Scheduling Quality Into Your Books

There was an interesting discussion over at the KillZone on the weekend, initiated by a post by James Scott Bell (one of my author heroes); “Should You Write Dreck?“.   I’ll let you check that out — and maybe wander over to the Joe Konrath post that kicked off James Scott Bell, too.

I thought it was a unique take on the quality versus speed debate, because it doesn’t rope in the “fast=crap” myth (despite one commenter doing his level best to pull me down into that cul de sac).

James Scott Bell’s question was, instead;  Do you spend extra time to make the book an A-Grade book, or not bother, because readers don’t notice and would rather have the books faster?

Ultimately, I think we would all like to only put our very best work out there, even if we have got over the need to write the perfect novel.

But time constraints says you have to stop somewhere and ship the book, or stop making money.

There are a number of factors that impact your decision, including the genre you write in and that genre’s readers’ expectations, and how much practice you’ve had writing novels.

For example, I write pretty clean first drafts, after plotting them.  I revise once, then do a heavy-duty line edit, before passing on to my editor.  It’s rare I have to rewrite or restructure my books any more.  But I’ve also got more than a hundred books behind me.

If you haven’t written that many novels–or many novels in that particular genre (note my turtle speed over the latest SF novel, which is outside my comfort zone), then you may need more time after the first draft to bring your stories up to a level you’re happy with, or that you think is A-Grade…or B-Grade, if you decide that is good enough for your market and you.

Schedule that time into your production schedule.

I have a 12 week period between finishing the first draft and releasing the book where all the publishing and release tasks happen, including my revision and line editing.  I’m also working to extend that time to 26 weeks between first draft and release, in order to have the luxury of reworking and polishing, if I want to.  (The 26 weeks production time also builds sick & play time into my schedule.)

If you need more time to bring your book to the level you’re happy with, find a way to build it into your release schedule.  This is where keeping work logs and a business journal will help you figure out how much time it takes after the first draft to do that work.  The longer you keep those logs, the more accurate your scheduling becomes.

As you practice finishing books, you could well find (as I did) that you tend to nail the novel in the first draft and you can bring your post-draft work down to a couple of editing passes.  Your work logs will tell you that, too.  You’ll be producing better books, more quickly.


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