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The 2015 Book-A-Week Challenge

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This year has been pretty crazy.

I edited my book, then published it, I turned 28, I got laid off from one job and just started another, I went to D*Con, and now I’m getting ready to write my second book in November.

I haven’t had a lot of free time, not even for reading (or blogging, for that matter!).

But that’s changing in 2015.

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The Stories Behind the Book

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There are many things that go into writing a book.  Every author puts blood, sweat, and tears into their craft.  Some authors put more into their books than others, and some find writing a book easier than others.  But aside from the normal feelings and perseverance that go into completing a novel, one thing is universal for every work: an idea.

The idea for my book came from a couple of different places.

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A Dream Realized

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I could read and write by the age of 3.  My parents were thrilled and greatly encouraged me.  Before long, just like in Matilda, I had read every book in our house.

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Tips from An Almost-Author

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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:

AR cover 2c

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

2014 Can Officially Begin.

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I suppose it’s time I finally write my annual new years post.  I began writing them on my old blog as a way to record my new years resolutions and review the past year.  Traditionally, I’ve written the premier post on January 1st.  In the post, I recall my previous resolutions and how well those held up, as well as introduce new ones.  I’m quite late getting the first official post of 2014 written this year.  We’ll just say I gave myself a month to think about it.

I wrote a short post at the end of last year capturing some of 2013’s biggest moments for me.  I would like elaborate on each of those points to have them on record, but I’ll make individual posts for them.

Last year was incredible.  So many wonderful things happened and my world changed drastically.  For the last six months of 2013, I felt so alive in everything I did.  Electricity popped within me at every task I accomplished and every milestone I passed.  I’m convinced still that 2014 won’t hold a candle in many ways, but I don’t want to diminish the year’s light so early in.

As I was looking over last year’s post on the old blog, a few things really stuck out – things that weren’t even actual resolutions but observations or comments in passing that came to mean something later on.  Things like:

  • “I attempted to start writing at the start of last year, but couldn’t stick with it and eventually lost interest.  A resolution for this year is NaNoWriMo.”  This was part of a recap on a 2012 resolution to write more.  It’s interesting because NaNoWriMo wasn’t an actual resolution, it just happened.  I remembered it existed at the end of the year and felt like doing it.  I didn’t even remember making this comment in that post until I reread it in preparation for this one.
  • “Basically, I just sat back and expected good things to fall in my lap.  I’m a Christian, and I’d heard so many times to just “hand it over to God.”  But I think it’d be better if I met God halfway.  So this year, the mantra is, “Try Harder, Do Better.”  I want to give a better effort to things, and physically do more.  So there’s that.”  I couldn’t have possibly known what I’d accomplish or how far I would come from where I was.  I also think the “meet God halfway” strategy should stay in place.
  • In tandem with the previous bullet, “I’m on a mission this year to find a real job.  I’m tired of being a sell-out and a joke to everyone who looks at me and sees an unemployed job-seeker.  If it comes down to an unemployment agency, then so be it.”  My, how prophetic.  For it was exactly this act that led me to my dream job.

And now, a recap of 2013’s resolutions – the year preemptively described as “lucky” in that previous post:

  1. Do more.
  2. 1a.  Do less.  (i.e. Less whining, less complaining, less stressing, less lashing out, and less bad.)
  3. Lose more weight/run more.
  4.  2a.  Participate in another 5K.
  5. Take more pictures.
  6. Red Binder.
  7. Find a job.

How did I do?

  1. I like to think I accomplished a lot last year.  I went out of my way and sometimes out of my comfort zone to get the things I wanted.  So worth it.
  2. I don’t know that there was actually less of any of the examples I wanted to work on, but I did give an effort.
  3. I ran on a somewhat regular basis until I started my job.  It became difficult to balance the two, especially since I had to get up early to get ready.  I’m hoping to get back into running this year.
  4. That being said, I also want to run another 5K.  I didn’t run one last year, but I’m already looking at one for this year.
  5. At some point, I actually consciously calculated it and I take an average of 3 pictures a day.  I doubt that’s any more or less than what it’s been in previous years.  I also think the pictures mentioned in the resolution were in reference to Delilah, my big DSLR – a call to take more creative shots.  This did not happen.
  6. Yeah.  Still need to do this.  I’m tired of it taking up a resolution spot every year.
  7. Finally.

So, what’s next?

Here are the traditional 5 resolutions for 2014:

  1. Run again.  As already mentioned, I want to start running again.  I’m going to start training in mid-February for this 8K at the end of May.  I’m so excited – I’ve wanted to run this race since I moved here!
  2. Less sleep.  I made the executive decision that I need less sleep.  While some people require the exact opposite, I think I get too much sleep.  It’s a vicious cycle: I fall asleep super early, sleep through the whole night, wake up early, feel tired from getting too much sleep and acting sluggish, then fall asleep early because my body is telling me it’s tired when in reality it’s just over-rested.  I’ve already been making some strides to staying up later, so hopefully this will continue.
  3. Write more.  I may or may not do NaNoWriMo again, we’ll see how I feel about it in October.  For right now, this resolution will be slightly revised to, “edit and publish manuscript.”  I’m giving myself the month of February to edit it and create the cover.  Then all that’s left to do is publish it!
  4. Finish: Dresden, X-Files, Star Trek, KK.  This isn’t exactly a constructive goal as it’s purely for entertainment purposes.  I want to finish the Dresden Files series (up until the current book) as well as the Kingdom Keepers series, and I want to finish X-Files and watch all the incarnations of Star Trek.  I’m stupidly excited to watch Next Generation, but I feel it’s only proper to watch TOS first.
  5. Red binder.  Seriously.  In short, my mother-in-law gave me this red “binder” (which is actually a photo album) that had a lot of pictures in it from when Justin was a baby.  I wanted to scan the pictures and then return the red binder to her.  I think she gave me the binder back in 2010.  It’s time to cross this one off.

So there you have it.  That’s what I hope to accomplish/do/watch/read in 2014.  I’m sitting in my rocking chair with a red pen behind my ear, my manuscript on the floor next to me, and the sunrise illuminating my apartment.  For all intents and purposes, I can’t think of a better way to ring in the new year.

newyears

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book

I haven’t spoken much about it yet, but I wrote a book back in November.  For fun, I made a word cloud today of the 300 most-used words in my book.  I liked how it came out, so I wanted to share it.  I am currently working on not only editing the book but also getting it published!  It’s very exciting stuff.

In the meantime, I am writing my annual new year’s blog post (albeit two weeks late), and hope to share that soon.  Hope you enjoy this little unconventional preview of the book. 🙂