Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to tell us non-authors just what goes into finally getting that book published.
Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest.
Have you ever seen a movie, or read a book, that includes a scene about a writer finishing a book? The one that comes to mind is Romancing the Stone. Remember? She is crying as she writes the last sentence, types in The End, packs it up and sends it off to her publisher, the next time she sees it the book is in print. Wow. If only it were so.
I thought today we’d talk about what really happens. This is fresh in my mind because I just sent the manuscript of the latest Mary McGill canine mystery, Boo, You’re Dead off to my wonderful agent and no 1 editor, Dawn Dowdle. After months of writing, staring into space, doing research, rewriting, it’s finished. Not quite. I will get it back, and there will be changes. Why, you ask? Let me take you through the process, from idea to seeing it in print.to better understand how this works, at least if you are traditionally published. The following is a generic time line, it isn’t about me or any particular author, it’s about the process.
No.1 The Idea:
The author has a glimmer of an idea, usually in the middle of the night when you can’t go back to sleep. She is certain it will make a great book. She writes her idea in a few sentences (harder than it sounds) and presents it to her agent. Will it fly? The agent likes it, she sends it to the publisher who either says yes, write the book, or you’re out of your mind. For our purposes, the publisher loved it. How fast can you write it and get it to them? Once that has been established, the fiction author begins. She has nothing to work with but a blank computer screen and this vague idea, but soon the framework of an actual story appears. She begins to flesh out the characters, develop plot points, create settings and generally tears out her hair when she gets stuck. She stares at the calendar and shudders. The deadline for turning in the finished manuscript is getting closer. Finally, she’s finished. She’s even written The End on the last page. She’s rewritten it, discussed it with her readers, rewritten it again, put it through spell check and its ready to go to her agent. No more changes. It’s finished.
No. It’s not
2. The agent: The agent goes over the manuscript. She lets the author know where the story falls apart, when it drones on, where it doesn’t make sense. The cute little passage about the small child and the dog that the author was so proud of must go. It doesn’t push the story forward, it’s a distraction. Sadly, the author complies. The agent knows what she’s talking about. She also knows where comma’s go. The manuscript comes back to the author and the changes, corrections, rewrite where need are made and back it goes to the agent, all the time keeping a close eye on the calendar. The deadline looms. Finally, it’s ready to submit to the publisher. It’s ready to go to print. There will be no more changes.
3. The Publisher: Each author is assigned an editor. He/she will be the first person at the publishing house to read the manuscript. Politely, changes will be asked for. Remember that small child and the dog? The editor says on page 47, third paragraph down, we need something a little softer. Can you write in something that will still push the story forward but warm the heart? Sure. There was that small child and the dog you cut. The author really liked them and is happy they are back in but how they will push the story forward, she doesn’t know, but she’ll figure it out. Somehow. That won’t be the only change. Hopefully there won’t be too many. After a few days sitting in front of your computer, tearing out what remains of her hair, she’s complied with the requests and it’s ready to go back to the publisher. She’s finally finished. Oh, wait. The editor says she’s delighted with what been done, and she’s passed the manuscript off to the line editor. He has some changes to make.
About now the author is sick of the characters in the book and wonders what ever made her start this project, but she sighs deeply and goes through it one more time. Back it goes, fingers tightly crossed.
The next email she gets has a jpeg file. It’s the cover. It’s gone to press. A small package arrives and it’s her book, in print. She holds it in her hand and smiles.
It’s finally really finished.