I have a complete novel which might be publishable--note the use of the word "might." I also have some incredibly encouraging friends and family members who want to know when it'll be published.
I must share with you that it's going to be a while.
Not because I'm being humble but because acquiring a publisher and putting a book on the shelves is a long process. So, although I am by no means an expert in the realm of publishing--I barely qualify for the term novice--I thought I'd give you an idea of what's behind us and before us where UnClean is concerned. (For the insight of a friend who is already published, see Sue's blog).
Step One: Get an Idea. This can happen anywhere--at a coffee shop, at work, while showering (see Lynn's blog), or while you sleep. I was working on another project at Wake Forest Coffee Company when I got the initial idea for UnClean.
Step Two: Know the Characters, Cast Them if Necessary. Before I do just about anything else, I compete character profiles (seventy-seven questions about their life and background) on my main two-three characters as well as biographical sketches on the other players. I cast them, using actors and models to realize the images in my head.
Step Three: Plot the Story. For some writers, this step is minimal; they know their characters and the starting point and just write (these writers are know as "pantsers" because they write by the seat of their pants). Other writers, like me, are plotters--I do a rough chapter outline of my plot before starting.
Step Four: Write It. This task can take as few as four weeks or can stretch on into oblivion. I prefer the fast and furious method, i.e., NaNoWriMo, for first drafts and set a goal to finish in two months. This is because my Internal Editor is incredibly loud and helpful, and I end up bogged down in word choice and revision if I take a more measured pace.
Step Five: Edit and Revise. Edit for complete and complex plot arcs. Edit for character development. Edit for consistency in voice. Edit the first chapters in light of the final chapter. (This is where I am currently working).
Step Six: Give It to Someone to Read and Ask Them for Feedback.
Step Seven: Edit Based on the Reader's Feedback. Edit to eliminate reader confusion.
Step Eight: Work through the Manuscript with a Critique Partner/Group. Here I'll edit the following: Point-of-View (POV), dialogue (for realism, cadence, individual voice, and tags), passive voice, weak verbs, awkward phrasing, word choice, adverbs, showing not telling, grammar, and the list goes on and on.
Step Nine: Put It down for a Bit. No one can work on something for this long of a period without a mental break, you go crazy otherwise. This is the time to work on something else, read other books, have some popcorn, and not think about the book.
Step Ten: Read the Book and Edit Again.
Step Eleven (optional): Have a Professional Critique the Book. Be prepared to do more editing once he or she is finished.
Step Twelve: Attend a Conference to Pitch the Book to Agents and Publishers. (The ACFW conference is in September. See how far I have to go?!!) The One-Sheet, Elevator Pitch, and Book Proposal should be completed while I'm working on steps ten and eleven. The goal is to leave the conference with an agent and/or publisher requesting a partial manuscript (mss.) to review.
Step Thirteen: Bite My Nails Waiting to Hear back from the Agent/Publisher. Meanwhile, query agents and/or publishers I'm interested in working with who also handle my type of work. Research both small and large publishers, e-publishers, partnership publishers, and self publishers depending on needs and mission statement.
Step Fourteen: Acquire an Agent, If You Are Planning to, and I Am. Rachelle Gardner is a CBA agent and her blog has great information about acquiring an agent and the role of an agent. (The following steps will be somewhat different if you have an agent).
Step Fifteen: Out of the Fifty Queries Sent, Three Publishing Houses Request a Partial Mss. Send it to the acquisitions editors quickly and pray.
Step Sixteen: One Acquisitions Editor Wants a Full Mss. Send it. Pray harder. (At this point, the process could abort, sending me back to step thirteen).
Step Seventeen: If He or She Thinks It Shows Promise, The Mss. Goes before Their Pub Board. This group decides whether or not to publish the book. (I probably go back to step thirteen, but maybe I go forward...)
Step Eighteen: They Offer to Buy the Book and the Contract Arrives. Go over it (with or without a lawyer) and decide if I'll sign. I do.
Step Nineteen: I've sold a book!! Now we enter what is typically another twelve to thirty-six months of preparation. More editing (did you really think we were done with it?). Cover and layout design come together. A marketing plan may be put into action (I'll have my own as well).
Step Twenty: Wait. Most large publishing houses buy books two-three years before the publication date.
Step Twenty-One: The Book Releases. I buy a copy or twenty-five. Call all my friends. Tweet it. Facebook everyone I've ever known. Stand in the bookstore and hand it to people. Enjoy.
And start over...
*sighs heavily* I need a nap. But no time, I've got to go edit! And I promise I'll keep you updated every step of the way. :)