This article is part of a series exploring a few tips & tricks I’ve learned from writing.
Prior to The River my creative history consisted entirely of abstract art and mechanical sci-fi-esque design. So following this visual route I’d like to show you, quite simply, what writing a book looks like.
Coming up with the concept might take years, perhaps decades. But playing with an idea and toying with the results is fun. It’s like chewing your favourite meal over and over, with each mouthful feeling as fresh as the first. This is the bit everyone loves and why so many people start writing a book. But in terms of effort once the concept is created, the major plot points are defined and the basic characters are set in stone your concept-job is done, so the workload for this part is small – irrespective of how long you were thinking about it!
After the spark comes the flame. This is where you write your first draft. For people with a background in English this isn’t much of a developmental stage, more a test. Is your spark interesting enough to keep your passion burning for the time it takes to write a book? Also minor plot points are created and characters padded out. This is still fun, but the fun food chewed during the Spark begins to get stale - It takes a lot, lot longer than you think to write. I thought The River’s main story would be done in 10 chapters and 12 months. My first Draft had 46 chapters and took 15 months!
Following the flame, if you’re lucky and you’ve got the power to continue there’s the firestorm. This is the often overlooked, but massively important, editing part of writing a book. Chapters will be deleted, some rewritten and others started totally anew. If you didn’t have good writing skills when you started your book you’ll surely be better now, so when you’re going through your manuscript you’ll probably look back on what you’ve done and feel a little sick - It can be hard to see what you once thought was so good and realise it’s absolute drivel! Editing will take you longer than you think and you will delete more than you’d hoped! - I lost 10% of The River’s wordcount from first to second draft.
The Birth of a Star?
If you’re not published and have no writing history this is the real test of your metal. Do you have the passion, creativity and desire to see your tiny spark pushed into the world? Can you chase down leads, try to get literary agents on board or write a blog for four months just to give’ ‘added-value’ book content? Can you put in the hours needed with only a small, tiny chance of success? – I’m only part way through this stage and it’s outcome, unlike the others, isn’t up to me!
As you can see by this final picture the ‘concept’ stage is proportionally tiny to the rest of the work. Even the first draft is a mere header to the full body of editting and promoting. This is the reason so many people give up writing early on. The concept and the first draft are fun but on the most determined of souls will slog through editing and dare attempt promoting.