The Birth of a Novel

Every time I publish a novel, I get a call from my dad about a month later. He says the same thing in every call: WHERE did you learn all this stuff? Followed by: Where in the world did you get that idea?

I reblogged this guest post about my backwards way of coming up with my ideas, starting with location and ending with characters. I’ve guest posted about my process of research. and I did one about sending it off to my production team. But I’ve never really written about the whole process all in one place.

Right now I have 5 novels that I’m planning to write, produce and release in 2013. One is in production now, having been written in 2012. The second is currently an almost-finished first draft. The third is pretty well fleshed out. The other two… Well, I know they’ll be Quinn adventures, and that’s about it. I think one will be in/around Egypt. I’ve been to Egypt and obviously it’s got enough history to make an interesting story.

So that’s the first step: location. Once I get to the point of researching that one, I’ll start with Egypt and begin searching for interesting trivia. I’ll make tons of notes, most of which I won’t use. I’ll research Alexander and Napoleon and their forays into the country. I’ll research the Kingdoms, the Ptolemies, and the rulers. Something I come across will tickle my imagination and I’ll follow that thread to other countries and interesting trivia. When I’ve got enough locations to make a good hunt I’ll figure out a way to connect those locations, which will give me a plot. I’ve already got my character: Rei and Gideon Quinn and their pal Mac McDonald, plus their boss Luis Xavier (aka the money man), so that’s one less thing to figure out.

By the time I’m ready to start writing I’ll have dozens of pages of scribbled notes (if you saw my handwriting you’d know that ‘scribbled’ is an accurate description). I’ll have a timeline and a list of my locations, plus some information about each location. I’ll know the beginning, the main plot, and the end. That’s about it. Then I’ll start a new file on Scrivener and start typing.

My daily goal is a minimum of 3,000 words a day. For me, that’s about 2-3 hours, even with a good amount of research while I’m writing, although there are days where it seems harder and takes longer. If all goes well, I’ll have the first rough draft in a month, typically about 90,000 words. I’ll do a quick edit for major things like typos, secondary characters whose names change for no apparent reason, and to add in some description, and then send the book to my beta readers. I try to enlist a dozen beta readers, because my experience has been that only about half will actually be able to do it. (This isn’t intentional — they all want to. But life happens, and it’s a lot to take on as a favor!)

I usually give my beta readers several weeks to a month to get back to me. In the meantime, I also start an edit, this time on paper. I find that I tend to skim when I read on a computer screen, so I print it out and use a red pen (not purple – I’m not worried about my self-esteem!). When the beta readers’ comments come back, I incorporate those that resonate with me, or anything that’s mentioned by more than one person, and then do the “big edit.”

The “big edit” is the one that takes the longest. This one merges my own on-paper edits with the beta readers’ ideas, plus involves a very detailed reading of the work on the computer. I take it one page at a time, putting in my edits and then rereading that section and making more changes. This is where word selection, overused words (my most overused word is ‘just’), and adding description comes in heavily. Obviously, this edit takes the longest. I pay attention to Scrivener’s grammar and spelling checks, too.

After this, I move the document from Scrivener to Word and add the chapter breaks. I move it to my pc and employ Grammarly, fixing the spelling problems Scrivener’s tool didn’t catch (an amazing number), checking for comma usage, and doing a Find for overused words (again). I’ll catch things I didn’t catch up to this point, even though I’m trying to be very thorough. Once this is done, I move it back to Word on my Mac and use yet another spelling and grammar checking tool. Believe it or not, Word will catch things that neither Grammarly nor Scrivener caught! In IXEOS, there were three instances where I had “the” twice in a row. Neither of the other programs caught that!

One more quick read-through and I’m done. At this point, I communicate all the pertinent information to my production team at Streetlight Graphics. I’ve written here, here and here what questions I answer for each book. The hardest of these is the blurb, although I’ve gotten a lot better at those the more of them I’ve done. I usually do a lot of back and forth emailing with my daughter and my husband with these until we’ve gotten it fine-tuned. My daughter is especially helpful here because she’s my best beta reader, and so she’s read the books. My husband used to be in advertising, so his input is good, but he hasn’t read the books, so he is limited on what he can suggest. (He did read – and like – Solomon’s Throne, to be fair!)

After Streetlight Graphics has my information, my role changes to advisor and critic. We currently have the cover of IXEOS in draft form. It needs some tweaking, though, so it’s back on Glendon’s desk. Once I get a cover I like, though, I stick with that brand within that genre, so it gets easier. (You can see from this list that the 2 Quinn books have very similar covers, but different from the romance. The upcoming YA sci-fi fantasy is totally different from these. As a multi-genre author, it’s important that each have its own brand so that readers can readily identify those in the genre that they prefer — I probably won’t get a huge amount of crossover.)

After the cover I’ll be reviewing the formatting. I produce my novels in both print and ebook formats, so we’ll check them out and make sure the font and the flourishes that separate scenes are good, the gutters are right, the chapter breaks are correct, etc. The same goes for ebooks. When all those are correct, I get my baby back and it’s time to upload. CreateSpace and Amazon are super easy, and Amazon’s KDP program gets the ebooks up and running usually within 12 hours. CreateSpace will have a draft copy ready for approval in about the same amount of time. Apple is a real pain and takes weeks for approval. Kobo and Barnes & Noble are easy. Smashwords is somewhere in between. For IXEOS, since it’s book 1 in a trilogy, I may only put it on Amazon and enroll it in KDP Select, which will mean a very easy upload process indeed.

Once it’s up, it’s time to promote. Actually, the promotion starts before this point, with “coming soon” posts on my personal Facebook page, my Facebook author page, Twitter, and this blog. As I’ve had success with the other books, I’ve got more money to put in outside advertising and will be having 2 launch blog tours in March. I don’t like to use Twitter and Facebook as scrolling bulletin boards, but I do put information on new books and promotions there regularly (and hopefully inoffensively!).

Even after the initial launch phase is done, the books need constant TLC in the form of paid and free advertising, short and sweet updates on Facebook, Twitter and the blog, blog tours and guest blogging, and word of mouth. The beauty of being an indie publisher is that I don’t have a short window to make money before my book is pulled like a traditionally published author. My books will be around as long as the internet and ebook stores are, so I don’t have to go nuts, I just need to keep exposure going. I’m less panicked about it all now because I’ve figured out that I do better taking a Saturday and planning my marketing for about a 6 week period all at once. Then I don’t have to worry about it. I have a Mac calendar set up just for marketing so I can quickly refer to it.

And that’s about it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there! The beauty of indie publishing is that you can revise and republish very easily, and I’ve done that for 2 of the books. But otherwise, it’s just doing your best to see that they succeed once they’ve left the nest, and believing in yourself and your product. After all, this is a business, and you have to believe in what you’re selling. If you don’t, no one else will!

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2 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

2 responses to “The Birth of a Novel

  1. Awww great post and what’s even more awesome is your dad’s pride in your work!

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