It’s that time of year again. November 1 is not only the day to eat KitKats for breakfast, it’s the official start to what’s known in the writing community as: NaNoWriMo.
NaNo – what mo?
NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.
NaNoWriMo is the month-long event where writers of all genres write all the words. Okay, maybe not all the words, but on average, about 1,700 daily as a way to reach a goal of 50,000 words. For many, it’s a way to fast-draft a novel in just one month.
Write a book in a month? Yes!
It may sound daunting, but as a writer who has participated in NaNo, I’ll go on record saying, “It is absolutely daunting.” But it’s also challenging and a fun way to connect with the writing community, if you choose to dive in and become a WriMo.
The NaNoWriMo hashtag can be seen across social media, and if you’re on the fence about participating, go for it. It can be an amazing experience. However, if the thought of trying to meet a certain word count every day for an entire month feels overwhelming — skip it. It’s okay not to NaNo.
I’ll say it again. It’s okay not to NaNo.
Seriously. No one’s judging you.
Write at your own pace. Slow, fast, it’s all good.
It took me a long time to realize that I’m not the type of writer who enjoys the fast draft. It brings me a certain level of anxiety to draft without doing some level of editing. So for me, it’s no NaNo and that’s just fine. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks editing my middle grade fairy tale-inspired fantasy getting it ready for beta readers, while I’m researching and plotting my new book, a middle grade mystery.
If you’re NaNo-ing this month, go you! I hope your month is filled with words, fun, and writing mojo. Maybe, like me, you’re editing. We’ve got this! We will cut those filler words and smooth out any plot holes. Or maybe, you’re thinking about dipping a toe into the wonderful world of book writing. That’s awesome too. Dive it. Do it. We need your story.
It’s been about a month since my last post and probably one of the longest periods I’ve been away from this blog. As a freelance writer, the tide of work ebbs and flows. When it’s ebbing, I find myself spending as much time chasing the work as I do completing the work. Clients come and go, that’s just the way it is and I much prefer this as a day job than other options.
Freelancing as a content creator allows me the flexibility to pursue the completion of my first book and prep for NaNo, which I’ll discuss in just a moment. After several drafts, professional editing, revisions, more editing, more revisions, rounds with beta readers and CPs, and more revisions, it’s reallllllllly close to query time. And while that’s slightly terrifying, I’m ready. Actually mentally ready. I’ve done my best and it’s time to see if I can convince an agent that they should take a chance on it and me. And really, they should because the book’s awesome and so am I, right? Right? Anyhoo . . .
So I’ve been writing during this time I’ve been away from sharing book reviews here on the blog. From many, many freelance words to additions/revisions on the book, and prep work for my NaNo project. Which is: drum roll please! YA Mystery!
I’m really looking forward to this project and can’t wait to dive in!
If you’re considering NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) head over to their site HERE. Be sure to click over to THIS PAGE to find out how it works. It’s super easy, free, and trust me, you’ll have a blast. It’s a great way to meet other writers, get in the habit of writing daily with no excuses, and crank out a first draft in 30 days.
Now about the time I’ve spent reading. Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. I can’t ever remember NOT being a reader. I only post a few of the books I read here, so even when I’m not posting book reviews, I am still reading several books. Since the beginning of the month I’ve been rereading Michael Grant’s GONE series in anticipation of his new book MONSTER that releases October 17. As this is one of my all-time favorite young adult series, I’m really looking forward to reading it! Keep your eyes out, I promise I will post a full review as soon as I can.
I’ve also been rereading “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie and YES, I do plan to go see the new movie in November. I own the 1974 version, and while I don’t favor it as much as “And Then There Were None” and “Death on the Nile” it does have its merits.
I’d love to hear from you! Comment below and share with me and other readers the new book releases you’re anxiously awaiting. I’m always looking to add to by TBR pile. If you’re an Agatha Christie fan like me, are you planning to see the new “Murder on the Orient Express” movie? Tell me in the comments.
So actually I wasn’t really gone, just away from the blog because of my freelance work and because I was doing a THING.
Very glad you asked.
I made the monumental decision (cue fluttery heartbeat) to enter Pitch Wars for the first time. If you’ve never heard of Pitch Wars it’s a THING, a huge thing. An amazing thing. With amazing people and truly one of the most supportive communities of writers.
