I have been asked this question, numerous times, by a variety of people. A little over a year ago, I would be asking someone the same thing if I found out they were writing a book. I, too, had believed that all that was required was to write it, send it out to get published and then wait for it to appear online to buy. Seems simple enough; however, there are so many steps one must follow to get to the finish line.
An author first has to have a good idea, obviously, then they have to research it to make sure no one else has anything too similar. If they do, they must rethink their writing plan or write something entirely new. After the research regarding your initial thoughts, other investigation may be required, especially if you are writing anything factual in terms of medical, health, certain business processes, historical accuracy, specifics on cars, geographical locations, the list is endless.
Once the idea is in place and the research is completed, one can start to write. For some, they have the ability to write everyday, a certain amount of time a day and can complete things in quick order. But, for others, you are limited by your environment. If I had the time to just sit and devote to nothing other than writing, I could probably pop out a book every few months or more. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. My family takes priority with their needs coming first, with schooling, work hours, errand running, cooking, and so forth, essentially all the duties that would typically accompany a mother and wife. So my writing time is severely limited to early mornings, late evenings, the wee hours past midnight and the occasional weekend. So my pace is a little slower than some, but each day I add a little more to the process and take one step closer to my goals: Finishing my first book (done), editing it (in process), cover art (done), beta/critique readers (waiting for the final edits), setting up an Author Twitter page (done), setting up an Author Facebook page (done), setting up a blog (done), setting up a website (work in progress), setting my information up on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble (still to do), releasing the book (holding pattern - trying to determine date)....once again the list is endless.
There are so many steps involved in the process of a story. When the book is done, you have to go back through it to edit areas you find are unnecessary, overly stated, not enough information, could be left out entirely, and so on. Then you have to secure an editor to read over what you have written, as they can help smooth things out, show you details you missed and essentially assist in tightening up your writing. After the editor, you sometimes consider enlisting the help of a proofreader, to help pinpoint errors in grammar, sentence structure, misuse of words, and even spelling mistakes or type-o's. Once this is done, you make all the corrections and then send to your beta/critique readers, to see if what you have done is appealing to them or if they have suggestions on what would make the story even better. During all of this, if you are tyring to get picked up by a publishing house, you have to submit query letters that summarize your work in a couple small paragraphs, to various literary agents and hope to get positive responses back and wait, for an undetermined amount of time. If you choose the become an Indie (independent) author, you try to locate a cover artist who can best represent your book. One has to admit, that when looking for a good book to read it is the cover that first draws you in and then the blurb on the back of the book that entices you further. So these two items must be perfect.
While all the above is going on, you need to start branding your name or advertising yourself, via means of the Internet, word of mouth, attending various author events, and so forth. You could wait until it is released, but why, when you can put some effort into it now. So one needs to decide on how much time they will allot to this action and begin the marketing side of things, along with the writing, and your everyday life.
When you have all of the processes done, though I think I may be missing a few bits and pieces here and there, but at least you get the general idea that there is more to this than just writing and getting it published, you then have to focus on publication. If you get signed with an agent and a publishing house, then you have to move at their schedule and what they want to do with your book. If you are an indie author you have the responsibility of getting things done by setting a release date, printing the books, uploading the books to the various websites for purchase (Amazon, B & N, Smashwords, etc.), scheduling a book release party and doing a lot of public relations/marketing for your book. One author friend summed up the process very nicely to me in these simple words, "Writing is about 10% talent and 90% being able to market yourself." While I disagree about the low percentage of it being talent, which I feel is a much higher number, it is about being able to represent yourself to the public and getting them to listen. Once you have their attention and they read the book, it is then carried by word of mouth, reviews, and so forth.
My apologies on the length of this blog, but I wanted to emphasize there is more to writing and publishing than what the words suggest. I admit I have taken a long time to get the first book done. I will honestly state that I have stopped writing on numerous occasions falling into the negativity zone buying into the idea that writing was a waste of my time, nearly giving up entirely on the idea of my dream. But, once I finally realized that writing made me happy and that I am doing it for myself and my family, I committed to the idea of seeing everything through to completion and have since been moving much faster. Granted there are still hiccups in the road from time to time, but I strive to spend at least an hour or more on writing/editing, every day, to ensure it is a part of my daily routine. I have also learned to just write, not continually re-read and edit everything to get all things perfect right out of the starting gate. If you do this you will never make your way down the track unless you learn to let go, write freely and know that you can go back and fix things when you are done; getting to the finish line is priority. This is one reason my writing was slow in the beginning, I wanted perfection up front and did not allow myself to progress.
As for the status of the first book, it is completed, in terms of writing, just needing to finish the final steps in preparation process for release, which will happen this year. I don't have a date set, but as soon as I know something I will post it on here. I already have an outline to books two and three in the first series and have written a couple of scenes for book four. The second series I have been working on, kind of back and forth, has one book nearly done (which I also plan on releasing this year), the cover art has already been selected and so on. I have an outline to the second, in the series, nearly complete and the third of the series will have to wait for now, though I have several ideas. I have been trying to keep new ideas about other books at bay, only writing down what I have to, in order to keep my focus, since it is easy to get caught up in a new thought. I have established a tentative schedule of what I am writing, when, how long I will allow myself on it and when I would like to see publication, barring any unforeseen factors that life can sometimes throw at you. So I use the word "tentative" loosely.
I am hoping this blog helps everyone understand all that is involved in getting from point A to point B in terms of writing. Essentially, ALOT!!! Plus, from what I hear, the first book is always the hardest because you want it to be perfect, putting so much extra care into it, which I am definitely guilty of.
Have a great week everyone!