The story so far – writing a book

posted in: Publication journey | 2
Written words 'once upon a time' written on paper

I used to think writing a book was a linear process. Then I began writing a book.

My manuscript is teetering on the brink of being a final draft. That is, a copy I feel I can share with OTHER PEOPLE. These trusted souls are my beta readers: those who will read this early proof copy and offer constructive (I hope) criticism on a manuscript that only I (and my dad) have read all the way through.

How long does writing a book take, anyway?

It’s taken a loooonnng time to get to this stage. We’re talking five years. What on earth have I been doing with my time? Good question.

Well, there’s been the little task of raising a family, plus working a day job at the same time as setting up a self-employed editing/proofreading business.

Oh, and I’m not sure if this passed you by or not, but through most of 2020 and currently ongoing is this global pandemic that has put unprecedented pressures on virtually all aspects of life.

So, five years.

First draft

This was probably pretty rubbish. I mean, the final draft I’ve just about got now does bear some relation to the first major outliney draft I wrote, but I like to think I’ve grown as a writer through creating this, my first novel.

I’ve listened to countless podcast episodes of the extremely knowledgeable KM Weiland, who generously offers hours and hours of story-craft advice for free.

I’ve studied The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne and listened to every episode of the podcast of the same name, where Shawn expertly guides Tim Grahl down the torturous path of writing his own first novel.

I hung on every word of writer and mentor Joanna Penn that I could cram into my ex-daily commute.

All this knowledge I brought to bear on my first draft, until it became … my second draft.

Second and third drafts

These two drafts blur into one amalgamous blob in my mind. They span a few years of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention countless weeks, turning into months in some cases, when I didn’t have the time or motivation to work on my manuscript.

Then, when I did have a spare half hour here, an hour there, it took me so long to remember all the loose threads that were dangling in my tired brain when I left off last time, that it barely seemed worth my while trying to reapply myself.

BUT, somehow, I made it. I’m at the writer’s equivalent of Everest Basecamp. So much work already put in, but now the hard work really begins. The fun stuff. The exciting stuff. Betas. Agents. Then, who knows?

I'm at the writer's equivalent of Everest Basecamp. So much work already put in, but now the hard work really begins. The fun stuff. The exciting stuff. Betas. Agents. Then, who knows? Click To Tweet

Next steps

So, what’s happening over the next few months? Well, my planned next steps are:

  • Final read through – I will do a final quick run-through myself, just to check it kind of hangs together as a story. (It had bloody better do…)
  • Obtain printed copies – Order a small number of printed copies for beta readers who prefer the printed page. I’ve designed a front cover for these, just so they look more booky. My next blog post will be on how to do this using
  • Send the book to beta readers – This will be a very scary moment. By the way, I’ll be writing a post really soon on how to choose beta readers.
  • Incorporate beta feedback – This could take a while, depending on how many comments come back.
  • Send to agents – I’m not looking past this stage at the moment. This is my current Nirvana.

I’ll keep you posted every step of the way. I’ll be sharing what I learn at each stage.

If you’re a writer, I would love you to leave comments on my articles with your own experiences. Let’s learn from each other.

If you’re a reader, let me know what you’d like to know about the writing experience and I’ll do my best to answer in future posts.

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Green

    Hi Debbie. I have also finished writing my book (a memoir) after years and years of writing and research. I sent it to an agent in September and after six weeks he said he wasn’t interested. I get the impression he is looking for young writers with more that one or two books in them. Another JK Rowling. I am now getting it ready to send to a publisher in Fremantle here in Western Australia. They have asked for a table of contents, submittable website ??? synopsis, author bio (200 words) and intended readership (200 words). If he bombs me out, I will have to consider self-publishing. I originally didn’t intend inserting a table of contents due to having some 134 Chapters. So I am now pulling two to three chapters together to shorten TOC. I will try and keep you posted as things move along.

    • Debbie Emmitt

      Hi Bill, congratulations on finishing your manuscript! The very fact you’re starting to send it out there is a massive achievement. Keep plugging away, and keep us posted.

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