7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy My Books

Seven Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy My Books

Now that I’ve been a published author for one full year, and I’ve spent these last twelve months marketing, blogging, and tweeting about why you should buy my books, I think it’s time to get real with you. I want to save you all the trouble. It’s time to tell you why you shouldn’t buy my books.

7 – I’m an indie author

Yes, it’s true—I’m an independent author. I don’t have an agent, I don’t have a publisher, and I pay for the production of my books up front. By now we’ve all seen, and maybe even read, at least one train wreck of a self-published book. It might have soured your opinion of indie books altogether, and I don’t blame you. But I can promise you that professional editors, cover designers, and formatters have worked on my books. While no books, not even traditionally published books, are entirely free of errors, I have taken every step possible to provide the best quality product for my readers.

But . . . if you think indie authors are just traditional publishing rejects, and have no talent to make it in the business, DON’T BUY MY BOOKS.

6 – I’m not famous

Only my dad and my friend’s six-year-old son think I’m famous. To everyone else I’m just another author trying to sell my wares. I’ve never made the NYT Bestsellers list, I’ve never been asked to speak at a writer’s convention, and I’m guessing the cease and desist letter I got from HBO means they’re not interested in adapting my novels. Okay, that last point wasn’t true, but you get my what I’m saying.

I might not have a long list of dedicated readers waiting in line at Barnes and Noble for my latest release, but one year into being a published author I do have a growing fan base. I’ve even received quite a few emails from readers all over the world, writing just to tell me how much they liked one of my books. So while I may not be famous in the conventional sense of the word, sometimes my readers make me feel famous.

If my “nobody” status bothers you, and you’d rather read a book from a well-known author with rave reviews, DON’T BUY MY BOOKS.

5 – I’m a shameless rule breaker. I break 6 of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Somebody should stop me right now!

I must confess, I’ve always been one to bend the rules, but when it comes to my writing, I happily take those rules and break them whenever I damn well please. It’s not that I don’t know what the rules are. I know them very well. But if I want to use an adverb, a variety of dialog tags, or describe a setting, then I’m going to do it! I’m mindful of how and when I use them, but I can assure you, you’ll find broken rules scattered throughout my books. It’s like a rule graveyard in there.

So if you’re a stern believer in the rules of writing, please, DON’T BUY MY BOOKS.

4 – They’re not free

With the digital publishing age, millions of books are at our fingertips, and many of these digital books are free. Why would anyone want to pay money for my books when they can get a similar book for free?

You see, the trouble is that I don’t want to give my books away. Yes, I love writing. Yes, I would continue to write books even if no one wanted to read them. And yes, occasionally I will offer a title free for a day or two. But if I’m going to have fancy covers, editors, and formatters, I have to justify the cost of production with at least a marginal return on my investment. The good news is that, so far, I’ve earned more money than I put out to produce my books, which tells me I must be doing something right.

But if you’re offended that I’m asking you to pay to read my work, or if you’re irritated that any of my books cost more than 99 cents, DO. NOT. BUY. MY BOOKS. Like, ever.

3 – I like cliffhangers.

I love them! And while I don’t always employ the hard-hitting, mid-scene-cutting cliffhanger, I like to leave the door open for the next book. In some of my books I wrap up the main story and leave a teaser for the next, in others I leave some unfinished business. It’s just the way I write and if you’re going to read my books, be prepared for a cliff here and there.

The good news is that if you’re not too enraged by my cliffhanger, you can always go on to read the next book in the series. I promise the answers you seek will be right there.

But if you can’t stand a cliffhanger, and you would prefer a series to be a two-thousand-page book, then I warn you, DO NOT BUY MY BOOKS.

2 – Some people don’t like them.

If you’re still reading this post, then you’re either a glutton for punishment, or I haven’t done a good enough job of convincing you not to buy my books. This should do it: there are people who HATE my books. It’s true. My books have gotten one and two star reviews; endings have been called trite, characters unconvincing, and it has been stated that certain plots make no sense at all. Some people hated my books so much they couldn’t even get through them. To some people, my books are just that awful.

I guess I should quit torturing the world with my vapid prose and one-dimensional characters, but like any visionary mind, I’m driven by my passion and positive feedback. For every negative review my books receive, there are double, and even triple the positive reviews. For example, The Darkness of Light has a 4.7 average star rating on Amazon, and a 56% 5 star rating on Goodreads. And despite the horror show that some claim this book to be, people still keep buying it. Weird. I wonder when the world will catch on to my failures and stop encouraging me. 😉

So be forewarned, if you don’t want a book that some people don’t like, DON’T BUY ANY OF MY BOOKS.

Are you still with me? If so, this should be the nail in the coffin for you . . .

1 – I didn’t write these books for you. I wrote them for me.

I’ve tried to write them for you. I really have. But it’s never worked out. Initially, my debut novel, The Darkness of Light, was merely the result of a crazed mission to claw my way out of writer’s block. As I wrote chapter after chapter, publication was never on my mind. I was just happy to be writing again and completely in love with the story. It wasn’t until after I’d finished writing it that I started to consider publication.

The same is true with all my other books, even if the genre is a popular one. I started writing The Embers of Light with reader expectations in mind, but when I kept hitting brick walls I decided to stop focusing on what my readers expected, and focused on the story I wanted to tell. That’s the only way I can write. I’m sorry. And I swear that if no one ever bought another one of my books again, I would still want to write them.

So if you want something tailored specifically to reader expectations, DON’T BUY MY BOOKS. I guarantee they won’t always follow the guidelines of the genre, they won’t all have happy endings, and they won’t be predictable. If you can’t put it down, that’s not my fault. I warned you.

Here are the covers of the books you shouldn’t buy, just in case you get lured in by the pretty covers and intriguing blurbs. It’s happened to quite a few people, and I wouldn’t want you to fall victim as well. You might end up loving them and hating me for it. 😉

AllBooksAnd if that’s not enough, you can add this Amazon page to your block list.

The Indie/Traditional Debate. Can’t We All Just Get Along?

You’re not the cool kid.

If you’re an indie author, I think you’ve figured out by now that we’re the underdogs, the gnats in traditional publishing’s ear, and the ones the traditionally published kids don’t want to sit with in the cafeteria.

I came in to the publishing game with rose colored glasses, a positive attitude, and a love for the supportive writing community I’d found. More than one year later the rose colored glasses are off, and I’m well aware that members of the “community” I loved so very much are often sneering at us behind our backs.

I don’t mean to say all traditional authors minimize the accomplishments of indie authors. There are many who genuinely cheer us on, showcase our books, congratulate us when we have success, and happily share the road with us.

But the judgment of indie authors is everywhere, and it’s getting harder to ignore.

I remember once seeing a tweet from an agent that said something like: Just sent a request and found out the author recently self-published. If only they’d been more patient.

People favorited this tweet and responded with euphemisms about patience, and persistence, when what they really meant was, “You idiot, you self-published when you should have waited for the right agent!”

My first thought when I saw that tweet was, “What if the author is happy with their decision?”

After I self-published The Darkness of Light I got requests from two agents. I had some discussions with these agents, exploring my options, but at no point during those interactions was I kicking myself for not waiting. When I made the decision to be an indie author, I did it wholeheartedly and without looking back. By then I’d already discovered the power I had over my career, the advantage I had over traditional publishing (mainly time and control), and the freedom to do exactly what I wanted.

There are bullies and if you speak up, they’ll target you.

