To another Wednesday Business Blog. Where the business is all about creativity with tips, tricks, rants, and hopefully, helpful topics surrounding the creation of art and books.
I want to talk about the process of taking a book from idea to published, or at least the process I’ve found that works, and how long each step takes. Before I go any further, a small disclaimer:
I am a self-published author and have only been publishing my books for almost a year and a half, this does NOT make me an expert. That being said, I have now published four books, and I’ve worked out a system that just might work for you, if you’re a “Discovery Writer” like me.
~ Without further ado! ~
1) the idea:
This is where every story starts. It can be as easy or as complex as you want to make it, but now that you have the idea, what should you do with it? For me, I talk it out with my Manager.
He’s a long time reader of many genres and loves my series/world. I bounce all my ideas off him and he helps me think from different angles and give me different ideas from time to time. Plus he has loved my books when they were simple story snippets under art that I posted on DeviantArt. (Matt, if you're reading this, I can't believe we've been talking about the Born Angel Universe for three years!)
Anyway, when I was first getting started though, I was talking with my cousin (and my sister too, I've talked about that in the blog on the inspiration for the Kalista Chronicles, my first series: read that here) who was also writing her own book, which she still hasn't gotten finished (If you see this, Joy, you need to be writing your own stuff and not just Fan Fiction (^_^) don't hurt me ;p). Then she got a job, I got a job, we kinda both got busy, but I kept writing and so did she. I was just working on my own stuff nand I can actually remember the day I told her I finished my book. She was floored. (^_^;)
When I first started, my process was very scattered, much like the rest of my mind, and I wrote quite a few books before polishing any of them with this process so take that how you will. I found out very quickly that I can't use an outline. I either ditch it or run through it too fast and the pacing is horrible. I am what they call a "Discovery Writer." I have an idea, a character, or a line, and I start writing without much prep.
If you're a Discovery Writer like me, but don't have someone to bounce books and ideas off, I highly recommend finding someone whether its via twitter, TikTok, FB groups, or locally, do find a writing friend. And if you're the type of writer who likes outlines and writing with them, the idea phase is where you're going to outline your book/story/series.
The talking, or “outlining” for those of you "Plotters", can take anywhere from an hour to a year. This is up to you and you should never let anyone tell you when it’s too much, unless it’s becoming a road block from actually writing the story. There is such a thing as too much information. It is also best to research and figure out on average how long the books in the genre are BEFORE you start writing.
For my first book, I didn’t even think about that. I didn’t know what genre it was. I simply had a story that needed out and went on the assumption that most books in the broad Fiction category are near 100k words. This is generally, but not always the case. High Fantasy books can be up to 200k-300k words, but I’d recommend starting with a goal between 50-75k as sometimes in editing it can grow, or it can shrink, we’ll worry about that later…
2) After you've talked it out or outlined...
(Or sometimes you just had the idea) You start writing. You sit your butt in the chair and set your fingers to the keyboard (or picked up a pen and pad of paper) and you ran with it. As with idea discussion or outlining, this can take as long or as short as is needed/you want. I find that the faster I get to writing, the easier it is for me to “follow my muse,” and get the story out. If I overthink it, or get stuck on a certain part, I go back and read through what I’ve already got and realize that one part was off or not sitting well and I’ll read it to my Manager and discuss it. Usually, during this discussion it will hit me and It’ll all work out.
One major tip:
DO NOTstart a new project until the first draft is DONE. I know, that seems like a no brainer to some, but to other’s you’ll start arguing with me and telling me that I don’t even do that. Hold your britches, untangle them for me, and take a few deep breaths. I didn’t say until the book is done, and completely polished. Just until the first draft is done. It will become clear as you read this blog that those are two different things, and you thank me later.
For me, if I’m writing about 5-8 hours a day, usually broken up by an hour or two of chores, art, or editing, I can pump out the first draft in 15-45 days. Fifteen was the least amount of days it’s taken to write a short-er story/Novella. I still can’t write stories under 45k, but that’s another blog entirely. and 45 is the usual if I'm writing that much every day, which isn't normal as I do edit, art, and work on other projects too.
