A couple questions came into my FAQ page, and I thought some of you might be interested in the answers so I decided to make a post on it. If the topic doesn’t interest you, feel free to ignore. 😀
1. How long does it take me to write a first draft?
It depends on the book. Some books are easier to write than others because the characters in some books let me know what to write next. Other characters seem silent at times, so I have to take breaks and work on something else while I’m waiting for them to get back to me.
For example, Her Counterfeit Husband was easy. It took me about two months to write the first draft. I averaged 1000-1500 words a day. The first draft’s total word count was about 74,000 words. (As I’m editing, close to 2000 words have been removed, which is normal for me.) I had set the word count goal to 1000 words a day, but the characters were so easy to work with that the story pretty much wrote itself. I love it when that happens. 😀
However, I just finished Bound by Honor, Bound by Love (which I started late last year). I believe it took nine months to finish (get this) 52,000 words. I know. 74,000 in two months versus 52,000 words in nine months. I don’t get why Bound by Honor, Bound by Love was so difficult, except maybe my total word count goal for the book (65,000) was forcing me to try to get more into the book than was meant to be there. As soon as I lowered the word count goal to 50,000 (in June), the book took off and finally wrote itself. Lesson learned: don’t force a book or the characters in it into a box. You see, one of the subplots was supposed to be that Onawa was supposed to be tempted to leave Citlali for his brother. There was even supposed to be a kiss between her and the brother. However, as the story progressed, Onawa was not tempted at all, so I couldn’t force her into that subplot. This threw me off track in the book, and it cut my word count down 15,000 words. I had a buffalo hunt planned and everything during all of this drama, but since Onawa said, “No way, Ruth,” I couldn’t use the hunt either. A lot of stuff depends on the characters, and if they aren’t willing to play along, it’s no use.
The longest time it’s ever taken me to write a book was 1.5 years, and that was Return of the Aliens. For one, it wasn’t romance, so it was new territory. Two, I did a good year’s worth of research while writing it, and that probably amounted to 4-5 hours a week. Then I had to map out how I was going to connect all the dots between the multitude of subplots I had weaving throughout the main plot, which was Autumn’s desire to find to her sister. This book had Biblical prophecy mixed in with a variety of conspiracy theories, and while it is one of my favorites, it was also the most intense book I’ve ever written.
My average length of time to write a romance is 2-3 months.
2. How many edits/revisions do you do?
Early on, I did way more than now. Most of it was adding things to enhance the plot. Like in Falling In Love With Her Husband and An Inconvenient Marriage, I probably added 20,000 – 30,000 words to flush them out better. Falling In Love With Her Husband was actually a combination of Todd’s Bride and Ann’s Groom, and since I didn’t like having the two books separated, I brought them together, added some scenes and deleted others. I went through five revisions of the entire book before I was happy with it. I went through two full revisions for An Inconvenient Marriage. I did go through three full revisions of The Cold Wife and Romancing Adrienne (which was originally titled Winning the Heart of Adrienne). Those were my first romances, and I was going through the stage of figuring out what worked and what didn’t and if I wanted sex in my books or not.
Diversion from the post: Early on, I got a little more preachy than I do now as well, but that was also part of the process. I was deciding between the Inspirational Romance market and the Mainstream Romance market. I did a ton of reading in both venues to figure out which type interested me the most and finally decided on Christian-based Mainstream Romances. So I decided for the middle because I couldn’t leave out my faith (which is why historical westerns are awesome–the historical US was Christian based), but I also thought sex between the husband and wife enhanced the romance by showing the tenderness and development of the love between them. Without the sex, I can’t properly show it, and that’s why I use it. It’s also why I chose to self-publish. I didn’t settle for self-publishing. Looking back, I can see how God led me down this path. And I should give a huge shout-out to Carolyn Davidson (who writes for Harlequin) for being my inspiration. She writes books like I do (mainstream Christian-based romances). 😀
Back to the post: These days, I typically don’t need to do revisions for my books. I did with my first Regency (The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife). I made four revisions of that one, and it was very grueling. But that is rare. These days, once I get the first draft, I just polish it up.
Editors: The reason why I stay sane during the editing process.
If I didn’t have editors, I’d go crazy because once I finish my second draft, I don’t want to read my book for a very long time. LOL Why? Because I already know what happens; there’s no surprises.
Once I do my initial read through (which takes about one month), I send it to an editor. I have two main people I go to for edits. One is an ex-high school English teacher. The other is one who is establishing her LLC for her editing services as we speak. In addition to this, I have two proofreaders who also serve as beta readers. I used to have more, but I ran into one whose husband turned psycho on me and have backed off from allowing “just anyone” to beta read my work. So I have a very closed group of people I trust with my work. I’ve learned the hard way that you have to be careful.
3. Who makes my covers?
In the past, I’ve used Joleene Naylor, Stephannie Beman, Dara England, and Bonnie Steffans (a generous reader who designed the covers for Isaac’s Decision, Restoring Hope and Brave Beginnings; she did do the original for Bound by Honor, Bound by Love, but I changed the plot enough where it required a different cover and did the new one myself). Joleene Naylor did my four fantasy covers, but when iUniverse (a vanity press) decided to put those original versions up in ebooks, I removed the ones with Joleene’s covers because I didn’t want to confuse Amazon. After two copyright violations in the past, I try to be careful. Dara England did the covers for Shotgun Groom, To Have and To Hold, and Her Heart’s Desire. Stephannie Beman did a couple of covers I ended up not using and the header on this blog. I LOVE my header, btw. 😉
I have made all my other covers. I use GIMP for ebook covers and BookCoverPro for paperback covers.