Direct from Brenda Drake’s site:
“Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better. Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to four mentors who best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the one writer they want to mentor for the next two months.”
Click here to read the full scoop and be sure to peep around Brenda’s site to learn even more cool stuff about Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and more.
So if you’re a writer with an unpublished manuscript, this may be just the THING for you, especially if you’re at the stage where you’re thinking about querying.
And in case you were wondering, I entered my YA fantasy, LIES & MAGIC. Fingers and other digits crossed in hopes of being chosen by a mentor, but, seriously, I learned so much from the process and have connected with so many amazing people. It’s a win just for all that!
Keep your eyes out for more book reviews as I get back on my normal schedule. I’m currently reading A.L. Tait’s second book in her “The Mapmaker Chronicles.” That review will be up soon.
I’m very excited today to have author B.K. Boes guest posting. I had the privilege of meeting her last November at a writer’s conference and was blown away by her vision as an epic fantasy writer and her passion for writing. She agreed to sit down and share her process for writing, editing, and even how to find an illustrator. Regardless if you’re newer to this business of novel writing and publishing or more experienced, this post is chock full of great information!
Behind the Scenes of an Epic Fantasywith B.K. Boes
In today’s world, especially in the independent publishing crowd, you’re going to hear a lot of advice about writing fast. And I mean super speed. I’ve met people who can crank out a romance novel or space opera first draft in three days. And that’s awesome. But it’s not me, and that’s okay.
Here’s the advice I’d give you: write the first draft as fast as you can. Take into account your life circumstances and priorities. I’m a homeschooling mom. I work part-time online. My husband is a minister in a local church, which means I host people in my home many evenings. I run a local writer’s group, and I teach a homeschool high school creative writing class. I’m also working on building my writing career.
I simply can’t pump out books like a full-time author. Or even a part-time author with no kids in the picture. And, again, that’s okay.
So, here I am, a busy woman with a full life trying to write an epic fantasy series. In the last five years, I’ve written the first drafts of five books in this series, plus a spin-off book or two. Currently, I’ve brought the first book in the series, Mother of Rebellion, almost to the end of its production.
My Process Start to Finish
Since I’m independently publishing my series (the benefits of which and my choice to do so could be another post all together), my process of bringing a book from conception to publication looks different than traditional publication. It will also look different from other indie publishers. It’s tailored to who I am. But, maybe you can find something helpful in it, so here it is:
Idea forms. Write a few short stories with the main characters as protagonists. Do a crap ton of world-building. This step can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
Plot out basic plot points, probably using The Hero’s Journey. This shouldn’t take more than a day or two. It’s not carved in stone. You can change it later.
Write the first draft. This shouldn’t take forever. In fact, I suggest trying to get the first draft finished in less than two months. Why? 1) Your first draft will probably suck no matter how long it takes you to write it. 2) Your first draft will probably change. A lot. 3) Laboring over words/themes/pacing is better done in revision. So, give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. Just accept the fact that it won’t be close to perfect, turn off your internal editor, write the draft, and move on to revisions.
If major changes took place between plotting out my book and finishing the first draft, sometimes I will take a day to replot my new story direction to make sure that I’m hitting all the correct markers.
Write the second draft. For me, I have to fill out the story a lot. I write bare bones on first draft and then add in on revisions. Some writers overwrite on the first draft and have to cut a lot of material in revisions. This will just depend on who you are as a writer. It would be a good idea to start getting some feedback at this point via a writer’s group. Complete the second draft as fast as you
Alpha readers. These are other writers or very critically thinking readers who can tear your story apart and help you put it back together in a better way. This will, of course, depend on how fast your alpha readers are. I have two, and it took them about a month. In the meantime, I took a step back from that story and wrote a first draft of another book.
Third draft changes based on alpha reader comments. I look for consistency, pacing, world-building (enough/too little?), story timeline, character distinction, etc., and I bring the book up to the best quality I can on my own. The third draft for me might take a couple of passes. I might separate out the multiple point of view characters into their own word documents and edit one character at a time.
At this point I would hire a developmental editor. More on that later.
Fourth draft based on comments of developmental editor.
Send off to a line editor. More on that later.
Fifth draft based on comments by line editor.
Send off to a proofreader.
Sixth draft based off of proofreading.
