Write. I started this process with no goals in mind. I hear some writers carve out an hour a day; some write just on weekends; others find peace late at night. I wrote with no set schedule. Early mornings, evenings, and often not every day. More than once an idea for a plot twist would come just as I was waking up and I’d rush to add it to the manuscript. Some days I would write 500 words in the morning only to delete most of it at night. Through these ups and downs I finally finished the first draft after four months, ending up with about 47,000 words
- Now what? I needed readers. I stayed away from more critical readers and enlisted some friends to read the first draft. Probably not the best idea. Another 6 weeks passed before I got their way too kind remarks. At this point I needed criticism and got congratulations instead. I took what suggestions they gave and modified a few chapters. Total time so far: 6 months.
- Next up I selected a more critical bunch. A neighbor with opinions on every subject and a group of 11 and 12 year olds at a local school. They gave me all that I could handle but exactly what was needed. Revise, Revise, Revise. Now I was up to 8 months.
- It was time to let it sit for a bit. The experts all said let it rest for 30 days and then go back to it fresh. I lasted 2 weeks. During that time I started reading blogs, writing sites, and purchased a few books about the writing process. I was awash in suggestions for how to make my manuscript better. I took the next 6 weeks and totally revised, lengthened, shortened, and kneaded it into a better product. Ten months and counting…
- Next I found a professional editor who looked through my story and gave it a thorough dusting both for grammar and content. Her part took one month and my revisions another two. Thirteen months and not done.
- I read my story out loud to myself to hear how it sounded. I was surprised how helpful this was to earmark rough sentences and bring forth plot points at the same time. I also did a search in the story of each of my main and secondary characters to see if the path they were each taking to the climax was important enough. This was very helpful to see what the character was saying in each scene and how they changed. This process took another two months.
- I was ready for another critique group and this one proved to be the most helpful in changing how the story was told. Giving them time to read and for me to revise took another four months. Total so far: 19 months.
- I let the story sit another two weeks before going back for a re-read. I had also found a new helpful writing guide mentioned in two previous posts that I read twice. I went through and made revisions based on the parts suggestions that fit my story. This turned into a major rewrite of six weeks. 21 months into it and the time had come for another critique. Due to various interruptions the critique by an online reading group and my revisions took another three months. Two years total.
- I let the story sit for almost three weeks before reading each chapter out loud again. Each line, each paragraph was scrutinized to be sure the words were the best ones that could be used. Yikes, five more months passed.
So there you have it– a 47,000 word (still not perfect, but close) final manuscript in 29 months. Now I know becoming an author is not about writing, it’s about rewriting. It consumes your thoughts and time but in the end there is a story you are proud to share. I am thankful to have gone through the trenches and come out the other side.