For today’s post, please welcome my friend and fellow writer, Sharon Delaney. Her books are action-packed, well researched and always involve a dog-hero – who wouldn’t love that? Here she shares insights and advice on taking your manuscript from planning through completion:
Writing is a lonely business. It’s done with the maestro absolutely alone with just the computer for company. For me, it is the calling of my life. I can’t envision living without it. If I never sell another book, I will continue to write.
I’ve had people say to me, “teach me how to write.” The finer points of writing can be learned in a seminar or workshop. However, the first point of order is to have something to say. You can’t sit down and write a manuscript unless you have a message. It would be like going for a Sunday afternoon drive on a Los Angeles freeway, just for fun. A Sunday afternoon drive is for people who want to look around. Unfortunately, no one else on the freeway wants to look around, they have a destination in mind. If there is no destination when you write, people will be honking for you to get out of the way and road rage will set in. Eventually you will be in a wreck and it won’t be fun any more
When you map out a book, first get organized. My first step is to determine the story I wish to present, then tell myself the story and prepare a writing synopsis of between twenty to thirty pages. Each paragraph in the synopsis becomes a chapter. Then research any issues you plan to incorporate into the novel. Research is critical. If you haven’t been to the location of one of your scenes, visit it in books or on the computer and be prepared to describe it. Details bring the story to life. `
Organizing the work is critical. I begin a project by preparing three-ring binders. One
holds the research so I know where to look when I need it. I make extensive hand-written notes of the particular points I want to bring into the book to make it seem more realistic. After all, if the readers have been there, it makes them more interested in the book if it describes what they know. Another binder is ready to receive the manuscript itself.
Then sit down at the computer and get started. When my fanny hits the chair on day one, the first thing I say is, “Goodbye world, I’m going away for a while.” Pull up the writing synopsis, save it in the computer as the novel (I name it Novel Name, Chapters 1-50) and save it as a separate document from the original synopsis. Then begin to tell the story. Write down whatever comes to mind. If it’s goofey, it will be edited out later. Some points will be developed in more depth. Whatever the style is, tell it from the beginning to end, or pick out specific chapters to develop first. But just write. Don’t get out of that chair until the day’s allotment of words is met. I set aside a minimum of four hours a day to spend at my computer, and I guard that time jealously. While I’m writing, I don’t answer the phone or open my door. I find that the hours I spend writing fly by, and when I think I’ve been there twenty minutes, my four hours is up. I sometimes get so lost in the computer it feels like it makes a sucky sound when I back out of it. In the end, I read through the book time after time, after time, after time – until I have the book almost memorized. I am looking for continuity, grammatical errors, anything that needs to be cleaned up.
And that’s how I write a book – the recipe for a completed manuscript. Be proud that you’ve accomplished it. I can’t tell you how many people start a book and never finish it.
Being in the publishing business is exciting – and frustrating, and hard work. In every aspect of it, make yourself comfortable and enjoy it. Baby yourself with cool drinks in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter, and buy yourself presents for a deadline met.
If publishing is a business endeavor you would like to pursue, I encourage you to do it. And on every step of the way, I wish you well.
Sharon Delaney, Wordsmith
The Grass Whispers