Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ends and Beginnings

The book is now done! Sort of. There's one last thing I want to double-check that occurred to me in the middle of the night, and I'm now not sure if I just dreamed it or if it is an issue. Finishing a book at night always leads to an interesting experience because I'm utterly drained but also very wired, so I'm too tired to do much other than sleep, but I can't really sleep well. There's lots of tossing and turning, lots of coming wide awake in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep for ages, and lots of really weird, really vivid dreams that, thanks to all the wakefulness, get oddly merged with reality. Case in point, figuring out a possible problem with the book and how to fix it, and now I'm not entirely sure if it's for real or if I dreamed it. I also dreamed that I was so tired after all the tossing and turning that I woke up at seven, and it turned out that it was actually seven in the evening, and I'd slept all day. When I woke up after eight and it was daylight, I figured it was truly the morning. I'm hoping tonight I can get some real rest.

The last phase of a book for me is a quick read-through in an attempt to replicate the reader experience. Writing a book and reading a book are such different things that your perspective can get totally skewed. Something that takes weeks or months to write can be read in hours or days, and that changes how you view things. A part of the book that seems to really drag for you as a writer may fly for a reader. In fact, the more complex action scenes that are real page-turners are actually the most complicated to write. They require all kinds of mental choreography and sometimes even drawing diagrams to make sure you know where everyone is, what they're doing, and when. Days worth of work will then be read in a matter of minutes. There are also continuity issues that can come up when you're writing the end of a book weeks (or more) after writing the beginning, things you mention at the beginning and forget about later, or things you write later, and then it turns out they directly contradict something from the beginning. I've caught myself using a particular descriptive phrase that sounds absolutely perfect for a moment -- only to realize that it was also perfect for a moment earlier in the book. And there are those pesky pet words that crop up. It's the kind of thing that only jumps out at you when you read in as close to one sitting as possible.

I've realized with this book that I've kind of been a slug for the past few years. I wrote the book in less than a month and revised it in about a month. Theoretically, that means I could write six books a year. If I give myself two months for things like editor and agent revisions, copy edits and galley proofs, that's five books a year. Giving myself two months for promotion, that's four a year. And then two months for sanity/rest, that's still three books a year, and I've been doing just one (well, last year I did two, but one started at the end of the previous year). Of course, the trick is getting someone to publish more than one book a year, but it's possible that I could have furthered my career by writing in multiple areas and for multiple publishers to have my name out there more widely. I may see if I can pull that off going forward, at least trying to produce that much material. No matter what I do, I'll probably end up in a different genre. Regardless of how readers view the books I have out now, the industry has them classified as chick lit, which is dead. Going forward, I'll have to make a fresh start in fantasy, young adult, paranormal romance or magical realism women's fiction, since I'll be relatively unknown there, according to bookseller classification. I'm sure my genius agent could sell me into other markets with a partial manuscript, but I think I'd have a better chance of being accepted in another genre with a full manuscript, especially since the way my creative process works means my partials aren't necessarily representative of the final work. So, if I buckle down, I can get more stuff out there and find my new "home."

The trick is figuring out what to write next. I'm not forbidding myself to write between now and the end of the year, but I want to focus on other things for a while. If I get an idea or am inspired, I may play with it. I want to clean my office, read some books about writing, read a lot in general, and do other stuff to refill the old creative well. During that time, one of the many ideas swimming around in my brain may jump up and be ready to take off. January is going to be my big writing month.

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