How?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions that sum up simply as “how?” How do you write a whole novel? How do you write a series? How do you self publish? How do I book cover? Sales how!?!

Simple questions often have a complex answer that seems discouraging but shouldn’t. I can, and  have, outlined pretty much all the steps in writing a novel and/or a series and how to format for epublication. I’ve outlined how to do it for as little money as possible (though there’s no real way to do it completely for free, you have to have at least one editor and they will cost you) but still I get asked “how.”

So I’m thinking of setting up an ecourse to help people through the process, step by step though of course that brings up all kinds of new questions. Like what do you want/need to know first? Besides write the damn thing; I’m sure there’s something hopeful independent authors are really struggling with and want to know how to do right off the bat.

Let me know what you think in the comments and I’ll try to come up with something to help. Now back to work on this massive bloody novel.

 

A Vital Reminder

This last year has been a not so great time for me. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on family (often at the expense of my writing) while my family minimizes my written work and suggests with full candor that I would be better off doing literally anything else. I might be a stone cold bitch that habitually writes about getting away with murder but that still hurts, a lot.

Thankfully other writers are always there to remind me that awful as that is, it’s also kind of normal. We all have to fight for the time and space to do that thing that no one else really understands and seems largely composed of staring at blank walls from time to time. And we’re all here to help each other out and deepen our craft as we go.

So let’s do a relink of some of the more visited posts on my blog that are full of helpful tips for other struggling Indie Authors out there.

Starting with the most important step:

Once you’ve got that you should update your series “bible” before tackling the beast that is formatting for paperback.

There you go Indies, a recap of everything that I’ve written on writing in this digital era that should prove useful to anyone looking for the information. Sign up for updates if you would like to keep abreast of anything new going on with my books or on the blog. Keep strong, keep your heads up and for the sake of the old gods’ keep writing!

Amazon, Hachette and Smashwords

So – I’m re-reconsidering Smashwords, for several reasons. First and foremost, though the meat grinder is still their prefered method of upload for new titles and though it still sucks mightly, there is now the option to upload checked epub files instead. I’ve yet to figure out how to create an epub that they’ll accept but I think this option really makes them a lot more worthwhile than previously especially since I’ve seen some wonky things happen with my Draft2Digital publications.

Recently files have gone online and offline at D2D with seemingly little rhyme or reason. I’ve cracked down on one cause, which is entirely my fault, while the others seem to have more to do with disputes between the various distributors themselves. My mistakes are bad enough but they come with the territory, I’ll learn from them, make fixes and move onto releasing a better product. My work seemingly caught up in dispute I’ve got nothing to do with? Not so much.

Which is where Hatchette comes in. Initially, I looked on Amazon’s feud with the one of the big six traditional publishers the way I look on anything that seems to spell trouble for traditional publishing – with miserly glee and much mwhahaha’ing. Of course, that was largely because the feud is partially shrouded in mystery (we don’t know what Hatchette’s particular demands are) and slightly because all the articles I’d read on the subject really looked at the situation from a traditional publishing standpoint.

Until I saw an article on Smashwords that clarified a few things I’d been thinking about recently as well as the Hatchette/Amazon feud in a way relevant to me as an independent author. So I’m rethinking Smashwords, again, though the final decision will likely hing on my abilities to use the new tools properly.

 

Scrivener Series: Novel Project – Wallowing

Scrivener-Logo
This is the second installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installment (Bible) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

Alright I’ve already mentioned that my writing process has changed, a lot, since I wrote my first novel (over the course of seven horrible years). I’ve outlined what my new process looks like and I’ve started out by showing you how to start a series bible using Scrivener. Now it’s time to look at how I use Scrivener to write each novel in the series.

First up I keep a separate Scrivener project for each series. One, project. Not a folder of projects. One single Scrivener project for the whole damn series. If you’ve experienced trying to find that one note you scribbled a scene on six months ago, or trying to find where you tucked that last bit of free writing that had some vital ideas about world building then you can understand that having a single project for all those notes and bits is a godsend.

Thanks to Scrivener I can jot down any number of scenes, notes, free writing, whatev’s, all in one document and then easily find, fix and resort the pile for later use. I can keep all my notes from novel one – with all my overly early ideas for novel four – in the same working document so that when novel four finally gets here, I’ve got all those great ideas ready to review. When I’m finally ready to compile a single novel I can export as a single .doc or .docx file and then go through it with a fine tooth comb fixing formatting (the one thing that Scrivener does not seem to get right at the moment, is format retention) before I send it off for final edits and read-throughs.

Why am I harping on Scrivener’s ability to keep all your notes and novels in a single project? Because of the first stage when I write a new novel: the wallowing.

Since I write series in two, very, different universes I find the switch over thought process to be a bit easier to achieve by taking a few days (the goal is a maximum of thirty days but sometimes it takes three times as many) to wallow in the world of the novel.

What do I mean by wallowing? I luxuriate in the world. I smell the flowers, poke the things in the dark, ask questions of all the lead characters and villains and I write short stories based on whatever part of that world is catching my fancy till it’s every bit as present as the reality I live in.