If any of you follow me on twitter, you might recall the event I refer to as “Twittergate”, the day twitter FREAKED out on me. This was the day I realized our writing community was full of piranhas, and trust me—I got chewed up! During a twitter contest I’d observed some things that, I felt, came across as arrogant. I was reacting to the way some authors were criticizing entries with such detail the entrants were sure to know it was their entry being discussed. My reaction came from a place of empathy, not weakness. I wasn’t suggesting they sugarcoat things for authors in their (private) feedback. I wasn’t under the impression that this business is easy. What bothered me was the attitude with which these authors judged their peers.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” –Abraham Lincoln.

I tweeted my opinion and within one minute my timeline blew up! I couldn’t keep up with the tweets coming at me. Some agreed with me (I got a lot of supportive DMs because people were afraid of the backlash), some respectfully disagreed with me, and many others were downright nasty. I even got a DM from a very well known tweeter who had some particularly offensive things to say to me. She’s lucky I have enough restraint not to out her. Maybe I should have, but I’d rather let her dig her own grave.

Anyway, during the flurry of tweets aimed at me that day, it became clear that the general assumption was that I was a bitter author who’d been rejected by the traditional world and was now taking shots at traditional authors whenever I could.

I have a pretty thick skin. I can take rejection, bad reviews, and harsh critiques. What really got to me that day, and what really made me sad, was the realization that I was an outsider. It didn’t matter that I had a book published and was part of the same community. With The Darkness of Light I worked hard to make sure my book went through the same filters and received the same care as a traditionally published book. But that day, when twitter lost its mind on me, none of that mattered. Because I was an indie author, I wasn’t an author, and my opinion—my voice—was insignificant.

If books are fishes, and Amazon is the ocean, we’re all swimming in it together.

It sometimes seems the traditionally published world is unhappy they have to share space with lowly self-publishers. It must be frustrating to see your book—your edited, beautifully covered, extensively marketed baby— sitting next to something your neighbor’s cousin wrote on a Thursday and uploaded to Amazon on a Friday.

It must drive you insane that all the self-published dino porn books, or books that got rejected so many times the author had no other choice but to self-publish, are sitting in the same waters as your perfect novel. After all, self-published authors are destroying literature, right?

NOT.

There were crappy books long before indie authors stepped onto the scene, and if we all disappeared tomorrow, there would still be crappy books published every single day.

But here’s the thing— indie doesn’t mean crappy. Many of us take a lot of pride in our work. We nurture our books the same way a publishing house would. Sure, we often price our books lower, but that doesn’t mean our work is less valuable. It simply means there are no publishers or agents taking a cut of our work, giving us the ability to price our books competitively.

Let’s face it, while we all want to see our books in bookstores, Amazon is the largest online bookseller in the world. If bookstores are the streams, Amazon is the ocean, and guess what—we’re all swimming in it.

I recently saw an agented (but yet to be published) author call a fellow author’s decision to self-publish “puzzling.” I’ll bet that when the agented author’s book comes out in 2018, there will be even more successful indie authors, and even more hybrid authors swimming in the same ocean with him.

Don’t let them make you feel inferior.

“It matters not what you are thought to be, but what you are.” – Publilius Syrus

As I said earlier, there are many traditional authors who support indie authors and believe in their achievements. As indie authors we are marketing experts, have a network of editors, cover artists, formatters, and bloggers willing to help us create a product we can be proud of. It’s a lot of work to be an indie author, and our traditionally published friends know and respect our efforts.

There will always be the naysayers; the ones who tell you you’re not good enough because you didn’t take the same path that they did. It’s frustrating, and oftentimes, it hurts. But when you come across one of these cynics, don’t take their judgments to heart. Just because they say you’ve settled by becoming indie, doesn’t make it true. If you have readers, your book sells, and you feel good about the career path you’ve chosen, take the high road, because there are plenty of people willing to take the low road.

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Forging Your Own Path As An Indie-Author.

It’s been quiet over here on my blog lately. If you’ve missed me, I’m sorry. If you haven’t, then I really need to step up my game. 🙂

The reason I’ve been quiet and haven’t had any nuggets of wisdom to impart is because I’ve been a little lost myself lately.

Sometime between writing my sequel and now, I had an epiphany that has me rethinking my strategy as an author, and questioning my goals. When I first wanted to see The Darkness of Light published, I did what many of us do and I queried agents. I read everything I could about publishing, agents, sales, writing…basically anything that would help me mold my book into a marketable, successful piece of fiction.

But when I couldn’t find the right agent and decided to become an indie author, there was a problem forming that I wasn’t able to see until now.

THE GOAL

The goal of most authors is to write books. Have people read those books. And make money from those books.

That was my mission when publishing THE DARKNESS OF LIGHT. I’ve said before that one mistake I made with that book was taking advice about the content, and changing it to fit a certain industry standard. I thought I was doing the right thing, since the advice was coming from someone in the traditional publishing industry. I wanted my book to stand next to any other book you might find on store shelves.

THE PROBLEM

What that advice actually did was water down my novel and cut out things that were important to readers. It became clear once the reviews started coming in that readers wanted the things I was told to cut out. Interesting, isn’t it?

So once I began to write the sequel, THE EMBERS OF LIGHT, I was much more open-minded about content and less likely to cut certain things that may have been cut by a publisher. I still used beta-readers and a content editor, but we were all aware of the issues with the last book and were able to work with less restrictions. We’ll see how that pans out once Embers is released, but I already feel more confident that the story is complete.

In the last year, as I’ve learned to balance book promotion, writing, and growth as an author, I’ve begun to form opinions about publishing as a whole. A lot of the advice I see on Twitter and other social media platforms is geared towards the traditionally published novel. There are so many rules thrown around that it’s hard to keep up: No prologues, keep word count low, avoid characters with dead parents, overly strong heroines, overly weak heroines, no love triangles, no vampires, no werewolves, no cliffhangers, etc… The list really does go on, and on, and on. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with it all, and I feel bad for writers just starting out. They’ll have to learn what works for them and what doesn’t, just like I’ve had to.

THE LIGHT BULB WENT ON

I’ve had many conversations with my indie-author friends about the state of publishing and the comparison between the indie and traditional world. What I’ve realized is that if we want to be indie-authors, we need to STOP comparing ourselves with traditional publishing! I am an indie author by choice. I wanted to control my books and my own career. I’ve said it many times: I have NO regrets about choosing this path. What I do regret is confining myself within the parameters of a branch of industry I don’t belong to.

If my goal is: Write books, have people read my books, and make money from those books, then I’ve been going about things the wrong way. I’ve been killing myself trying to follow a guideline set by the traditional world. Why? Why should indie authors not write about things the traditional world deems overdone, when there are hoards of niche market readers spending buckets of money each day to buy these books? An indie-author writing within traditional guidelines is like a person writing Facebook updates in 140 characters because that’s the rules of Twitter. They’re both social media, but they’re different. The rules are different. And the market for each is different.

Take a minute and look up the vampire category on Amazon. Or look up shifters, historical romance, or anything 50 Shades of Grey-ish. Those books are selling! People are buying them like crazy. And while many publishers have decided to abandon those platforms (leaving money on the table) indie-authors are fulfilling that need and (gasp) selling books!

We all want to be respected within our industry. We would love to receive praise and accolades based on our work. I think that’s why indie-authors constantly walk a fine line between traditional rules and reckless abandon when it comes to our books. We don’t want to be the fools of the publishing world. But, for me, walking that line had become such an obsession it started to hamper by creativity. My days became more about following guidelines than letting my imagination rule.