3) After the first draft:
Let me stop here and Say CONGRATULATIONS! You've done something not a lot of writers ever do. FINISH A BOOK! You'd be surprised on how many writers out there every finish a draft, even if you never publish it or polish it, you wrote an ENTIRE book! That's a huge accomplishment, please reward yourself with something before continuing. (The rest of the blog will be here when you get back ;)
Alright, you back? Got your reward? If not, please go at least get a drink and a snack. Okay, I'm taking it on faith that you've done that. Now! What next?
I recommend leaving it to sit for at least 1 week and at most 4 weeks. Do not open it. Do not listen to it read from a text reader. And if you’re like me, don’t listen to the books playlist. “But Jenn! What do I do while I wait?” I usually start the next book… No joke. I have so many books planned, that I will often start the next book, or edit the next book in some cases while I let that first draft sit.
4) Now that it's been a week
It's time to dust it off, change the font, and read it over. Yes, you read that right, change the font of your document, just for now, and read/edit it for the first time as a whole. This might sound weird, but it works. Believe me, you’ll pick things up with it from misspelled words, to words that are similar but one or two letters off. Changing the font forces your brain to really think about what it’s reading. For me, this process can take 1-3 weeks depending on how fast I can read/edit, and how rough that first draft was. For other's this can take longer if they have work, other responsibilities and such.
5) Draft 3...
Download a text-to-voice program, read it aloud to yourself (yes, read it aloud to yourself), or grab a friend to read it to. I prefer reading it to my Manager, Matt at this phase, and sometimes have my favorite text-to-voice reader “Voice Dream” (iPhone and Mac users only) read it to me during the day and then I’ll read him back the edits at night as he lives in Australia. (^_^;)
6) Draft 4: The Hard copy
This is the time for the hard copy. Whether you print it out on a home computer, take the file to your local shop, or your parents house, and pay them for paper and ink, print it out and take a red pen to it... or whatever color pen you'd like. I actually input everything into Amazon and get a bound book “proof copy" to edit with a red pen. (It usually cost about $10-12 dollars with shipping depending on how thick the book is).
I can do this because 1) I format as I write (ever since my first book in October of 2021), and 2) I’m an artist and make all my own covers. Having the “proof copy” for my hard copy edits also allows me to see how the cover looks and if it needs adjusting. I’m going to do a blog about cover art sometime in the near future too, so if you’re wondering about that, keep checking back.
7) Find/Heir an Editor
Now the editor and an alpha reader get to read the book. No, I don’t let anyone, besides my Manager, read my books before I edit at least four times. Only after we’ve both read it at least twice, does it then get sent to my Editor and dear friend Maxine.
Everybody works differently and finding the right editor for you can be tricky. I was blessed when I found Maxine as a beta for a book that wasn’t quite ready yet (it’s coming in 2025 and has/will have quite a few changes), but she is an English Major and offered to read/edit all my books after that one, and she has LOVED them all. (If you read this, Max, you’re the best and I love your enthusiasm for this Alternate Universe I’ve created.)
The way I do edits, and because she’s not a “full time” editor, is that I give her about 2 months, give or take a couple weeks to read through each book, and I give it to her in chunks of 10-12 chapters, depending on how big the book is. This wasn’t her stipulation but mine. Having a full manuscript editing at one time and having to look it all over skyrockets my anxiety, but having it ten chapters at a time, helps me not to get overwhelmed, and it helps me know how far she’s gotten, which also aids in calming my anxiety. I do the same for my betas too. On that note...
8) Beta Readers
Beta reading comes next, and my Dad’s edits. Beta reading takes about 6-8 weeks. I like to give my betas a week per chunk of chapters and then at least 2 weeks at the end as a cushion if they haven’t read all the chunks yet.
“Hold on! Jenn, where do I get betas?”
