I'm about to share a secret to my work, what makes me tick, and how I go from an idea in my head to a finished novel (and why it takes so blooming long!)
First off, I do a lot of research. For each book in the Diversion series I began gathering data as far as a year in advance. The story writing process itself usually takes about three months. Why so long, you ask?
Because of my work schedule, I only have about three or four hours each day to devote to being an author, and Facebook, Twitter, and E-mails eat a huge chunk of that time. Then there's the fact that I like to help other authors, so I'm a crit partner, beta, editor for an average of ten books a year. I also do a lot of coaching for brand new, first book authors, that requires going over the whole story with them seven or eight times, layering the skills needed to present the story in the best light, and get the details out of the author's head and onto the pages. This leaves me with weekends to write, take care of house, run errands, etc.
Speaking of crit partners, the folks I critique for return the favor. Some authors send their books chapter by chapter, but as I do not write linearly, this only wastes my time and theirs. I may write chapter six first. Or the chapter that was number two today is number eight tomorrow, or no longer a part of the story at all. It's easiest to complete the first draft before showing my work.
Once I've finished my draft, I let it sit for a week or two, then self-edit. Finally, the manuscript is ready to hand off. I've tried sending it to my crit partners all at once, but for me that doesn't work too well, so one at a time. Depending on how busy they are, reviewing the work and handing it back to me can take two weeks to two months. I use at least four crit partners per book. After each one finishes, I make edits and forward to the next person on the list. If the book contains a lot of crime or medical details, I also have a former cop and/or a nurse, depending on the subject matter, help me get my facts straight. Oh, and did I mention the forensics expert that says, "You can ask me anything"? Love them all.
While the words are bouncing through cyber-space, I'm contacting the uber-talented L.C. Chase for cover designs, if the work will be a Rocky Ridge Books offering, or I'll submit query letters to publishers.
When the last crit partner has had their say, the story goes on to my editor, Jerry L. Wheeler, who is totally awesome for getting the work back to me quickly, or to the publisher, if I'm submitting the story to an entity besides Rocky Ridge Books.
Rocky Ridge manuscripts are then polished, proofread, formatted and uploaded, ready for sale. Publisher's schedules vary, but usually the book is out eight months to a year after submission.
Sounds complicated, doesn't it? Scary sometimes, but I take it one step at a time in my attempt to bring readers the best researched, written, and error-free novel that I possibly can.