At this point, I’d send off to beta readers. These guys are going to read through your book and give you a reader’s perspective. They should be able to catch any last minute, smaller changes that need to be made.
During the last few stages, I’d hire a cover designer and map illustrator. More on that later.
Seventh draft based off of anything beta readers caught.
Once I have my illustrations and cover, it’s time to send it off to a professional formatter for the print version of the book. You can also hire for the ebook version, but you can also do it yourself on Vellum (Mac) or Jutoh (PC).
Finally! It’s time to publish!
Now let’s talk about some of the leg work involved in hiring professionals to help you make your book top notch.
How to Find an Editor
There are three types of editors I recommend.
Developmental Editor. This is big picture editing. They’ll look at the structure of your book, plot holes, find inconsistencies or unbelievable moments, check for character development and consistency, comment on pacing, and look for overall themes. This is the most expensive type of editing. You can probably get away with not hiring a developmental editor if you absolutely cannot afford one. However, if you decide not to hire a developmental editor, make sure you have super smart and capable Alpha readers and get as many of them as you can.
Line Editor. This is line by line editing. They’ll look for smaller scale craft of writing issues such as structure on a chapter, paragraph and/or sentence level. They will suggest better, smoother prose. They’ll help you make your voice consistent, and make sure that nothing is confusing for the reader.
Proofreader. This is purely technical. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, mistyped words, missing words, and things like that.
Now, when I was looking for editors, I took it very, very seriously. I believe that if I am going to pay for these services, it better be worth it. The last thing I want is to get back my manuscript and find that I wasted my money.
Making a list of editors
Word of mouth recommendations is very valuable. Network with other authors. Ask for their recommendations, and follow up if they give you an editor’s information. Begin forming a list of editors you wish to query.
Research editors who specialize in your genre. Google is your friend. Legitimate editors normally have websites with testimonials, rates, guidelines, and lists of books they’ve edited. Add those that interest you to your list. Query them to ask for recommendations from past clients.
Take a look at your favorite indie books in your genre. Often times they will credit their editor on the copyright page or in their acknowledgments. Add these names to your list and find their contact information.
Gather a large list of editors. Really do your research. I had more than 3 dozen editors on my original list.
Whittle Down Your List
Are they not affordable? Then mark them off the list.
Do they offer a sample edit? If not, mark them off the list.
When you look at the books they’ve edited on amazon/goodreads/etc, do you see a lot of comments in the lower rated reviews that specifically comment on editing? Mark them off the list. Don’t skip this step. This is how you confirm their track record.
Send out samples for them to edit based on their individual guidelines. Are they unprofessional? Mark them off the list. Do they fail to respect you as the author in their edits? Mark them off the list. Do you have the feeling you won’t work well together as you communicate? Mark them off. Do they try to rewrite your story? Mark them off. Do they have hateful comments instead of constructive ones? Mark them off.
Whittle your list down to less than 5 editors that you would be glad to work with and you think you can afford.
Which One to Hire?
This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I whittled my 36+ list of editors down to three or four, and I chose the cheapest one in the end. Your decision might be based off of something else, and that’s fine.
How to find an Illustrator
There are two ways to get a cover. You can hire an artist to create original artwork (which is often times expensive), or you can hire a company like Deranged Doctor Designs to make you a cover out of stock photos. This is definitely the more affordable option.
But original art may still be needed for other things. I hired an artist to create my cover illustration, and I’ve hired NA Studio Designs to give me unique chapter headings for each of my point of view characters, create maps for my book, and create some promotional materials.
The process of finding an illustrator is similar to finding an editor. The steps for making a list of illustrators or cover designers is the same, except you can add this: Search websites like DeviantArt and Carbon Made and even Fiverr. For maps, you can also check out The Cartographer’s Guild. These sites enable you to contact artists individually. You might have to query to find out if they even create artwork for book covers, but these are the places you can find some really great artists.
Tips for Working with Illustrators and Cover Designers
If working with stock, it is VERY important that you make sure they have the licenses to use said stock photos. Also, I like to run a Google image search when considering buying a premade book cover to see if the image has already been used in my genre in a similar way on a book cover.
If the artist isn’t professional and timely, don’t work with them. It’s a huge headache. And often times it falls through anyway. Your best bet is using someone with a track record and business already up and running.
