I love being a self-published author, and I’m not alone. I’ve heard now from a few established authors who started traditionally published that switched, and they prefer self-publishing, too. Now, it’s not without its challenges, and traditionally publishing has a lot going for it as well. Still, self publishing allows us to share stories we feel it’s in our hearts to tell.
How do we keep the quality of our books up? We have to pay attention, but we can put out books just as high quality as you’d get from a major traditional publisher. I’m not only an author, but also a reader. I love finding hidden gems from other self published authors. I’ve also started many books and ended up stopping early. I’ll share the main reasons I’ll stop reading, so you can look at your own writing and see if it’s something you need to be aware of.
1. Long and convoluted sentences can break the flow of a story. There’s nothing wrong with using commas. I use them, too. If you’re going to use them, use them well. If you have more than one or two commas in a sentence, you might want to break the sentence up, or even find a way to reword your ideas. I stopped reading a book because sentences were too complex and I couldn’t get into the story. Actually, this might be the top reason I’ve given up on books. Five commas are a sign you need to re-examine your sentence. Seriously, I’ve seen it often.
2. Watch your point of view. Learn about the different points of view you can use and how each one works. Whatever you choose, be consistent. It’s possible to mix points of view and do it well, but this takes real skill. The hardest one I think to do well is third person omniscient, which means you hear from every character and know their thoughts. If your narrative is head hopping randomly, it can be more distracting than effective. Ways to handle multiple points of view include separating views by chapter, or section, or even by book in a series.
3. Spelling and grammar issues can be distracting. Spell checkers are great, but they won’t necessarily tell you when you used the wrong word, and grammar checkers might not catch it, either. Having someone else read your work can help, as we don’t always catch our own mistakes. Even professional proofreaders miss the occasional error, so it’s usually not a dealbreaker for all but the fussiest readers, but most readers won’t fuss over a single error or two.
4. Know your audience. At least, pay attention to your audience’s age and reading level. I expect different things if I’m picking up a young adult book, a middle grade book, or something aimed at adults. Young people can be all over the place in their reading levels, with a voracious 12 year old maybe out-reading a late teen reader. However, sometimes you have a young reader who is more sheltered mentally or emotionally. Keep this in mind when choosing your story and how to tell it, if age might be a factor. It doesn’t mean you have to change your story, but maybe it’ll help you decide how much detail to use on certain scenes, or what words to use.
Put out the best book you can. You’ll get better the more you write. My second book is more polished and has better writing than my first book. That’s normal. Many books from now, I might look back and see how much better a writer I am than when I started. Write every chance you get and study writing. Not all writing rules matter to all writers, but you’ll find a style that works for you. Just keep in mind who your audience is, so you can write a book they’ll love. Firstly, though, make sure you love your story, too. Get writing!
That time has come once again. I’m ready to take my rough draft and put it into final format. My story is about to gain the richness of descriptors and sensory information, and not just be a rough draft. Sure, the rough draft does contain all kinds of descriptors and more, but not in final form.
The best advice I ever got was to work with two files, my rough draft as it is, and a brand new file. I look at what’s in my rough draft, and completely rewrite it into my new draft. I keep the ideas the same, and often the dialog doesn’t change at all, it stays word for word. However, while it means extra work for me, rewriting has one distinct advantage for me.
When I’m not editing something already there, I can word my final draft in the most effective way I want, freely with no boundaries. When I’m editing something already down, I’m less likely to change my sentences. When I’m rewriting, I spend more time making the sentences the best I can make them.
It also means I don’t get writers block. See, I know I just need ideas and conversations and basic details in my rough draft. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing is, because it’s not in its final form. I can get stuff down, change it as I need or want to make the story flow, and even leave notes to myself to flesh out things before my final draft. I can write whatever scenes I want and make them better later.
Also, by the time I get to my final draft, the ideas are already down, so all I have to do is make them pretty, give my words life, and make my world and characters feel real. Since I don’t have to come up with the ideas, there’s nothing to block. I can rewrite a sentence as many times as I want, though it seldom takes more than a single rewriting.
It does slow down how long it takes to write each book, as I write it twice, but I feel it gives me a much better book to share with the world. It also means I don’t sit there with writers block for days or weeks. Every writer will find a method that works for them, and sometimes trying a new method is a good thing. However, once you find what works, hone the technique and make the most of it. Routine can also help writers, as it stimulates the brain in certain ways. For me, the routine of a new file for my final draft helps me clearly separate my idea writing from my polished book.
What routines work for you?
Well, that time has come. I’m almost half way through my final edit of my magic story. My third draft went to my proofreader before I actually read it, and now I have it back with comments. There is some truth to needing someone to read it for you. They’ll see things you don’t as the author, like issues with the story you may not realize because of the image in your head.
On the other hand, I’m finding that my skills as a proofreader are still sharp. I’m doing my final edit, incorporating the changes my reader found in nearly every case, and I’m finding issues they did not. I’m occasionally adding or changing words, too, as it’s also my final content edit. Do the words flow easily? Are there double uses of a descriptor too close together? Now’s a great time to fix it.
