Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Novel In Process

Every job has tasks that are enjoyable and some that . . . well, just aren't. One thing I love about writing novels is that it's done in stages. Each stage is very different, but all of them are necessary and enjoyable to some extent. Since people often ask what being a writer is like, well, here's what it's like for me.

Stage 1. Writing the first draft. This takes me about 5 months and is a mostly pleasant routine of meeting my daily page goal, using my outline, but also feeling my way through the story in an intuitive way, and making any necessary changes along the way. Colleen reads my chapters as I write them and offers immediate feedback, which helps me see if I'm headed in the wrong direction. At some point during this 1st draft, my previous book hits the shelves, and I begin doing radio interviews set up by Thomas Nelson's publicist, a book signing or two, and book club phone-ins.

Stage 2 is my favorite. I read through the story 4 or 5 times over the course of a month. The first time through I look for plot holes, ferret out character inconsistencies, add symbols, and refine the theme. The other read-throughs I'm cutting excess words, playing with sentences, reordering paragraphs, finding more precise words. This is the fun part. My heart is beating faster just thinking about it. Stage three ends with me sending my manuscript to my editor, a loud WOOHOO, heard across the state of Indiana, and, hopefully, a celebratory massage.

Stage 3. While I wait, with fingers crossed, for my editor's feedback on the manuscript, I start on my next story idea (which is not easy with my fingers crossed.) This takes me at least a month, as I like a detailed outline, and the story has to feel just right before I start writing it. During this stage, I spend many hours thinking, plotting, daydreaming. It may look like I'm staring out a window but, honest, I'm working. The story can change drastically overnight as new ideas crop up. I slowly peck out a 7-9 page synopsis.

Stage 4 starts when I receive my "Revision Letter" from my editor and ends with me slumped on the floor weeping and wailing and wondering why I thought I could write another novel. Just kidding. The floor's hard, so I cry from the comfort of my chair. Next, I eat as much dark chocolate as I have in the cupboard, tell myself repeatedly that the letter wasn't as bad as I think, then re-read it.

More chocolate.

A good night's sleep.

Some ice cream.

Okay, a gallon, but who's counting?

Then I dig into the re-writes, taking a month to incorporate my editor's ideas and rework the story until, hey, what do you know, it's better than it was before.

Stage 5. Line edits. No sooner do I send the revised manuscript back to my editor then the thing boomerangs back. This time the document is filled with little nit-picky corrections that keep me from looking like a complete idiot to the general public. Oh, it's flower petal, not flower pedal. Duh. And about 500 more silly mistakes I need to approve or disapprove.

And then we're back to Stage 1 with then new story idea I developed. At some point during the first draft of my new story, I'll receive the "First Pages"--My previous story typeset and looking all fresh and pretty. It's my last chance to fix any errors before going into print. Sadly, I now have the story memorized and it's about as exciting as reading the white pages.

And there you have it: the entire novel process from the author's standpoint. So it's your turn now. What's your job, and what are the parts you enjoy and the, well, other parts.
Denise Hunter


  1. Wow, sounds like such a dream of a life! *drool*

  2. Writing can be so painful! And yet, we go back time and again for the punishment. :-)