From Idea to Publication…My Journey.

writing process

We all watch movies and TV shows about authors who are trying to come up with the next great idea…or struggling with writer’s block. I always laugh to myself that the character had to be inspired by the show’s writers own troubles.

Recently, a reader asked me a bit more about my personal creative process when writing books.

I’ve been pushing myself this winter (while our zoo is closed) to get some content done so I can publish all year long. The process is still a bit too long for my liking (I have 5 full-length books and 1 novella already written, but stuck elsewhere in the process that nobody has seen yet.) I’ve focused on honing my process in 2019, so here is a glimpse at what I do.

(Zoo Photo is below to break up this super long article.)

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(Photo of Raven is just for fun. Isn’t she beautiful? It’s our female wolf at our family’s zoo/wildlife sanctuary. She’s un-releasable due to no fear of humans, but has big, beautiful enclosure.)

1. A book usually sparks off an idea. Sometimes it’s a character I really want to write about, other times it’s a concept. For instance: Blood & Holy Water was based of three characters (Fin, Ava, & Lily) and I needed to create a problem/struggle for them. Where Superhero Wives was based off a question: What’s it like to be a superhero’s spouse? and then the story unfolded.

2. I take a day or two to jot down book notes, creating more depth to the characters, understanding their flaws and desires, and coming up with their struggle that will become a book. I then twist all these items into a rough story outline. (Literally, my outline is about 8-10 sentences.)

3. I begin writing, aiming for 3000-5000 words per day (on days I don’t work at our family zoo and I’m not editing another project.) So, for one of my 30,000 word novellas, it takes me about 7 days of writing and twice that to get a first draft of a 60,000 word novel done. Not bad: Rough draft in 14 days! Sometimes, I get a bit of writer’s block, but the easiest way to fix this is to take a day to plot out the next part of the story. For me, a good brainstorming session always overcomes writer’s block.

4. But that’s the easy part! My firsts drafts are TERRIBLE and I’d never show them to anyone. My next step is to go back through the book, fix all the plot holes I left and make the writing sound like I’m semi-intelligent. This process takes me just as long as writing the first draft does.

5. When my first edits are done, I make another pass, quickly, just reading and adjusting what I missed (and fixing grammar/type-o’s) This is only a few days.

6. I send it off to beta readers for feedback. I bite my nails while I wait. This is the biggest time hold-up for me in getting a book released. It’s a struggle to find good beta readers that are reliable and efficient. I have a few I use, but I write more books than they can keep up with. I’m always looking for good beta readers, but I think I finally found some that show promise. Hopefully, I have this step figured out, so I’ll be able to get my books out faster.

7. I fix my story with beta reader feedback. Usually takes about a week and can be quite frustrating to figure out if the issues identified are truly issues or just the reader’s preference.

8. I send to my proofreader/editor. I have a fabulous fan who does this for me for free. (Thank you Janet!)

9. I send to my Advanced reader Team (and post on BookSprout) for reviews. I like to put the books up 3 weeks before publication.

10. I publish!

So… Here’s an example of the timeline for my upcoming book, Souls & Shadows (coming out next month.)

  • December: Wrote the book
  • January: Edited the book
  • Jan 15-Today: Book with my beta reader, waiting for feedback.
  • March 14-18th: Work on edits
  • March 18th: Send to my proofreader
  • April 1st: Send to my advanced reader team
  • April 22nd: Publish!

(Old photo of my family is just to break up this post as well.)

Family2

(Photo of my husband, kids, and me during a color run a few years back. Don’t you love the Oscar shorts?)

I’m always interested in other authors processes, some of them skip the beta reader step, while others use multiple rounds of beta reading. Some write a really clean first draft and don’t need all the time invested in fixing it before sending it to anyone to read. Others, make a detailed, in depth outline that could almost be read as a stand alone book!

Oh, and then there is the other big component before I publish: Getting a cover!

Many, many designers are booked out a year or more. It’s a shame to hold up publication due to difficulty in getting artwork. I create many covers myself so I’m not at the mercy of a designer. (Plus it saves money. The cover is the most expensive part of my process–more than my beta readers/editors!)

So, are you a writer?

Tell me about your writing process.

Over-Ambitious Writing Goals for 2019

About a month ago, I was completely frustrated with writing.

