If you’ve liked my Facebook page, you may have noticed I finally finished the final draft of my novella Camp Hollybrook. (That’s a lot of Fs right there…) I feel like I’ve been talking about it forever, and one person (offline) recently asked me a question I thought worth sharing:
Why does it take so damn long?
That’s an interesting question because it’s different for everyone. The obvious answer is I’m not a full time writer. I have a family (including two little kids) who kind of depend on the income my day job generates. However, I’m not using that as an excuse; one day I hope to have enough income from writing for that to be my day job. I still think it will take me longer than some authors, and this is why.
There are authors who can sit down and crank out a book within a few weeks. Then it’s edited and published sometimes just a couple weeks after that. If you’re one of those authors, good on you. I know a few authors who do that and their work is awesome. Much respect to them. However, I know many more who push it out too soon. If you’ve read a potentially rushed book, you know it. It shows.
I take a long time for one reason: I don’t want to fall into that second category. I don’t want to feel the rush of “Whew, I’m done!” and then send it out to the world assuming it’s as awesome as I remember. I don’t do this because first drafts suck. Big time. For me, it takes a bit of separation before I can figure out exactly why. For me, the best thing to do is let the story marinate.
No, I don’t really let it sit in some sticky juice with the assumption that it will be delicious (although it probably would). I let it sit so that I can step away from the story enough that my next edit will be more objective. I have a personal rule that no story will be edited as soon as a draft is finished. For long work, I stagger drafts. Before I edited the final draft of Camp Hollybrook, I finished the first draft of my yet-unnamed submarine novel. Now I’ll be wrapping a few shorts before writing the first draft of my next novel. THEN I’ll go back and edit the submarine book. Rinse and repeat.
If you think that’s a lot of time to wait, you’re right. During that time, I’m able to forget a lot of what I wrote. When I start editing, it’s like re-reading a book from a long time ago. You remember the story, but you forget the journey. If something doesn’t make sense, I have a much better chance of catching it. If not, that’s where beta reads help. I’ve been lucky enough to have some really great beta readers for both Stripped and Camp Hollybrook. I’d like to give public thanks to author Selene MacLeod for her help a few months ago. I believe her input has made Camp Hollybrook a much better story, and I greatly appreciate it.
Back to point, I’m in no way arguing the merits of one way or another (or another or another or another…everyone is different and these are obviously not the only two ways to write). If you are a fast writer, I don’t mean to imply your work in unfinished. Not at all. All I’m saying is that writing is a very personal thing and everyone has to do it their own way. If it takes me two years to finish a book, then that’s how long it’s going to take. Of course, during that time I’m working on multiple projects, so it’s not like I’m sitting on the same thing forever. That would be silly…
Bottom line, when the book is finally done and I send it out to the world, I’m confident that it’s the absolute best I could do at that time. Of course, if I’d have waited a few more months and went back to it, I would no doubt change a few things. You have to draw the line somewhere.
So back to the original question: Why does it take so damn long? The best answer I can come up with is this:
Because for me, it just does.