Before I get into it, I want to thank Billie for the opportunity of this guest blog post. One of the greatest things about the indie author community is the tremendous support we give to one another. This is just one of those opportunities and I truly appreciate it.
Okay, so with that being said… I wanted to share my experiences from seeing myself as an aspiring author (more on that later) to self-publishing my first novel, THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, and being able to call myself an author (again, more on this later).
The indie author community is insanely supportive, and there’s a lot of writing advice out there. Some good, some not so good. What worked for Franz Kafka may not have worked out for Alex Haley. Everyone is different. As I work on my second novel, I thought about what I did the first time around. I won’t go into the importance of writing multiple drafts, self editing tips or how to format your ebook. There’s already a lot of information out there on those subjects. Instead, I wanted to talk about some of the intangibles.
First, as it’s important to spell check, you have to take their grammatical and spelling suggestions with a grain of salt. Spell checkers aren‘t human, and sometimes they ignore blatant errors an actual person wouldn’t miss. I can’t stress enough how helpful it was to read my manuscript aloud. When you do this, it’s easier to spot those awkward sounding sentences, poor word choices and things that spell check missed. If it sounds weird to you when you speak it, it’ll sound weird to your readers.
Try not to be too smart for your own good, and avoid using big words. I fell into this trap at first. I mean, I’m supposed to be a writer. We’re supposed to wax poetic, right? Don’t do it. Using big words for the sake of using big words will only alienate your readers. Something like, “the individual exited the vehicle” should be “he got out of the car.” It’s all about readability. Newspapers generally write at a fifth or sixth grade reading level not as an insult to its readers, but to make sure their message is comprehended. Only use big words if it’s warranted. There’s an term for the overuse of big words: sesquipedalian (which is a big word in itself).
At my day job, I used to work with a guy who, instead of saying “number sign” or “hashtag,” called it an “octothorpe.” Granted, this is technically the name for that symbol, but all anyone remembers is that he called it an “octothorpe.” To this day, no one remembers what he was talking about, only that he used that word. Don’t be that guy. Don’t let your message get lost in the language of big words.
Get an editor and find beta readers. Self editing is very important, but getting your work in front others is too. You have a personal connection with your work, and that can be a hindrance sometimes. It can be difficult cutting out things that you spent months, maybe even years creating. Editors and beta readers don’t necessarily need to be a paid professionals, friends or family can work too. Get it in front of as many people you trust as possible. You may have thought you were writing a scathing statement on the current political climate, but it may come off as a spy novel parody. I ended up cutting the equivalent of three chapters worth of words after my editor got hold of my manuscript. In the end, the words were unnecessary, and cutting them made the story stronger.
Don’t get discouraged. It’s all about patience and persistence. Waiting for feedback from your editor and beta readers, getting your author proofs and return emails from reviewers can take time. A lot of time. Don’t spam their inboxes, constantly asking “Hey, did you get my book? Let me know what you think.” It’ll take time. People have jobs and their lives to get on with, so it’ll take patience.
Writing is an exercise in patience, but it’s also about persistence. Writing every day isn’t fun, but it can be rewarding in the end. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment, but you’ve gotta get there. Finding a rhythm or a pattern is important. Personally, I tend not to focus on hitting a daily word count. It’s more about finishing a scene. Find what works for you and stick with it.
As I mentioned before, the indie writing community is incredibly supportive. There are numerous forums and blogs about writing. What works and what doesn’t. There’s no guarantee that their advice will work for you, but be open to input from those who’ve already been there.
Set aside $$ for marketing. Amazon has millions of books. Millions. Every day that number gets bigger. The reality is that it’s difficult to stand out against those numbers. You can use free services like Facebook or Twitter to market yourself, but when’s the last time you bought a book because of a Facebook post or Twitter Ad? While you’re writing, set aside a small amount of money each week for your PR fund. By the time you’re done with your book, you’ll have something to work with. I recently signed on with a friend of mine who owns a PR firm, and she’s been busy setting up author panels and events. PR professionals will have contacts you simply don’t, and the most important thing is getting the word out about your book.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda
I fell into the practice of saying I was an “aspiring” author. It was as if I didn’t feel like I could tell people I was an author until I published something. When that finally happened, it was as if I had been granted some unseen permission to actually call myself an author. No one says they’re an aspiring accountant, so why we do this? You’re either are an author, or you’re not. Be an author.
In the end, it’s about finding what works for you. Be patient. Be persistent. Keep writing.
What are some things that you’ve learned while writing?
What if there was a government-run test that could determine whether or not you would become a psychopath?
In 1948, Dr. Noel Everett was fresh out of graduate school with a master’s degree in psychology. While at his job as university researcher, he created a psychological test that could predict if someone would develop violent behavior. When a U.S. senator approached him with funding to develop his test, Noel could never have predicted his work would evolve into the government-run juggernaut is today.
Present day. Shortly after their 17th birthday, twins Marcus and Simone are carted off to the nationalized mental health evaluation known only as the Program. Anyone can be reported to the Program if they don’t conform to the standard of normalcy, THE NATIONAL AVERAGE. Most people consider the twins anything but normal. As children, Simone always protected her brother, but she couldn’t protect him from the test that was coming. Administered by FBI profilers, the month-long test is used to determine the fates of those reported to the Program. The options are few for those that are evaluated. It’s either be enlisted into a special branch of the military or worse, be sent to the Culling Program.
Although their paths never cross, the lives of Noel in the post WWII era and the twins in the present day are inevitably intertwined. Is it possible to predict whether or not someone will become a psychopath? Marcus and Simone are about to find out.
John Bryant calls St. Louis, Missouri home. When he’s not writing, he makes ice cream, writes code and enjoys a good bourbon. John’s debut novel, The National Average, was released in September 2014 and he’s currently working on his second novel.
The National Average on Amazon