Oh dear, my short break was a bit extended. For that, I apologize. There was the year end madness that took up much of my time. The kids were on a two week winter break from school, leaving me little time for anything. Then, to start 2014 off, we had Snowpocalypse leaving my area in a State of Emergency for 2 days and the kids STILL didn’t go back to school. Ugh. I started writing a new trilogy and for the last week, I’ve been knee deep in home improvement. I’m tired, sore and still a little zombie-fied if I’m honest.
Since announcing my trifecta book deal, I’ve been approached by wannabe writers who have no idea where to begin. So, while I’m certain some sex tips might be missed here, we’re gonna talk writing today. And hey, if you’re not interested in writing, you can keep reading to see what your favorite authors go through. It might make you understand us a bit more.
I started writing…seriously writing back in 2006. Sure I had dabbled with it a bit. I’d always done well in high school and college with writing (unless it was a technical paper – yuk!) I published my first book with Publish America (DO NOT DO THIS!). I was new. I was stupid and had no idea what the fuck I was doing. But it’s okay, make mistakes. That’s how we learn.
So, I’m going to share what knowledge I’ve obtained in the last 8 years. That’s right, I’ll take away 8 years of painful education away and tell you everything I know. Ready?
Where do I start?
Just write the damned book. It will suck. It won’t be publishable. It’ll be full of mistakes, plot holes, character flaws and weaknesses. It’s okay. You have to start somewhere. Some people are plotters (outline everything) and some are pantsters (go with the flow). I’m a bit of both. I use a story board. Cut pictures out of magazines that resemble the characters in my mind and tape them up everywhere. This keeps me on track. Do what works best for you. You should know this already. Are you a type A personality? Does everything have to be neat and organized? You’re a plotter. Type B… fly by the seat of your panties..or boxers.
Okay, I wrote my shitty novel. Now what?
Well, read it. Then put chapters up on a site like AbsouteWrite.com for people to critique. (Wear a few layers of underwear. This is gonna hurt.) Try to find other authors to swap work with, so that you can critique their work as well as receive their notes. You can’t edit too much. Well… you can if you never publish. But you get the point. If you can afford it, hire an editor.
Now that you see the sort of mistakes you’re making, start again. If you love the story, fix it, re-write it, edit and polish until it’s ready. If you see that your story looks like the Titanic and it’s sinking fast, scrap it and start over. You’ve already received the education you were seeking. Keep going.
I need a team? What?
Sort of… if you can find a critique group or beta readers, then you need to use them. This has been the biggest challenge for me to date. I’ve been in two crit groups and those fuckers died out on me. Most of them quit writing all together. Pussies. That’s a little mean. This is a tough industry with a plethora of folks dipping their toes in.
You need fresh eyes to look at your work. They’ll see what every other reader sees: Your mistakes.
Okay, I’m ready to publish. Now what?
Walk to the nearest wall. Place your palms firmly against the surface, lean back and with as much force as you can muster, slam your forehead against the wall. Why? You’re not even close to being able to publish.
You need a ton of practice. That’s why.
There are a lot of things you need in a novel and a lot of new terms you’ll see as you move along in the critiquing phase. First, show-don’t-tell. This used to piss me off to no end. What the fuck does that even mean? It’s simple. Show me someone is grumpy: door slamming, arms crossed over their chest, scowling, cursing etc. Describe that, don’t tell the reader someone was grumpy. That’s showing instead of telling.
Protagonist: This is your main character. You must have a protag, and they must want something, need something, have to do something.
Antagonist: Your bad guy. It doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a thing… a monster, the physical disability that prevents the Protagonist from achieving their goal.
Plot: This is the soul of your story. What is your plot? Think about a popular movie or book you’ve read. A popular movie or book I can think of is The Hunger Games. Katniss (Your Protagonist) is thrown into the Hunger Games. Her goal? To make it out alive and as a side goal, to save Peta. Her Antagonist at first glance would be the other contestants and the game itself, but WAIT! It’s actually President Snow and the Capitol that are her real nemesis (Antagonist.)
To lay the plot at your feet in the simplest of terms: Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games to save her younger sister from certain death. She fights against other contestants to save her own life, and that of Peta, her fellow contestant from District 12. In the end she and Peta are the only survivors, but there can only be one. In an act of defiance, Katniss offers a suicide pact to Peta, forcing the Capitol to allow them both to live. PLOT.
Okay, seriously, I’m ready to publish. Now what?
Well, first you have to choose. Do you want to go with traditional publishing? Well, then you’ll need a good query letter to land an agent so that you can shop publishers. For examples of the Do’s and Don’ts of query letters – google the Query Shark. (Maybe grab a stiff drink. You’re about to get an ass whoopin’ again.)
Do you want to go self-pubbed/indie route? You have more control when you do it this way and a higher payout per novel sold. But you must sell… we’ll get to that in a minute. If you go it alone, you’ll need great cover art. You can hire this out ($150 and up) or do it yourself. Beware, you need high res art. 300 dpi, especially if you want print books.
All the big retailers offer self-pubbing. Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc. have outlets for indie authors to publish themselves. They’ll pay you a monthly royalty on books that are sold. You can also publish on Smashwords (which I really hate because it’s not very user friendly to the author.) But Smashwords makes your book available on other platforms like iBook, Kobo etc.
Now, you must market!
I literally hate this part and don’t have much in the way of advice. I’m still figuring it out myself. There are no easy ways to do it. You’ll see other authors driving people fucking nuts inviting them to like pages on Facebook, constantly screaming -LOOK AT ME, I WROTE A BOOK, LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE ME ME ME ME ME. You simply can’t do this and be successful. I only know of one person who made it work for her and it’s because she was the David Koresh of self-pubbing, leading hopeful authors to her like she had the best snake oil around, so long as they pushed her book. In the end, she slapped a New York Best Seller label to her book (which is funny, because I’ve never seen Megan’s Way on that fucking list.) And the authors she stepped on to get there hate her guts…. Yes, I was one. I hate her because I fell for her shit. Her novels suck. There are tons of 1 & 2 star ratings on her drivel. BLEH. I digress. She sells books. If being a total douche is your goal, by all means, step on people. Self-promote like a $2 whore on half-priced Tuesday.
Now brace yourself!!!!!!!
For what? I’ve gotten through the hard stuff. I finally published. Yes, yes you have. And you’re trying every marketing tool in the book, but it’s slow going and you’re not going to become the next J.K. Rowling Rags-to-Riches story. There are hundreds of thousands of books and authors out there. You’re a small speck on the ass that is the book business. I think Joe Konrath projected that it takes a dozen novels to really start making money. But they have to be good novels and you need a fan base.
You also need to prepare yourself for rejection. If you try to get an agent, you’ll be rejected over and over and over and … If you publish yourself, you’re going to get some bad reviews. Some will love your work, some will not. Amazon allows people to return eBooks, which really hurt your ratings and your pocketbook. I’ve seen the reports. You can see where one person will buy all of your books then you’ll get one of each book returned all on the same day a week or so later. They’re abusing the system and no, there’s not a damned thing you can do.
I really do hope this helps. This isn’t an easy business and it’s not for the faint of heart. I wish you well.