I had 8 published books and none of them are super-sellers. Don’t get me wrong–I love writing! But when one is super excited about a new release and nobody else is, it’s kind of disheartening.

I had thought I wasn’t advertising the books right. I had tried everything from Newsletter swaps, paid newsletter advertising, AMS, Facebook Ads, Bookbub Ads, Free days, countdown days, raising the prices, lowering the prices, and (attempting) to be a social media guru…but they just never took off. The bottom line: I’m no good at marketing.

But I began to read other authors success stories and many of them weren’t advertising at all or doing the same things I was. The key, it appears, is writing a book readers want to read. Ha, so simple, huh? Another theme was rapid releasing, but we’ll get to that topic in the future.

I purchased a book, “Write to Market,” that helped me go through the current trends and come up with a few genres that appear to be hot…or at least hotter than pregnant fairy godmothers and clones. I came up with a handful of ideas, but didn’t know which way to go next.

So, I threw my ideas at my mailing list subscribers and asked for their input. After all, they’re my biggest fans.

And now, I went from completely frustrated about what to do next, to super excited with the ideas I have for 2019.

So excited that I want to write more books than I think is possible!

But it doesn’t matter. I prefer to set stretch goals. Reach for the stars and be happy when you land on Saturn.

2019 Writing Calendar_ Stretch Goals or Impossible Dream_

So…my plan for 2019 is to write four new series! (I know, you’re going to think I’m crazy! Especially since I’m not a full-time writer and help manage our family zoo (literal zoo with wolves, bears, and other critters.) Note: our zoo is closed for the season from January through April. My responsibilities there decrease tremendously, so this gives me lots of time to write.

The series I’m most excited to write are first in the year, so if things get pushed back or my attention turns to something else, I’ve (hopefully) gotten to my favorite stories.

January: Write a YA Witch Trilogy (Yes, a trilogy in a month! I am crazy! Watch for my blog about this in January. Just a note: I’ve been writing using springs. I do five 25 minute sprints per day and write 5000 words…so a trilogy of 50k books would take me 30 days if I wrote every day. It’s not so out of reach.)

February: Edit & write a Sci-Fi Alien Apocalyptic Adventure Novella for a box set I’m in. Go on vacation! 🙂

March: Write a new Sci-Fi Alien Apocalyptic Adventure Trilogy. (Yeah, CRAZY! Another trilogy in a month.)

April-May: Write a novella and three books in a new Paranormal/Witch Cozy Mystery series.

June-September: Write 3-4 books in a new Futuristic Time Travel Romance series.

October-December: Write 3 books in a new Paranormal/Alien Cozy Mystery series.

Yeah, I’m a bit heavy on the sci-fi this year, so the end of the year may change, but knowing where I’m heading helps me plot things out in my spare time and keep me excited about what 2019 will bring!

Side note: In 2019 I plan on doing more blogging. I have some good topics I can’t wait to share.

Have you planned 2019 yet? Please share what your major goal is. I’d love to hear!

Newsletters, Street Teams, Advanced Reader Groups, Social Media, Oh My!

My marketing efforts for my novels needed to be organized!

One thing I had been confused about is all the special groups some writers have. I’ve read about street teams, advanced reader groups, and launch teams, but it left me confused…I already have a newsletter and social media fan pages, do I really need three more groups of readers?

And with these more specialized groups, what info do I share with them, and how often do I engage them? I can barely keep up with everything I do already.

At multiple points during my years writing and publishing, I bought into each of these team concepts at one point, forming a new group that I let fizzle out a few weeks later, because I didn’t understand what to do with the team of willing readers.

After doing a ton of research, I realized I was making the whole process way too complicated.  I demystified the teams, and I thought other writers might also be confused, so I’m sharing information on my idea of what the best collection of fan engagement platforms are. The ones that give you the biggest return for your time.

Newsletter:

I’m still a huge fan of a Newsletter List. Many writers have multiple different ways to grow and manage their newsletters. Some writers only grow organically through visitors to their website and readers of their books, others utilize a reader magnet and service like Instafreebie or BookFunnel, while others participate in huge group giveaways. I’m actually a fan of all of the above.

I treat my newsletter like any type of paid advertising I do. It’s a way to engage established fans and attract new readers. What’s right is very specific to the writer.

