Write to Publish
Start to Finish
updated April 2021
This page came about after I received a number of emails asking why there's so much time in between some of my books. With millions of books out there and with many of those authors publishing many books a year (sometimes one a month), the reality is somewhat skewed. More power to those who manage it, but even if I cranked out five thousand words a day, I still wouldn't have that kind of output, and I'll explain why.
These are general stages for my writing-to-publishing process. It's not always exact, and a little less involved for short stories, but it gives you an idea.
NOTE: This is my process, and each writer needs to find the process that works for them. You may discover that it takes you twice as long or half as much time. Set goals and focus on those rather than worrying about the output of other writers.
First and most important:
I don't rush the writing or editing. I did that early in my career and hit burnout. Writing is so much more fun when it doesn't feel like a job, but the truth is, writing is a lot of work, and it is most definitely a job. It comes with stress over deadlines, fretting over whether a book is good enough, and anxiety in those days leading up to the moment when our "baby" is released into the world.
I write the book. Whether it's a novel, novella, or short story, it takes time. Writing is just about the best job I could ever imagine, but I have a life outside of it. I own businesses, I like to spend time with family, be outdoors, garden, cook, and do all manner of other things that take me away from a computer. There's research, plotting, rewriting, and even the occasional bouts of brain freeze that force me to step away from a manuscript for a few days.
Writing takes a tremendous amount of work, time, and forces a writer to delve deep into their minds, hearts, and souls to connect with a character and understand what they feel, think, and are bound to do next. This also makes it an exhausting process because at the end of a writing session, if the writer has truly connected with the characters and the story, then the adrenaline wears off quickly, or so it happens to me.
Crafting and writing a novel is a very personal process that involves no one except the writer and her/his imagination.
After I finish a book, I pass along the printed pages to my mother, who acts as my beta reader, and that is only because I trust her completely. I don't use beta readers except for her, and I guard each manuscript like it's my personal holy grail. She's brutal and it takes a lot of mental preparation to go over her comments. Her read-through takes a week and then the revisions take another week depending on rewrites. I tend to spend a little more time expanding sections during this time. It's a fraction of that time for short stories. I also read through a paper version at this stage. I then run the manuscript through an editing program to catch errors I'd be too embarrassed for my editor to see (it misses a lot).
The manuscript then goes to my editor for the first round of edits, which include a combination of substantive and line edits. She'll suggest places where the plot is missing something (hopefully none at all), sentences that need tightening up or ask for clarification in areas that don't quite make sense. Thankfully, there's never too much to fix in the substantive stage. We'll go back and forth 3-4 times during this stage (lots of fun comments), and depending upon schedules and manuscript length, this can take between 2-6 weeks.
After all, she has other authors whose books need and deserve attention.
Copy edits. My editor often combines elements of stages 3 and 4, but this is where she really goes through every line on a technical level.
Depending on scheduling and length, the manuscript goes to a separate proofreader on the editing team. They help catch some of those pesky errors that always seem to get through (and some that never go away!). Sometimes the proofreader will find something beyond the technical, and they mark it for us to review. This is why another pair of eyes to review is vital. It will go back to my editor who will then look over the proofreader's notes and either leave them for me to review, comment or accept, or remove. This stage takes anywhere from a few days to two weeks, again depending upon schedules and manuscript length.
The PDF edit. Once my editor and I have gone through all the edits, the manuscript is put into PDF format. We both then look it over, magnified, and inevitably find a few things that slipped past everyone. A new layout or format often gives the eyes a chance to catch things not noticed before. This stage usually takes only a few days.
The manuscript is formatted and a version of exactly how it will look published is created. This is reviewed for any stray formatting issues and other errors. It's a true fact that no matter how many times a book goes through edits, it's not unheard of for an annoying error (or a few) to remain behind. This stage takes another week, give or take a few days.
At different points during the above stages, there is the cover design, marketing plan, release roll-out, and many more time-consuming details to handle. Most of these in-between tasks are done between stages 1 and 2, but some have to wait until later stages. Publishing is a business, and while writing is the biggest component of that business, a lot more goes into putting those pretty books into readers' hands.
So there you have it. While it may take hours or days to read a book, it takes months to get it written and edited. And, that time does not account for any delays the author may experience personally. Luckily for readers, there are thousands of great books waiting to be read, so while waiting for the next book from a well-liked or favorite author, enjoy other authors and their stories.
Originally written in 2018. Last update April 2021.