The life of a book starts as a tiny baby of an idea. Through careful nourishment, it grows and matures until it becomes a full-fledged story. While each journey is different, many follow the same basic steps:
Step 1: The First Draft. As I stare at the blinking cursor mocking me from the blank page, I always wonder at this early stage why I became a writer. What possessed me to think I could whip up 75,000 words, and not just a bunch of random words, but 75,000 words that somehow form a cohesive story? All I can do is throw up my hands and hope for the best as I start writing.
Step 2: The Critique. Once I’ve spent several months crying at my lack of imagination, throwing pencils at the cat (I’m kidding! I don’t throw things at my cat! My kids, maybe…), and wringing my hands like some damsel in an old western, it’s time to let other people read my drivel. That’s where my critique group comes in. Week after I week, I send chapters to the group, and week after week, they point out the thousand or so things that are wrong with the story. In a very nice way, of course.
Step 3: The Polish. After months of self-edits and inputting comments from my critique group, I’m ready to read the book from start to finish and try to convince myself that it’s not half bad. After all, I liked that one paragraph on page 47, and the sentence on page 152 was somewhat decent. Surely my editor won’t hate the whole thing.
Step 4: The Submittal. Speaking of editors, at some point (mostly when the deadline is looming), I have no choice but to e-mail the manuscript to my editor. Then I go throw up. Then I go back and check my e-mail to see if he’s replied with his comments yet. Then I check my e-mail every hour for days until I realize that my editor has other things to do and probably hasn’t even opened my document yet. Right around the time I’ve forgotten that I even sent in my manuscript, my editor responds.
Step 5: The Revisions. Don’t ask me how this happens, but for every book, I’ve gotten my revisions from the copy editor right before I’m due to go on vacation. Nothing makes a vacation less relaxing than knowing all those edits are awaiting my return. I usually go on vacation in June, so this year I thought I’d get crafty and postpone my vacation until late July. Then I checked the calendar and realized that based on when my latest book is scheduled for release, I’ll most likely get the revisions in late July, too. Sigh. Good thing I haven’t booked that hotel room.
Step 6: The Cover. I must say, I’ve been lucky with my covers. I think they fit the tone of the book and are all very cute. I’ve heard horror stories where the cover of a sweet historical romance shows a woman who is dressed in a leather bustier and thigh-high boots, carrying a whip. Thank heavens that hasn’t happened to me. Yet.
Step 7: The Galley. At this point, the book is essentially complete, and the publisher doesn’t want any major changes, only tiny nitpicky typo-type changes. Of course, this means that during the final read-through, I find a million things wrong with the book, only because I know it’s too late to fix them. I just have to cross my fingers and hope I’m being too critical.
Step 8: The ARCs. The moment the box of ARCs lands on my doorstep is the moment when I realize they’re actually going to publish my book. In all those previous months, a little voice in my brain has been wondering if this is all some cosmic joke. But the fact that the publisher put the time and effort into printing ARCs lets me know it’s the real deal.
Step 9: Release Day. I’m not sure what I was expecting when my first book came out, but I had all this anticipation built up for the day my book was finally available for sale. Around lunchtime, I finally had to admit that that Tuesday felt suspiciously like any other Tuesday. Still, even if Good Morning America didn’t call me for an interview, release day made me feel like I was officially a writer in the eyes of the world. And that feeling made all those months of angst worth it.