The Difference Between "Written" and "Done"
With Super Powereds: Year 4 officially written, I figured this was a good time to talk about the divide between what it means for a book to be written versus a book being finished. Since I made the post about completing the rough draft, folks have been excitedly waiting an announcement of a release date, some with very optimistic timetables in mind. Contrary to what you might think, however, there’s still quite a bit to do even after you’ve typed “The End” on a project. My efforts to pull back the curtain on what it means to write a book would be woefully incomplete if I didn’t cover what comes between that moment and an actual release. For example, even when the rough draft is done…
There’s Still Writing Left to Do
Finishing a rough draft means you now know where everything ends up. That’s a nice feeling, but more than that it’s a very useful bit of information to have. Knowing the exact way everything plays out, more in depth than a plan or outline could provide, means it’s time to go back through the book and streamline it to make sure everything that came before is cohesive with the ending. Strip away the potential plot threads that never panned out, unless of course you want to tap them in future entries, but that’s getting a little more advanced. You’ll also want to ensure your foreshadowing is pointing in the proper directions, because sometimes in a book you’ll have an idea you aim at that ends up changing along the way. Rolling with shifts is plot is a big part of writing; however you still need to go back and clean up your unfinished bits once things are done.
That’s just one aspect of what post rough draft edits entail. There’s also copy-editing, continuity checking, reworking any sections that don’t read strongly on this second pass, and a dozen more bits of tweaking. Some authors will actually rewrite their entire books after the rough draft, preferring to start completely over with the rough draft as a road map to follow.
Don’t get me wrong, hitting the ending of a book is an amazing feeling, but if you hang up your keyboard at that exact moment, then you’re skipping over a lot of key work needed to make your book the best it can be.
Schedule Coordination Becomes Paramount
This one is going to be a little more indie specific, since a publisher will do this part for you, but since it applies to the bulk of my work it seems worth covering. As I’ve said multiple times on this site, every indie author needs a good editor. More than one, if they have the time and funds. There might be one in a million authors with the discipline and analytical skill to objectively evaluate their own works, but never assume it’s you. Editors are essential to a good book, and in my case I use two of them because I know how prone to copy edits I am. Missing words, goofed punctuation, it’s a mess before all the editing sweeps.
My editors, however, are people who exist outside of just when I need them. They have other clients and lives, which means I can’t simply plop my work onto their desk the minute I’m done. I have to find time in their schedule to handle whatever project I’m wrapping up, plus I have to stagger the schedules so one can edit the work, I can do reviews, then send it on to the next one, then another round of reviews, and then off to the beta readers, with one last session of reviews before I’ll feel confident that 99% of the issues are caught.
Then there’s working with a cover artist, more scheduling, figuring out what would be a solid time to release your book that is comfortably far enough in the future that you’re sure the work will be done, and so on. Scheduling, of all things, becomes one of your most vital skills during post-production, when you’re trying to get everything done as quickly as possible while also not structuring your timeline so aggressively that one missed deadline sends everyone off the rails.
My best advice on this is that as soon as you see the end of your book in sight, start sending emails and making plans. Keep it loose, but having an idea of everyone’s overall availability will at least give you an idea of what your timeframe options are once the rough draft is done.
The Optional Outsource Parts
Barring an incredible gift for self-editing or some awesome artistic skills, the section above was largely about stuff that you have to outsource, no matter what. There are, however, smaller pieces of creating a book (aside from writing) that don’t always have to be done out of house. They do still need to be part of your schedule, though. That means you need to be aware of what they are and how long you’ll need to have them done versus if you can do them yourself.
Formatting is the biggest part of this. There’s also putting together ads, creating physical promo materials, organizing launch events, and so on, but formatting is one that has to be dealt with regardless, so that’s where we’ll focus. To format a book means to structure it in a way that makes it look good on a specific medium. Creating an ebook, for example, requires different software and page setup instructions than creating a file for a print book. There are plenty of people who will handle this chore for you, often editors you work with will have these services available so you don’t even need to hunt down a new contact for help. But, as with every other aspect we discussed in the last section, that’s going to have an impact on your timetable.
Having been at this for a while, I can get my books formatted for all types of release (digital, paperback, hardback) easily within an afternoon. If I were sending it out for someone else to handle, I would expect it to take a couple of days, even if they work as fast as I do. That extra time is what’s spent figuring out when they can do it, agreeing to terms, and so forth. Keeping tighter control of my schedule is why I learned to do a lot of this myself, its one less area where I have to worry about a delay knocking things out of sync. How much you do or don’t know how to handle on your own for these projects will definitely impact your release timeline, and while there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing it all you should make sure you’re allotting appropriate time to see the tasks done before launch.
Hitting the end of a book is an amazing feeling, but it’s not quite akin to crossing a finish line, not when there’s still so much left to do. I would more acquaint it to being on the home stretch, with the finish line in sight. Tempting as it is to call the race done; it isn’t really over until those books are in people’s hands. Only then do we get to collapse, panting, on the ground and really savor our accomplishment. Of course, the collapsing in my case might have to do with me doing shots on release day, but hey, the metaphor still holds up!