I have learned over the years that I have been producing books that it helps to have a pattern on how a book is produced from idea to the completed paperback and e-book. Basically this system is the same for both my nonfiction as well as my fiction. Here is my system from going from idea to completed manuscript.
Coming up with the Idea
I have heard people say that coming up with an idea is difficult, but as I stated last week, there are no new ideas, there is only a difference in perspective and yours hasn’t been written yet. In writing nonfiction, look at things that you are passionate about or would like to learn more about. Write down what you know about the topic. If it is something you want to know more about, write down your questions about the subject. With fiction the matter is to create a plot, create characters for the situation of the plot, and create a setting and you have the basis for a book.
Whether your work is fiction or nonfiction, you are bound to have at least something you need to research so researching is the next step in the process. Determine what you need to know for the big picture, you may be researching more as time goes on, but do research based on holes in the information you are able to provide and the questions that you have about the subject.
I have learned that it is important to limit my research to the portion of the topic that I want to cover. For instance, the research that I did for my book Help from Kelp was written based only about Kelp and how I use kelp to improve my health. I didn’t include how kelp was used in products, just how I personally could use kelp every day. Same way with Using Diatomaceous Earth around the House and Yard, again, I only wrote the book about how to use DE around my home and yard but I did not write about other substances I could use to do the same thing.
Creating an Outline
I know a lot of people who poo-poo the idea of writing an outline when writing a book, but I have found that when I participate in NaNoWriMo, I find it so much easier to complete the 1667 words I need to write that day if I have an outline to go by. With nonfiction, I find that an outline is absolutely necessary. My outlines are not overly detailed.
The First Draft
Using my outline as my guide and writing as quickly as I can, I write the first draft of my book. Having an outline makes the whole process so much more enjoyable for me. Sort of like a trip where you’ve studied the map and you know what routes you’ll take to get where you’re going. I believe it takes a lot of stress out of the process and eliminates any potential for writer’s block. For me this first draft is finished when I reach the end of the book with 50 thousand words or more in my fiction or have completely covered the subject with my nonfiction.
Prior to starting a second draft, I read through the first draft. I’ll edit out things that don’t fit and put in notes of ideas that I have for adding to the book. If there are any hole in the plot (in fiction), I will also make note of those as well.
The Second Draft
Based on the notes that I make in the manuscript at this point, I increase the word count in my fiction books to 80 thousand words or more. It is during this draft that I do any additional research based on the notes taken after reading through the first draft. Again, I will want to stay as specific on my research as possible so that I don’t end up following rabbit trails that do not finish my manuscript.
Numerous Self Edits
Once the second draft is completed, I begin a series of edits.
In fiction, I begin by examining the arc of the main plot, the main characters, and the basic setting. Then I look at each subplot and minor character arcs. Are they developed as they should be? Then I will look at timing and pace. Do can things happen as they happened in the proper time sequence? Do parts of the story seem to drag? Do other parts fly too fast? Next I make certain that characters are saying words that they would actually be saying in that era. Next I would determine that the chapter lengths are about the same with good endings that keep the book moving while at the same time allowing the reader a good place to break. Next comes making certain that grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct.
With my nonfiction, I have similar book self-checks. I check that the title is not misleading the audience concerning the content of the book, that the subject is adequately and correctly covered in the book. I then look at the main chapters of the book, do they cover the entire topic? Do all chapters relate to the main subject matter or does one of the chapters stand out as not fitting the book’s subject? Does the introduction adequately draw the reader to continue reading the subject? Does the last chapter of the book adequately summarize the book. At this point I will then include a table of contents, index and resource pages. Does the book now appear complete? Now look at each chapter, do you have a good hook to lead into the chapter and a good summary of the information covered in each chapter? Is the information presented in this chapter in order and correct? Do you over use certain words, if so change them. Finally check grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Getting Others Involved in the Editing Process
I know that I am personally done with the editing process when I get to the point where I cannot edit any more. I then know that it is time to allow someone else to take a look at what I have written. I have in the past hired a wonderful editor for one of my books, but recently I found two beta readers who edit my books as a labor of love. I make a physical copy of my book and give it to these beta readers. I then consider the edits that they have made and I make the changes.
At this same time, I work on getting the final cover ready for the book. I create several ideas and present them to those who have read my previous books. These readers vote and I give them a preview of the finished cover.
The final part of the production process is in the formatting both for fiction and for nonfiction, for paperback and for e-book. Front matter needs to be added and these include the Title page, copyright page and acknowledgements, someone else who is known to have expertise related to my book may write a forward for me. Then I do back matter which includes my about the author page and promotional pages for my other books. Once the book is formatted, I am ready to focus on marketing my book. That is the subject of Thursday’s post.
Donna Brown is pastor at Faith in God Church 1 1/2 miles south of Brandsville, Missouri on Hwy 63. Sunday services are at 10 am and Wednesday night Bible Study at 6:30 pm. As Author Cygnet Brown, she has published a nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener
She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga. The next book Book IV of the Locket Saga: Sailing Under the Black Flag will be out in the near future.