HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!
Congratulations to Dee Romito with the release of her new middle-grade novel, POSTCARDS FROM VENICE,
a companion to THE BFF BUCKET LIST. We are honored that Dee took a break from the book birthday celebrations to talk about writing timelines.
Guest blog by Dee Romito
One of the questions I’m often asked is how long it takes me to write a book. The thing is, it’s not a simple answer.
My first manuscript took a year to write, and I’ve always thought of it like working on a Master’s Project. I was learning how to write a book with that manuscript. My next one took six months. The next, four months. During that time, I was also exchanging with critique partners. Which means those time frames include waiting for feedback.
Being able to complete a project in less time was definitely good practice for when I’d have actual deadlines. And while you may or may not write faster as you grow as a writer, remember that becoming a stronger writer is really about practicing and continuing to learn your craft.
Most of my books have sold on proposal, which means I wrote sample chapters and a synopsis and was then asked to write the rest. In those cases, I had between 4-7 months to turn in a somewhat polished draft to my editor. And for me, that means leaving time to have my trusted critique partners give me feedback, and then revise based on their notes.
However, my new release, POSTCARDS FROM VENICE, took longer. Maybe … eight months for that first draft? And it took much longer in revisions too.
This book was different. For one thing, I was still at various stages in the process with two other books, so I was essentially working on three books at the same time. It was like a revolving door of stories that I had to keep track of. I couldn’t devote all my writing time to any one project. Not to mention the time I spent working on promotion for the other books.
There was also a lot I needed to learn for this book. It takes place in Venice, where I’ve never been. There’s some Italian in the book, but I took Spanish in school. And there’s an Australian boy, who I wanted to be sure was authentic. And did I mention I’ve never been to Venice?
So it took time. It took Google Earth and Pinterest and Tripadvisor.com’s reviews of tourist sites and travel blogs. It took critique partners and reaching out to friends of friends who had been to or lived in Venice. It took lots of questions and lots of videos of Italy. It took listening and reading and researching. And with all of that to think about, sometimes I needed to step away from the project and work on something else.
So how long does it take to write a book? The real answer is that it depends. Which means it’s up to you to answer that question on your own, without a preconceived notion of how long it should take.
I asked a few published middle grade author friends, and the responses to “How long does it take you to write a book?” ranged from a month to two years.
It takes what it takes, and many factors come into play—the category, the genre, the word count, how complex the project is, if you plot extensively or spend more time in revisions, if there are deadlines, if critique partners or agents need time to read, if you have other books to work on or have other life-related things going on, how fast you can write, etc. The time it takes you to write a book could be years or it could be months. And how fast you write does not determine how good the book will be.
Having a general idea of ranges when it comes to the publishing world is helpful. But always know that you will have your own challenges and goals, and your own path. Finishing a book is one thing, but starting one … Well, now that’s something you can accomplish right now. 😊
Dee Romito is a former elementary teacher and is the author of THE BFF BUCKET LIST, NO PLACE LIKE HOME and co-authored BEST. NIGHT. EVER. Always a traveler at heart, she's sent postcards of Big Ben from London, of snow-capped mountains from Switzerland, and of majestic castles from Ireland. Although she's only been to Italy once for a quick plate of pasta, sending a post card from Venice just might be on her bucket list. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com
Dee is also the Scrivener Queen. For Scrivener advice, writers can head over to her blog
Spring Spruce Up
by Francine Puckly
It’s spring! Time to dust off the mantel, shine up the windows, replace the rotting floorboards on the deck, and apply a fresh coat of paint to our nicked-up walls. But spring spruce-up doesn’t stop with our homes. Refreshing our writing spaces and projects before the heat of the summer hits is equally important. This is not a waste of valuable work time. Rather, this is rejuvenation of mind, body, and spirit so that we can go forth with extra verve as we tackle our projects. So grab the 24 Carrot Spring Checklist and get your ideas and writing space tidied up!
