Wednesday, May 30, 2012

30. From writing a novel to publishing it

In my first blog post this month, I talked about writing the first part of Pandora’s Genes in a kind of white-hot frenzy of creation. It took me about three weeks to get those first 100 or so pages down, and then another several months before I finished the first draft, which was around 400 pages.

I typed it all on my Selectric typewriter, on green paper, which I superstitiously used for all my fiction drafts. Whenever I came to a passage that was too slow or otherwise wasn’t moving, I switched to pen and white paper, then transferred what I had written to the typewriter.

I continued to revise and retype, and a couple of years after I’d started I finally had something that I was happy enough with to take to my agent, who had so far only represented my nonfiction books.

My agent suggested numerous changes, so I spent another several months of revising, retyping, and so on. At last she was happy with it and began sending it out.

After a year’s worth of rejections, we finally got a nibble from Warner books, which was looking for new writers for a new science fiction imprint, Questar. The only catch was that the editor wanted a complete rewrite before she would commit to buying it. So I spent the summer revising the whole thing again, on spec, and finally turned it in, approximately 4 ½ years from when I started writing.

The good news was, she bought it! The bad news… well, she wanted more changes. I’ll tell you about the biggest change tomorrow, but I spent another few months revising again, and then making more changes for the copy editor, until finally the book was done! We had a cover! It was scheduled to come out in six months!

                                              PG First orig coverFirst cover

Except that the head buyer for Waldenbooks, a major player in the sf market in those days, hated the cover. He told our marketing department that he would not order the book unless we got a whole new cover. This would delay the book another six months, but that was not his problem.

It was mine.

A new cover was prepared.pandora

This one was by the great sf artist Don Mattingly, and this time Waldenbooks approved. Approximately six years from the morning I wrote down the dream that became Pandora’s Genes, my book was, finally, published!

Tomorrow: The ending of Pandora’s Genes


  1. Six years! Now I have even more admiration for your stamina. And it sounds like there's limited room for ego in the process -- so much is out of the author's hands.

  2. Oh, there's plenty of ego. But at some point you have to learn to let it go. I might write a post on this. It never gets easier emotionally, but it does get easier procedurally.

  3. I started writing, in college, on electric typewriters. Such a slow, laborious process for just writing newspaper articles, I can't imagine writing a book that way, though I guess people did for a long time (and before that with pen and paper). Good for you for sticking it out for that long, and congrats on your successes since.


  4. Thanks, Michelle. I didn't mention it, but I also used CARBON PAPER for copies back in those days.

  5. You're a great example of my two keywords for writers--"patience and persistence"

  6. Excellent keywords, Nancy! Thanks!

  7. You got that right, Michelle. I wrote a book on my Olivetti, and near the end, I was typing in a few pages of changes, getting in a hot bath, getting out, doing a few more, another dip in hot water, and so on. It was physically grueling. Hands, neck, shoulders, all screaming. Congratulations on sticking it out, Kathryn!!!! And on having such enduring books.

  8. Thanks, Sue! I've been sitting in the spa a lot lately....