Tag Archives: action adventure

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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The wonderful Author Marketing Club (subtitle: Marketing makes me crazy!)

I have been doing a LOT of work on marketing, trying to get my free day promos set up, ads for days following the free days set up, ads for things having nothing to do with free days set up… Basically, I’ve been trying to get all my marketing set through January, and a good start on February — this is because a) I re-enrolled Solomon’s Throne in KDP Select due to their lovely bonus money (aka bribe), and b) I have a new release set for late January and need to be able to focus.

I linked to a lot of sites, both paid and free, in this post on marketing the other day. This weekend I’ve found another, called the Author Marketing Club. One fabulous thing about this site (which, of course, I didn’t discover until I’d done a ton of digging myself) is that you can post your free book days to other sites directly from their site. They have links to about 20 sites that feature free books, including their own. One stop shopping – and trust me, if you knew how long it took me to dig up the sites I listed in my most recent marketing post, you’d realize how valuable this is!

What are some other things you can do?

  • Upload your book trailer and get reviews on it. I am in the process of being in the process of getting a book trailer done, so this is awesome.
  • Get a crash course in book marketing. They have videos and articles posted on the site to help you start marketing, correct your marketing if it’s not producing results, and how to build your author platform. Again, if I’d only found this a few months ago, I’d have saved a TON of time!
  • Participate in forums. You can ask for reviews, and chat about tricks and tips for Amazon. Indie authors are an amazing group of people, always so willing to share what works and what doesn’t, so the more input you get, the better.
  • Have your book featured. The Author Marketing Club has an email list of some 3,000 subscribers, and you can have your book featured in those emails. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot more people than I have on my email list!

I’m new to the site, so I’m sure there’s much more to discover, but I can already see that this is going to be a valuable resource. And it’s FREE! I love free!

Let me know if you find any other great marketing sites, either for advertising books, or for how-to’s. I’m putting together my own crash course!

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Giveaway!

If you go to my Facebook page, you can enter my Christmas Giveaway for a signed set of the Quinn adventures: Solomon’s Throne and The Hoard of the Doges. (Feel free to click Like while you’re there, but you don’t have to!)

The Giveaway ends on Friday!

Solomons-Throne-Ebook-Final-2240-for-Amazon-and-Smashwords Hoard-of-the-Doges-2240-for-Amazon-and-Smashwords

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NaNoWriMo – Is it all fun and games?

I’ve written much here about the NaNo detractors, and the fact that most people doing NaNo (my totally made up number is 80-90%, based on reading the forums) are doing it just for the challenge, the same way others try a 5k race or a marathon, or to read a book a week for a year, or any other challenge that strikes their fancy. So detractors, just back off and chill! Ever heard of fun??

However, there are those of us who are serious about writing as a career, who use NaNo to produce quality first drafts of novels we intend to publish. For whatever reason, I write really clean drafts, and I write well really fast. (Great blog here on Random Writing Rants about writing fast.) That’s not tooting my own horn – I have nothing, consciously, to do with it. It just happens that way — I was as surprised as anyone when I read my first NaNo novel in late November and it was good. (Since I didn’t edit along the way, it was almost like reading someone else’s work!)

Since November 2011, I’ve worked really hard. I’ve written 4 novels in 3 genres, and a 130 page screenplay (how I’ll miss Script Frenzy!). I’ve edited and published 3 of those novels (more on that in a minute), and am in the beta reader stage of the 4th. I will be writing the follow-up book to that one for this November’s NaNo. I’m scheduled to release the first of those in mid-January, and should be able to release the second in February or March. (I’m going to Uganda in February, so it will depend on where I am with editing and where Streetlight Graphics is with the cover and formatting.)

For those who might question the quality, I’ve recently discovered Grammarly. I’ve been putting my most recent (August Camp NaNo) book through it a chapter at a time while it’s out with beta readers, and my average grade, using the “creative” filter, is 90%. And most of the “problems” are in dialogue, so really I’m averaging about 95%. All of that to say, I spend many more hours editing than writing, and try to produce a top-notch book.

So for me, while I enjoy the NaNo forums (my favorite thread to date is one entitled “How to ruin a cheesecake (tutorial)”), and love encouraging people to do it no matter what their personal goals, for me those 30 day chunks of time are work. They’re where the idea goes from a seed and scribbled notes to the first draft of a novel that I fully intend to publish. (No, I don’t publish that first draft, and neither should you!)

The bottom line is, if you are in the (totally made up) 10-20% of people who are using NaNo as a way to get a workable first draft for publication, then look at it as your job. Writing and publishing is a business. You may be an artist, but you will be a starving artist if you don’t approach your writing as your job. (I’m going to write a blog post on this soon, so I’ll leave it at that for now…) Have fun – that’s the number one rule. But also, be smart. Be thorough. Be professional. Be willing to write crap, but be willing to fix it later. (On the other hand, if you’re just doing it for the challenge, the only rule is to HAVE FUN!)

On that note, here’s The Hoard of the Doges. It’s actually the first one I’ve published that’s NOT a NaNo novel, although I wrote most of it in a month using the NaNo format. It’s the sequel to Solomon’s Throne, but it stands alone if you haven’t read the previous book. I think it’s really fun, and love writing with the Quinns and Mac. I hope you’ll read it and enjoy!

When her boss finds an Old Master painting buried under centuries of junk in a Venetian cellar, restoration specialist Rei Quinn is over the moon. When she gets kidnapped and the ransom demand is the painting, her enthusiasm understandably wanes. Along with her husband, security specialist Gideon, and their pilot friend Mac, the Quinns discover and decipher a map encoded in the painting. Taking off for Venice and her bygone territories, they begin the search for a treasure hidden since the Crusades. Hot on the trail are members of an ancient crime family, determined to finally claim the Venetian wealth. Who will be the first to find the hoard of the Doges?

The Hoard of the Doges is a fast paced adventure, whisking the reader back to Venice in the Middle Ages and forward to the Greek Isles and beyond.

For shameless self-promotion (it’s my blog, after all!), here are the other two books I have available:

Solomon’s Throne                               Undaunted Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(We’re now required to put in this disclaimer for anything containing ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘National Novel Writing Month’:  “This is not an official NaNoWriMo site, and the content has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org.”)

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Unveiling the cover of The Hoard of the Doges

My wonderful team at Streetlight Graphics always do such a great job! For those of you who remember it, this cover is very like the Solomon’s Throne cover. We tried some different colors, but they just didn’t work as well, and since this is a sequel, I decided to just go with the similarity. In this small picture it might be hard to see the differences, so here they are:

The map is of Italy, as the story centers around a treasure hoard of the Doges of Venice in the Middle Ages.

There is a crown in the red slashed section, done in shades of gray.

I think the book will be online and in print next week! How exciting is that?!

So in the meantime, you can download your FREE copy of Solomon’s Throne to your Kindle this weekend, Friday-Sunday. That’s the first Rei and Gideon Quinn adventure, so be sure to check it out!

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