THE RESULT

I wrote a secret book. After talking to a friend who’s having a lot of success in one of these niche-markets, I decided to create something that those readers might like. At first I’d intended to release it under a pen name. I didn’t want anyone turning up their nose if my book failed or if it fell into the “undesirables” category. Knowing that this book would be anonymous was incredibly freeing. And I had so much fun writing it.

But as I wrote, something strange happened– I began to love the characters. I didn’t expect that. And when I read my chapters, I saw myself in that book, heard my voice, and felt connected to the story.

Yes, this is a serialized niche-market novella. Yes, it’s probably never going to win me any awards or million dollar publishing contracts. But I love it, and had more fun writing this book than any other.

THE LESSON

I’ve abandoned my intention to release this book under my pen name and decided that I will own it as Tammy Farrell! I will own the fact that I wrote it and whether it sinks or swims will have no bearing on my future endeavors. I will always write more books. Some people will love them, and some won’t. But as an indie-author, I can release books quickly, I have control over the content, and I can decide for myself what works and what doesn’t. When this secret book is ready to be released, I promise I’ll let you all know. 😉

I have to be true to myself and STOP creating things limited by rules that don’t even apply to me. Writing is art. And art should never have any limits.

So the point of the story, friends, is that if you want to be an indie author, OWN IT! Embrace it. Bend the rules however you want and don’t let anyone’s opinion create doubt in your mind.

You will find success by forging your own path, and learning from experience. If you write a book about ghost accountants, and you find readers aren’t interested in them, then write something else. You have the power in your hands. That’s the beauty of being an indie-author. The possibilities are truly endless.

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Writers Need Writer Friends.

I don’t know where I’d be right now without my writer friends. This time last year I’m not sure I had many, if any at all, and it wasn’t until I made friends who were writers, that I realized the value in having a strong support system while navigating the world of publishing.

I’ve never been good at making friends. I prefer to stay away from crowds, the idea of busy conferences terrifies me, and the intimacy of writers meet-up groups terrifies me even more.

I found my network online through twitter, facebook, and blogging. I’m not sure how it happened, really. I didn’t seek out contacts or other authors to talk to. It kind of just happened naturally, which is how genuine connections are made.

I follow 772 people (mostly writers) on twitter, and of those follows I would say maybe 6-10 of them have become great friends. Many of them I talk to daily, sometimes several times a day. We discuss our challenges with writing and publishing, share ideas, lift each other up when one is feeling down, and support each others work.

It’s an amazing thing to have someone to reach out to when you’re doubting yourself. And it feels nice to have someone reach out to you for help in return.

If you’re out there swimming in social media, trying to make a writing career for yourself, make sure to take a break from book promo once in a while and just talk to people. You never know who you might meet, or how that person may impact your writing life.

I imagine it would be a pretty lonely journey without a shoulder to lean on once in a while.

 

** Don’t forget about The Darkness of Light signed paperback giveaway**

Tweet me “Enter” @TamzWrite to enter (announcing this Friday) & sign up on Goodreads for a chance to win one of two more copies! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/90108-the-darkness-of-light

 

 

Dealing With Writer’s Block

On my blog tour one of the most common questions I got asked was, how do I deal with writer’s block? I know writer’s block well. I’ve had small bouts of it, I’ve had a three year stretch of it, and I’m dealing with a tiny bit of it right now, well, maybe it’s more like a slow down than a total blockage, but it’s still frustrating.

I think in order to deal with writer’s block, it’s best to understand what causes it in the first place. For me, I’ve found I get writer’s block for two reasons.

  1. The scene/story isn’t right and I am refusing to change it.
  2. I have disconnected from my emotions, making it impossible to feel passionate about what I’m writing.

When I find myself experiencing writer’s block, I first have to determine which cause I’m dealing with. If the scene isn’t right, I try something new. Sometimes the solution is as simple as writing the scene from another character’s perspective. Other times I have to let go of the chapter, go to my notebook, and re-plot the story.

Emotional issues are a lot harder to overcome. If I feel disconnected from the story, I have to figure out why. Am I upset about something? Is there something I don’t want to face? Am I not connecting with the characters or the plot because there’s no truth in it? When this is the case, it’s important for me NOT to force myself to write. They say a writer should write everyday, but when I am struggling to get words out, the last thing I want to do if frustrate myself more.

When it’s an emotional issue keeping me from writing, I try to embrace it and take a step back. This is my mind telling me that I need to take a break, inspire myself, and recharge. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this is to read. Writers NEED to read in order to write. So I will make an extra effort to read something I love that makes me excited about telling stories. I read books from authors I admire, and books that make me wish I’d written them myself.

I also take time to watch movies that inspire me. While I’d love to sit and watch a Mad Men marathon, I’m a fantasy writer and chances are I will gain nothing from Don Draper and his cigarette smoking dalliances. I watch historical movies, fantasy movies, and nearly anything on the history channel.

Once I take a step back from writing, I find the itch to write comes back pretty quickly, and I usually wait until the itch is so strong that I can’t wait to sit down and continue with my manuscript.

If none of that helps, you can always try some of these terrible ideas…

  1. Get drunk (Maybe not such a bad idea).
  2. Rewrite the ending to Lord of the Rings.
  3. Scrap your entire project and decide to become an impressionist painter.
  4. Spend your days on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Call every person who ever told you that you couldn’t write to tell them they were right.
  6. Quit writing forever.

So, as you can see, dealing with your writer’s block is probably a better idea than ignoring it.

How do YOU deal with writer’s block?

 

How I Write a Second Draft

Whether you’re a veteran author or new to the writing game, getting to the end of that first draft is a major accomplishment. You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years toiling away in a caffeine fueled ocean of excitement, self-doubt, and determination to get a finished manuscript. But you did it! You have a completed, (possibly disorganized) first draft. Now is the time to break out the champagne and celebrate, because in the coming weeks, you’ll learn just how much more work lies ahead.

This is a follow up to the post: How Did You Write a Book?

How I Write a Second Draft

Before I Begin the Rewrites

“Put your work in a drawer and walk away.” You may have heard this tip before, but I’ve come to realize that setting your work aside for a while is VERY important. It’s always hard for me to do this, but I know that taking a step back from it, even for a couple of weeks, will give me some perspective on the story. Plus, it’s a good time to recharge my writing muscles. I read books, watch movies that inspire me and do some research if needed.

Revision Prep

The first read through – This is the part I dislike the most. It’s the part where I realize just how much work I still have to do. After I’ve had a little time away from my manuscript, the first read through can either surprise me or horrify me. I might love a chapter so much that if feels like I didn’t write it at all, and then others might make me cringe so bad that I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I’m sure this happens to a lot of authors, so I’m just gonna go ahead and assume I’m not alone here.

The mantra “Let it Go” – I prepare myself ahead of time to let things go. Nothing is written in stone at this stage and everything is subject to deletion. As a rule, I never write the last few chapters of a novel in a first draft for two reasons: 1. Even though I know how the story will end, I feel like ending it in the first draft is bad luck, and 2. I don’t want to have to cut and ending this early on. By not writing the ending, I am totally open to changing it if need be.

Revisions

Once my manuscript is all marked with red pen and looks like a crime scene, it’s time to start writing. At this point I know what I like and dislike about the story, and I have a good idea what needs to be cut, what needs more work and what needs to be added to round out the book.

