Typing “The End” is not the end of a book for a writer. Although it is a moment of supreme relief, joy, mourning, and generally, exhaustion. But there are several steps between “The End” and seeing the book in print — and not just those dreaded ‘editing’ step. So, here’s a highly incomplete list of what I do when I “finish” a book.
1. The second after typing The End, I save like a digital hoarder (which should totally be a new TLC show.) I save my book file on my computer, on a thumb drive, and on my back up hard drive. And then I email it to myself. And I email it to my mom. There are literally not enough places to save this file.
2. Sleep. Watch television. Generally something involving Hoarding on TLC. Then emerge into daylight, like a newborn stepping into the world for the first time. Go buy groceries. Pretend to be normal. And as a special treat, see a movie IN A MOVIE THEATER. Call my friends. Remind them what I look like. Oh my God, read a book! (Note: this step can last from 2 hours to an entire weekend. But not beyond. Because that way idleness lies.)
3. Print out the entire manuscript. It takes nearly an entire ream of paper, but I need the analog for when I do an editing pass on the book, before I turn it in. I generally write pretty clean, i.e. I don’t do a lot of KISSING SCENE HERE, or HERO FIGHTS STREET THUGS SCENE HERE in my text to go back and fill in. Therefore, I am mainly going back to clean, to clarify, and to correct any egregious errors. (case in point: I once caught myself calling my hero by the name of a hero from my previous book. I guess I hadn’t gotten him out of my head yet.) Also, I go back to strengthen character. I get to know my characters best as I write them, so they are far more fully realized at the end of the book – complete with quirks and foibles – than they were at the beginning. It’s worth taking the time to go back and strengthen the characterization in the beginning, now that I know them better.
4. Turn in the book! Dance in a circle!
5. At this point, I have to (if I haven’t already) start thinking about the next book. Chances are it will be about a character or characters already present in my head, as they have been present in the book I just turned in. So I do that, while I bite my nails, wondering what my agent and editors thought of my book.
6. They like it! Dance in a circle!
7. But alack! Before I can get too far into the next book, I get edits back from my editor! They are notes with concerns, plot guidance, and also copy edits to correct my terrible, terrible grammar. I attack them, going through every line of the book again. Also at this time, I write the ‘extras’ of the book – the Dear Reader letter in the back, explaining some of the research that went into it, as well as the dedication, and any acknowledgements. Then I super-duper grammar-check them, too.
8. Turn in the book! Dance in a (slow) circle!
9. A few weeks/months later, comes a tantalizing glimpse of cover art! Wee!
10. GASP – it’s only a few months now before the pub date, and my editor sends me galley pages. This is my last chance to go through and correct any errors – and I’m not allowed to correct big, plot-related ones. No, the time for that has passed. This is just tiny typos. So I go through it with a fine-tooth comb, reading very, very carefully for any still-as-yet uncaught errors.
11. Turn in the book! Move in a circle until I fall down.
12. Receive ARCs. Freak out, and figure out what reviewers and readers I should give them to.
13. Receive author copies. Freak out in general, and figure out what reviewers and readers should get them, too.
14. The book comes out! Dance in a circle! Then obsessively check Amazon ranking.
15. Do it all again.
And that’s the process of writing a book, after I’ve written “The End.” Right now, if you’re curious, with my spring 2013 book, I’m around stages 7, 8, or 9. I’ve got plenty of work to do on the book after that one, which is currently consuming my time – (I’ll eludicate on the process of beginning a book in the coming weeks. But until then, kids – Happy Reading!