My Art and Writing, Part 4, From Idea to Book by Kyle Phoenix

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”― Toni Morrison

My students, emails from readers and professional colleagues are always pressing me about my output.  They ask that I discuss it, to write it down, to share it as if I'm doing something incredible for so much output.  I'll tell you honestly that I'm not outputting as much as I believe I should.  Within My Art (I'm now struggling with how to conceptualize an d contextualize so many areas)which so far includes writing, TV, film, business, teaching and soon music production, I'm always dancing between them all.

Right now my computer is slowly saving a high definition version of a TV show for February on Development: Business and Budgeting; I just finished reading a case study in Strategic Entrepreneurial Growth while traveling for about an hour combined on the bus to classes; I just re-read a few chapters on How To Write More; sitting on the screen in front of me is the rough draft of a book to be typed up; and here I am trying to maintain at least a majority presence in my stream of consciousness blog (I gave up months ago on trying to write a blog entry every day and my Facebook and Twitter feeds happening mainly because there are so any overlapping informational pieces that are emailed or streamed to me.)

Ok, ok, let me organize this better: I break things down into stages and outcomes.

Stage 1: Work With The End in Mind 
(yes, from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Right now I, and the small but helpful team I work with, are mid to end finalizing about 60 more books of mine to come out in the next few months, that range from 150 pages to 600+ pages and cover sexuality, relationships, fiction, non-fiction textbooks, erotica and even fan fiction/superheroes (I'm just publishing that last one as a personal table book, fun-thing, though I do have a couple of fantasy titles that I'll be doing as graphic novels in the future.)
Some of us are writers, editors, entrepreneurs,, lawyers, printers...

Generally each project has a business and creative/content outline.  A book idea is generated by me and then presented back to the printer, editors, legal and I consider whether it's one worthy of minimally 150 pages and all of the sundry costs involved in that (time, money, attention) then I generally do a mock cover work up.  I find that having a basic cover for a manuscript helps me to visualize it as complete and I've even started making a screensaver out of the whole folder of book covers to keep me motivated.

Stage 2: Assemble the Ingredients, Sometimes With a Stripper or Two
I've mentioned before my love of notebooks and my equal love of writing longhand first.  This blog is an experiment in breaking that form, in being less editorial and less of a perfectionist with my writing; just letting my thoughts flow.  Though in order to jump start the blog this past year I started a full notebook for it and hand wrote about 50 blogs---half of which I've typed up and published here. There's a blog on the TV show Scandal that is pretty good that I'll probably publish soon and a few other book and movie reviews that are fun and short.

For books I have a notebook, I'm writing up a draft of each chapter after I work out an outline.  I generally operate in a maximum of 12 chapters for non-fiction work so depending on the complexity I buy a 70 to 120 page notebook (I love shopping for notebooks and larger books for journaling!), I tend to get multiple notebooks at a time and design covers for them, say up to 5 notebooks to comprise a full book.  I then segment them with Post It notes---Section 1 and then Chapters 1, 2, 3, etc. and the first section is generally a rundown of what each chapter should contain (this part I generally also type up and revise as I need a master template) then I get to writing.

Though I carry a laptop lots of times, I choose to hand write because I can do it anywhere---on the train, the bus, sitting and waiting for an appointment, at lunch.  A co-worker recently mentioned to me that she always sees me in the lounge writing, reading with my headphones on---I'm not being anti-social---that's generally an intensive writing time/deadline for me.
I generally sit back by the green lights.  Like a

I have sat and written in a bar here in Manhattan, No Parking generally on their lounge-y nights when there's about 20 people there.  I can get two or three drinks depending on the special for about $20 bucks, people watch, see a dancer or two, occasionally run into a friend, be sort of social and not isolated at a desk writing.  I've written so far 3 books there---1 fiction, 2 non-fiction---totaling about 700 pages.  I then spent a few months upon review of the fiction manuscript purposefully writing an additional 100 pages on a character to beef him up---the great part was he was sort of a club kid so it was great ambiance for the writing itself.
That's not my arm.

Yes, there are strippers.
Yes, I tip.
Yes, they tend to politely step gingerly over or past me.

I know it's odd but there's something about the dichotomy of music/sound, activity, writing and just a splash of a libation focused for about an hour or two that gets the whole of some work out.
I would defend though that plenty of writers like Hemingway, Parker, Bukowski, Beckett wrote in odd places, in public places and bars.

A friend told me that a guy he knows relayed to him that the guy came over to ask what I was doing and I answered honestly--"writing a book" probably and then he continued chatting me up but then got intimidated because I used a word he didn't understand.  Hilarious.  But he then went on to email me later that he'd bought one of my books and enjoyed it immensely.  Education at work!  Whooohooo!

My only regret about the place is that they don't have you know wings or mini tacos, tapas!  I'd be writing there 5 days a week!

Stage 3: Nimble Fingers
Typing.  I don't hate it because it's an additional step I've created in my writing process that if I just typed everything directly would be eliminated.  But this is my method for about 70% of my writing.  I have a few clever desk stands that hold up notebooks and pages so I prop them up and type away.  I can generally get a chapter typed up in about an hour.  In the typing I make my first small adjustments, sometimes my stream of consciousness writing is rougher than intended or other times because of the limits of paper I leave myself broad notes and directions for sections.  The irony of this process is that I write far more than I can catch up to in typing.  Right now I have probably about 300 to 500 pages of handwritten stuff to type up and maybe in my scheduling another 500 pages to hand write.

