Super cool guest on this blog today! Christopher Loke, Executive Editor for Jolly Fish Press is here today to tell us what it takes to make a book happen! For anyone who is in the writing process (at whatever point–from pre-writing to final edits to post-published) this is some good info. Enjoy.
The Making of a Book
The idea of writing a book to many Americans is simply popular. By popular, I really mean this: Everyone wants a piece of it. The thought of seeing your book in a bookstore, or signing at a book event, or being famous—yes, famous—is a very lucrative one. But unfortunately, being a published author is one American Dream that most writers only dream about and never succeed. Why? Because finishing a book is not an easy, smooth journey. Because to start writing a book is quite easy, but to finish it is a feat as high as Everest.
It took me six years to write The Housekeeper’s Son, and during those six years I never once dreamed of signing at an event. All I focused on was finishing the book. My story needed to be told and I must complete it. I must do every character justice. I must make sure it is never abandoned. I must, I must, I must. And it was those musts that really kept me going to the finish line.
Most writers have a dilemma of losing interest in their books halfway through writing them. They seek greener pastures, dreaming about new ideas and how those ideas are better and more enticing than the current book they are working on. I know this all too well, because like most writers, I find myself faced with the same temptation every time I write. But I also have this inner voice, this Jiminy Cricket, that never fails to nag on me to focus, focus, focus, to an extent that I have come to discipline myself. Never start something new until you finish what you are working on. Simple as that.
Here’s what I think when writers come up to me and tell me how they have three or four books that they are writing: They are wasting their time, because the chances of them finishing any one of the projects on time—or at all—is nil. Flash forward ten years later, they’ll still be telling me about their more-than-one writing projects—and in most cases, they will be the same projects they’d started ten years ago.
Another thing that forms in my mind when I hear a writer speak of his multiple ongoing writing projects: They have not found a story that they love yet; they have not honed down a plot from start to end. And when I have such thoughts in my mind, I will have also lost all interest in any book this writer has to write. Without first loving your own work to finish it, you can never convince anyone to read it. That’s just my opinion—and most of the time, I’m usually right.
When I write, I simply do not edit. I just write. In my world, there is no writers block, there is no need to wait for the right time and day and month to write a paragraph. I just write, because I consider myself a craftsman, a master of my ship. Words are my tools, and I am here to write a book as well as an architect builds his building. During the writing process, I am most concerned about the plot, the story, and my characters. I create dialogues, settings, appearances and emotions. I build tension with meticulous pacing. I create a narrative that works, a style that is appropriate. I never doubt myself. I never think twice about what I write. I just write. This is how I roll, and it’s been working perfectly so far.
What happens when I finished writing? Ah, the grueling process of editing commences. This is the time when you are required to trim the fat and pay attention to plot holes and such. Most people consider the editing process discouraging and daunting. But I consider it a cleansing process—every human needs it, every book requires it. But before you start editing, make sure you give your manuscript a rest for at least a week or two. Go play ball, or hang out with your family for a while. And when you are ready to jump back into the game, make sure you are mentally and emotionally ready to chop, cut, and slice. As murderous as it sounds, editing is my most favorite process, because this is the time when I can actually polish my work to perfection.
Now, editing is only overwhelming when you don’t have a clue about what you are doing. What are you looking for in your own work? If you don’t know where to begin, then sit down and list out a few things you want to catch when you are editing. Then go through each chapter looking for those things, either on individual rounds or collective rounds. Here are some of the things I look for when I edit:
- Inconsistencies of characters.
- Are there any plot holes?
- Inconsistencies of setting and time.
- Style and writing.
- Overall content, narrative, and pacing.
Then I trim the fat and make sure every word is there for a reason. No fluff.
In the second round of edits, I look for syntax, which basically means grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and accuracy. This whole editing process can take up to a year if you are too careful—I encourage you to. The more you edit, the better your work will be. Don’t be afraid to trim what needs to be trimmed. Even if the paragraph, or the entire chapter, is your favorite. It’s not what you like or not that matters anymore; it’s what moves the story along.
That’s all I do when it comes to writing. I write, I rest, I edit, I polish. Repeat after me: I write, I rest, I edit, I polish. Now memorize it and make it happen.
From the mouth of Tim Gunn: make it work, make it work, make it work.
Christopher Loke, executive editor for Jolly Fish Press, has made a splash in the writing world with his powerful and touching novel, The Housekeeper’s Son. This novel explores how far a mother can go for love. The answer? Murder. The Housekeeper’s Son is available as a hardcover and ebook through all major online retailers and a local bookstore near you. Follow Mr. Loke on Twitter and Facebook for updates on his signings and events.