Things I wish I knew before Self-Publishing

 

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As I prepare to re-publish #WheelerNovel, here are some things I wish I knew a year ago when I first succumbed to the siren-song of the self-publish button.

  1. Be certain. Be absolutely certain that what you’ve written is not just good enough, make sure it’s great. Shooting yourself in the foot, repeatedly, weighs heavy and causes huge amounts of angst. Not to mention it could ruin future marketing efforts when hundreds of shitty copies were put out in the ether.
  2. Somebody Wanted But So, Then. While this concept is simplistic, making your story actually about somebody’s journey toward something is a good idea.
  3. Pick a genre and stay with it. Multi-genre, genre-blend, cross-genre – they’re a hard sell.
  4. Literary agent submissions. See #1 and #3 above before you do it.
  5. Beta readers. Like real beta readers, not family and friends. That’s not to say my F&F aren’t great, but look for people, female and male, who don’t know you but also know about books.
  6. Hire an editor – even more than one. Some are worth their weight in gold, others in coal. Be selective and don’t just take the first one who emails you back. Talk to the person first – either IRL or on the phone. Get to know their personality and their editing style. Editing is hell, believe me, but having someone who can cut into your soul but make you laugh and make sense, is worth the ego hit to make your novel better. I have some suggestions if you’re in the market.
  7. A good book title. Coming up with a title is hard – about as hard as writing the back cover blurb. Once you’ve come up with something, make sure nobody else has written a book with the same title. How awkward.
  8. You will not please everyone but at the same time, don’t just please yourself. Wait… that doesn’t sound right.  Anyhoo, ‘they’ tell you to write what you know. Yes, do that, but if you want more than a hand full of people to buy your novel, you have to make the story marketable to the masses.
  9. Have a thick skin. Your story is your heart, mind, and soul all wrapped up into one. It’s worse than your child. Reviews can be brutal but you can learn something from each one. Podium Cafe’s review was a slap and a kick to the gut, however, it spurred me to make some deep cuts and revisions so Wheeler didn’t seem like a ‘fan-fiction.’ See also, #8 above.  (BTW, it still hurts.)
  10. Be mindful of what you tell reviewers about your story. One slip can ruin their perception of your novel. i.e. “started off as fan-fiction.”
  11. Keep only one foot in your story.  What I mean by this is to stay grounded in reality. We writers have the powerful ability to immerse ourselves in our worlds and can sometimes be consumed by them. Unless you’re a multi-millionaire and don’t have a spouse and/or kids, getting lost in your own mind is a painful thing to come back from.
  12. Have another outlet for creativity. I ride my bike 4 to 6 times a week, between leading indoor classes to outdoor riding.  Being outside often by myself, I’m able to find my center again. The constant noise in my brain is drowned out by the wind in my ears and the tick-tick of the chain. I put my body through efforts many people I know scoff at doing.  It hurts but it’s not real pain; it’s a burning in the muscles, in the soul, that once you know you can go there – and stay there – and not die, your body will want to keep going back. I also crochet, which has also caused much the same effect but not in my legs.
  13. Be mindful with whom you base your characters. See also #11. That’s all I have to say about that.
  14. Don’t be deaf to your inner critic. You have your mom and dad, cousin, brother, etc. tell you what you wrote is great, but that little voice inside you is saying “Yes, but…”. See #1, #5 and #6.
  15. Be excited about your story, but temper it. Writing is a passion, a compulsion. I get super duper excited that somebody wants to read what I wrote and I can go off on lengthy ADHD-fueled tangents about the story. If you find someone who wants to read it, let them read it and develop their own relationship with your characters.
  16. Don’t let your Ego get in the way. You’re not going to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or that woman who wrote that book about shades of gray. Just let that dream go right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. [Insert theme to Jeopardy here]  Have you put it down? Do you feel lighter now that all that pressure is off? Good. Now go write something. Hell, write me a comment! Just go write.

 

 

All that I want

Your eyes, they did flutter again
And my mouth it did hang wide
When you told me ‘every little thing is going to be alright’

But we were younger then
And now we’re not
And if there was a plan made
Then we forgot about it
And if there was time
I could figure it out now
But life is short
And I don’t care for most of it
I don’t care for most of it
Because you’re all that I, all that I want
Because you’re all that I, all that I want
Because you’re all that I, all that I want
Because you’re all that I, all that I want

Well, I know I’m hard to take
And my bones are calling out your name
While I beat your cold windows
Break the locks on the gate
While I try to forget
I used to be something great

Because you’re all that I, all that I want
Because you’re all that I, all that I want
Because you’re all that I, all that I want
Because you’re all that I, all that I want

Beta Readers – a double-edged sword

Writer Problems. @Lexi Lee M This looks like the type of comics you make!:

I obsess over the mundane. I can’t decide what to cut, even though I know it needs to be done. I needed help, but I am also wounded, how can I trust to hand over what has been already slashed as garbage?

