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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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!

Using a Blurb to Shape Your Novel

When I finished the first draft of the final version of TEROH that I’m sharing with beta readers now, I decided to write a blurb (a short, intriguing description) about it. Since then, I’ve edited it countless times as I seek to balance how I want readers to view my novel along with their actual perceptions of the story they end up reading. It’s not so much the plot that changes in the blurb so much as how I pitch it.

There are so many ways to turn a thought or phrase, and each way holds a slightly different meaning.

This also pertains to the other novels I’m planning for my series. Unlike TEROH, I’m actually starting with a preliminary blurb before developing the novels themselves. (I’ve talked a bit about this before as well as how I’m using music playlists to shape the direction that my stories will take.) Looking back on my process for TEROH, I think there are some advantages to doing this.Read More »

I’ve Got Something to Say: Why TEROH is Not My First Draft (or Novel)

I don’t think this is clear to people who haven’t been following me for very long, but the version of The Elementalist: Rise of Hara (TEROH) that I sent out to my beta readers recently—as many flaws as it still maintains—is actually not my first draft. Technically, it’s not even my first novel.

Granted, I still have a good amount of work to do on the manuscript, not having consulted outside eyes until I felt I had a solid understanding of the story’s soul, but the point I want to make is that this novel (and the series it continues to spawn) has not only seen several rebirths of its most basic concept; it’s also seen numerous cycles of development to a minute level of detail, which has allowed my subconscious brain to make connections between my ideas in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d only spent one or two years on this project.

There are several reasons for this.

Element 7 Wordle 2

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It’s done.

You guys. I have something important to tell you.

You know that novel I’ve been working on for over 10 years now? The one that started back in 2007 as a series of random journal entries that eventually became scenes, which eventually became a novel? The one that I rewrote several times just so I could “get it right” then edited more times than I can recall?

Yeah, well…it’s done.

No, I really mean it. I sent it out to beta readers. Today. Like the whole thing. Completed.

Does that mean it won’t see any more changes? No, but I’ve gotten it as good as I can get it on my own, so now I’m sharing it with others who can help me make it even better.

What Comes Next?

Well, once I’ve gotten feedback from my beta readers (thank you!), I’ll be reading through that then deciding what changes should be made to my story. After which…

See, now that’s where things get fuzzy. Do I get ready to send the thing to literary agents and hope that I can find representation and a publisher, or do I strike out on my own as a self-published author? I’ve been debating this for some time now, and I’m still no closer to an answer. I’ve been telling myself, “Hey, why don’t you do some submissions for a while and see how that goes? If nothing comes of it, you can always self-publish.” Which is fine. But the very designer/creator side of me really likes the idea of having a say in things like the cover and layout design of my first novel.

Besides, I’m hearing it’s tough for self-proclaimed dieselpunk writers to get any representation right now—simply for the fact that they identify their work as “dieselpunk”. And that’s messed up ’cause y’all know I’m all about dieselpunk. I’ve gotten very involved in that community lately on Facebook and am even one of the top profiles that pop up on Twitter when you search for “dieselpunk”. In other words, I’ve been branding myself a certain way and would like to continue doing so.

In any case, I could go back to brainstorming ideas for Book II, which I’ve already started. I might wait a few weeks on that, at least, though. Take a break.

*sighs*

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me.

What Are You Working On?

Writing a novel yourself? Or maybe you’ve been reading some good stories lately. I wanna know!