Full rewrite – I’m not a fan of copy and paste and once I write a draft, I don’t continue working in the original document (*note – I write each chapter as a separate document). Instead I print off the pages and start a new folder called “2nd draft”. From this point I rearrange the printed chapters into a new order and begin the long process of typing. But this isn’t simply a copy job; this is an elaboration on the existing work. Sometimes I keep many paragraphs without adding much, other times I start from scratch, knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the scene. My favorite part of revisions is the completely new chapters I get to add. These are fun because I know the story well enough to create the chapter with subtle plot hints, more character development, and maybe even some new challenges for the characters. Ever wonder how an author makes so many things connect throughout a book? How they added so many hints? This happens in the rewrites.

For me, the second draft manuscript is still in the development stages. That’s important to remember. I am still “writing” the book, not editing. It is NOT finished yet.

Once I’ve rewritten the entire book to the point that most of it makes sense and most of the plot holes are closed up, I write the last chapters. At this stage I should feel confident enough to let someone else read it. But I also keep in mind that I may still need to cut and rewrite once fresh eyes have been on it. The purpose of a second draft (for me, anyway) is not to have a final product, but to make it readable to others.

 

Beta-readers and the Developmental Edit

This is the scary part. Other people are going to be reading your work. Some writers use beta-readers (other writers or friends who give feedback on your work) or they can also use a professional developmental editor (usually a published author, agent, or someone working in the publishing industry.)

For my sequel, Julie Hutchings will be doing my developmental edit. I will send the manuscript to her and wait. While this can be an anxious time for a writer, I try to use it as a break. I go back to reading or start writing something unrelated to my series. Once I get notes back from the developmental edit I will read through them, consider them carefully, make notes and then, after taking some time to think, I will rewrite for the last time, hopefully.

I hope this helps anyone stuck on a 2nd draft. Just keep in mind that it’s not over yet, but you’re so close you can’t give up now! You have all the pieces to the puzzle; you just have to keep rearranging them until they create a beautiful picture.

Stay tuned for a 3rd draft post, which will include details on the copy-editing stage.

How 12 Different Authors Write a First Draft.

I have an AMAZING post for you today! Since there was such a huge response to my “How Did You Write a Book” post, I started to wonder how my experience differs from other writers. I was lucky enough to pick the brains of some incredible authors to find out how they write their first drafts. Writing a first draft is the first and MOST important step to becoming a published author and it can also the hardest.

The questions each author was asked:

  1. How long does it take you to write a first draft?
  2. What does your first draft writing process look like?
  3. What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

The authors answering these burning questions are: Lane Heymont, Becket, Kristen Strassel, Summer Wier, Brenda Drake, Greg Wilkey, Jamie Grey, Melody Winter, Kat Ellis, Julie Hutchings, Mark Mathews and Louise D. Gornall.

They come from different backgrounds, write in different genres, and as you will see, have their own unique way of approaching a first draft; no two ways are the same. So whether you’re just trying to finish your first novel, or you’re a seasoned author crying coffee-streaked tears over your latest manuscript, remember—it’s different for everyone.

Lane Heymont

@LaneHeymont

 Lane

Lane is a literary assistant at The Seymour agency. He is also the author of The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff published by Sunbury Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Writing a first draft, for me, is always a unique experience. Depending on the book and the amount of research needed to portray the world as realistic as possible a first draft could take me from two months to six months.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I didn’t outline my first book and overall found it to be a gigantic pain in the rear end. Not to mention it took longer to write than I’d like to admit. So, after that experience I outlined everything from character appearance to minute conversations. It worked well for me, and my second book was done in two months. Amazing, really. As for research, I don’t usually do any until I actually start writing. I find it easier to research something once I get to the point where I need to know, and then I dive into my dozens of books (already bought) to answer even the smallest question.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

It’s funny that I struggled to answer this question. I thought about it for a long time, and then finally decided. ADD. I swear I have it, because I write for a few hours, and then start thinking how the sunlight glistens off the street outside my office window. I sit there for twenty minutes, thinking about those pine trees out there and how funny my Maltese looks as he stares at the same tree. You can see even now I’m rambling on, thus my stumbling block. How do I overcome it? Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I recently discovered Starbucks’ blonde brew, which is hyper-loaded with caffeine. That sets me straight for hours. Also, if Starbucks would like me to promote them I would gladly do so. *smiles wickedly*

Becket

@iBecket

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Becket is the personal assistant to international bestselling author Anne Rice. Becket is also the indie-author of the popular YA series, The Blood Vivicanti, and his children’s book series, Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

The length of time it takes to write the first draft of my novels depends on two goals: (1) a long-term word count goal, and (2) a short-term word count goal.

My long-term word count goal is the length that I would like the book to be by the end of the first draft. That word count always changes when the novel is finally finished. But by the end of my first draft, I make it my long-term goal to write a set amount of words.

My short-term word count goal is how many words I would like to write in a day. This can vary from day-to-day, sometimes I hit the mark on the head, sometimes I’m shy of it, and sometimes I write twice as much as I set out. But as long as I can come close to achieving my short-term word count goal, then I come even nearer to achieving my long-term word count goal.

I must stress that these two goals must be realistic so that they can be achievable. For instance, if I set out to write my own version of In Search of Lost Time in six months, while also writing 10,000 words a day, then I’ve set two highly unrealistic goals for myself. I must set a long term word count goal that I know I can achieve while at the same time also setting a short-term word count goal. Once these are set, then I start writing.

So to answer the question: If my long-term goal is 30,000 words, and my short-term goal is 1000 words a day, I would write the first draft in a month’s time. This happens often, and usually I’m finished writing a first draft of that length before 30 days.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Before I set my two goals – long term and short term – I usually have an idea for a novel.  Once I know what I want to write – whether it is a short story, a novella, or a novel – then I set my two goals.

To set my long-term word count goal, I look at novels that I like, and that are similar to the idea I’m planning to write. For instance, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is roughly 25,000 words; and the word count for James and the Giant Peach is similar. If I am planning to write a children’s story, I make the long-term goal of my first draft similar to the word count of those two stories.

To set my short-term goal, I base it on my daily ability to write a set amount of words. To do that, I must know myself, what I’m capable and incapable of in any situation, whether I’m feeling well or ill.

For a first time writer, it might be best to set a simple goal. Try writing 100 words a day; see where that takes you. If you can write more, do it. If you need to write fewer words, do that too, and without shame, because writing is an exercise; and the muscles for writing – typing, thinking, and trusting yourself – need to be built up too.

Once I set my two goals, I start writing the story every day according to my short-term goal so that my long-term goal can be achieved.

Lastly, I write my first draft organically. I know roughly where I want the story to go and I know who my characters are because I’ll take the time to write little histories of each. Then I let things happen on the page that entertain me because (and I’ll explain this further in my response to the next question) the first draft is for me; it is for no one else. I write the first draft, and let it flow from me naturally, letting the characters do and say things that I want them to do and say, things that entertain me, every word, sentence, every scene.

If I am bored writing the first draft, then there’s no point in writing. If there are holes in the story and mistakes on the page, that’s all right – I let it happen. I let my first draft be as wild and sloppy as I like. It will get cleaned up, disciplined, and intelligible to others when I edit the story in subsequent drafts.

The whole point is to write, have fun, and meet my goals every day because I want to do what I love and love what I do.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

The main threat to every first draft is that menacing question: “What will people think of my novel, or this scene, or this character?” Asking such a question in the first draft is the undermining of the whole enterprise. The novel will never get written if I allow this question to pester me. Naturally it will arise. However, I put this question out of my head by telling myself the same mantra, it never fails: “This first draft is for you, and you alone, and no one else is going to read it.”

