Yearly Archives: 2013

Will editing ever end?!

The longer and longer the editing process takes, the more and more I feel like it’s never going to end.  It seems like we’ve been editing for months.  In some aspects, we have, but it feels like a lot longer than it actually has taken.

My buddy Austin, you know him — the one that’s doing the editing — has been finishing up his Master’s Degree, which is why he hasn’t had a lot of time to finish reading and putting together his edits.  I think he finishes up this week, which should allow him some more time to get things done.

I’ve been reading through some chapters in random order myself from time to time.  Reading the chapters on their own, and not chronologically, has given me some good insight into each chapter on its own.  It’s allowed me to see whether or not the story in that chapter is written well enough to stand on its own.

I haven’t officially written any edits on those chapters myself.  My plan is to wait until Austin’s edits are done and then read through the whole thing on my own again.  That’ll give me some more insight into the story as a whole, to make sure that I’m comfortable with it before I send it off to a select handful of people I know to read and give their feedback on.

Hopefully I’ll have that process done by the end of June.  I’ll gather their feedback in July, incorporate that by mid-July, get it off to a story editor and get it back to finish the last draft by September.

I’ll record the audio book version in early September, and get it all for sale.

All in all, not a bad project for 2013.  Keep myself busy, put out a book, and check off something on my bucket list all at once.  Not a bad 2013 at all.

Even more editing!

Despite going through his last few weeks of his Masters program, Austin’s been awesome at doing this editing project.  I imagine that when all is said and done, he’s probably going to hate me a little bit.  I don’t think he realized how much work this would be when I asked him to do it. In fairness, I am paying him, so there’s that.

I did the addition on word count of what we’ve edited so far, and we’re roughly a third done with the first draft’s edit.  Making good progress, but I think it’s definitely taking longer than either of us expected it to.

Remind me to never think writing a book is easy ever again.  The initial draft was an easier process and took less time than editing it.  It’s kind of surprising, when you think about it.

On the upside — once the first draft is edited, all of the spelling and grammatical mistakes should be caught, and I can focus on the content of what it all says in the second draft.

My plan is still to hire a professional story editor once the second draft is done, to make sure that the story works.  I may also solicit some friends to read it and just let me know what they think of it.  I’m still not positive that the story itself is even any good.  Hopefully it is. I’ll be able to solicit Austin’s opinion on the story once he’s done reading everything.

The process has been slow, but rewarding.  Having someone else make comments on the work, chapter by chapter, has been great.  Though there have been chapters that have comments that make me discouraged, overall the editing process is going quite well.

My goal is to be done with the first draft’s edit by the end of May, and then work on the second draft through June.  I’m shooting to have everything done and self-published by the end of September.  That includes recording the audio book, which I obviously can’t do until the story is done and completely edited.

That’d make the total turnaround time for this whole project about seven(ish) months, as I started in early March.  If I sell 1000 copies, I’ll be happy.  That’s my goal.  For something I just decided to do, have no backing on, and am financing myself, I think that’s a completely realistic goal.  Anything more than that will be cake.

Plus, at 1000 copies, I’ll have made my money back on what I’m spending out of pocket to have the book edited, published, the audio book recorded, and the various other costs associated with this whole thing.

Fingers crossed!

Editing Continues

I’ve been hard at work with my editor buddy chugging our way through the first draft edit that we’re doing.  It’s been a pretty slow and grueling process, but on the bright side, we’re making good headway.

Based on the progress we’re making, I’m guessing this will take another 6-8 weeks.

Once that’s done, I’m going to do a whole read-through myself, to see if there’s anything that I want or need to change for myself.

Once that’s done, I’ll hopefully have found a professional story editor to go through the whole thing.  That’s assuming of course that Austin and Jen (my friend I’ve mentioned many times) think the story is worth moving forward with. Like I’ve said, I think the story’s good, but others may not like it.

I think I also decided this week that I’d like to do an audio book version too. Not because I think it’ll sell any better than anything else, but because I think it’ll be fun to record and produce an audio book!

