I read this wonderful post today and have to share the link. Many people have asked how long it took to write Whipped, Not Beaten (in fact, my hygienist asked me that very question this morning as she scraped away at my teeth). Shaunta Grimes speaks the truth about how writing a GOOD book is a process. I began Whipped ten years ago. I revised it several times over the course of years. It was under revision until the minute it went to the book printer.
It grates me when people say, "Oh, I've always wanted to write a book. I have an idea for one." There's this perception that writing is easy, just takes a little time and effort, right? No tougher than watching a film or trying a new recipe, right? Actual writers know better. They understand that declaring "I've always wanted to write a book" is as presumptuous as saying "I've always wanted to climb Mt. Everest" or "I've always wanted to run a marathon." Writing a good book isn't the same as learning now to knit or taking a zumba class. The commitment involved requires effort, training, time and other people helping you along the way.
Good writers read. A LOT. Good writers write. A LOT. Good writers throw out a lot of pages, decent ones even. (A fine example: an entire chapter about Sadie and a flirtation with a coffee house piano player got tossed out--it was perfectly good writing and kind of cute.) Good writers listen to other people's advice and criticism (see: "deep six the chapter with the piano player"). Good writers get rejected. A LOT. And good writers learn to manage those hard, bitter feelings after being rejected. Good writers don't quit writing.
I'm working on what I hope is a final revision of my latest manuscript--my final revision before my agent hopefully sells it and then the editors at a publishing house request more changes. The manuscript I'm revising is in it's 5th beginning-to-end revision, I've been working on it for a few years now. I've tended to point of view, verb tense, character development, setting and plot. I've fussed with word choice and sentence structure. I've fiddled with the dialogue and futzed around with motive and cause-and-effect. I'm still pulling through a few threads about the main character's financial situation and her fear of failure. I've still got to work in a sort of major plot line about a main character--he needs a misunderstanding with another character, I don't know who yet and this may require writing in a whole new character, but it's an important conflict because it ups the ante for the ending.
Good writing is hard work. Even the crappy books took a lot of effort to produce. (I could go on a tangent here about how little writing a book pays, how most authors reap 15% of the book's profits, which at $15 a paperback is reallynotmuch ($2.25/copy) so when people kvetch about the cost of buying a book I want to slug them, but I won't go there.)
I'm not writing this post out of self-pity or to convince you to buy my book (though if it does, I won't complain). I'm writing it to explain where books come from, how authors develop, how the difference between good writing and bad writing develops. I feel incredibly lucky to have a book published. It's thrilling to hear people's feedback and to see people reading it and laughing. I still smile when I see the cover and can't believe how great the whole thing turned out. Having the time and resources to write about something I invented in my head is a luxury, no question about it. But make no mistake, it's not easy. It's more hard work than luck.