You see, the whole purpose of a first draft is not for someone else to see what I’m doing, but for me to see where I’m going, what I’m saying, and how I’m expressing my idea(s) in the novel.  So I must have and maintain the discipline not to show my first draft to anyone. It won’t make sense to them, especially if the first draft is unfinished.

The purpose of all subsequent drafts is to refine my story, discipline the characters, edit out things that do not help the narrative, and make it an easy and enjoyable read for my readers as well as myself.

Kristen Strassel

@KristenStrassel

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Kristen is the author of the steamy vampire romance novel Because The Night, its YA prequel, Seasons in the Sun, and the soon to be released Night Moves, published by Forward Literary.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I try to get ‘er done in no more than 3 months. With the book I’m currently working on, I’m trying to trim that down to 2. It’s tough.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

For my more recent projects, I’ve had an idea in my head that won’t leave me alone. I write out a rough synopsis, and work on my characters. When the story is speaking to me, I just write whatever it tells me to. Then, I make a list of things that need to happen, or problems that need to be solved. I let the characters drive the story, so it doesn’t always go where I intended for it to. But that’s the fun of it!

For past books, I pulled heavily from life experience, so I didn’t have to do a ton of research. Now I’m branching out, and I tend to research mid draft. That way I can stay specific to what I need, or else I’ll be researching forever.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve written myself into a corner, so I’ll have to go back and zig where I had previously zagged to get out of it. Also, making the characters come alive in the first draft is a challenge. We’re just getting to know each other, so I don’t always have a good feel for them.

Summer Wier

@SummerWier

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Three of Summer’s short stories are soon to appear in a Grimm’s Fairy Tale anthology by Reuts Publishing, and her YA sci-fi manuscript The Shadow of Light is currently making the query rounds.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

This was kind of a tricky question to answer since I don’t get uninterrupted writing time very often. I work from home and my clients are in different time zones, so some days I’m taking calls, sorting through emails, and putting out fires from the minute I wake up until I go to bed. There are also different times of year that allow me to write more than others (April and May are my most productive writing months because tax season is over and my children are still in school).  I utilize nights and weekends as much as possible, without totally ignoring my family, but have yet to nail down a tried and true schedule.  That being said, I can complete a first draft in about three months.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Chaos. Pure chaos. Sometimes I’m a pantser, sometimes I’m a plotter. When I have an idea, I just start writing, and not necessarily at the beginning.  As I mentioned above, sometimes my day is filled with interruptions, but I keep mulling that idea over in my head. Expanding it. Developing it. As I’m doing other things, ideas come to me and I email them to myself.  When I sit down to write, it’s easier to move forward because I’ve already worked the scene out in my head.

With the MS I just finished, I started with one idea and then did a complete 180 after seeing a NASA YouTube video. Incorporating its elements into my MS required a lot of research because I wanted to be as accurate as possible so I could warp the idea in a very realistic way. Even after I worked the science into my story, I still researched frequently as I was writing descriptions for the world I created.

I don’t do much revising while I’m creating a first draft. I’m a picky writer. I’m a slow writer. I sit, think, and work on each sentence as I go. I’m a little OCD, so I can’t just throw word vomit on a page and move on. It drives me nuts.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Anyone that knows me even a little bit knows that WORD COUNTS will be the death of me. I can thank my business degree for teaching how to organize data and list facts. Clear. Concise. Short, sweet and to the point.  Sure, I know how to spruce things up a bit, paint a pretty picture with flowery words and heavenly scents, but I always end up on the low side of the count. I recently tried my hand at short stories, and even then, I really had to push myself to hit a 2,000 word goal. Now that’s not all bad.  It’s my style. It makes me, well me.  And thankfully, I have some amazing CPs and a rocking DE that work with me to beef up sparse areas. More than anything, I think I psych myself out about it. It’s this thing that hangs over me, traps me, inhibits me. Every page I write, every chapter I finish brings a huge sense of accomplishment.  Because holy crap, I made more words.  Going forward, I’m trying to ignore it. Write what I write, knowing that I can go back and add to it. Spruce my story up a bit. And come out with something pretty darn awesome.

Brenda Drake

@BrendaDrake

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Brenda Drake is the well known creator of the twitter pitch wars and contests. She is also the YA author of Library Jumpers, coming 2014.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I’m such a slow reader and writer. It takes me about six weeks to get a draft done. I’m not a messy draft writer. I kind of edit as I go along. I can’t jump around and do other things. Once I start a draft, I can’t stop until I get to the end. It’s too hard for me to stop, doing something else, then return to the draft. This goes with my personality in other things, as well. If I start to paint the house, I don’t rest until it’s finished.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I do a plot graph and work from it. While I’m drafting, I will stop to research things that need to be accurate for the story. I usually have character descriptions to work from for each character, except when new ones invite themselves into the story while I’m drafting, then I’ll sketch them quickly and move on. I do a lot of research of the setting for the book upfront, but everything else happens when I get to something I must research. Setting is important to me, it really gets me into the story, which I have to be careful to not write in too many details. I love to use fun and unique places, like beautiful libraries, for my settings.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

I think just making time to write. I do have more time than others, since I’m a stay-at-home mom with kids that are basically ghosts, but I have the contests and other things pulling me from my goals. So I have to say no to things I’d love to do, but I can do once I’m done. I tend to want to do all the things, so I have to stop myself and put the writing first.

Greg Wilkey

@GWilkey

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Greg is the YA indie-author behind the very popular Mortimer Drake series.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

The first draft takes me about 6 months if I stick to my schedule. If I get distracted or too busy, it can take longer.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I outline and map out certain scenes that I want to happen. I spend a lot of time doing research. I love the research. I can get lost in that step if I am not careful. I do not map out the entire book. I only decide on the beginning and the end. I do not revise until the whole draft is finished. Then I go back and flesh it out. I have learned over the years that I just have to get the story out of my head and onto the page. Once that’s finished, I can really work some magic.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

I want to stop and edit and revise as I go. I also have to stick to a schedule due to my lack of writing time. I really have to discipline myself to stay on my schedule or else the writing won’t happen.

Jamie Grey

@JamieGrey

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Jamie is the indie-author behind Ultraviolet Catastrophe and her soon to be released NA novel The Star Thief.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Most of my first drafts take 4-6 weeks. I’m a huge fan of fast drafting so I try to get a first draft down as quickly as possible. It may be a mess, but at least it’s something to start with!

What does your first draft writing process look like?

For a first draft, I’ll start out with a rough outline or beat sheet so I have a roadmap of what’s going to happen. If I can give my subconscious a starting point, it fills in the gaps for me most of the time as I write. Usually a first draft for me is just getting it down, so I leave all research until after it’s finished, unless it’s absolutely necessary. That means I leave a lot of notes behind that will say “insert cool sciencey-stuff here.” I also start out with a few basic character names, but as new characters come up, I don’t worry about stopping to find the perfect name and just leave myself a note for later. I love names and I could get lost for hours searching for the perfect one! As for revising, usually I don’t do any until the first draft is completely written. I’ll go back and read a few pages or a chapter from the day before to get me back on track, but I don’t let myself fix anything.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

My first draft stumbling blocks usually have to do with plot. If I find that I’m stuck or feeling like the words won’t come, I can usually trace it to a plot problem or hole, or that I’ve taken the story in the wrong direction. I those cases I’ll go back and brainstorm the plot a little more deeply, or play the what-if game with my CPs to see if can get unstuck. I also don’t get as deep as I’d like into my characters during the first draft, it’s kind of like a first date in that most of our interactions are kind of superficial, so I do a lot of work during revising to make sure I fully flesh them out.