When hiring for map illustrations, you’ll have to give them a rough sketch up front. Research map making. Model your map after real world places so that the geography makes sense. Have a rough sketch ready to go before you query.
Ask for recommendations from artists, just as you would for editors. Talk to previous clients about how smooth or not smooth the process was for them. You can find out a lot by just talking to people.
There is a lot to learn when planning to independently publish your book, but it is totally possible. And you can make your book indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. So, I encourage you to go. Write awesome stories. Produce top quality, professionally edited books. Put together beautiful eBooks and print books, and be proud of the product you’ve made.
Good luck, and remember, your process is yours. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. So find out what works for you and own it.
B.K. Boes is an epic fantasy writer, working on publishing her first novel, Mother of Rebellion, the first book in the Leyumin Divided Saga. She is a wife, and mother of two. Writing has always been a part of her life, but within the last four to five years has she begun to take it more seriously. Since then, she’s written six books, and her first is nearly ready to publish.
Excited and happy to announce I have an amazing author guest posting today! Please welcome Sheri Williams — author, voracious reader, amazing mom and wife, and someone I’m very privileged to call a friend. I’m going to launch into her post right away, but be sure to stick around because I’ve got all the links posted at the end for how you can find her and her books.
Don’t Piss Off the Author!
It is a well known fact that you don’t piss off an author. Because if you do such a thing, they will invariably kill you in horrible, terrible, no good ways. Possibly multiple times. I mean, they sell shirts and mugs and posters with this very fact on it. I mean in general, you shouldn’t go out of your way to piss off anyone. It’s just not good practice. I’m a firm believer in karma, and if you send out hate to the world, it’s going to multiply it x3 and you’re going to land smack on your ass wondering why the universe is out to get you.
But that is a whole other blog post. I’m going to talk today about how pissing off an author might lead them to a whole new story idea based on how they can kill you in fiction. No seriously. It’s going to happen. Public death for the crime of ignorance. That’s how I decided to kill the person who pissed me off. And it sparked a whole new world that I’m working on building. A whole world where if you are willfully ignorant you could be sentenced to death. A world where knowledge is power and we all know power corrupts, but can knowledge? I can’t wait to find out as I delve more into the world building.
I’ve only dug a little bit into what I want for this new world, but I’m already fascinated. And I really hope that after I finish what I’m writing now, then finish the other half written book I’m sitting on, and then write a sequel to a short that I’ve been asked about twice then, and only then will I get to delve deeper into the new world. I’m interested to see what I might come up with. Right now I have one character. She is Honor, the nun. That’s it, but it’s a start. And I have worked with much less before.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Many, many thanks to Sheri for taking the time to share this today! I’m really intrigued with this idea — a world where there’s public death for the crime of ignorance. This will be a fun if not disturbing read, and I love that! So, if you’re looking for Sheri you can find her here at: thesheriwilliams.com.
Last week I had the privilege of guest posting on author Sheri Williams’ blog. I talked about my writer’s “word-of-the-year” the one word that pretty much sums things up for me — the one word I keep muttering to myself on the days when I’m tired, frustrated, and the words won’t flow or are non-existent.
Below is a teaser about my post. If you want to read more and find out what word is on my writer’s mind. Please hope over to the blog of author Sheri Williams.
===== The Word of the Day & the Year is . . . =====
According to Statistic Brain, 41% of all Americans usually make a New Year’s resolution. Honestly, I would have thought that number to be higher, definitely over half maybe into the sixtieth percentile at least. To me, it seems like as soon as January 1 hits there’s the onslaught of blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates talking about or listing what they’re going to change/improve/eradicate in the new year.
Did you make a resolution for 2017? Are you in the process of working towards that resolution or as we move into the final days of January, has the oomph gone out of your resolve? . . .
The calendar reads October 31, which in most homes means Halloween fun — candy, costumes, scary movies/books, and more candy. In the homes of many writer’s it means NaNo Eve. What’s that? Why it’s the night before NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. In some parts of the world it’s already November 1 and the keystrokes are flying as writers work to get their word counts in for the first official day of NaNo.
Last week, I wrote a guest post over at the Writing Wenches about deciding to participate in NaNo for 2016. I called it: To NaNo or Not To NaNo. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to get in on National Novel Writing Month, check out my post.