There’s also the question of how often to send a NL. I know writers who send a newsletter daily…to weekly…to monthly…to only with new release edition. My choice is after an initial, weekly welcome series for the first month, I only send a NL out monthly unless I have a new release or something important to say in between. Monthly is enough to ensure the readers remember who you are, but doesn’t bog down their inbox.

I look as a newsletter as a consistent, typically one-way communication tool where an I can keep my subscribers/fans updated on what I’m working on, such as new and upcoming releases and remind new fans of my previous books they might not know about. To keep fans engaged, I do ask questions, share fun content like jokes and contests, share new project info, inside information on writing a certain piece, including deleted scenes, character interviews, etc, contests/games, other author book reviews, etc.

Website/Blog:

It works the same as a newsletter, only instead of the author pushing out the information, readers find the information when they’re interested in it. It’s a way to keep books organized and guide the reader to other stories they’ll enjoy. Plus, it’s nice to add a little bit of extra, bonus information.

I continue to blog a little (I used to do more of it)  for no reason other than I get enjoyment from the process and interaction. I don’t feel a blog is necessary, but do think every author should have at least a static web page.

Social Media Fan Pages:

Social media is another way to engage the reader. Successful fan pages have two way communication where the author connects with the reader on a nearly, 1:1 level. In my neck of the woods, Facebook is the most popular, so I utilize that one. I have other ones as well, but I don’t go to them routinely with information, but I utilize some integration so my blog and Facebook posts automatically go to twitter.

Early in my career, I tried to utilize too many social media sights, and I got overwhelmed and my posting frequency and content quality went down on all of them. Now, I’m focusing on Facebook. Ideally, posting every day. If some of my fans don’t use Facebook, they should subscribe to my NL or check out my webpage to find whatever info they’d like.

Advanced Reader Team / Street Team / Launch Team:

I’ve decided to combine all three of these into one team that I’m going to refer to as my Street Team. It’s too difficult to keep different groups based on what they’ll do for you, so I’m merging all my half-thought-out groups into one. With this, I have two parts. First is a “Street Team” email list and second is a “Street Team” Facebook group.

Both of which I don’t contact consistently, only when I have something to say. Most of these readers are on my regular newsletter list or follow my Facebook Author Page already.

I utilize this group to help me with specific tasks. In exchange, they get offered early, advanced copies of my books before publication.

I ask them to read and review copies of my books, to purchase the book (if they’re able) to help me with Amazon ranking and having their reviews show up as verified. I also ask for help with advertising by commenting and sharing Facebook posts for enhanced visibility, to help pick covers, provide blurb feedback, to test their interest in new book ideas, and to help spread the words of my stories by sharing them with their own followers and groups.

So…how does this all come together?

I send my Newsletter out once per month. (And an extra time if I have a mid-cycle new release.)

I’m working up to posting on my Facebook Page once daily. I pre-schedule posts a lot so I only need to work on this about one day per month.

I post on my Street Team Facebook Group whenever I have a decision to make… i.e. New series cover or concept, title feedback, etc, have an advanced reader copy of a book ready (I like to post the book 2-4 weeks before publication) and then during the first week of my launch with specific tasks (like leaving the review, liking/sharing posts, etc.)

I email my Street Team Newsletter list when I have a new advanced reader copy of a book ready, then I re-email whoever received a copy as soon as the book launches, reminding them to leave a review.

That’s it. Not nearly as complicated as I made it over the past few years.

How about you? What works for you that I’m missing? I’d love to hear.

You Can’t Have Too Many Fairy Godmothers!

When you saw or read the story of Cinderella, who did  you cheer for? Was it the poor servant who was given a chance at love?

Or was it the fairy godmother who made it all happen?

How about Pinocchio? Did you cheer for the boy made out of wood, or did you want more screen time for the blue fairy who performed a miracle for the boy to live?

And Sleeping Beauty? In the Disney movie, the three fairy godmothers stole the show with their comic relief.

For me, I loved the magic behind the story. I loved the fairy godmothers!

Hidden CoverLast November, I published a quirky fantasy book about a pregnant fairy godmother who ventures to the forbidden human world to find her child’s father (Hidden: A Pregnant Fairy Godmother’s Journey…) I didn’t think too hard as I wrote it, just having fun along the way, creating places like Prosthetics-R-Us, meals like platapus eggs and meatloaf, and a character who said Dibbity, Dobbity, Doo!