For me, I talked about my books on tiktok out of the blue, and someone offered to beta read for me. I replied with a video and did a “call out.” In that video I mentioned what the book was about, some triggers, how many people I wanted, how I’d like to give them the book, and, this parts important, the timeline for when the chunks or book would need to be read by. As I said before, I usually have 4-7 chunks and give 6-8 weeks to read the full thing. Some will read faster and some might read slower. Thus why you need to outline what you’re looking for in the post/video/reel/whatever social media platform you have. For me, Tiktok has been the most interactive. No joke.
Also, find what works for you. I’ve found that Discord is a great asset for this. I have a server for my Betas and in that server are different locked chats for each book. I have roles that grant access to said chats. If that went right over your head, you can always stick to sending via email, though I found this to be unreliable as some people don’t check their email or you en up in their spam box on accident.
- Google doc
- Twitter DM/Group
- Facebook group Chat
- Whatsapp (this one is tricky, I had to google it since I don’t use that app)
- Any group chat will usually allow you to send documents if they are saved locally to whatever device you are using.
Only two more things left!
9) Time for formatting
It’s formatting time. I saved this for last because it took me quite a while to figure out and is so intricate and ever changing that I’m going to make a separate blog about it, possibly next week, about how to format in Microsoft word. I must note that you CAN use Word to Format if you have a windows device/laptop/tablet, but if you’re running iOS/Mac formatting is nigh impossible in their word applications.
To format Ebooks, I recommend researching it or learning coding, which I have not done. Amazon makes it a bit easier as they have a program that you can download to use for kindle formatting, but kindle format may not work if you want to upload it to another platform like Draft 2 Digital, which is how I publish other places. So, my Manager is actually also my ebook formatter, and we’ve had our issues with it, but after 4 books, we’ve got it pretty much figured. (I will not be writing a blog on that as it’s his area of expertise not mine.
10) Publish it!
Congratulations, you’ve made it to a stage that even fewer writers have achieved. I know that when I started writing, I wasn’t writing to publish, I was writing to get the story in my head down on paper so I could read it again and again. Then I started making art for it, showing that art to people, and they got interested in the story, but finishing a book, just finishing draft 1 is an accomplishment! If you’ve gotten through 4 drafts, an editor (or four like me), betas, and formatted that DESERVES to be celebrated big time! Go out on a Date with your Significant Other, Plan a girls night, binge a season/seasons of your favorite show and order in, you do you, but do celebrate!
From Idea to Published summary/time:
The timeline, given this plan, is about 6 months from conception to publishing. This where I’m having a bit of a problem, since I’ve got three books coming still this year and there’s only nine months left and 2 are in the 4th draft stage while the 3rd is with Betas. (^_^;) I may have overestimated how “done” the draft books were, but, no matter, I will get them done. If you’re interested in those books and what I’m currently working on, check out the weekly writer updates that I post every Saturday!
If you'd like to know more about my books, you can visit the book/series pages or if you'd like a more in depth look, head to the book "blogs" where I've given potential triggers, blurbs, art, and a "summary" for those who like some spoilers before they start a book.
- "But Jenn, you didn't mention Cover art! When do I get that made?"
As I am an artist and make all my own covers, I do the cover art when the idea strikes. It can happen at any stage in the process, so I did not list it. (^_^;) I'd recommend leaving it for at least the middle of the book so that you can get it right the first time and after you know the genre so that you can look up other covers, I'll do a blog on this some time.
- Also: you should be making yourself known on social media BEFORE you publish your book.
You need to be talking about the book, hyping it up, and showing people quotes, teasers, and even art that you (or someone you've commissioned) has made for the book. I highly recommend watching Jenna Moreci's video "Ten things to do BEFORE writing your book." All of her videos on writing and publishing are great for getting started. I watched so many of them when I was researching publishing options.
that's all I got. thanks for reading!
I know this one has been long! But if you have any questions about writing or find that confusing -As it might be since I wrote this while recovering from a concussion- feel free to shoot me a message.
~ Jenn A. Morales
(Follow me on social media for updates and more shenanigans)