The Editor’s First Feedback

I’ve been working with my good buddy, Austin, lately to have him go through my first draft and do a rough edit.  From what I’ve read online, that means he goes through and reads the whole thing, pointing out typos, grammatical errors, etc.  Of which there are plenty, I’m sure.

He’s also been pointing out things that I haven’t noticed as I wrote: describe this character better, this character said this here and something contradicting here.

We decided, rather than waiting for him to finish the whole thing, that he’d send me a few chapters at a time.  That way I can read his feedback, incorporate what he’s said, and not have the daunting task of doing that all at once.

One thing’s obvious — the editing part of this is going to not only take way longer than I thought it would, but it’s also going to take a lot longer than writing the initial first draft.

I went through the feedback this morning for the first four chapters.  It took me about 3 hours to incorporate the changes into my first draft.  There weren’t that many of them, it was just that going back and forth between his PDF with his notes on it and the editing application I’m using was time consuming.  Looking from one screen to the next and trying to find where the two words line up was taking more time than I thought it would.

So the good news is that we’re progressing with the editing of the book!  The downside is that it’s taking much longer than I anticipated.  With this new schedule and the rewrite I’ll have to do, I’m hoping that I’ll have been able to get the book done by September.  I’m setting an internal goal of having it be for sale before my birthday at the end of September.

My best friend is also reading the book, and I’ll be interested to hear what her feedback is.  So far I know she’s read through the first five chapters, and she said that it started a bit slow but once she got to chapter 3 she wanted to keep reading to find out what’d happen next.  I guess that’s a good sign.

I’m still worried about the whole thing.  It’s nerve-racking not knowing whether or not people will like what you’ve written, or sympathize with your characters or story.  It’s scary that you’ve invested so much time in something, and it may turn out your story is a giant pile of garbage.  I’m hoping that’s not the case, but only time will tell.

If you’ve read the book, I’m hopeful that you’ve enjoyed it. Or if you are reading the book, I hope you like it so far!

Editing Continues

While waiting to hear back from my friends with their feedback and comments, I’ve continued to think of ways to improve the story.  Which is kind of backwards, given that I’ve asked someone to edit the first draft.

I’m thinking the characters need to be painted more as pictures.  I tried to do my best to describe them as people, but I’m realizing that it’s likely going to be tough for people to imagine what they look like, based on how they’re written.  Perhaps going back through the scenes where we meet our main characters and doing a better job of describing them would be beneficial.

I also have some notes about the story itself.  While I’m confident that the meat and potatoes (so to speak) are there, I think there’s some tweaking that can be done; dialog enhanced, scenes fleshed out more.

To be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never done this before, I’ve never taken any real writing classes (aside from high school English).  I’m dying to know what other people think about the story, but don’t want to be that guy who’s nagging them all the time.  So I’m trying to be patient and hang in there, waiting for the time to pass and for them to finish reading.

For now, I’ve started outlining the story for my next book.  I suppose I have nothing better to do while I wait, right?

Editing: Round 1

I started reading through the first draft myself last week, and got to the fourth chapter.  I quickly realized that I was too invested in the story to do the actual editing myself.

So today I compiled a PDF of the first draft and sent it to my buddy Austin, who’s got an eye for editing.  He’s going to do the first draft edit for grammar, punctuation and whatnot before I can send it to the story editor.

I’ve also asked him to let me know if there’s anything glaringly wrong with the story or any of the characters.  Hopefully there’ll be some positive feedback there.

I also sent an iPad copy to my very best friend Jennifer.  She read the first chapter a few weeks back, and I asked if she’d mind reading the whole thing and letting me know what she thought.

To be honest, I’m terrified of this whole process. I’ve said it before, and I stand by it.  The process of sharing something so personal with someone, regardless of how well you know them, is terrifying.  Not knowing whether or not people are going to be receptive of what you’ve written, or if it’s not as good as you’d hoped.  Not knowing whether or not your characters are likable or not.  Not knowing whether or not your structure and chapters make sense.  All of it is terrifying, and it’s keeping me up at night.

Like I’ve said, I’m not out to sell millions of copies with this.  If no one buys it, I don’t care. I just wanted to write a book and get it out there.  And so far, I’ve come close to doing that.