Melody Winter

@MelodyWinter

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Melody has a short story soon to appear in the Grimm’s Fairy Tale Anthology by Reuts Publishing and her NA Romantic Fantasy, Sachael Dreams is making the query rounds.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

My first drafts take about 4 – 6 months. My writing time is limited to evenings when the kids have gone to bed, and Fridays. The weekend days are a no-no for me as my husband insists that I leave the laptop alone. Although, on many occasions I have scribbled down notes or ideas that come into my head. It’s a crazy place in my mind at the best of times, so like Dumbledore and his Pensieve, I get rid of the thoughts!

What does your first draft writing process look like?

When I first started writing ‘Sachael Dreams’ – my first full MS – I planned, plotted and researched for 3 months. ‘Sachael Dreams’ is the first in a series of 4, so I had to be quite thorough in my plans – writing a rough outline of each book. The books are quite intrinsically linked, so my research and how the plot unfolded had to be in place. I couldn’t have written this without any idea of where I was going.

None of this means that I’ve stuck rigidly to the original plans. I’m writing the third book at the moment, and since ‘Sachael Dreams’ isn’t published yet, I’m still able to go back and tweak areas that I feel need a bit less, or bit more, input to run smoothly with what I am writing now.

I have pictures, Wikipedia definitions printed out, links to websites, songs lists, character profiles and hand draw family trees, as well as a very subject specific category of new research books on anything to do with water or sea creatures!

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Because I’m a planner, I tend not to have too many stumbling blocks, But if I do hit a problem it’s usually with how to get something to happen so that I can write it through my characters POV. I write in 1st person and many times there are conversations that she needs to hear, but she’d not in the scene. I’m also a nightmare for using unnecessary words, ‘dead words’, as you will probably be able to see from this post. And, even though I plan what’s going to happen, my characters frequently take over and lead me astray. Pulling them back to where I want them to be can prove difficult. If I’m ever really stuck with things I iron, with my ipod earbuds in. Music never fails to inspire me.

Kat Ellis

@el_Kat

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Kat’s debut YA novel, Blackfin Sky will be released in 2014 by Firefly Press and Running Press Kids.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I take around 3-4 months to write a dirty first draft, and that will be something hideous, full of plot holes and missing words and typos. The kind of draft I wouldn’t show to ANYBODY.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I am usually a serious plotter (I say ‘usually’ because there are times when I break my own rules).

Depending on the kind of story I’m writing, I might research a lot or only a little bit before I begin mapping out the story on paper. Then I get down to business and write out the details of what happens, chapter by chapter, from the start of the novel right to the end. This will normally just be a sentence or two summarising each chapter. I use this outline as a guide, and add to it and change it as I’m writing. Sometimes the plot will take a different turn than the one I’d originally planned, and that’s fine – I just revise the outline so I still have a clear idea of where I’m going.

I start a new notebook for each new manuscript, and note down anything I might want to pick up on later – a funny line of dialogue, an outline for a particular scene, a note about a character’s tics – things like that. My notebook stays with me, and is added to, right the way through the drafting and editing and polishing, until my manuscript is all shiny and ready for my beta readers.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

For me, my biggest obstacle in the first draft phase is time. I’m not the kind of writer who can steal twenty minutes here or half an hour there to write; I need a good chunk of time to be able to sit down and really get my head into drafting-mode. I work full time, so it’s not always easy to do this, and I can end up going for days without writing anything. Then the draft is harder to get back into, and I sometimes start to feel really detached from it and a bit quitty. Luckily, my stubbornness usually outweighs my quittiness, and if all else fails I take a few days off work to really get stuck into it.

Julie Hutchings

@HutchingsJulie

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Julie is the author of the dazzling vampire thriller, Running Home and its coming sequel, Running Away published by Books of the Dead Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I stick to a 1000 word a day diet, giving me about 3 months to complete a first draft without getting worn out on it.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I’m such a pantser. I outline in bits and pieces as I go along, just to remind myself what I wanted to do next. But quite honestly, I start by sitting down and free writing. I have little idea what’s going to happen at the bottom of the page, let alone the end of the book. The one thing I really work my ass of at is figuring out what the last line of the book will be. Once I know the feeling I want it to end on, the words that I want to resonate with the reader, the final thing I want my character to say, I write fast and furious. I tend to write sparsely and go back to fill in later with expansions on plotlines, character development, and extended research if necessary. I do the bare bones of research to begin with so I don’t slow myself down or get too immersed in a lot of information that I didn’t need. That’s a classic move of mine and then I’m suddenly an expert on like, 18th century pottery and the soles of Dutch clogs or something. I strictly do not revise until my second and third drafts because I never know what’s happening next, and who knows? Maybe that thing I just said will work out.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

When I don’t outline formally, the only stumbling block I happen upon is what the hell do I do now? I’ve created this whole world and I have no idea what to do with it. Getting out of that takes a lot of forms, but the only one that always works is to write through it. I may end up with CRAP. But I can edit crap. I can’t edit what doesn’t exist.

Mark Matthews

@Matthews_Mark

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Mark is the author of Stray, The Jade Rabbit, and his most recent horror novel, On the Lips of Children, published by Books of the Dead Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

My last novel took about 8 months, but it came and went in sprints and dashes followed by long pauses of inactivity. I do my best work when obsession takes over a bit and I binge write. During these moments, I dream of my characters and write first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep at night. Nothing I have ever accomplished hasn’t been done without a bit of madness involved.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Start with characters that are a little messed up on the inside and throw life circumstances at them to squeeze the insides out.  All of my books have been from true settings. I think each setting has its own energy and flavor that seeps from the cracks that I try to soak up and put on paper.

I would love to be able to plot but I can’t. Generally, I just have scenes and characters, and let them decide. This means tons of wasted time going on tangents and dead ends and thus more rewrites. I prefer ‘mapping’ which is more visual.

I like the idea of rambling through the first draft and typing like mad, not worrying about misspelled words or messed up sentences. I just get through the story and write as much for tone and plot as for sentence structure and worry about that later. At times I even close my eyes when I type and move my head about in a rhythm similar to Stevie Wonder at the keyboard. (You are the first person I told that to.)  (I am not joking here) (I wrote that Stevie Wonder style.)

As for research, I may Google something real fast in the heat of the moment during the first draft, but I also heard a bit of advice somewhere about doing research at the end, so I literally may type “–do research for this paragraph here–” on the manuscript and move on.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Trying to juggle writing with a life, my day job, my family, other demands. Besides that, there are the tangents I go on due to not plotting. Any final word count is probably only half of what has been written.  I figure anything you write that isn’t used is at least an exercise in writing, so even if it gets cut, it is like the fat that makes the meat juicier.  You also can’t fall in love with certain sentences and scenes in the first draft because they may need to be cut out later.

Impatience is also a big problem. I start submitting a piece in my head way before it’s done. I have to fight the urge to rush it. Especially since you need time and distance to edit. I can only reread for quality content if some time has passed. But it is very cool to forget the content of what you wrote, and then to reread it later with fresh eyes as if you were a reader seeing it for the first time.

Louise D. Gornall

@Rock_andor_Roll

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Louise is the author of the YA fantasy In Stone released by Entranced Publishing.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Sometimes it takes me a couple of months. Sometimes it takes me that just to write a chapter. The smallest things steal my focus. Uh, a squirrel…

What does your first draft writing process look like?