I don't dislike typing, I used to type up my manuscripts as a teenager---200-300 page opuses so by 18 I was typing about 50 words a minute.  If I push it and focus I can generally get up to 70 to 80 words a minute...I can even almost maintain this speed not looking.  This might seem impressive until I tell you that my mother does about 100 to 120 words a minute---when we used to Instant Message each other she would type tracts at a time and it would just unfold almost faster than I could read in the IM box.

Several times I've hired typists to type up longer manuscripts---there were some that I had hard copies of but couldn't for some or another reason transfer the original digital copy.  (I'm of multiple minds about saving things in some "Cloud" online but the other option which I currently do are this incessant number of back up copies on multiple hard drives and after awhile that just gets looney.)  Typists though are sort of expensive.  I was going to farm out a job a few months ago just to get 5 notebooks typed up so that it could go on to editing stage and it was creeping up in price to about $1000.  That wasn't such a horrible price, just confirmed to me that I need to do a better turnover of writing to typing.

Stage 4: Editing Alone and As A Group Activity
I enjoy the editing process that I do by myself, with the professional editors then with my mentors' advice in place.

Draft 1 & 2 is generally written draft then a typed draft.

I begin, young, fit, happy....
Draft 3 is the long process of organizing it into a book format generally speaking in a template.  Is there enough content?  Do I need a glossary?  Do I need footnotes?  This is where I tend to add some fat to the whole project.

Drafts 4 & 5 are about book format-font, justifying, punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. as by the fourth or fifth edit I'm generally pretty tight on the content.

Drafts 6th and 7th edit generally involve the editor where I send it off to them and they get back to me with questions, points and feedback about both the content and the layout.  The layout is generally a "rough draft"---the Table of Contents again acting as the master template to the book.

Draft 8 about 90% firm as to what it will look like chapter by chapter but generally what happens is one chapter needs to be cut, beefed up on switched.

Draft 9 is TOC 95% , Readability Factor about 75%---does it flow well?  DO I like it?  Will others like it?

Draft 10 is generally a re-do where myself and the editor generally hack through it.  This part is unnecessary, this part repetitive, this part could be beefed up.  Ironically this is where paring happens from the beefing up in Draft 3.  (When I wrote those additional 100 pages (30 typed) for the fiction book in No Parking?  This is the version I was amending.)  Fiction and non-fiction vary somewhat I've found---I print out and carry around a bound galley/typed draft of fiction and do direct to page edits.  This is a really beat up copy by the end and sometimes there are multiple Draft 10's as I work out what works well and what doesn't.

Draft 11 is generally the formal proof where the printer sends out what it will look like as a book and he description and finalizing of the business stuff happens.  Who gets paid, how, how much, is the book over or under budget (generally determined by page number, word count, number of colors on the cover, coloring inside of the book, the really tight legal questioning of the content (Ironically the legal proofreaders are so good that I've had several books flagged because some of my work was somewhere else like a magazine, journal, etc. and it came up as in my book so I literally had to prove it was me to my own company to create a release for it to be used in a new production.  Got to love their due diligence though!)

Draft 12 is generally the final version but there's still a window open to catching minor revisions and changes.  Sometimes this means we got the permission for a pic we really wanted to use for the cover but didn't think would happen so Draft 12 becomes Draft 12a, Draft 12b, Draft 12c---yes, I literally have versions of my own books---generally one of each that has about fifty to a hundred Post it Notes throughout with things I like, dislike, changed, minor mistakes caught.  I've since learned it's never "perfect" but because you got it right in 2000 other ways, you let three errors survive rather than holding up printing to sell.
"The writing part is almost over!"

Twelve Drafts comes from one of my mentors Raymond Federman who taught me for years that a work wasn't "done" or ready for absolute submission until that 12th draft.  It might sound crazy and excessive but in the forthcoming novel Hush as an example---it started out as a novella/long short story of about 75 pages in high school.  By undergraduate I'd gotten it up to 150 pages and started working with Federman with it and he and another professor who was considering it for publication, Professor Ronald Sukenick of the University at Colorado Boulder gave me the feedback that the short stories it was bundled with were publishable and they would publish a few.  The short stories eventually became the first volume in a fiction collection, Escapades, Vol. 1.  But Sukenick explained that Hush was a novella/long story in Escapades that deserved to be a novel.  After expanding it to about 350+ pages, the next editor gave me back extensive notes, with the glaring point that I had to invest a bit more in one character, that it needed a fuller lead protagonist.  Hence the 100 pages I then hand wrote and typed in.

Non-fiction is faster and slower in some points because of whatever the topic at hand is.  The topic generally requires that you simply write every thought you have about something, reference it, point to the overall pattern and make some points and suggestions about what is interesting or what I've learned or what the reader can take away.  In some ways I find it more fluidic because 75% of my fiction work I have an ending in mind from the beginning or midway.

The rest of the work is more business-publishing related, that's another article.  I hope this one covers/answers the questions I got on writing, tips, suggestions for how to write and my process so far.

Be sure to email me about what you think and tell me your writing process!

Thank you for reading and if you liked this check out the other blogs or one my books on
Kyle Phoenix
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