Thoughts on Self-Publishing & First Drafts

Wow, it’s almost been 2 months since I last posted on my blog! I’ve been pretty busy with not just trying to wrap up my current round of revisions on TEROH but also learning as much as I can about (author) marketing. Particularly email marketing. I’ve even invested in a thorough course on the matter! (I was also struggling with some challenges at work that were affecting my mental and emotional health and making it difficult to give my story my full attention. I just didn’t have the energy.)

There was a time, not long ago, that the idea of self-publishing wasn’t even an option in my mind. I completely wrote it off. I thought it would just be too much work that I wouldn’t enjoy or be capable of doing. And then…I really started to research more about it.

Now, I still believe that becoming a self-published author will be a lot of work, but everything I’ve learned about it so far has been so utterly fascinating that I just have to give it a try. There isn’t a single aspect of this process so far that has me thinking, “Nah, I can’t do that.”

Because I know I can. So guess what? I’m going to. (More on that another day, I’m sure.)

First Draft Writing Shenanigans

When it comes to writing, my biggest challenge will be refining my personal process so that things go a bit smoother (and lots faster!) with my second novel in the series. (The cool thing about self-publishing is that I can work at my own pace and adjust my marketing efforts accordingly.) At the moment, I already have 4 scenes written for Book II—not to mention all of the main plot figured out! but more on that another day—because they were just so vivid in my mind that I had to get them on paper before that clarity eluded me. I stopped after that so I could focus on finishing revisions and edits on Book I—an ongoing process if there ever was one. But back to Book II.

One of my problems with Book I is that it began very heavy with information (which isn’t entirely avoidable when your story is set in a new world or unfamiliar time/place but can be mitigated), so this time, with the early scenes I wrote for Book II, I started with the things that came clear to me: actions, dialogue, pivotal moments. I wrote them en media res from the perspective of what was most relevant to the POV characters at the time. Then I layered in small hints of contextual information that would help the reader get a better understanding of what was going on—relevant worldbuilding details, character history…

Already, I feel a million times more confident in the quality of these initial scenes’ drafts than I ever did writing the first drafts of Book I! (I say “first drafts” plural because, if you know anything about this project, then you’ll know that TEROH has kind of seen a few “first drafts” over time.) In the past, I pretty much approached the first draft(s) from the perspective of a worldbuilder and layered in anything I thought might matter eventually, which is a common beginner’s mistake. (You just have so much to share about your new world that you literally don’t even know where to begin!)

Assessing one scene at a time as its own independent unit really helps me stay focused when I’m writing, I’ve realized.

Oh, the things you learn…

Revisions & Editing

In other news, I’ve found an editor to work with on TEROH!

After reviewing his work with past clients and sending a 2,000-word excerpt of my story to him for a free sample edit then snagging a sweet deal on his editing services, I decided to work with someone who has edited books (especially indies) that have seen decent success (on Amazon, at least) and had experience with multiple genres but fantasy in particular, since my story is essentially an eclectic fantasy. I felt he gave some great advice in my sample edit and has some good insight and an eye for the things I lack, so hopefully, it works out pretty well!

Even though I won’t be ready to work with him until another month or so, I went ahead and reached out to him a little early because I was really concerned about pricing and trying to figure out what to budget. I’m extremely grateful that he was able to lock me in for a deal that makes it super affordable for a first-time indie author with a sizeable manuscript on her hands. (Editors typically charge per word—usually under $0.10, depending on the type of edit—which really adds up if your story isn’t already on the shorter side.)

Anyway, I won’t go into specifics about who I’m working with yet and whatnot; I’m funny about these kinds of things until we’ve gone the distance a bit (chalk it up to my dating experiences?), but I’m pretty sure I’ll talk more about it later! In the meantime…

Yup, revisions.

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How to Find Comp Titles for Your Fiction Novel Using Amazon (Book Market Research Part I)

Since I’ve been revising my novel and considering self-publishing, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to things like researching reader expectations within my genre(s), copywriting, positioning a book by selecting appropriate categories and keywords on Amazon (or elsewhere), considering my book’s comp titles, and generally understanding how marketing works (and also what it is). A lot of this, I realized, has basically been my attempt to do some basic market research.

Why is this important?

Well, if you are a writer, like me, and are curious to learn how doing any of this stuff can actually help you become a better writer—regardless of whether you plan on self-publishing or going the traditional route—then you should definitely check out this first part of my video series!

Writing Endings is Hard

Writing endings is hard for me—not because I have to decide what happens but also how and why it happens. Endings are more than just the who, what, when, and where. That stuff is basic storytelling logistics. The hard part, in my opinion, is the emotion behind the words. Engineering a specific feeling or, at the very least, a combination of storytelling mechanics that gives readers the space to feel a certain way.

