Girls Write Out
Sunday, March 28, 2010

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.

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:12 PM  
  Comments (10)
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At 9:48 PM, Blogger Peggy Blann Phifer said...

I love that picture!

Thanks for sharing your "job" Denise. Now I know what to anticipate. With a contracted book I am in Stage 1: Writing the rough draft. I hope I enjoy the following stages as much as you do! Only one thing . . . I don't have a Colleen to read my chapters as I go. :(

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Peg Brantley said...

I have to admit that I'm pretty sure I'm looking forward to the day when an editor sends me the Revision Letter that actually makes a book a *good* book. Pretty sure. (As sure as I am right now about seeing what gray hair might look like, if you know what I mean.)

In the meantime, what I've learned with this ms is what I need to do different with the next one.

And that dark chocolate is a food group.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Abby said...

Wow! That was really interesting to read! Those of us that read your books have no clue what it takes to go into one book so that was very eye opening!

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

Peggy, you should look for a critique partner on ACFW if you don't have one. It's awesome to have someone to brainstorm with when you're in the middle of your story--someone who knows exactly where you're at

Peg, you learn so much from each story and carry it with you into the next. Revisions are my least favorite part because they hurt my brain. The best part is when it's OVER. LOL

Abby, that was only the author side of it. My editor would have a whole different side to tell. It's amazing what goes into each book.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

Good post, Kristin. I'm laughing but at the same time asking, "Do I REALLY want to be published?" ;)

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Sabrina L. Fox said...

It's funny how you girls have your own distinct voice even in your blog posts.

I knew this was you before I read to the end, Denise. :) And wowser...lots of work for sure.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Hilarious D! So funny how we are so different! I'm dancing when the letter comes and I'd rather have my fingernails ripped out than to know what's going to happen next in my book. I only want to know highlights. But we both rejoice when that book is done!

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Love this, love this, love this! Thank you, Denise, for posting. I'm rewriting a middle grade novel. Have had encouraging feedback from conferences, but I'm with you with the whole "hurts my brain" thing! But when it comes together, it's a great feeling!

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Pam S. said...

That's a great picture...and a great kilim rug underneath the person! Definitely looks Turkish! :)

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Pam S. said...

I really enjoyed reading this post and seeing what goes into writing a book from an author's perspective.


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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