And so, enters BR Number One, who was willing to chat with me daily, giving instant feedback on what was working and what wasn’t; what made him actually tear up (and that’s hard to do, being it’s a GUY), made him spit out his coffee, or give a belly laugh.

Number One (said in Captain Picard’s voice) is a male triathlete, somewhere in the Midwest. He just barely broke 40 years and has embarked on a journey to participate in an Iron Man this year.  We bonded over the ‘I am the Storm’ quote, as he uses this imagery to overcome his own obstacles in his life.

He finished the book this week and I sent him a bunch of questions about his experience, other than what we’ve already snarked over. I’ll share with you some of his comments:

Q: Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next?

Mainly when the author continued to hammer me about 7/15. I wanted to punch her in the throat a few times. She promised me she would refrain. She sits on a throne of lies.

Q: Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?

Yes, there was a lot of conflict and tension. Kept my interest but never felt overwhelming. However, there were some spots where I did look at the author over the top of my glasses and said, REALLY?

Q: Was the ending satisfying? Believable?

Yes, love that Loren is beginning to find her way out of the darkness and be able to positively channel her emotions. She’s growing as a character and that felt good. If she wasn’t able to resolve any of that I would have been sorely disappointed.

Q: Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?

Honestly, not sure I can answer this. I’ve never read anything in this genre before. I felt the two sides of the story were wonderful. The races were exciting and vivid and the love story was sweet. I do like the author’s writing style even if she is a complete pain in the ass at times and doesn’t always laugh at my jokes.

Betas can be worth their weight in gold and I have been more than blessed with THIS particular one, who has now become a valued friend.  Thank you, JB. 

#amediting #authorproblems

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I’m neck deep now in editing, and I have two new betas reading #wheelernovel. I’ll tell you, not hearing from either of them since I sent a copy is burning a hole in my stomach.

Do they like it? Has the change of direction completely f-ed the story? How can it be longer now!? What do I cut without sacrificing storyline? What little fluff remains is in the relationship, I can’t cut that! Why did I chain myself to an actual calendar!

Am I nuts for still wanting to do this? 

The litany goes on and on and on.

And yet, I look to the next few months and think about relaunching.  What do I do? HOW do I do it?  Do I look for more reviews? (It was hard enough to get the new betas.)

Fuck – why does this have to be so hard! 

At least training for the century on April 29th is right on cue.  Thirty-two miles into headwind felt like 100 this weekend.

Physically, I’m as ready as I’ve been for an end-of-the-season century, thanks to my winter spent on rollers.

Mentally, I’m looking forward to not thinking for 6+ hours while riding.

Head Hopping – It’s not about beer

When I first heard the phrase ‘head hopping,’ I’ll admit, I had no idea what it meant. To me, head hopping was hearing both (or all) of the characters’ inner thoughts in a scene, not necessarily what they were seeing or even feeling to a certain extent. Thing is, I’m not wrong but I’m also not right.

According to many, many articles and blog posts I’ve read, there is no hard and fast rule, only the elusive ‘guideline.’ Some famous novelists head-hop all over the place. Some are a bit, um, vehement about not doing it.

The Editor’s Blog says: ‘Head-hopping is what happens to the reader when a writer suddenly changes the viewpoint of a character or POV. Switching from one viewpoint character to another, experiencing the mind and heart of one character for a moment only to be forced to switch focus to another character a paragraph or two later, is disconcerting.’

When I read Randy Ingermanson’s blog on the subject, I became even more confused.

“Randy sez:  Let’s define terms. “Head-hopping” is the practice of switching point-of-view characters within a single scene. This is not the same as the omniscient point-of-view, which would allow your narrator to know things that none of the characters know.”

Then the points being made by Randy were eclipsed by what was being said in the comments, specifically:

“If it’s about a person, don’t head hop, if it’s about the relationship or bigger picture, head hop.”

And then:

“Skilled writers don’t need it (head hopping) to convey the other person’s emotions through showing.”

I then found Ciara Ballintyne‘s post on the subject, and this is probably the clearest explanation, along with a great flowchart:

  • First – I gave a small shrug. That was of no matter at the moment.
  • Third – Isaiah gave a small shrug. That is of no matter at the moment.
  • Omniscient – Isaiah gave a small shrug. He thought it was of no matter at the moment

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And that’s when my brain exploded.

What say you WordPress?