I bought the ISBNs today, though they’re not really required for an eBook, it ensures that if I ever get any printed copies of it made, I’m covered with the same ISBN number. Or at least that’s what I read on the website that sells them.

Hopefully in a week or two I’ll have the first round of edits back, along with the feedback of my friends.  From there I’ll likely do some story touching up, maybe revamp some of the characters, tweak the plot points or something. I guess it really all depends on how the feedback comes in from my friends.  When I know more, you’ll know more.

The Author Website

As you may have noticed, I have a website here.  Shocking, I know!  What you may not know is that I started building the website before I even started writing the book.

My day job consists of many things to do with websites – working on them, building them, helping people with theirs – so naturally I knew I’d need a website for the book.

The domain name (mjandreau.com) was purchased years ago, as an alternative to my personal blog’s domain for a job hunt that I did back in 2009.  Since I still owned the domain, I figured that my writing persona would be M. Jandreau, and opted to start building the site here.

Building the website myself has been a fun experience.  I’ve been able to use some great existing software (WordPress), and a bunch of add-ons (called plugins) that are specific for authors that I’ve never had the chance to use before.

The site’s using a number of cool things – newsletter manager, download tracking, client testimonials, event managers, and book managers.  It’s helped me get the site all ready for everything I’d need to manage it and sell my book.

I’ve also done some behind the scenes work so that when/if I release a second book, I can easily transition into having this whole website about a single book to having and selling multiple books.

It’s been a fun (and necessary) experience, and at this point I’m mostly done.  I just need the cover art and to start selling the book so I can get the links on the homepage (which I realize by the time you may read this, will have already been done) to finish up.

Preparation for Selling the Book

As part of my preparations for selling the book once I’m done with all of the other work that’s going into it, there’s a few things that I’ve checked off the list already, including registering with the various websites that’ll sell the book.

As a first time author, I’ve opted to go for the big three: Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble.

Thankfully, each has a program for authors to sell their own work:

I was accepted into all three programs pretty quickly. iTunes took a day or two to approve me, most likely because all things Apple have a human review process.

I also have it on my to-do list this week to register with the Copyright Office, and to buy an ISBN from My Identifiers.  An ISBN is essentially a unique number that’ll identify my book across all mediums, including the library of congress.

There’s some debate whether or not an ISBN is required for a book that’s only published digitally, but I don’t want to take any chances.

As the week progresses, I’ll check these tasks off my list, and keep reading through the first draft making changes where I see fit.

My goal is to have my first round of edits done by the end of next week, and have at least one or two other people read it.  If they say it’s terrible, I’ll hit the drawing board to see what I can do to make it less terrible.  Hopefully that won’t be the case, but as I said this is an extremely personal thing to share with others for the first time, so I’m nervous and second guessing myself the whole way.

The Editing Process

As I go back through my first draft and begin reading through the almost 80,000 words I’ve written, I get a sense of accomplishment. Which is a strange feeling, given that I’ve yet to finish the book entirely, I’ve yet to sell a single copy, and I’ve hardly even told anyone that I was writing a book in the first place.

That said, I’m chugging away and reading through the entire book — trying to find flaws in my story or characters, trying to make sure it all makes sense, and that the ending is good enough for what I want it to be.

Things I’m looking for are sometimes simple; did I say that character A was tall or short in the beginning? So I stick to that towards the end — to more complex; did the entire story flow the way I wanted it to?

Some are easier to track down than others, and so far I’ve found more typos and grammatical errors than anything else.  I think having someone else read it will be beneficial since I can get an outsider’s perspective on it.

At the same time, that’s terrifying.  Sharing something with someone for the first time scares me.  Letting people into my world that I’ve created and meet these characters that I’ve brought to life — it’s frightening.  What if the first person I let read either just doesn’t get it, or they just flat out don’t like it?  I’ll feel like a failure.

I plan to read it twice more myself — first editing for grammar, second editing for content — before letting anyone else read it.  Once I get some feedback, I’ll start searching for a real-life-not-friend editor to go through everything for me once and help me get everything ready for general consumption.