Most of my errors are small, a forgotten or changed letter causing the wrong word to be there, or a forgotten quotation mark or something. I’ve found a period in front of a comma when my finger slipped, for instance. Nothing major, and not many issues, but it feels good to get rid of the errors anyways. I know I’ll see them when I read it again and if I don’t fix it.
Following the advice of “write the book you want to read,” I fully intend on reading my stories again. Will I get them all? Maybe. I hope so. Maybe not. Even professionally published books occasionally have errors make it past the proofreaders. I know that if I don’t, I’ll see the error next time I read the book. I’ll give it another read before I publish anyways, as I love my characters and enjoy my story. I wrote for me, after all, and I look forward to the adventure for many years to come.
Having someone to do some reading and editing is valuable. It can be a professional, or even someone you know with solid knowledge of the language. Your budget and project will determine what you need. Someone writing non-fiction will want to find an editor with some familiarity with the subject of the book, unless they are editing solely for spelling and grammar.
As the person who everyone came to in English class in school, I feel good about my skills. However, a fresh set of eyes is never a bad thing. My editor was able to catch a few content issues, nothing major, but things I can clarify for readers to help them enjoy the book and world I created even more. We also found some spelling errors to fix, as my computer is old and a few keys sometimes stick.
I’ll be taking his notes and reading through again anyways, making sure I like the final copy of what I have written. Did I feel I missed anything? I can explain some things more in the sequel if I want, building the world around the foundation I have created. Still, having him look over things let me know where I might need a little more detail in some places. I’d rather learn that now than after I publish.
Soon I work on and finish what I hope will be my final draft. Another read through, and I’ll be ready to publish!
I did it! I finished the third draft of my Young Adult novel. It’s been given to my first reader for feedback.
To be honest, I’m kind of freaking out about it. I’ve been working on this story since the beginning of May. I love the characters and the story is my baby, in a way. I want my writing to be worthy of the place these characters have in my heart. It’s my first novel, so I know I still have a lot to learn, though.
It’s terrifying giving it to someone to read, even someone who loves me and who will be gentle as they tell me what they really thought of it. I may love the story, but will they? I know as they story makes its way in the world, not everyone will love it. I wrote it for myself, so I don’t care so much about that. Still, what if it’s rubbish? He’ll tell me honestly what he feels needs improvement, and I can try again. There’s no way the whole story is irredeemable. There’s something there I can fix if I need to.
Nothing is ever perfect. Many people don’t finish the process because their writing is never good enough. I’m feeling the doubts now, but I know I’m a good writer. I know I can make this story something worth reading. I’m celebrating finishing a third draft, because that’s more than I’ve ever done before. I WROTE A BOOK!
I’ve reached that stage in editing. I’m almost done draft 3, and I’m beginning to doubt myself. That’s fine, actually. See, I’m editing the part where my character goes through her challenges and has to face her fears. She’s doubting and she’s moody and life just isn’t going her way. As I edit, I feel it, too.
Maybe that’s a good thing, as it means her emotions are coming across, at least to me. I’ll know when I hand it over to someone else for review and comments. What it also means is that I push through the doubt like she does and keep going. When I spend all morning in another world, or worlds (I’m writing more than one book), sometimes I feel what they feel.
Sometimes it can take a little for me to extract myself again. I’ve heard it said that a writer is a whole bunch of people rolled into one body. Sometimes I feel that way. I’m the lost girl trying to find my way in life. I’m her mentor, coming to help. I’m the villain, just wanting to make the world my version of better.
I’m also the writer who sits back and gives these people their own voice, knowing they want to be on the page. It’s hard when I give them feelings, as I’m sensitive to the feelings of others. Characters can have feelings just as strong as we do, if the writer is any good. I’ve written scenes where my guy has jumped, wanted to scream, almost sobbed, and more as he read them, and he’s not the most emotive guy. I hope that means I can share the ride with my other readers, too.
Right now that means writing through the doubt and journeying on with the young mage, not letting her feelings overwhelm me as we go. It’s pushing on and finishing the book, revising again as needed when this draft is done. It’s planting my butt in that chair every morning So the story can continue. That’s what being a writer is, it’s writing because I have no other choice.
I’ve noticed that the different phases of writing have different energies. The initial stage of the first draft the writing comes fast and furious for me. Sections pour from my fingers as they fly over the keyboard. I can write for hours and the time flies, the ideas flying even faster.
The writing slows down as I add the filler scenes, moments that get us from A to B and add details to the story or the characters. I think more, keeping the whole story in mind and what my reader needs or wants to know, as well as what my characters want to reveal. The physical process of writing is slower as I think about what goes on the page in more detail.
Now I’m in the third draft stage, where I rewrite the book a word at a time. This stage takes a while, even when you just edit the original document, but it’s where you add details and change wordings, bringing the reader into the story instead of just telling yourself what the story was.
This stage is meditative and I’m enjoying it, however, I am noticing some resistances coming up during this stage. Sometimes that little voice of doubt tells me I’ll never finish, even though I’m over half done. I wonder if anyone will ever read my book, even though I wrote it mostly for myself. It’s not hard to push past and keep going, as I’ve learned how to tell the little voice to be quiet, but the little voice is sometimes still there in the background.
