August 15, 2006

Reality Check: Get ‘er Done!

This will be a short one this week. I’m tearing my hair out because I’m dying to go off on a cruise on Count Babbalallapaloozo’s yacht, off the coast of Greece. But I can’t yet (insert loud, whining sound bite here), because Beth Anderson, who thinks I’m her alter ego but in reality, she’s mine (don’t tell her, she lives in her own dream world) is working on revisions for THE SCOUTMASTER’S WIFE and she won’t let me out of the house until they’re finished. She’s three quarters through it at this point, and even then she’ll have to go back through it again and do some cutting. We know this. It’s a given.

Well, hurrah for her, but I wanta go play. However, Beth’s mantra at the moment is, Hots, I don’t give a damn how much you love Greek food and that Italian wierdo you hang with, you’re not leaving this house. We’ve GOTTA Get ‘er Done!

Which brings me to my pep talk, written especially for new writers.

Here’s how you do it if you’re really serious, if you dead-on want to get published and stay published.

No writing tips today, this is a publishing reality check. And the reason for this reality check is, when you’re trying to get published, you need to do several things to get yourself prepared and into the mindset of a professional writer.

First. Understand that after you’ve spent 5,000,000 light years spinning your wheels trying to get that first book published, during which time you might have no clue how long it’s going to take–and it always takes longer than you thought–if you stay with that publisher you’ll most likely be able to sell on a partial from then on.

IF you sell on a partial, you have to know realistically how long it’ll take you to get your current book done, because the due date is going to be in the contract, thus giving birth to the phrase, “deadline hell”.

So. Realistically, factoring in all the other things you have to do in the course of your daily life, how long WILL it take you? Not how long CAN it take you, because remember, you’re going to contract on how long it’ll be before you WILL turn the book in, and this is not going to be some vapor-date, negotiable at will. (Barring real-life emergencies, which do not include that spontaneous two-week trip to the beach with your pals.)

Anyhow. Here’s how you do it: Take the number of pages you want your book to be. How do you know? Well, what publishing house are you aiming for?

If it’s a category romance publisher, you should already know how many pages are in their books. Each printed book page is approximately a manuscript page and a half. I’m saying approximately, I don’t have time to look it up exactly right now, you do that, it’s your book.

Even if it’s not category, you should still have a general idea approximately how long you want your manuscript to be. If you have no idea, get an idea, quick. Ask questions or you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels for eternity and you’ll wind up with an eleven hundred page manuscript that nobody will touch. Yes, even though you’ve sweated your little heart out for five years, they still won’t touch it. So find out what a realistic page count for your type of book would be, and try to hold it down to that. Cutting your adverbs and adjectives will help, as one clue anyhow.

Okay. You want, say, a four hundred page finished manuscript, which will produce about a three hundred page finished book in print.

Four hundred pages. That’s not a lot, right?

Well, it depends. How many pages WILL you write in one week?

Not CAN, or CAN MAYBE, but WILL. Remember, this is going into a contract, a legal document. So, based on how many pages your book will be, divide it by the number of weeks you’ll have to work on it. That gives you how many pages you have to produce every week. Note I said HAVE TO. That’s a pitfall far too many new authors never even think about.

So it’s in your best interest to find out how many pages you are willing to produce a week long before you sign that contract.

I can tell you, once you’ve signed that contract on a partial, you have to give up a lot. So realistically, be prepared for the fact that your time is no longer yours when you’re under contract to finish a book.

The time to prepare for that is NOW.

Approach it like the million dollar industry it is, folks, because that’s what it is. Probably not your million dollars, but that’s what’s riding on authors producing what they’ve said they will, when they said they will.

When Beth (the nag, one of the nicer names she’s referred to by her crit partners) started her first book, which became a Harlequin Superromance, she figured out FIRST that it would run about four hundred manuscript pages.

Now here’s the kicker, and I want you to pay attention here: She wasn’t even contracted then, but she treated that entire book as if she WERE contracted. That’s what I mean about adjusting your mindset.

If you think you will, you will. If you think maybe you will, chances are you won’t, at least where writing a book is concerned, because surprise! It’s damned hard work.

But that’s how you have to think. Write it as if you’re already under contract, even if you aren’t. If you can actually adjust your mindset like that right from the git-go, and you can, you’re not going to spend years screwing around with one chapter, which some do. But they’re not published and probably never will be. They have yet to say, “I WILL do this!” and mean it. And then do it.

Okay, you’re under contract, even if it’s only in your mind. How long do you have? Six months? A year? The number of pages you force yourself to finish each week come hell or high water (pardon the cliche) will determine whether you’re going to reach that goal or not.

Beth didn’t wait till she was under contract, she started out like that. She soon found out that she could finish one fifteen page chapter a week IF she worked every night during the week and a lotta hours over the weekend. At that point, she was unsure of a lot of things, but she did find out, by sticking to it, that she could, which rapidly turned into would, finish one chapter a week, including editing. So she knew almost from the git-go what she WOULD do.

You have to know something else: Other things happen after you turn in what you think is your publishable book.

For instance, editorial revisions, sometimes agent-requested revisions, all of which can add considerably to the time it’s going to take to actually finish the book.

YOUR job is to know how many pages a week you WILL write in order to finish the book you’re working on now.


Will makes all the difference in the world.

Ta ta for now, I hear Beth screaming–er-uh-calling. Gotta go, we’re finishing our revisions and then I can go play. Although, curse the luck, I hear her, over there in the corner, muttering about our next book…omigod. There she goes again…

Love y’all, write on, and come back real soon, ya hear me?
The Hotclue

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5 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Hots, you’ve shaken the sleep from my eyes and the core of my soul. I’ve never considered the “time frame”. My God, talk about a reality check. Thanks for posting this and please, please, please, never stop blogging.

  2. Ah, cheesh! And here I was getting ready to trash the whole website. (JUST kidding!) Hope the info helps all of you. It’s just one more tidbit I’ve picked up while Beth was writing the books.

    Good thing she has me around, isn’t it.

    Love ya, drop by again soon,

  3. Really enjoyed my first newsletter of yours. Especially your dance lesson, that was really funny. Thanks for starting my Friday with a smile and a laugh. Keep up the newsletter, it is great!!

  4. Just one word sums up how I feel – Yep.

  5. Hey, Joanne, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Come back again anytime. Love to have you!

    Love and extra hugs, Hotclue

    And Yasmine, ms short but sweet. Yeah, it’s all true, unfortunately. Books don’t write themselves. Somewhere along the line we all have to sit back and do the math.

    Love, and please come back soon, maybe we can learn math together. Ya think? 😉







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