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.)

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(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.

The Evolution of a Novel Cover

Disclosure: I am a pharmacist, not an artist. I never expected to create a cover for LOVE, LIES & CLONES (or any novel) myself. Now, I can’t imagine passing up on all that fun! Honestly, creating the cover was one of the most enjoyable parts of publishing my novel.

I was looking back on my attempts at a novel cover and thought I’d share what I’ve learned since the first draft.

Since starting this novel in February, I’ve been through a TON of draft novel covers, before accepting my final version. I was set on making my own — mostly because I couldn’t even describe to a cover designer what to put on the cover.  My official cover isn’t perfect, but I’m happy with it.

I had read and listened to a lot of tips on making a cover. Here’s what stuck:

  1. Stick to your genre. Make sure your cover reflects what type of book you wrote. Look at other books into he genre and try to do something similar.
  2. Use contrasting colors – It attracts the reader. Teal and Orange, Yellow and Purple, etc. A color wheel can help with this.
  3. The fonts/writing should stand out on their own. No drop shadow and background adjustment needed.
  4. Use contrasting fonts. Serif vs non-serif, handwriting vs typed, etc.  (But not too many fonts to make it look busy)
  5. GET FEEDBACK! Besides asking my family, I made numerous Facebook, blog, Good reads, and twitter posts polling people to see what little tweak made the cover better.

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This was my first attempt at ever making a cover.  Ugh. Fail. I really had no idea what I was doing. I remember thinking here, “I wonder if there is an app that will write words on photos.” That’s how “green” I was. This one was from February/March of this year when I began writing the novel.

 

Clone CoverHere is my second attempt.  I took my daughter and dog out to be a model.  It turned out okay, but didn’t show the mystery/suspense.  I had no idea how to use any type of image manipulation software then. Now, I could have probably photo-shopped in a man with a motorcycle or a car or something up the road.

 

Love, Lies, & Clones Cover

 

I abandoned this one because I think the writing was hard to read. The tilted letters looked amateurish… along with the use of too many fonts. Now, I look at it and it’s not bad. I probably could have saved it. I did poll this on my blog at one point.

 

 

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Here, I still didn’t really understand what genre my novel fell in. I was trying for some DNA to show more sci-fi/medical. The background’s too dark and doesn’t really say anything about the novel.

 

LLC Cover - Final

 

 

My tagline phase. Looks like a headband.  Also, I still had color. The font is boring and I learned somewhere, that if you need to put a shading or shadow behind the font, you should keep trying.

 

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Here I was trying to add in the setting – with the Madison, WI skyline.  I went black and white because it had seemed too busy — turns out I liked black and white. The gun barrel was just too much, but here’s where I realized I loved her blue eye. I’m starting to learn photo manipulation here.

 

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And here is the final one. Black and White with words shadowing the face to show the genre.  (Mystery/Thriller with some romance/sci-fi). I tried to line the “L” of “Love” up with her eye as a leading line. I went with semi-contrasting colors (red/blue) and I had to learn to change the color of her shirt. The gun’s off-center so you’re not staring down the barrel — emphasizing her eye instead.

 

 

Here’s a fun graphic of the changes:

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Oh, and a bonus tip. It’s nice when all the covers from the same author look similar. That’s why I went red and blue on this novel. Here are the three novels I’m working on. Notice the similarities.

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So, I know I could have a cover that’s 100 times better using a professional designer (or even purchasing a premade one), but there’s some pride in knowing you did everything yourself when publishing a book.

I have the novel on pre-order through Amazon for $0.99 if you’re interested. The price will go up when it’s released on Friday. Love, Lies & Clones on Amazon Otherwise, my offer always stands. Email me and I’ll send you a PDF of the novel for free.

Have you made your own cover? How did it turn out?

I Wrote a Novel (or Two), Now What?

I’ve read that only about 3% of novels are ever finished. (Keep in mind, 99% of statistics are false. 🙂)

So here I sit with two manuscripts, asking myself… “There. I’m done. I said I’d finish… But now what? It’s a shame to just let it sit in a pile or on a file on my hard drive.”

I began doing my research and holy crap is the publishing industry confusing. Where does one even start? Ten years ago, I would have had a quick and easy answer to that. Find an agent and get a publisher, of course. Now, that whole philosophy is changing.

The first decision I need to make is between the two main types of publishing, traditional publishing versus self-publishing. After this decision, there are many choices within each publishing umbrella. Agent vs. direct to the publisher, large press vs. small press, Amazon vs. Smashwords, $3.99 vs. FREE.

Urgh! I’ve never been good with choices!

I could write a blog laying out these choices, but I thought it would be better to just link some of the good ones here:

Pros and Cons of Traditional vs Indie Publishing: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/self-publishing-vs-traditional/ (There’s a little propaganda here, but it lays it out nicely.)

And for lighter reading: http://annerallen.com/ive-written-book-now-what-22-steps-to/

So where does that leave me? I had to get down to my PURPOSE for writing. Besides enjoying it, I want to write stories that will bring many people entertainment… So, how do I get my writing into as many hands as possible?

At first, I figured I’d self-publish and GIVE my novels away for FREE. The more and more I researched that, the more it concerned me. First, I still am not certain that people would find and take the stories seriously, even if they were FREE. Secondly, would I be insulting the whole writing community by doing this? (And thirdly, how would I justify spending $1000-$2000 dollars on a novel cover, book editor, formatting, etc. of self-publishing with no return?)

So, I moved off that thought… (Though, if anyone asked me for my story, I’d be happy to send them a free copy.😊 I can’t say no.)

Next, I moved on to self-publishing, but struggle how to get readers. That’s my goal, right? To have people actually find my story and read it? I love the control one has in the publishing process, but if I wrote a story to have nobody find it? That would be heart wrenching.

I feel that breaking into the traditional publishing market is like finding a needle in a haystack… Or maybe a field of haystacks, but I read that the experience of trying, is probably a learning experience every author should have… Small press publishing may be easier, but I feel readership is probably similar to self-publishing.

So… I have two books and know I’ll have more in the future. Since I can’t make up my mind, I’m going to query agents for LOVE, LIES, & CLONES and self-publish BLOOD & HOLY WATER. The best of both worlds, right? I’m excited for the experience of trying both methods and comparing the two.(Both of which, I’ll update in this blog.) I’m shooting for only 10 rejections before I turn to self-publishing.  I know that’s not enough, but I’m not sold on traditional publishing anyway. When all is said and done, I’ll probably end up self-publishing both books.

What are your thoughts on the publishing industry?

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