Thursday, December 13, 2012

How many licks does it take?

Remember that Tootsie Pop commercial with the owl: Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get the center of a Tootsie Pop.






That same question can be asked of writing, and in fact, of most goal-oriented things in general. I will stick with writing, but take your pick with sculpting, acting, directing, painting, weight-loss, scholastics, and so on.

How many edits does it take to write a book?

My answer, based on experience: A LOT.

First you suffer through an early draft, maybe peck out a few scenes. Then you get 10k or 25k into it, and throw it all away and start over.

Then you get 50kw into it and realize how thin it is, and that you need to add in a plot-line, or a story-point, or hash out a character.

And so you rewrite, get to 75k, and start submitting to agents and publishers!

Wrong. Now you need to let it simmer. I hate that part, but do it. I let mine simmer for a week or a month. Then go back and brutalize yourself and rip and cut and tear at that story until it is a manageable manuscript.

Now you might be ready to submit. Maybe. Depends on how you feel about it. Some may require more work, but for God's sake, at some point you need to QUIT and SUBMIT! And move on to the next project.

If it's accepted, which good stories can find good homes these days, you'll hit the editor-wall, and that will take five or six more edits. Then you get the copy-editor. Then layout. Then, well, maybe, hopefully, then you hit ctrl-P (Print) and off it goes to the world.

I lose count, but I figure I read the stories ten or fifteen times, altogether. That's a lot of reading! Put back-to-back, I bet it's equivalent to eight or ten full 40-hour workweeks, done part-time, since I still have a day job.

Anyway, that's how many licks it takes me to get the center of my Tootsie Pop. Don't rush it like Mr. Owl, or you'll ruin the surprise.

What about you? How far away is the center of your Tootsie Pop?

- Eric

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently working on his second full-length novel with WiDo Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications ** ARE YOU AN ORGAN DONOR? ERIC IS! **


Raquel Byrnes said...

Its the simmering that I hate. It is very hard for me to walk away and let it rest. I have to're right.

I must read my manuscripts at least a dozen times. So much so that if it were not for that distance, my brain would just fill in what should be there and probably isn't.

I don't ever feel ready to submit though, truth be told. Its not until I get hooked into another story idea that I can fully walk away.

So I guess I never get to the center of my Tootsie Pop so much as I get wooed away by another. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I probably scare people when I tell them I tend to go over my stories a hundred times. I print it out, make 5-7 passes, enter the corrections into Word, print it out again and start over.

I laughed at the Tootsie Pop thing. We have to give one of our cats medicine every night and this involves wrapping her in a towel. She always utters a couple pathetic squeaks, so we joke how many squeaks does it take to get to the center of a Rocko. (Her name,)

Anne Gallagher said...

Ah the dreaded editing. I edit the day's work the following morning. When the ms. is finished I line edit right away and then I let it sit. AFter that it's really anybody's guess how many times I go through the ms. 8 maybe 9, and then I'll send it out to critters. Sits again, then put in all their suggestions, then out again to another set of critters.

I think the better question may be how much TIME do you put into editing. If we all got paid what it's worth, I'm sure we'd all be working 80 hour weeks.

Hope you're well.

Jai Joshi said...

I hate revising and editing. It's the part I dread, apart from the beginning.


Phoenix said...

I suck at simmering. In fact, I just plain suck at patience. I was the kid (and adult) who bit into the lollipop after about 8 licks.

Ugh. I know what I have to do, and I know what I have to fix. I just need the willpower (and faith) to have the patience.

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Hello friend, I'm still on the first draft and recently found that though I am very near the end, I had glaring bad guy holes that I'm busy filling in. The End, though near, seems ever so far.

~ Olivia

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