“Mommy, Where Do Books Come From?”

It is one year since I published my first novel. I cannot begin to describe in a mere 750 words the journey I have made over the last year. Self-publishing is certainly a roller-coaster ride, and not for the faint of heart.

I affectionately refer to last year as “The Year of the Apocalypse.” I learned first hand what it is to battle health issues. It was not my desire to be able to evaluate the expertise of an I.V. technician, nor did I wish to experience the constipating effects of narcotics. These were realities I had to face as I struggled through the self-publishing process. You can read about the details of my health crisis on my blog here and here.

As I lay in bed after a bout with a kidney stone, I was visited by a man. I immediately knew him and there was a connection between us. Some might say that oxycodone has this effect, but I prefer the opinion of a psychologist friend. I needed this person to make me laugh and to distract me from the two surgeries that were in my immediate future. He was as real to me as if he stood in my bedroom.

It would have been easy to lie in bed feeling sorry for myself and ignore the gift (my visit from David Fanning) that had been given to me. I was in pain and I certainly had a right to wallow in self-pity. It is easier for humans to see the negative and to invent conspiracies where none exist. It is much more difficult to fight against these natural tendencies and refuse to be dominated by fate, chance, age or even complications of dehydration.

I put down the other manuscript that I had started, the second in the murder mystery series, and wrote something totally different. First person POV, heavy on the dialogue. The first draft was done in a month. I put it on the back burner and let it simmer like a nice red sauce. After the second surgery I decided it had potential, and I asked a friend of my daughter to read it.

Full expression of Crow

I had given myself until January 1, 2012 to heal. I then began the slow process of getting back in shape. Returning to Yoga was humbling. Accepting what I had lost in the last six months was eventually replaced with the gratitude that I could be there sharing in this wonderful practice. After six months of sweat and focus I can now do Crow.

When Randall was finished reading the first draft we met for coffee, and I nervously waited for his opinion. I had never used a beta reader before. His feedback was critical because the genre involved lifestyle aspects that I wanted to present properly. Not only did he mark the draft, but he wrote pages of notes at the end. His questions and constructive criticism were crucial and immensely helpful. He liked the story.

After the first rewrite I asked another friend of mine to read it. He used the tracking function in Word and he not only did an edit, but commented when I needed to clarify a point or go into greater detail. My desire to be more precise in my descriptions was not always creating the full visual. The rewrite that followed was extensive.

Then, I printed the entire manuscript and read it myself. I had realized from a few oversights in the first book that I simply could not see errors on the computer screen. My husband read it as well. A third rewrite followed.

Through all this I searched for a local editor who I could meet to communicate what I was looking for: the final polish. I knew from the discussions I followed that I needed someone who was comfortable with American English. I also realized it was a good idea to have a person who was an editor and not a writer. I did not want the manuscript to be rewritten by someone else. I found a woman in Sarasota, Florida who fit my requirements. My direction to her was, “I want you to take out a can of Pledge and make the manuscript shine.”

After all my rewrites there were still grammatical issues and punctuation that needed to be adjusted. Carole used the tracking method, which I was now familiar with. She also pointed out some words I overuse, and some of my habits of prose. I did not realize that I loved the words but, very, really, gorgeous and pretty. Thank God for the search function in Word. Each use from the list of suspect words was analyzed within the sentence to see if it was the best word to communicate my meaning. This was not fun, however, it was a crucial part of the editing process and it taught me about my own writing habits.

A question I often see on writer’s threads is, “When is a manuscript finished?” I don’t know the answer to that question for you, but this manuscript is complete. It began in pain and frustration and ends with elation and a sense of accomplishment. As with everything I write, its goal is to entertain. It has style. I don’t expect this novel to change your philosophical outlook. I just hope you enjoy reading it.

And what of the man who visited me and inspired me to write this story? David throws great parties and he is the most fabulous vampire you’ll ever meet.

Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

24 thoughts on ““Mommy, Where Do Books Come From?””

  1. Thanks, Lois. Your process adds pieces to the sequence of getting an ms ready. And I am glad your recovery has been successful. Wish I could do crow, but I can barely get warriors pose or cobra right. lol

    1. Hi Yvonne,
      In order to achieve Crow you have to lean forward quite a bit. The balance point requires a leap of faith. I found this to be similar to the rigors of editing. The focus needed for Crow and to finish and polish a ms are the same.
      Thank you for the nice thoughts on my recovery. I feel very fortunate to have come so far. 🙂

  2. I love how the universe provides the right message at the right time. I’m just dithering between starting theatre mystery number three or leaping into the unknown with a post-apocalyptic idea that’s fizzing up my synapses. You’ve inspired me to make the harder choice and go into new territory. Thanks! I hope your health continues to improve. (I’ll pass on the yoga though. You’re on your own there!)

    1. Hi Bev,
      I do believe that the universe provides assistance if we pay attention. I was lucky to have this new project to help me get my life in order.
      Yoga is a mental, physical, and spiritual practice. I do some of my best writing after a class.
      Go for the new genre. If you’re thinking about it, or dreaming about it, it’s meant to be.
      Thanks for your comments.

  3. I keep going back to that picture of the crow position and my mind shuts down. If you can do that you can do anything! I do however feel much more comfortable with your description of all those rewrites. I too believe they are necessary to take the story from something you tell yourself to something you tell others, all those people who can’t see inside your head the way you do.

    Great post. Thank you.

    1. Good evening ac,
      The rewrites were tedious and sometimes frustrating. I was very lucky to have two great beta readers who took their jobs seriously. The manuscript was so much stronger after I considered their feedback.
      There are many levels and types of Yoga. I think Yoga is good for writers because the breathing and various positions help quiet the brain. My brain is active and random, like most writers. The meditative aspect of the Yoga practice is great for dealing with this.
      Thanks for your comments. 🙂

  4. It has been pointed out to me off-line that any professional editor, even if they are a writer, would never rewrite another writer’s manuscript.
    My first editor is, as I’ve said many times, a saint to have taken the ms I sent her and helped me turn it into my first novel. She is very good at what she does.
    The second time around I followed a different process which was tedious but ultimately illuminating for me. This time I wanted to work with an editor who was geographically close. Choosing an editor is a tough decision because there are so many qualified people to choose from. I have now worked with two excellent editors with different styles. Lucky me! 🙂

    1. Hmmmm…. yeah, it’s possible that an editor who is also a writer will actually be more sensitive to retaining the writer’s unique voice than one who merely wants to wield the red pen simply for the power of it all.

      In other words (ha), when searching out that elusive editor, look for the word nerds over the grammar cops. 🙂

  5. Lois, thank you for allowing me the privilege to read the description for the book Mr. Fanning inspired. That really made me smile while I was reading this post.

    1. Kat,
      Thanks for taking a look at the blurb. It is so difficult to condense 47,000 words into a 100 word book description.
      Now if the cover was complete I’d be in business. 🙂

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Jackson Pollock had a funny description of how he knew when a painting was finished. I will not write it here.
      Hemingway was notorious for his editing and rewriting process. It was particularly helpful to analyze the overuse of certain words and to search for the exact word to communicate my meaning. And to keep the descriptions succinct.
      This ms is complete, and I am breathing a big sigh of contentment. On to book number three!

  6. Thanks, Jim!
    I can’t believe what a mess I was last year. I had a lot of supportive people around me, and that includes some of the folks here at IU. That was truly a gift. 🙂

  7. A lovely post, Lois, inspirational and heart-warming. I get the yoga thing I really do, and I can still do the crow; everyone should have something of the kind. My mind, body, spirit thing is a form of tai chi, which I once heard described as ‘a kind of mobile yoga’.

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