Thanks to the software I’m using, I can generate all of the files for iPad/iPhone, Kindle, and NOOK all at once and upload them to the appropriate stores to be sold, for which I’ve already been approved (more on that process later).  The next big milestone (aside from editing) will be the cover art, which will be incorporated into those website’s stores, as well as the book itself.

I also have to sit down and try to figure out what the description of the book will be.  Given the complex nature of the story, it’s tough to summarize it in a way that not only makes sense, but doesn’t give away the ending.  It’s proving more difficult than I thought it would be.

Word Counts

As I was writing, I made sure to keep track of all the words I wrote every day. Not so much because it’s important to the process, but because it helped keep me motivated. I tweeted my count each time I stopped writing (usually in the morning and again in the afternoon), but since no one was following me at that time, I’m sharing them collectively below.

[table id=2 /]

As you can see, I made much better progress some days that others, and the last few days the words just sort of flew out of me, which was great and made me feel amazing. It was a fun part of the process, and doing the math to watch the numbers add up helped pushed me through to the very end.

Finished the first draft!

On March 5th of this year, I set out to do something that in my entire life I’ve never been able to accomplish. I set out to write my own book, and with the added advantages of today’s technologies, I can write, publish and sell it digitally without any help of a publisher or book printer. That’s amazing.

The book is a spin off of a story I wrote about 13 or 14 years ago as a short story. I began the process with nothing more than knowing what I wanted to tell for my story, and my computer.

When I first started, I spent a few hours trying to figure out the best software to use that’d be helpful in writing my story. I ended up on Scrivener, an application specifically geared towards authors and writers to help them in a number of ways.  I’m sure I’m only using it to 5% of its intended power, but it’s been infinitely helpful in my writing.  I’ve used it to organized my characters, locations, plot lines, and a number of other things.

I also used it to sketch out my entire story when I first started.  I’d known how I wanted to tell the story, so I used the chapter and scene functionality that’s built in to map out how I planned on telling the story, complete with estimated word counts.

What I found, as I began writing, was that I obliterated most of the estimated word counts that I was setting for myself.  Which was a good sign, but also worrisome at the same time.  According to what I could find, the average “first novel” was between 50,000 and 100,000 words.  Kind of a large variance, right? So I shot a Twitter DM to @scottsigler, who has written some great SciFi books that I’ve read in the past, and he’s offered me some guidance.  He suggested 80,000 is perfect for my first novel.

About halfway through I realized that my target goal was 80,800 words, almost perfectly what Scott suggested.  Though as I wrote, I realized I was writing more than each chapter’s target, and knew I’d go over.

So here I am, 20 days after I set out to write my book — I finished the first draft this past Friday, a mere 17 days after I started writing.  Take out the weekends where I didn’t write anything and I essentially wrote a first draft of my book in about a week and a half.  I don’t know if that’s good, bad, or indifferent, but I did it.

I’m extremely proud of myself so far, but recognize that I’ve got a long way to go before I can sell the book online through any of the various websites that sell eBooks.

The next step, of which I’ve already started, is to re-read it myself.  I want to go back through and make sure that not only is my grammar good (I have at tendency to write with too many commas, and when you’re typing 125+ words per minute, you make mistakes sometimes), but also that the story makes sense.  I know it makes sense on a scene by scene and chapter and by chapter basis, but not as a whole.  Reading through the whole thing like I’m an actual reader of the book should help me identify any spots that feel wrong, or confusing.

My first draft clocks in at 79,754 words, just shy of the 80k mark that Scott suggested.  For just writing for a week and a half, I’d say that’s pretty impressive.

My task list for completing the project is quite intensive, a lot of it wrapped around finishing this here website, designing a cover, and having a professional editor take a crack at it (along with a second rewrite of my own), so I’m by no means hoping to jump the gun.

When all is said and done, I’ll consider my first book a success if I can sell 500 copies.  Since it’s mostly free (except paying for the editor to review it, and for an ISBN), it’s not about the money or breaking even. It’s about doing something that I’ve always wanted to do, but never been able to complete.

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