Today is many things. It’s the next-to-last day of June. It’s Sunday. And it’s also the first day of my birthday week! I turn 28 on Saturday. I plan to write a post at the end of the week, as I do every year, that details my goals for this year/age and also goes over the previous one. Not unlike my annual new year’s post.
But today, I wanted to share a few tips.
I’ve mentioned it twice on the blog here, but just to catch everyone up: I wrote a book back in November through the NaNoWriMo organization. Writing that book was quite possibly my most thrilling/adventurous/nerve-wracking journey to date. The basic premise of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in one month. You can write whatever kind of book you like, but you must meet the 50K word count to “win.” Well, I won. And it was a huge effing deal.
As a fun teaser until I write a full post about it, here’s what the cover looks like:
I have no problem admitting that I was mentally exhausted by the end of November. Writing a book is no small task, much less completing one in a month.
I am currently working on getting the book published. Right now, I am self-publishing the book through CreateSpace. (After you “win” NaNoWriMo, you are awarded “Winner Goodies.” One of those goodies is a code that gives you two free copies of your book when you publish through CreateSpace. So, here I am.)
I am by no means an expert, but my experience over the last eight months has taught me a lot. If anyone reading this is an aspiring author, or is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, maybe reading these tips can help you, too.
- Make the time. It sounds easy, writing a book in a month. But just like everything else that sounds easy, it’s not. It takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge. If you break it down evenly, into four complete weeks, your word count goal is 12,500 words per week. That, already, is a lot. Doing it four times in a row is even harder. I guess what I’m saying is, know what you’re getting yourself into. Some days are going to be harder than others. Some days you’ll get so stuck in writer’s block that you have to cut your arm off with a Swiss Army knife to get out. Figure out when you write best: if you like to wake up before everyone else and write in silence, do it. If you’re one of those people who can successfully knock out a chapter on your lunch break at work, go for it. And if you have to seclude yourself with thick headphones and Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience to really get in the mood to write (like yours truly), then that’s what you have to do. You have to really push yourself. Make the time to accomplish what you want. This challenge is not easy; if it were, everyone could do it and win.
- Make an outline. I don’t think I can stress this enough. I wanted to create an outline before I began my book, but didn’t. Toward the end of my editing, I was really wishing I had. My book spans over a long period of time and has lots of flashbacks, so it’s absolutely essential to know exactly when everything happened to keep the story straight. But I didn’t have one, so I had to keep making mini ones as I was editing just to understand what I was reading, even though I wrote it. Having an outline to begin with also makes it easier to change the major story arc, if you find yourself wanting to do so later — you can’t change what doesn’t exist. You can look at the outline and say, “The story was supposed to follow arc A, but now I think it would be better to follow the new arc B.” It’s just easier to keep yourself on track with your original idea if you make an outline.
- Editing is not reading. Please, for the love of God, edit your work. You are welcome to take as long as you need to recuperate before editing. In fact, you are probably better off to not edit immediately after the work is complete; you want to edit with fresh eyes. So, give yourself a good break before diving back in. But make no mistake, editing is not easy. I’d go as far as to say that editing is harder than writing. Actually, I know it is. I’ve been editing in some capacity since I was 20, so the idea of editing being tedious and sometimes aggravating was not news to me. But it can be for some people, so I’m telling you now: it’s hard. And, for the record, editing is not reading. Yes, you will read your work many times before you’re done with it. But editing is a whole other ball game. When you edit, you can no longer consider your own point of view. That’s what the writing portion was for: to get all your ideas on paper. The writing was for you. The editing is for everyone else. When you read your work, try to read it from a third party’s point of view. Of course it makes sense to you — you wrote it. You’ve lived in this world, this universe, since you started writing. But anyone who is reading it for the first time doesn’t have that intimate relationship with it. You have to make it make sense to literally anyone who could ever read it. And that’s very challenging. Question everything you wrote and make sure that it makes sense: if you picked this up in a bookstore and read this chapter, would everything make sense? Having someone else read your work, even a small part, is the most helpful assistance you can have. Trust me, I know it’s scary for someone else to read your magnum opus. But also trust me when I say, it’s not as bad as you think. And it will help you immensely.
- Know the publishing requirements. As I said earlier, I am publishing through CreateSpace, so I can only give advice that pertains to that platform. My goal was to publish my book before June 30, because my code to get my two free book expires on that date. I’m not sure that’s going to happen at this point. Here’s why: I wasn’t completely knowledgeable of the publishing requirements. I didn’t know that the cover had to be submitted in its entirety as a PDF file. I didn’t know that CreateSpace has to review your work before you can order the finished product and that the review usually takes 12 hours, every time you resubmit the work for review. And I didn’t know that your Word document has to have a gutter and that the gutter can really screw up the page numbers you worked on for two days. Knowing all of that in advance would have made this part of the process much easier. Look into your publisher’s requirements. Most likely, there is a section on the website somewhere that details all of their requirements, if not several links to separate documents that detail their requirements for each part of the process. Get your ducks in a row before you begin the publishing journey. It will save you so much headache.
- Celebrate. After all you’ve been through to make your dream a reality, party like it’s 1999! Get excited, this is a big deal! You did it. You should be proud of yourself, I know I am! 🙂 I’m not to this point yet in my journey. But by the time I’m 28, maybe I will be. I’m looking forward to celebrating my accomplishment.
I hope this insight can be of some help to someone, even if it’s only of help to me the next I attempt to publish a book. Should you happen upon this post and have additional questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll help you out as much as I can! Good luck!