You know when you read a story that just “feels” right and makes you feel…something? Yeah, well my ending doesn’t have the “feels right” thing yet—not all of it, anyway—and I’ve rewritten it many times. The best part? Chances are if I don’t feel it (whatever “it” is), then neither will the reader.

Parts of my ending I am happy with. I edited and sliced things that weren’t working with my updates on the rest of the story. I even added an epilogue with content I originally thought would work well as an opening to Book II though, after further thought, I decided it would feel out-of-place there and instead would be a better end cap to Book I. (It’s told from a secondary character’s perspective in a place that the protagonist can’t physically be, but it helps to add a sense of resolution after the protagonist’s story ends.) Also, during my rewriting slog in this very narrow—yet highly important—section of my novel, I came up with some more material to use in the second book.

Still, I’ve got a few paragraphs (the last of the final chapter) that I’m just not sure how I want to swing.

Thing is…I don’t think this is something that can or should be forced. Since I’ve been stuck on this for a few weeks now, I decided to leave what I have and continue working on the rest of my rewrites and edits. That should give my subconscious enough space to work something out in the meantime. (It’s crazy what your brain can do while you sleep/eat/live or otherwise do stuff that has nothing to do with the thing you actually want it to do.)

I’ve already gotten some of my larger rewrites done during this slog, so that’s nice. Today, I’m just going to skim through and see which parts have the largest sections that still need rewrites so I can work on those over the next couple of weeks then print those out and scribble down any edits I might need to do on just those parts. (Anytime you change something, imo, it needs to be examined in the scope of the larger framework surrounding it to make sure it still flows.) Then I can work on all the other edits—the easier stuff like grammar, missing words, the order of words, sentence structure, word choice, etc.—from beginning to end. That way, the chronology of the story is fresh in my mind, and I’m seeing it as the reader does.

That’s the plan, anyway!

I Did a Thing: My Author Newsletter + Other News

You guys, I did a thing today: I officially launched an author newsletter, and anything that has to do with the actual release of a new novel from me will be in it.

Reasons to Join My Newsletter (a.k.a. ‘The Club’)

If you’re already subscribed to this blog, you might be wondering, “Why would I need to subscribe to your newsletter? Won’t you be sharing the same things that I see on the blog?”

Well technically, you don’t need to do either—I won’t be holding the virtual gun to your head or threatening to have you sleepin’ with the fishes…this time—but you’re reading this for a reason (or two, or three…) and I actually won’t be sharing the same things on my newsletter as I will on the blog. One of the reasons you’ve been following me might include living to see the day that I finally publish my novel—in which case you might be highly interested in my newsletter over my blog, you see.

Why? Here’s why:

  • My newsletter will exclusively share snippets and full-length chapters from my novel beyond the typical previews you find on Amazon along with other cool exclusive-y content; my blog will not. 😦
  • My newsletter will give you the chance to read my book for free before the rest of the world because you like the idea of writing perfectly honest reviews about them; my blog will not. (Serious fans only!)
  • My newsletter self might solicit your opinion on things like, “Which book description sounds more exciting/interesting?” My blog self will not.
  • My newsletter will definitely let you peek at book cover designs before everyone else and give you access to special giveaways; my blog will make you wait a bit longer and have more limited giveaway opportunities. (Meanie!)
  • My newsletter will alert you whenever there’s a special promotion for my novels; my blog will just assume that you’re already obsessively checking my sales page(s) for these things when they go up.
  • My newsletter is basically like a sexy VIP speakeasy with 21st-century e-cigars and legal whiskey; the only thing required is your soul a secret password (a.k.a. an email address and name). I mean my blog is cool, too, but everyone hangs out there. Y’all are too hip to be square now.
  • Basically, my blog will continue to bemoan my writerly struggles—such as how I’ve been reworking the ending of my novel for like 2 weeks straight now; my newsletter will make it sound like I’m a #winning professional.

Not convincing enough? That’s alright, there’s still the good old blog. 😉 As for the rest of you believers…I got a pretty ochre button for you to get clicky-clicky with:

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JOIN MY NEWSLETTER!

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You can also subscribe to “The Club” later by visiting the blog and checking out the top-ish right corner of the page below my blog name—y’know, in case you have a change of heart and come to realize how desperately you need to see me publish The Perpetual Novel plus have the opportunity to yell at me via email until I do so. (I’m kidding about that last part, mostly.)Read More »

Blending Fantasy & Espionage + Revisions Update

The other day, I was Googling stuff about fantasy novels that have prominent espionage threads in them. (There really aren’t very many when compared to other genre mashups.) Anyway, I came upon this article entitled “An Uncoiled Spring: The Absence of Real-world Tensions,” which examines how some science fiction and fantasy stories go about incorporating “the devices and techniques of espionage fiction,” as put by author Chris Gerwel.

As a writer who’s been working on a novel that combines (science) fantasy conventions with espionage trappings, I find this highly interesting.Read More »