Kate Douglas Delivers The Essential Author 101
Kate Douglas is my guest today and she has managed to sum up, in one short blog, the insanity that is a writing life. If you are a writer, you’ll get it. If you want to be a writer, this is what it is really like. Welcome, Kate!
Okay, I’m going to start this with a disclaimer. I do not, nor will I ever, know everything there is about publishing. However, now that I’m well into my fifth year of writing for Kensington, both as lead author for the erotic Aphrodisia line and a newbie at Zebra, I can honestly say I have learned a few tidbits about the business I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined.
Like how LITTLE of this job is actually about hiding away in your office and writing! And yes, this is all taken from my actual experiences to date.
For years, I’ve had a printed sheet beside my desk. It reads:
Make it work.
Get it done.
It’s all about the book.
Well, yes and no. Let’s start at the beginning—not the beginning of writing, but the beginning of publication. You’ve got the book done, you have an agent who has just secured an amazing deal for you, only it’s for four books and the proposal was for three, and the schedule you’ve agreed to means you’re going to have a new book to turn in every three months. It’s great—you write full time, the kids are grown and three months is more than enough time to get a book written, right?
Yeah…sure. If that’s all you do. The first one is done, so it’s off to the publisher and you start on number two, except number one comes back and needs revisions, so you put #2 aside and work on #1 and send it off again. Then you go back to #2, only you’ve forgotten where you left off, so you reread what you’ve written and get back into the story when you get an email requesting cover art information (character description, setting, etc.) for #1. You take care of that and get back to #2, when you get a phone call requesting the synopsis for that fourth book they want that you haven’t thought of yet, but because the story arc ends with the third one you proposed, you have to figure out how to fit #4 into the #3 slot and move #3 to #4.
So, you set book #2 aside—again—write a synopsis with new characters tied into the same series and send it first to your agent for her take (which means at least some revisions) and then to the editor who never quite gets around to approving it, but assumes that you know it’s just fine. Right? Well, it is and that’s okay, so you just keep doing your job.
That means you’ve gone back to #2, which now needs some tweaking so that when it’s time to write the new #3 you’re not sure your editor wants, you’ll have a natural segue into the new story and characters. Tweaking done, you’re back on course and the book is moving along really well, when copy edits for #1 arrive, and because production is on a tight schedule, you have three days instead of the ten your contract calls for to get them checked, approved, corrected and FedEx’d back to New York.
Copy edits turn out to be an absolute cluster with a copy editor who envisions herself as the next Jane Austin and has rewritten all your dialogue into “proper English.”
Example—the scene where the hero is fighting a demon with nothing more than a broken sword while trying to protect the heroine from certain death has been written—by you, like this:
“Duck, dammit. He’s gonna…oh shit.” He rolled, twisted and popped up behind the scaly bastard. “You fucking sonofa…”
The demon pivoted, swung one massive, talon-studded paw, and howled as Lucian rolled again, just out of reach.
“C’mon,” he teased. “Just try it. I dare ya.”
And “corrected” by your ever-helpful copy editor, to read thusly:
“Move quickly. He’s going to get you.” He rolled away, far enough to get behind the demon, and cursed.
The demon turned around and swung his huge paw, but he missed. Lucian jumped out of danger.
“Come get me,” he said. “I dare you.”
Don’t laugh. This does happen. My very first edits for DemonFire used up two entire packages of post it notes where I marked every spot in the almost 500 page manuscript where I had to “Stet” the changes.
(STET is the magical tool that keeps authors from hunting down and killing helpful copy editors who overstep their bounds—it means “Leave it the way I wrote it, or die.”)
So, the copy edits are done and you’re back to writing #2 again, but you have to reread to get back into the story when you hear from you editor with a request that you deal with some promotional stuff the publisher wants from you. Promotion is another thing I didn’t understand entirely when I first began writing. There are a LOT of books out there, and if you want yours to sell, you have to tell readers about them. That means social networking, blogging, paying for book trailers, emailing readers, doing a newsletter, running the occasional contest, signing stock in bookstores, scheduling book signings, talks at libraries and for book clubs, attending conferences, sending out promotional material you’ve had to design and have printed and, oh yeah, finishing the next book, and damn it, but look at the calendar? Where the HELL did the month go?
So, you’re beginning to panic but the book is almost done and you might just squeak in by deadline when “SURPRISE!” FedEx is back at the front door with the page proofs for book #1 and you have to put #2 aside again and check the proofs for formatting and typos that might have been missed in the copy edit stage. You read them twice, just to be sure you’ve caught everything and send them back to NY, and FINALLY you’re down to the last chapter of #2. And then you write “the end,” and you pour a glass of wine and kick back and sigh.
Except you’re not really done because you still need to send it to your beta readers, the trusted critique partners you’ve got who read to make sure the book makes sense, because with all those interruptions it’s impossible to keep track of what you’ve just written.
And a week later it comes back, and five out of the seven think you need to rewrite stuff—only they all pick different stuff that needs fixin’. And you do what they say, because you trust them, and then you send the book off—overnight FedEx because you’re going to miss the deadline if you don’t, and you finally get to crawl into bed with a clean conscience and nothing pressing.
Until the next morning, when you get up and turn on the computer, open to a fresh, clean document page, and start the next book.
And yes, this is what I do, only I do it with two different series, which means skipping from one world to the next between books. It means learning to write with total concentration in the moment, knowing your characters and your story inside out, even when they decide to do one-eighties on you in the midst of the project, and loving what you do, because, take it from someone who submitted and got rejected for twenty years before breaking into this business, you’ve got to love it or it’ll make you nuts.
Come to think of it, even when you DO love it, it makes you nuts. And that is precisely why we write. We’re all a bit crazy and way left (or in some cases right) of center. And I doubt there’s an author out there who doesn’t love every crazy moment of it.
Kate Douglas writes The DemonSlayers mass market series for Kensington Zebra, and is the lead author for Kensington’s erotic romance line, Aphrodisia. Her popular Wolf Tales series launched the Aphrodisia imprint in January 2006. The eighteenth Wolf Tales/Sexy Beast book released in March. Her first in the DemonSlayers series, DemonFire, debuted on February 23. Upcoming titles include Wolf Tales 10 in July 2010, the second DemonSlayers book, HellFire in September 2010, along with a DemonSlayers novella in the Nocturnal anthology with Jacquelyn Frank, also a September release.
You can reach Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friend her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/katedouglas.author
Read first chapter excerpts of all her books at www.katedouglas.com
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