by Brian Thiem
A few days ago I sent the completed manuscript for the first book of a new series to my agent. Now I wait.
People often ask what it takes to publish a book. Writers have different processes, and mine has changed since I began writing. And the first book of a new series is different than a second or third book or a stand-alone novel.
Spartina Island (the working title, which may—probably will—change when a publisher gets involved) began as an idea about two years ago, shortly after I finished the third book in the Matt Sinclair series. I brainstormed a premise, main characters, and a unique setting with friends, fellow writers, and my agent. I jotted down pages of ideas.
Once my agent gave me the thumbs up, I began creating my story, writing out plot points and other details on a hundred index cards. I shuffled them, resorted them, and continued to rearrange them until the story seemed coherent.
I then wrote a detailed synopsis. The synopsis consisted of the step-by-step plot, subplots, character conflict, and bits of backstory weaved into the story. Writing a synopsis (sort of a readable plot outline) is tough. It requires a lot more thinking than typing, but it makes the subsequent writing so much easier.
My agent read it and sent me some suggested changes. I redid it, and she reviewed it and gave the go-ahead.
I then went into writing mode, where I sat my butt in my desk chair and wrote a minimum of 1000 words a day—well, almost every day—for the next four months.
When the first draft (just shy of 90,000 words) was finished, I took a break to distance myself from it for a week. I then read it and took notes of what I needed to change, delete, and add.
With my notes beside me, I dove into a rewrite. I added scenes, deleted scenes, added descriptions, improved dialogue, made characters more sympathetic, and upped the action.
After a break of a few days, I printed it out—all 320 pages—and read it with a pencil in hand. Four days later, I propped up the binder beside my computer and went to work making the changes from my edited copy. After two long days, I had spellcheck go through it again, and sent it to my agent.
I know it’s far from done. My agent will undoubtable suggest changes—maybe minor or maybe major. She’ll then send it off to publishers who’ve expressed interest, and if we land a contract, their editors will read it and request other changes—maybe minor, but probably major. I know from experience that every change these experts suggest make it a better book.
With luck, Spartina Island could be available in bookstores a year from now. Fingers crossed.