This story was a much needed break after finishing  novel that I struggled with for nearly a year (The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives.) It’s only novella length (about 30,000 words) but tells an entire story.

As ridiculous as this story was, it was my fourth published story and the first one that my 13 year old daughter read. (I had to promise her there were no swear words in it!) Hidden was never meant to have any other stories in this world, but after my daughter finished the story, she kept asking me to write the story of Ciera (my main character’s) baby.

Well, I’m leaving the story of Kamda (Ciera’s daughter) to my own daughter to write (she’s about 3000 words into the story,) BUT I did write another story in the Fairy Godmother Universe.

Why?

Because you can’t have too many fairy godmothers!

legends of the veil

My newest addition to the Fairy Godmother World is titled Trapped: One Fairy Godmother’s Impossible Love… It’s less quirky, but just as fun. It’s another novella length work that’s currently only available in the Legends of the Veil anthology. Once again, I wrote it as an escape from a current project (The Angels of Sojourn Series.)

This novella tells the story of Mila, a fairy godmother who’s been in love with Lincoln, a human, since she was six. Now, nearly twenty years later, this human is getting married, and Mila finds herself faced with an impossible decision.

This story stands alone and you can read it independently of Hidden.

So, what’s next?

I’ll give my daughter a year to come up with the story of Ciera’s daughter, Kamda…if she doesn’t finish it, I’ll be writing it when I need a break from whatever project I’m working on. In the mean time, I’m busy planning a Christmas story and plotting out a new series involving something a little different for me…aliens.

Thanks for reading!

Copy of Discover More of the Angels of Sojourn with these FREE books

Starting a Newsletter Serial Novella

_ NEW _

For about a year, I’ve been wanting to write a serial novel for my newsletter where I release one or two chapters of a new story at a time. I had gone so far as polling my newsletter subscribers to see if they were interested (which the majority of the respondents said they were.)

I had two big barriers to doing this…

  1. Finding the time to write something extra with all the stories I already committed to and fitting this in with the work I do at my family zoo business.
  2. My Newsletter only goes out monthly — that’s a lot of time to wait between releases.

But this summer, I’m in need of sending out a weekly newsletter due to all the new material I have coming out and other commitments. I thought it would be a great time to try this serial newsletter idea.

So, starting today and running until the end of August (or mid-September, depending on how the story goes) I’ll be releasing a weekly newsletter filled with one or two chapters of my current work in progress, The Superhero’s Husband.

This story is not written yet. I’m writing it as we go with hopes of receiving feedback from readers. I did take a day or two and outlined it with quite a bit of detail — which is needed for clue planting as all my longer stories have elements of mystery.

I’ll update you in a few months… My fingers are crossed that this is successful!

To see how I introduced this concept in my newsletter, click HERE.

To read the first chapter of The Superhero’s Husband, click HERE.

Author Newsletter Content

It’s been over a year that I’ve been sending out an author newsletter. I used to get so nervous on my content and had a touch of paralysis on whether to send it out or not.

Now, I’m a little more confident, but still wonder if I’m on target. I subscribe to lots of author newsletters, trying to see which interests me most, but each one of them is so different. I’ve learned what I don’t like in a newsletter, but still have questions:

Are my subscribers reading mine? Do they like the content or are they expecting something different?

To answer these questions, I created a survey and asked my readers what they like, hate, and wish was included. I sent this survey out in my monthly newsletter and incentivized survey completion with a $20 Amazon Gift Card prize given away to one lucky respondent. Here’s what that newsletter looked like.

Overall, I received 535 responses to my survey. 🙂 This is what my readers had to say:

  • 52% have read at least one of my books
  • 50% appreciate that my stories are clean, while 30% don’t care, and 9% only will read clean stories (I recently had two subscribers upset about an anthology I was in that wasn’t clean. My story was, but the other author’s stories weren’t. It made me realize who some of my readers are.)
  • 59% like a monthly newsletter while 19% like every other week and 17% would like weekly (Other authors do weekly and say it works great and is what their fans want. I was curious, as a more frequent newsletter would allow me to participate in more group promotions.)
  • 71% of my readers enjoy fantasy books, 70% mystery, 56% romance, 56% science fiction, and 20% would read anything I wrote. 😊 (I love you!) I didn’t realize how many mystery readers I had.
  • 50% are happy with a diverse newsletter while 25% would like one tailored towards their favorite genre
  • 59.4% like a subject line that has a peek to the content while 32.5% enjoy a consistent one so they know who the newsletter is from (Mine used to all say something like: April’s “Hidden World” Newsletter. I recently changed this to try to get higher open rates, and was wondering if readers missed it. It appears this was a good change.