4. Breakdown of my writing-revision/editing-publishing process.
Step One: Cover
I usually do a cover before I write the book because it motivates me to see the cover while I’m working on it. For some reason, the book isn’t “real” until I get the cover. The reason why I love to make my covers is so that I can modify anything if I need to.
Step Two: Write the book
Usually, this is 2-3 months. I used to never change anything until I finished it. For the last two books, I’ve stopped writing to adjust the book to where it needs to be to save myself time in the second draft stage. This is part of what held me up on finishing Bound by Honor, Bound by Love was going back and tweaking things over the nine months I was working on it. So these days, revisions happen during the writing stage.
Step Three: Editing
I do the initial edit when I make the second draft. This can take a month or a little more. Then I hand it to one of my editors. This takes a week or two to get back to me. Then I go through it again, and depending on what the editor says, it can take a week to two to go through it. Then I hand it off to proofreader/beta reader #1 and then #2. This part is the quickest. Then I do light touch ups and publish it.
Step Four: Publish
This take a full day, believe it or not. Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords requires their own formatting. CreateSpace to make paperbacks is usually delayed, but takes a while to do, too. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I only need one round of proofs from CreateSpace to approve the book, except if I have a typo or glaring error in the cover. Then it’s two. But with Amazon Kindle, B&N PubIt, and Smashwords, formatting takes about five hours, and uploading about another two hours. Part of it is checking the formatting on the site. So yes, it is a full day, and I’m exhausted when it’s done.
Step Five: Register My Copyright
This is the most important thing I do in the whole process, and I do this immediately after I publish the book. That way if any legal issues pop up, I’m protected, and I have a great copyright lawyer who works with me. If anyone lives in the Omaha area and needs a good copyright lawyer, let me know and I’ll give you his information. His card is right with my driver’s license, so I always know where it is.
Step Six: Announce the Book is Out
I do this when it’s live on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. I announce it on this blog, my newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook (my main page and my author page). I don’t keep an email list because in the past, I ran into a couple of people who no longer wanted to be on it but were too afraid to hurt my feelings and let me know. I opted for the newsletter blog where people can follow or unfollow my once-a-month posts as they wish. It makes life easier for them. I only do this once for Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords (when I get those links). I don’t do it again. I will put the link up on this blog and the front page of my website for a while in case anyone missed my announcement. Other than that, I go back to my usual posts.
I’m sure that’s more than anyone wanted to know, but when I get started on writing and publishing, I tend to ramble. 😀
I always enjoy your blog. I have the insight on how a story is created from start to finish, because of it! Some words flow easily on to the pages, and sometimes, it takes longer. Some of the characters speak to you more than others do. But, they all speak to your readers! I’m always waiting for your next book!!! The blog is our ”fix” until then!
Thanks, Mary! You have such a great gift for encouraging others. 😀 Ironically, it’s often the characters who are easy to write in the stories who like to argue with me on the blog. It’s a lot of fun. I never know exactly what will happen next. I love this blog. What I’d like to do at some point is little excerpts from books I’ve already done of scenes that never made it into the books. I was rummaging through an idea notebook the other day and saw an idea for a scene where Tom tells Dave he needs a wife and another one where Mary gives birth to Isaac. So they’d be about 1000 words (really short) but something fun to put on the blog. I think I’ll start with Dave and Mary and branch out as more ideas come to me. 😀
Readers who are not authors probably have no idea how much work goes into writing and publishing a book. It’s not all fun and games. There is WORK involved. I think it’s good to let people know your process and how much work is involved. Even if you love your job, it’s STILL a job! 🙂
There is a lot of work. I get tired while doing the work, but I don’t get tired of the work. I know you understand what I mean by that. I’ve decided once I get the two books I’m editing published, I’m taking two weeks off to read for fun and date my husband now that the kids are back in school. After that, I need to figure out a routine to work 3 hours a day on writing and when that time is up to stop for the day. I’m not going to stress word count anymore. 😀
I had to chuckle at the part where you said “…once I finish my second draft, I don’t want to read my book for a very long time.” I read my book again after almost each step of editing:
Complete first draft-read it
Complete second draft-read it
Make changes recommended by my husband (my biggest critic)-read it
Make revisions suggested by crit partners-read it
Get edits back for editor-read it
Get line edits back from proofreader-read it
Get line edits back from second proofreader–Don’t touch it again.
By the time my book goes out to the masses, I’ve read it at least 6 times, and each time I’ve made at least one unplanned change, which is why I don’t read it that final time. I have a habit of making two typos while fixing one or creating an error while replacing a sentence with one I think would sound better/be more romantic, etc. Either way, by the time it goes live, I am so sick of my own book it’s unreal. I don’t have any that I’ve voluntarily re-read since they went “live” because as you said, there’s no surprises! LOL
(I do have one book that has undergone so many rounds of edits and re-reads that I could probably recite the entire thing.)
I used to read through a book eight to ten times, and I hated it. LOL These days I let my editor(s) and proofreaders carry the heavy part of the ordeal.
I’m impressed with everything you do to get your books ready. 😀