Now that both books are in this phase, my writing feels different than when both were In the frantic writing phase. I do have a personal book in the frantic stage, but I never work on that in the morning during my “professional writing hours.” Now my professional writing is calm and quiet, a whole new stage for me to enjoy and explore.
Writing is definitely a journey with many different types of terrain along the way. Between what I explore on the page and what I explore inside, it’s like moving through entire new worlds, both in me and in my head. I don’t regret taking this path for a moment. I have found an inner serenity in my writing that I often get in meditation and martial arts, a quiet place to visit and explore.
I’m curious about this process of going from my first/second Draft to the third draft. It’s interesting how much the wording is changing between the versions, even though the meaning is not.
This is where I find the rewriting completely fresh so beneficial. I’m no longer constrained by what I have already written. In a few cases I am copying and pasting some things over, but that’s mostly in dialogue, where I don’t need to change a lot.
Anywhere I’m rewriting the actions or perceptions of my characters, I’m finding it a big change. That’s a good thing. I also change what details I include, depending on which character I’m writing for. Some notice everything, others only notice certain kinds of details.
Occasionally, the details change paragraphs entirely, the order moving around based on how I adjust the action of the scene. I’m also finding the one story, my Young Adult story, is taking more of my time and energy right now. I’m helping it grow and develop, and often I’m getting around 4000 words a day redone.
Since I already know the story now, I just need to let it evolve and share itself in more detail. Some details get left out, shared through actions or reactions instead. Readers are smart. Give clues and they can figure out what’s going on for themselves.
I’m over a third done my YA story now, getting it ready for my first round of proofreading and editing by another person. I’m starting to get the third draft of the erotica done as well, as the first half is written, and I’m still working on the second half to tell the story. Depending on how the first half writes up, they may become two separate books again. We’ll see!
The road to making a novel is not straight. It’s a winding path with surprises around every turn!
I’ve been experimenting with rewriting my next draft, instead of just going through and editing the document. I have a second monitor set up so I can work with the documents side by side more easily.
I’m finding the story itself hasn’t changed, as I was happy with the storyline I made, but how I tell it has changed a lot. In some cases whole paragraphs are rewritten or left out altogether, and the information is condensed and made clearer.
I’m also writing with more sensory information, placing the reader there instead of telling the tale around a campfire. I’m showing with greater detail how she’s feeling and processing her world, while still sharing the most important thoughts and wants she expresses.
When I was editing within the document itself, I was more likely to let paragraphs through that I wasn’t necessarily thrilled about. By rewriting everything, I have total freedom to refresh all the language that I want. It’ll take longer, but I’ll have less editing on my next draft as well, so I’ll save time down the road.
I also have my new space set up! It’s very comfortable to work in and I have room for the second monitor now, where I didn’t before. I look forward to writing in my new space in a way I didn’t on my old desk.
So, new space, new skills, and soon a new story as well. I’m having fun rewriting the YA novel and getting it out the way I imagined it, instead of in first/second draft form. I don’t know how many rewrites I will need, but it’s getting closer to done each day.
Find an idea that excites you and get writing.
My Young Adult novel has now reached the stage where the framework is established, and I’m pretty well done my first draft, I guess. Now it’s time to go back through it and fill in missing scenes. This is actually a little exciting in some ways, and I’m enjoying it.
Sometimes I realize a scene I meant to happen later wasn’t late enough, so I needed to go back and write a preperatory scene before it. Other times the scene needs more scenes after it to incorporate something important into the story more. Still other times I remember something and go to the big finale to include elements of it. It’s actually a bit of an adventure.
I’m learning how to tie the whole story together. As my character learns to use her skills, she needs to build those skills in a logical order. Did I skip ahead, let her learn too big a skill, then go back? That’s the sort of question I need to answer with this editing round.
Yup, it’s the first revision and addition editing. My focus in on plot and consistency. I have a white board that I can make notes on and keep track of everything. My cork board is for planning plots, and my white board is for revising plots. It works well so far!
Once I’m happy with my plot and story, then I’ll be going back and starting round two of editing, which will be about wording and language usage. Am I being clear? Is there enough description, or worse, too much? Does she share how she feels and do you feel close to her? Who doesn’t love a pony? All these important questions to deal with.
Then will be the grammar and spelling run through of editing. I’ll spend as much time editing my book, or more, as I spent writing it. Now, to be fair, the first two rounds of editing are just another form of writing, so I count those as writing time, personally. Still, it’s exciting to begin the first stage of editing. I’m having fun, and it’s going better than I thought.
Part of it going well is only focusing on one or two things each time I edit. I can look at that one task and it feels more achievable. If I look at everything, I’ll lose some of the details. That won’t let me do nearly as good a job as if I really take my time and focus.
So, get writing, no matter how crappy that first draft is. Then you can make it pretty later. Plot holes? Skip them and finish the story. You may know what happens later, when you see how it all fits together.
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.