by John Gilstrap
When my new book, Hostage Zero, is released next July, it will mark my 7th time going through this process, and I confess that it continues to amaze me every single time. I start with the nugget of an idea, and then nurture it into a concept and from there into an outline. When it looks like something that can sustain itself as a whole story, I take that deep breath and start filling up the page.
Man, those first few chapters really fly. Look, ma! I'm a real writer! I'm freaking brilliant! Jeeze, why isn't every book this easy? Then I read what I've written.
Uh-oh. Who the hell wrote those sentences? They suck. They're all clunky and awkward. Grammar, anyone?
So the rewrite of that first section begins, and as the layers of polish begin to show a shine, I begin to believe that maybe some smattering of talent remains. Sure, I can do this.
Then, halfway through the second act, I begin to think that I might have chosen the wrong story to write. Why would the characters do what I'm having them do? Jesus, nobody talks like that in real life. Oh, for crying out loud, that character needs to know how to shoot, but I've already mentioned three times that he's never held a gun. Time to re-rewrite the front of the book.
At last, there's the ending. I know it's the ending because I actually wrote those magic words, "The End." But I can't end it there. It's flat. Nobody wants to read a book with a flat ending. Time to re-rewrite the back of the book.
Meanwhile, my deadline has come and gone. I'm late on delivery. I read the book through, from beginning to end, making edits along the way, but you know what? It seems good now. But do think that because I really think it, or because I'm past my deadline and I have to think it? Only one way to know for sure. I attach it to an email to my editor and I click "Send."
Then I wait. And wait.
Then I get the call. The editor loves the book! I mean, really loves it. She tells me great things, and I relax, hoping--praying--that I end up with a cover that will actually help sell the book. (We've discussed here before that some covers kill books before they've had a chance to thrive.) My editor tells me that the art department is working on a great concept, but every art department tells every author that same thing. Please, Lord, get me a good cover.
Then I see it. Wow. I love it. But do I really love it, or is that torpedo already in the water and I have to love it. What do y'all think?