Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Seven Stages Of A Book - Lari Don

A book goes through many different stages as it travels from the writer’s mind to the reader’s mind, and the writer’s relationship with the book changes at each stage.

This week, I’ve experienced one of the major shifts in my relationship with a book: when it goes from being something I have the power to change, and becomes something I can no longer change, but must now start to promote. And I think I find this shift the most terrifying of all.

But looking up at my shelves, some with only a few sheets of scribbled paper, and some creaking with heaps of notebooks and piles of manuscripts, I realise that I have a book at almost every stage here in my study.

When I’m writing, I go through seven stages of a book, which may be conveniently Shakespearean, but does seem to accurately represent my writing process. I wonder if other writers recognise these stages?

# 1 The thrilling moment when the idea for a book emerges, which may be the only moment the book is ever entirely perfect!

# 2 Thinking and scribbling and considering: ‘what is this story about?’, ‘what am I trying to find out?’, ‘who are my characters?’, ‘what are the big questions?’, ‘what happens next?’ ‘how will I ever defeat the baddie?’ This bit is incredibly exciting, filled with possibilities.
the scribbling stage

# 3 Actually sitting down and writing it. Finding the story and putting it into words. For me this usually involves lots of self-imposed deadlines, late nights and ignoring my family. I find this bit exciting too. (I realise, writing the stages down like this, that I find every stage of writing a book exciting. I suppose that’s why I’m a writer…)

# 4 Turning the story into a manuscript. My first and most personal edit - lots of reading out loud, and cutting the word count by massive slashing and burning. This stage is perhaps less heart-thumpingly exciting but it is very satisfying.

 # 5 The real editing, with an actual editor. This stage can be emotionally draining, but by this time I can also see the original idea turning into a book that other people can read. Which is, of course, quite exciting!
the proofreading stage
# 6 Proofreading of the layouts. I did this last week, for my next novel Mind Blind. This stage is both exciting and chillingly terrifying. Any silly little mistakes I miss here will be printed in real books to be read by real readers. Which is a great incentive to keep your eyes wide open and focussed as you proofread!

# 7 Finally, the shift I’ve experienced this week: the shift from the writer creating a story to the writer promoting a book. I’ve stopped meeting new characters, and started having meetings with marketing people. I’ve stopped writing the story and started looking for extracts of the story I can read at book festivals, I’ve stopped thinking about chapter length and started thinking about ‘content’ for websites.

Can you tell I find this final stage a little less exciting? But really, this should be the most exciting shift of all. This is the bit where I look ahead to the story being read by readers, and that is, after all, what really excited me right at the start when I had the original idea, which got me scribbling, which got me writing, then editing…

Anyway, even if I will spend the next few months promoting this teen thriller, I’ve also just had another idea. So I’m starting a new relationship, with a new story and some new questions and new characters, and perhaps that relationship will go all the way too…

Lari Don is the award-winning author of 20 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers. 


Joan Lennon said...

Congratulations on the newest book!

Lari Don said...

Thanks Joan! I don't feel I'll deserve any congrats until a real reader has read it, though! (It's not a real book until then...)