Of what I currently put in my newsletter, I learned my readers are most interested in my new release updates, followed by updates on my writing progress & stories. Group promos & contests, and other author books are the least favorite, but still 54% say they enjoy this section.

I then asked the survey respondents what would they like to see in my newsletter that’s currently not there. The most requested was fun stories about my personal life that ranked in at 47.5%, followed by sneak peeks & excerpts and exclusive content such as character interviews or deleted scenes. Hearing about book sales and the life as a writer also had quite a few votes. The least votes came to hear about what I’m blogging about and a serial novel.

Then I read everyone’s comments, which is where you get the best feedback. Here’s some of my favorites that I’ll be incorporating into newsletter revisions:

  • More on Zoo Animals!
  • More on where you get your inspiration
  • Too many promotions at the end of the email
  • Table of contents
  • Don’t need to include all categories every month
  • Advanced reader copies of books

Overall, this was a fantastic exercise to do with readers. I learned that I’m currently on target with content, but still gave me some tweaks I can do to improve my newsletters further. To see how this all came together, take a peek at my April Newsletter where I started to make some changes. More to come.

Thanks for reading!

–Joy

Feel free to share any author newsletter experiences you’ve had. I love learning from each other.

My 2018 Publishing Schedule

My dad always says, set your goals at 110% and then be amazed when you accomplish more.

That’s been the story of my life.  It adds pressure and stress, but when you do reach (or exceed) your goals, it leaves you with an amazing feeling of accomplishment. The key is to sometimes take a break from always pushing yourself farther.

This year, I stumbled into some great opportunities that I couldn’t pass up…so I set my goals at 110%…at least for the first part of the year.

Currently, I’m working on writing five projects that have deadlines sometime before May 20th.

  1. My novel, Fur & Feathers: Angels of Sojourn – Book 2. Progress: First draft is with two beta readers.
  2. A short story for a permafree Angels & Magic collection. Progress: First draft is complete and is being reviewed by its first beta reader.
  3. THREE different novellas
    1. Angels & Magic box set. Currently writing. Will have the first draft done by the end of the week, then I need to find some beta readers.
    2. Unleashed – PNR box set. Story is outlined, will write next.
    3. Legend of the Veil – fae box set. Story is outlined, will write after “Unleashed.”

And all this will come together in the following publishing calendar.

May:

  • Fangs & Fairy Dust: A spin-off novella in the Angels of Sojourn Series. Publishing May 21st. (Currently available for pre-order or in the Darklight & Daydreams anthology.)

June:

  • Angels & Magic Permafree Anthology (A stand-alone Angels of Sojourn Short Story)
  • Angels & Magic Box Set (A stand-alone Angels of Sojourn Novella)

June/July:

  • Fur & Feathers (Angels of Sojourn, Book 2) – this book is written and with beta readers. I’m also waiting for the cover which will be done in April. It may release sooner.

August:

  • Legends of the Veil: Summer of the Supernaturals Anthology (A new story in my Hidden: A Pregnant Fairy Godmother’s Journey world)
  • Unleashed: A Paranormal Romance Anthology – This will be the first book I’m in with a bare-chested man on the cover. My story will still be quite clean. 😊 I’m blushing just thinking about promoting this one.

October through December:

  • The Secret Life of a Superhero Husband Novella (Superhero Wives World)
  • Angels of Sojourn, Book 3 (About Lily & The Angel of Death)

2019:

  • The sequel to Love, Lies & Clones (Yay!)
  • A new series (Another Yay!)

Oh, how I wish I could write faster, but that dang day job. Too bad those animals at the zoo need care every day. 🙂 (If you missed it, that was a joke. No worries. I love our animals.)

Is there something else you’d like me to spend my time on? I’d love to hear!