Clear Away Winter Debris
Just as we strip off heavy, flannel bedding and replace it with light cotton inside our homes and remove dead leaves and stems from our gardens outside, we also need to strip away paper clutter in our offices in order to lighten up for the summer. Spring is the perfect time to clear the unwanted and unnecessary (also known as “managing your papers”). New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield once said, “Tidied all my papers. Tore up and ruthlessly destroyed much. This is always a great satisfaction.” She was right. It feels great!
Be ruthless with your papers.
* Did you forget to file your conference handouts or have multiple copies of critique comments on your most recent manuscript or portfolio review lying around? Clear those papers. (Taming Conference Handouts). Keep only what cannot be referenced online. Remember: owner’s manuals, newspaper and magazine articles, and oftentimes workshop presentations are all available at the click of your mouse. There’s no need to keep the extra paper cluttering up your space.
* Have you been super aggressive with your annual goals and are juggling multiple projects? Make sure each project has its own hanging file with manila folders labeled Research, Marketing, Synopsis and Query Details, Drafts, and any other categories that are helpful for you. Place a cover sheet inside each file that gives a brief summary of the project at the top and then a blank section where you can list what is needed for the project: Do you need to buy or request research books or mentor texts from the library? Do you need to interview someone? If so, list those items here. When you open up the file in the future, your next steps are front and center.
* Keep all of your project files in one file drawer so you can reference them and also quickly refile them so that you won’t add to the clutter in your space.
* Once you’ve gone through all of your papers, compost that “yard waste” by shredding and recycling all of your papers!
Prune Dead or Damaged Branches
Are you hanging on to ideas that are dead? Don’t be afraid to prune out ideas and projects that you no longer have passion for. It’s okay to let go of the 47 versions of the very first picture book you ever attempted. Keep the draft that’s most nostalgic and let the rest go. Did you try a first draft of a psychological thriller and then decide your voice was in quirky middle grade humor? Delete the project and recycle the drafts.
Sharpen Your Tools
Writing with a pen that’s desperately low on ink? Choosing to print in gray scale because you can’t find or haven’t bought a replacement ink cartridge for the printer? Time to restock your supplies! Take a 20-minute trip to your favorite office supply store and refresh your supply of pens, pencils, paper clips, sticky notes, ink cartridges, file folders and paper and pads for your office area.
Wipe Down the Walls
Yup. This is the Lemon Pledge portion of our checklist. Now that you’ve tidied your workspace, it really is time to pull out the cleaning supplies. Be sure to vacuum, dust the corners, check the light bulbs in your desk lamp, and shine the windows. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers or clip some lilacs from the garden. Arrange them in a pretty vase on your desk.
Fertilize Your Lawn
Our creativity won’t grow if we don’t take time to fill our wells with joy and new ideas. Start a summer reading list of genre books or summer beach novels. Crack out the sangria and enjoy a light and happy movie that makes you laugh or possibly dance.
Spring really is the time to lighten up. Take a few hours out to spruce up your space and care for your papers and projects. You’ll go forward with renewed energy as the Summer Solstice approaches!
Is Your Manuscript Incomparable?
by Kelly Carey
Looking for comparative or comp titles for your manuscript can sometimes seem counterproductive. Editors are looking for unique books and if you are able to provide a list of books just like yours, then how can you argue that your book is original?
If you can find piles of books just like yours in tone, character, plot, theme and narrative quality then perhaps your manuscript lacks that special original spark. The hunt for comp titles can help you assess the originality of your work. No sense wasting time and energy revising and submitting a manuscript that will fall short of publication because editors will say it already sits on the shelf.
But, beware. Readers will always crave books on certain topics and if you have added your own twist and voice to the manuscript, then your manuscript will be unique. See my blog http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/find-your-own-bear for a discussion on originality. The trick with creating fresh manuscripts and finding comp titles is to locate books that share one common thread with your manuscript rather than the entire knitted fabric.
When searching for comp titles consider the following hunting tactics:
It is important to know what you are looking for when you set out to find comp titles, but it is also helpful to know where to look. The best spots to find those elusive comp titles include:
You’ll be glad you did!
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