A funny thing starts to happen as I immerse myself more and more deeply in the world of the story, the novel starts to take shape and soon I’m writing more scenes for the upcoming novel than I am random shorts or character assessments. It becomes more and more pressing that I start putting all of those bits into the right order, connecting the dots, figuring out why exactly this character is going to do this or that, what in their past makes them such an ass here.

That’s when I start writing the timelines for various characters and the outlines for the new novel. Which I’ll cover in the next post.

Keep in mind this all happens in ONE Scrivener project! Usually I mark a folder as “preparations for book 1-2-3” and just stick all this stuff in there at first. I can always separate scenes and notes into different folders later but in the beginning the important part is to write and keep writing while focusing on the right universe.

Now if you’re a reader and just want to skip all the technical jargon, feel free to sign up for an email alert and I’ll just let you know when my next release is coming out.

My Writing Process

Writing

My writing process has changed. A lot.

In the beginning I started out using a few books on the art and craft of writing novels and tried to follow along – often deviating about a third of the way through their recommended process as I got the hang of their method, made changes to suit my own style and my novel’s needs. Most of those craft books aren’t really geared towards writing series either so, even in the best of times, after the first novel was finished the books were pretty much useless to me and I had to find my own way.

Now my process is a culmination of techniques I’ve used before, utilizing software that I’ve found helpful (more about that later I hope) and my own preferences. Here’s a brief rundown of the process, hopefully I’ll explain and expand on each of the sections in blog posts of their own later.

You might notice that cover design and title choice aren’t on the list, those tend to happen at various times that I haven’t really finalized yet. I try to decide the title and finish the cover as soon as possible, it helps with advertising and getting readers excited about an upcoming release.

Another thing you won’t notice on the list is an estimate on how long the novel will take or when it will be released, they vary too much. I have yet to be absolutely certain of a release date more than a week or two in advance – mostly because the second a novel is done, I put it up for sale. I can’t stand making readers wait for a release that could be out sooner but if I set a date in advance based on how things are going at the time – it’s pretty much guaranteed that it will put a hex on the works.

When To Pay, When NOT To Pay: Book Baby Update

I’ve previously mentioned BookBaby here in the “you’d have to be crazy to pay these prices for this ‘service’ which you could do just as well yourself for free,” column of my When To Pay, When NOT to Pay series. Things have changed though so I suppose it’s worth a quick update.

The primary sticking point for me with BookBaby in the past was their paid ebook formatting and publishing options, all of which any ebook author should be able to do for themselves. Far as I’m concerned knowing how to properly format your own ebook and upload it to the sites of your choosing is as essential as knowing how to change a flat tire and any site that preys on people who haven’t yet figured out how easy it is for authors to do for themselves – is bad news. Now that BookBaby is offering to let authors do these things for themselves, for free, has my opinion of the site changed along with their policy?

Not really no.

There are already a lot of great ways to aggregate your ebook on the various ereader sites, most of which have always been free for authors to use (any cost comes out of the ebook’s price, authors pay nothing up front). Then there’s the various ereader sites themselves for which multiple formatting might be a bit of a pain but it ‘costs’ authors even less than going through an aggregate site. Most of those aren’t mostly in the business of trying to push additional services on Indie Authors (don’t get me wrong, some do offer ‘extras’ like cover design etc. it’s just never been their main money making focus) while BookBaby has always been about selling authors a bill of goods first and selling the authors books second.

That’s just not a great way to get my business or my endorsement.

Book Interior Formatting: Dotting Your I’s and Crossing Your T’s – Final Checklist

Formatting. Every time I finish a book and start the process of formatting it for print, I have to run around and look at at a thousand different pages trying to remember everything I know about formatting. Every time, I end up looking up half a dozen new pages because I’ve lost or misplaced my bookmarks. Every time, I feel like pulling out my hair because it’s a lot to juggle while distilling it all down to the vital bits. This time I’m writing it all down as I go, so there will be a handy guide for next time and so other indie authors have a useful one stop shop for all their info.

At this point I’m almost done formatting my second paperback book, so it’s time to go back over the whole and make sure I’m not making any glaring errors that would make all the hoops I’ve gone through so far, to save money and appear professional, a waste.

  • Odd numbered pages appear on the right (During the hell of formatting page numbers, double checking them, fixing them, etc; you might notice that you’ve got everything perfect and working, except – all the even numbered pages appear on the right side of your book. Yes it’s worthwhile to go back and fix it as it’s the #1 amateur mistake noticed by book designers and readers alike.)
  • Copyright page (Yes, some indie publishers don’t bother to include one in their paperbacks and the lack of one is a clear give away of an amateur operation.)
  • No page numbers on Chapter pages and other front and back matter and/or appropriate roman numbering for those pages that need it. (First page of a chapter – shouldn’t have numbers on it, you can have numbers on a index page or prologue but they should be roman numerals.)

If you’ve got those three covered – congrats! You should be able to print a passably professional looking (at least from a distance, if you squint and don’t know too much about book design) paperback novel!

Be sure to check out the other steps on formatting your paperbacks interiors with Microsoft Word:

And as always – if there’s anything I’ve neglected to cover that you want to know, just ask in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help.