Dec 10, 2010

"The Rest is Still Unwritten"

Sound familiar? It’s from a Natasha Bedingfield song, “Unwritten”. I included it in the playlist I created to accompany (or compliment, rather) my recently published book, Amber Frost. Why? Because it’s a great song that will be stuck in your head all day now, and the lyrics are surprisingly insightful and well-suited to the mood of my book.

“Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten.”

I haven’t blogged in a while; I could barely find the time to complain about how little time I’ve had recently! In other words, a lot has been left unwritten. Anyway, I’m back, and since my novel was released this week, I thought a fitting topic to blog about would be to discuss how I write and what the process looks like for me. So here we go…

Every story starts with an idea (shocking, I know). For me, the idea can come in many different forms – an image, a sentence, a character, a scene. I think about my “idea” for a long time before I actually begin writing anything down. This may sound like procrastination but the majority of my writing is honestly done in my head. I develop characters, work on story lines and plan out dialogues while I’m out on walks, or trying to fall asleep at night, or even when I’m driving (no worries, I’m a great multi-tasker). It was for this reason that I bought a digital voice recorder – because I often have these great ideas but I’m not able to write them down when they occur (not because I love the sound of my own voice as my husband may try to tell you).

Once I’ve developed enough of an outline, I begin writing. I write straight through from Chapter One until “The End”. I don’t go back and re-read or edit until I’ve finished, for fear of becoming too caught up in making changes (I’ll admit, I can be a bit of an anal perfectionist). Typically, I’ll spend anywhere from 1-6 hrs a day writing. Some days, I’ll write as much as 50 pages, others I’ll write only a paragraph or two. If I sit down to write and nothing comes to me, I’ll put my work away until the next day, and do a lot of “writing in my head” in the meantime. I find if I force myself to write, the writing comes out forced (I know, another brilliant insight).

Moving on, once I’ve completed the story, I go back through and do an edit based solely on grammar and punctuation. While I work, I make a list of “problems” – inconsistencies in the story line, areas I’m not completely satisfied with, details that I feel need to be added in or taken out or clarified – and I go back and rework these areas on my second read through. When I was working on Amber Frost, I actually had the manuscript printed and spiral-bound after the second read-through and re-read the physical copy with a pencil in hand for the third edit. I wrote all over my manuscript – it looked like I had practically rewritten my novel. It was just what I needed.

The fourth edit was all about removing extraneous material and getting my word count and chapter lengths to a workable level. For Amber Frost, I think I dropped about 100 pages. The fifth and final read-through was my last chance to make any more changes before submitting my manuscript to publishers.

Submissions are a process in and of themselves. You must first spend HOURS researching potential publishers, deciding which might be appropriate to query, and then preparing a submission package based upon each publishers’ individual requirements (sample chapters, outlines, synopsis’s of varying lengths, cover letters, queries, etc.). Not to mention all the emails, stamps and envelopes to send out. It’s a nightmare but well worth the effort… if it pays off which most likely, it will not. Great motivation, right? But when you’ve already put this much work into something and when you’re passionate about the work you have done, it’s all just part of the fun.

Once I finally found a home for Amber Frost (at ireadiwrite Publishing), the process was far from over. I was to read-through my manuscript again, make more changes, have my manuscript professionally edited, make more changes, and then do two more read-through’s and make the final changes before its release date.

It has been a journey and a half. Two years ago was when my book began. Three days ago was when my book was published. The rest is still unwritten.


*Amber Frost is available now, anywhere that ebooks are sold. Purchase half-price ($2.50) from ireadiwrite Publishing's website until Christmas.
Click HERE to purchase now.