When a book leaves the nest

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I finished IXEOS this week and sent everything off to my great production team at Streetlight Graphics.  As an indie author I’m still in charge of the cover and the final formatting and all the details, but since I’m not able to do those things myself, there’s a bittersweet moment when you release it and hope for the best.

Writing fiction is a strange profession. Even more than actors, we make stuff up for a living. We create people out of whole cloth, name them, nurture them, give them a home, a life, crazy foibles and wonderful qualities. We make this one a villain and that one a hero. How do we choose which is which? Who knows.

A lot of writers do elaborate studies of their characters before they write them. There are many forms you can download from the internet, like this one, to help you.

I don’t do that. Maybe because developing my characters is the last thing I do when working on a story (backwards, I know), when I start a novel I usually only know the following about my main characters:

  • First and last name and their nicknames if applicable
  • Physical appearance
  • Home town
  • Where they live now
  • Their job (which assumes certain educational dynamics)
  • Marital status

That’s it! I have really big Stickie notes (they’re about 6”x8”) that I write this information on, and I stick it to my wall so I don’t forget who’s who.  If a secondary character comes along who become important, they get a Stickie note, too. Once the story is underway, I almost never look at these bright orange or green rectangles adorning my wall.

Regardless of how you birth your people, you’re still very invested in them by the time you’ve written a novel. You don’t want to kill them off (although sometimes you have to); you don’t want them to turn out to be bad, when you thought they were good. You don’t even want to say goodbye to them when you type THE END, which is why so many of us write series using those same characters.

But even if they’re coming back in the next book (and in the case of IXEOS, they are), you still have to let them fly. You have to do your editing and make your notes and communicate your ideas to your production team, and then you have to hand that baby over to someone else to take care of for a while. (If you’re a parent, it’s not unlike the first time you got a babysitter.)

Which is what I did two days ago. I’m not sure what happened that day. When I woke up I had 6 more chapters to edit in my “big edit,” which is very detailed, and still needed to run it through my grammar programs. That should have been 2 pretty full days of work. But somehow, at 6:00 that evening, I was done! I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure I was ready, to be honest. But I was done, and I got most of the information needed to produce the book compiled and sent off. By the end of that night the only thing left was the blurb.  I sent that yesterday.

So now it’s temporarily out of my hands. I have a pretty good idea of how I want the cover to look, but I’m open to other ideas, too, so I may end up with several very different mock-ups to choose from. Since this is YA, a new genre for me, the covers will all be very different from anything I’ve published before. That’s exciting but also a little scary – I know what I like in an action adventure cover. I don’t know what I like in a Young Adult! I guess we’ll find out…

I leave for Uganda three weeks from tomorrow. I’ll be out of the country without power and internet for two and half weeks. When I leave, I’ll either have a new baby just launched into cyber-space, or we’ll miss the deadline and I won’t get it out in the world until early March. But once it’s out there… Well, while I can edit and modify once it’s published, for the most part it’s got to stand on its own.

Pushing the “publish” button on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Kobo and Smashwords is a lot like sending your child off to college… Except the books don’t call for money.

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Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

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