Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Evolution of a Novel

I just spent a week writing and surfing in San Diego. The writing went well, the surfing not so much. The weather was crappy for three days and I was crappy the other five. My mind tells me what to do, but by the time my body reacts, it’s too late. Surfing needs to be an unconscious reaction. When you think, you get cold water down the back of your wetsuit. Actually I had a few decent rides, but nothing to write home about.

Speaking of writing, The Return is in its final revision before professional editing. I start each day by revising what I wrote the prior day, so by the time I complete the manuscript I think of it as a second draft. Then I go through it one more time on my computer. I make revisions, but this third pass is primarily for continuity, clarity, and crispness. I've now completed this step for The Return, A Steve Dancy Tale.

My next step takes me to Staples where I print four copies. Three copies go to ornery people who will give me honest feedback. (Okay, one is my wife. She’s not ornery. I didn’t mean that. Really.) The last copy is for me. I use a traditional red pen and really scrub the printed version.

I always see odd and outright embarrassing things when I review a printed version. There is something about ink on a page that is totally different from a backlit screen. Stuff jumps out on a page where the eye glides over it on a computer. When I finish my review, I consolidate all the revisions from the four copies.  It surprises me that obvious problems are often missed by one or more of my reviewers. I’d like to think it’s because they got lost in the story, but it’s probably human nature.

Professionally Format e-books
How long before the book is ready for the general public? Months, I’m afraid. The next step will be professional editing, and then my final review of all of the recommended changes. This is an important step because I've been separated from the book for a while, which allows me to see it with fresh eyes. Along with accepting/rejecting line-editing, I frequently make adjustments to the plot. In the meantime, a cover needs to be designed and finalized. A designer needs to lay out the interior, back cover, and spine. The back cover includes a synopsis or elevator pitch for the story. This tantalizing piece of copyrighting will eventually be the book description displayed by online sellers. After every change is incorporated and the interior layout complete, a proofreader scrutinizes the modern equivalent of a galley proof. Now, it’s off to the printer … but not eReaders. The last step is professional eFormatting.

western fiction  action  adventure
Front, spine, and back cover design

I’m involved with every step, but I prefer professionals do the design, editing, proofreading, and formatting. I’m just no good at it. I’m only a storyteller.