So right now I’m working on a development project with Mandy Hubbard. What that means is that Mandy has outlined and plotted a story and I’m helping her to fluff it out. I’ve never worked off an outline before and it’s kind of thrown me for a loop. Because I know what’s coming, I’m finding it really difficult to take a step back and put in all the little details I know the reader needs to stay on top of what’s going on.

Right now I’m revising and drafting which I don’t normally do, but I feel safe in the knowledge that, thanks to the outline, my plot is never going to change so dramatically that my revisions will be a waste of time. That said, I’m a firm believer in nothing shapes your book like putting it away for two weeks, coming back to it and revising the crap out of it.

What’s research? I’m kidding. I’m not great at research if there’s call for it I’ll research places, but that’s about it. I like to wing it or make it up. My “research” nearly always ends up with me just looking at the pictures.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Transition scenes. I hate them when drafting. They seem so boring and monotonous. I just want to get to the action bits. I don’t really do anything to overcome this, I just kind of push on. I know I can make transitions more fun after a couple of revisions so I just keep going. Also, character names, they kill me. Again though, just pick one and push on until it becomes natural.

I want to thank all the authors who participated in this post. Follow them on twitter to find links to their books, websites, and to get more writing tips and advice.

Follow me @TamzWrite

websizeThe Darkness of Light ~ Available Now

 

How Did You Write A Book?

I get asked this question A LOT, so I figured it was time to write a post about it.

A Bit of Background

Well, first let me say that I’m not new to writing. I would say I’ve been a writer my entire life. I’ve always written short stories and attempted to write novels. When I was 25 I started writing under the pen name, Dahlia Knight. I had a website and wrote short erotic serials. I even had a few published on a Canadian sex therapy ezine :P. I also became a freelance writer and wrote various business reviews, web content, and ad copy for a few years.

Around the same time in 2008 I started to develop these characters that just wouldn’t leave me alone. They were Mara, Malcolm, and Corbin (the main characters in The Darkness of Light). I didn’t know their story at the time, but I knew who they were and I knew what I wanted them to be. I had no frikken clue how to write a book back then. Twitter and FB were just new and writers forums were sometimes a little sketchy, so getting information was hard. I’d write a chapter and feel like it was a complete uphill battle. I’d wonder how the hell I was going to create an entire novel when I couldn’t even make the chapters flow.

I ordered dozens of books on writing and read them over and over and over. Then, in 2010, while I was still toiling away at my manuscript, my mom passed away and I instantly lost my ability to write. I still can’t say why, exactly. A month after she passed I took down Dahlia’s website and completely abandoned my manuscript for 3 years.

The Reawakening.

For the 3 years I was in writer purgatory, I was back in school studying English Lit and History. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to be a writer and that maybe I’d get my PhD one day and become a professor.

That was the plan.

But then in early 2013 I was struck by a bolt of creativity. I woke up one morning and had such a strong urge to write that I didn’t even make a coffee, I just sat down at my computer and typed out a 7,000 word first chapter (*Note: a 7,000 word chapter is WAY too long). The funny thing is that while I was writing, I felt like I was in a trance and when I finally stopped and took a breath, I realized I’d just written the beginnings of a historical novel. I guess all those years of studying history paid off and I knew then that I’d not only gotten my creativity back, but I’d also found my niche.

How Did I Write a Book?

This is where the hard work comes in. It had been years since I’d written creatively and I’d forgotten a lot of what I’d learned from the many writing books sitting dusty on my shelves. So instead of reading about writing, this time I decided to just write and not care about what was right and wrong.

  1. I got a notebook and started plotting Mara, Malcolm, and Corbin’s story. I scribbled nonsense all through that notebook. I’d plan whole chapters and then scratch them out, I’d write several endings  that never came to be. I plotted and scribbled and plotted until I had enough to keep writing chapters.
  2. Then I researched. Being that I was writing a historical novel, I wanted to have some cold, hard facts to insert as I wrote. I knew I could go back later and perfect it, but for my own peace of mind, I needed SOME information to keep going. I think researching was definitely my favorite part.
  3. Then I wrote. With new ideas fresh in my mind, I started writing. Sometimes I followed the plan, sometimes I didn’t. It wasn’t always easy getting those chapters down, but every day I knew I was getting a few steps closer to a finished manuscript. Instead of thinking of the book as a whole, I thought of the chapters as scenes or mini stories. Every chapter needed a beginning, a middle or a conflict, and an end. Thinking that way helped A LOT!
  4. I took research breaks in between writing. I have a bad short term memory and would have to go back and re-research some of the information. This wasn’t really a bad thing, though, because a lot of the time I came across new info that inspired me.
  5. I wrote until my eyes were raw. Some days I almost went blind, really. But I was so obsessed with finishing the first draft, I couldn’t stop. It was really important for me to remember NOT TO REVISE during the writing process. If I changed things, I was NOT allowed to go back and fix earlier chapters. Sometimes I’d only put a few hundred words in a chapter. I knew what the scene was, but at the time I couldn’t get it out. So I’d write the plan and move on to the next chapter.

8 Weeks Later, I Had a Finished First Draft.

That’s right. It only took 8 weeks to write the very first draft of The Darkness of Light. But let me tell you, it was a complete MESS; virtually unreadable, but I was SO damn excited that I wasn’t about to just give up there.

I Took To Twitter and Googled My Ass Off!

Now, don’t forget that I’d basically forgotten all the ins and outs of publishing that I’d learned before, so I had to refresh. I started googling things like:

  • How many words should a novel be?
  • How long should a chapter be?
  • How to get published.
  • How to find an agent.
  • New author success stories.

I learned a lot from Writers Digest and various other writing websites. Then I took to twitter and started following other writers, agents, and publishers. THIS was probably the single best resource I could have ever found. I soon discovered that the twitter writing community is SO helpful. They tweet tips, articles, info, answer questions and are generally some of the nicest people in the world! Off the top of my head, the ones who have helped and inspired me the most are:

  • Ciar Cullen
  • Leigh Anne Kopans
  • Julie Hutchings
  • Kristen Strassel
  • Jamie Grey
  • Kat Ellis
  • Jessie Devine
  • Summer Wier
  • Caitlin Greer
  • Rayne Hall
  • Nat Russo

I suggest you follow these people if you want to learn a thing or two about writing.

Then I followed agents and assistant agents. My favorite agent tweets usually come from:

  • Eric Ruben
  • Juliet Mushens
  • Pam van Hylckama
  • Terrie Wolf
  • Lane Heymont

I suggest you follow them as well.  They offer a wealth of information when it comes to querying, agenting and publishing.

I Got Back to Writing.

After I nestled into the writing community, I got back to writing and plotting. I went through my manuscript and marked it up, jotted down notes and more ideas and then I wrote the entire thing again. This was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. I actually had a story to work with and the more I revised, the better it got.

When I’d finally smoothed it out enough so that it was actually readable, I started letting friends read it. I got feedback, made changes, and rewrote some more until it was actually a finished novel! It made sense, it had a beginning, middle, and end and every time I read it, I loved it!!!

Now, this is only part one of the writing process. I’ll write another post soon on my experience with querying agents, editing, and publishing. None of that is important now, because you can’t do any of that without first having a polished, finished manuscript!

