So you have a manuscript. Whether you’re a multiple drafts kind of person or a all stages of drafting at once person like me, we all arrive at the same point where the bulk of actual writing is finished and we’re ready to move on to the next stage. Before we talk about the world of editors, beta-readers, edits, publishing platforms and decisions, and book design, I want to talk about something that completely caught me off guard in the process of creating my first book. I so wish I had known this ahead of producing my book, which is mainly why I’m writing about it now.
The real work is about to begin.
I know how ominous that sounds, but it’s the honest truth. When I stuck that last period on The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn, I thought, “There we go! The hard part’s over!” but the exact opposite was true. The real work was only just getting started and it was time for me to show up. And so, here are the three things I wish I'd know when I reached this stage.
1. Writing the book is the quick part.
The time between the burst of inspiration for Captain Acorn to finishing writing my manuscript was only about a four-month period, and that was while not having the option to write full time. I can only imagine how much quicker it would have been if I could have sat myself down for eight hour writing days (Ah, but I dream). Four months. That’s all it took to produce the manuscript. I started writing in September of 2017 and late one night in early January of 2018, I was sitting on my bed and I texted my whole family all in caps to tell them that I had finished it. It would be a year and change before The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn was released, and by many standards that could be considered fast.
The actual writing of the book was hard work, don’t get me wrong, but I was taken aback by the slowing moving process of turning a manuscript into a physical book. Even with years of listening to the advice of great writers who have come before me I was still taken aback. If producing a book were a volcano it would be much less a Mt. Vesuvius situation and much more one of those slow-moving lava flows where maaaaaaaaaaybe you’ll think about evacuating. Maybe.
This doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
Speed is no indication of how good your book is going to be. No one ever talks about their favorite book and remarks on how quickly the author produced it. It doesn’t factor in the quality of your book. So don’t sweat how long it’s taking. As long as you’re taking consistent, dedicated steps to reaching your goal you’re doing right by your book and you’re not a lousy writer. This is, after all, the long haul.
2. You have to account for figuring it all out
If you’ve managed to produce a full manuscript, it’s likely you’ve put years of effort into honing your craft as a writer. (Unless you’re some freak anomaly who just instinctively knew how to write a book in which case I’m not at all bitter…) You didn’t just wake up and know everything about who you are as a writer, the approaches that work best for you, and what pitfalls to avoid. It took time to get to a place where you wrote with discipline and familiarity.
This next phase of the book writing process is no different. You have to acknowledge that you’re in a new stage and aren’t 100% sure of what you’re doing. That’s ok! It’s your first book for crying out loud, and there are so many decisions you have to make. Give yourself a bit of grace and be realistic and honest with yourself. You don’t know everything, you’re still learning, and that’s going to make the process slower.
So take another sip of whatever beverage helps you pull an all-nighter, and get to work. There’s so much to learn and the whole experience is going to be unique to you. If you understand that going in, you’ll save yourself a lot of worry during the production phase.
3. You can make it.
This one may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Even chanting it to myself as I worked there were times when I wondered how the heck to believe what I was saying. After all, there was so much work to do. How was there ever going to be an end to it? Let alone one that resulted in a published book? Besides the constant support from family and friends, copious amounts of hot chocolate, and conversations with God, there was a little nugget of truth that threw a lot of things in perspective.
For all my somewhat depressing talk of the slow nature of things, there’s a simple silver lining to it all: this is likely the slowest this process will ever be for you. Obviously, with the exception of freak anomalies and experiences, this first time is the hardest and slowest it will ever be because of the learning curve that’s paired with it. Next time (because why wouldn’t there be a next time when you've done all this work?), you’ll come at the process armed with everything you learned from the first time.
There won’t have to be that same, long allowance for learning the process from scratch and figuring out the speed bumps and pitfalls. Make no mistake, there will be new complications and challenges, sure, but you will be so much better equipped to handle them. The hard work you’re doing now is hard work that you’ll reap the benefits of for years to come.
So don’t be afraid of getting to the long part of producing your book! There’s so much to do here (and believe me we’re going to get into all of that), but there’s so much useful stuff to learn too! This is just the next stage, and it’s every part of making your book as the physical writing of the book.
Let’s find some joy,