So just write the damn thing!!! Who cares if it’s any good. First drafts WILL suck. They won’t make sense, they won’t flow. You HAVE to create the puzzle pieces in order to put them together. Just write and don’t stop until you have at least 150-200+ pages of SOMETHING! Worry about rules and all the rest later.

If you’ve already written a book, does your process differ from mine? Share your writing story.

GOOD LUCK!

1597401_10153715021560077_1070423782_oThe Darkness of Light ~ Available NOW through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, and Select Retailers.

Follow me @TamzWrite

http://www.Facebook.com/TheDiaChronicles

How to get your indie-book in book stores

How do I get my indie-book in book stores?

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A month ago I would have had no idea how to answer this question. But with a little leg work and some incredibly helpful booksellers, I now have the answer.

You might think there’s a secret code involved, some prohibition-era password like “Jimmy two-shoes gets the goats” needed so that booksellers will even give you the time of day. But guess what? It’s actually a lot easier than you’d think.

Here’s what you need to know before deciding to approach booksellers about carrying your book.

1. Independent booksellers view self-published books and small-press published books in exactly the same way.

There seems to be a hierarchy among authors that goes something like this:

  • Author with a Big 6 publisher
  • Author with a small press publisher
  • Self-published authors.

If you are a self-published author, put your fears aside, the playing field has just leveled out a bit. The reason booksellers lump you into the small press category comes down to money. When booksellers order traditionally published books from Ingram and Baker & Taylor they get a 40% discount off the list price and guaranteed returns if the book doesn’t sell.

When booksellers order small press books and self-published books from these same distributors they only get a 20% discount and no returns. This is not very appealing to a bookstore and THIS is the reason you will cringe when your friends and family ask, “So when will we see it on the shelves?”

So unless there is a high demand for your book or you approach stores yourself, they won’t rush to order 20 copies of your book.

2. Many booksellers will carry your books as long as you provide them.

This is where you have to make sure you’re not losing money by having your book in stores. Many booksellers have a consignment program. The usual deal is a 60/40 cut on the book…the same deal the bookseller gets from a traditionally published book. They get their 40% and if the book doesn’t sell, they return it to you.

As an indie-author I get a discount on my books. The list price is $13.75 and I can order them myself for $5.50. When I order my books at cost, the sales are not reflected in sales ranking and I get no royalty. If I bring my books into a bookseller, they are going to sell my book for $13.75. They will take 40% of that and at 60% my cut would be $8.25. Subtract that from my cost for the book: $8.25 – $5.50 = $2.75 profit.

Not very exciting, is it? Also remember that I am getting no credit for selling these books, no sales ranking and no sales tracking. So with that in mind, why would anyone want to get their book in stores?

3. You won’t make a living by selling your books in stores, but you will get exposure.

The $2.75 profit sounds pretty sad, but if I sold that same book on Amazon, my royalty would be…$2.75! …Wait a minute, I think I see a silver lining here. If I’m making the same profit on the same book, what does it matter where I sell it? It doesn’t. A sale is a sale. A reader is a reader. And a reader that loves your book and tells others about it could mean a lot more sales.

Indie-authors spend a lot of time and money promoting their books. Having your book on a store shelf is basically another form of advertising that YOU’RE being paid for. If you took the profit you made from your bookstore sales and spent it on other forms of advertising, you’ve possibly just created a revolving door of marketing funds.

4. Indie-book stores and the ebook revolution.

I made a shocking discovery while talking to booksellers in my town. As it turns out, they’ve jumped on the ebook bandwagon too. One store in particular had a deal with Kobo and a big sign in their front window to promote it. If a customer purchased books using the store’s Kobo code, they would get a discount and the bookseller gets a cut. GENIUS! So if someone sees my book on the shelf and doesn’t want to pay $13.75 for a paperback they can immediately go to the Kobo store and buy the ebook for $3.99.

I know I’ve done this before. I see a book on a shelf, I really want to read it but it’s not one I’d add to my collection. Then I go on my kindle and order the book that I saw on a shelf somewhere. If I hadn’t seen the book in person, I might have never bought it.

How Do You Go About Getting Your Book In the Store And Is It Really Worth It?

This is the scary part–approaching the booksellers. If you’re shy, bring a friend. If you’re not shy, bring a friend anyway! It’s a lot easier for someone else to talk up your book. Ask to speak with the owner or manager of the store. Greet them with a smile and ask, “Do you have a consignment program for local indie-authors at this store?”….Now remember, they don’t care if you’re self-published or small press. It’s not necessary to say any more than this. Also, try to stress the “local” aspect. Independent bookstores rely on local business and therefore want to showcase local talent. It’s a win win.

Chances are they will say, “Yes, let me get you the form.” This is where they might ask you what your book is about etc…They’ll give you a consignment form that you can fill out, you give them the books and that’s it! It’s really very simple. They may even ask you to autograph the books, as one bookseller did with me.

So after you’ve hit the pavement, spent a day or two scouting out bookstores near you, is it all really worth it?

Maybe.

As authors we all dream of seeing our books on store shevles. So that’s good motivation to go stalking booksellers. But keep in mind, having your book (maybe 5-10 copies) in a store won’t make you a bestseller. Chances are you won’t get frantic calls from the store owner demanding more copies because they’ve sold out of your book in an hour. Like any form of author marketing, getting your book in stores is work and it takes time away from the thing that makes us authors in the first place–writing. Once your book is in store, you’re going to have to keep track of who has what and how many. You’re also going to want to check in with these stores every 3 months to see if your book has sold and if they would like more copies.

On the plus side, you’ re able to tell your family and friends where they can go to buy your book. It’s a great feeling to know your book is sitting next to books by authors you admire. In one store my book was placed right next to V.C. Andrews, Flowers In the Attic. You also have the benefit of exposure. That browsing customer may not buy your book off the shelf, but they might buy it online. There’s no way to track that kind of sale, but a sale is a sale no matter where it comes from.

If you NEED to see your book on a shelf you have two choices: pull one out of your coat, stick it on the shelf, snap a picture and run. OR…you can just talk to a bookseller. They aren’t dragons. They won’t cast you out of the store for eternity. Chances are they’ll be very receptive to you and your book. Most of this advice applies to independent bookstores, but it can also work for the big chain stores as well. Most big chain stores have policies that vary from store to store. So go ahead–stroll into the Barnes&Noble and ask to see the manager. You never know, they might just say yes. 🙂

Good luck with the book selling!

websizeThe Darkness of Light ~ Available now through Amazon, B&N, Kobo and select retailers.

Release day countdown

As the countdown to release day approaches (3 months), I find myself incredibly excited and incredibly terrified all at the same time.

My cover reveal, and the final edits have made this dream start to feel more like a reality. I can say this is probably the most exciting time in the process of writing. You’ve worked exceptionally hard, put your blood, sweat, and tears into something and now it’s a finished product on its way to publication.

This is also the most exciting part because you’ve hiked up the mountain of writing, and now you’re standing on a cliff. You don’t know if you’ll fly or fall when you jump, but the hope of flying is enough to make you smile every hour of the day. The fear of falling creeps in there from time to time as well, but you never know…you might just fly.

It’s scary to think that many people you know, and many people you don’t, will be reading something you’ve written. They could love it or hate it and there’s no way to know which it’s going to be. That is TERRIFYING.

But the good news is, the dream is bigger than the doubt.

These next three months will probably feel like they drag on AND fly by. I still have a lot to do in preparation for release day, but I’m ready to jump, I just hope my wings are strong enough.

Here’s the cover again…Just cause it’s AWESOME!

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Follow me on twitter @tamzwrite