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20 Chapters to go!

I’m so happy to report that editing of My Last Days is happening super quickly lately. Each night I sit down and edit, I churn through 6 to 8 chapters.

The book, you see, is broken down into sections, months, really. Since we’re living the story of Andy’s life (that’s his name, in case you missed it), we follow him through-out the months.

Each month is broken down into a handful of chapters – some as little as 4 or 5, some as many as 10.

It’s a unique approach to telling the story to help you understand what time of year it is, how much time has passed, etc., without you having to guess.

As of last night, I have just the last three months left to edit, each of which has about 6 or 7 chapters.

I think I’ll be done with editing the final draft by the end of September, then ask some kind souls to give it a read and let me know what they think. While I like the story I’ve written (especially some parts), I’m not sure I love it. At least not just yet.

If you’re interested in reading it and giving me your feedback, get in touch with me on Twitter at @jandreauwrites!

“Final” Draft Editing of My Last Days

According to my last update, it’s been almost 3 years since I did anything with My Last Days.

Three years. 

My word.

I knew some time had passed, as I blissfully ignored the book, the draft, the edits, everything. In fairness, time goes by much faster as you get older. Also, my daughter’s almost a year old now, so for the last year I’ve had an excuse of being a busy new dad.

What about the other two years? I don’t know. I think I felt defeated with the last draft and just needed to step away from it for a bit, so I did. That “bit” turned into longer than I’d hoped, though.

But, as of Monday – when I’m on a short 3 week vacation – I’m going to get back to it. I’ve bought a brand new notebook for edits, loaded the latest version of the book to my Kindle to re-read through it all and I’ll make notes as I go.

Then, I’ll hit the “final” draft, edit the hell out of it, and hopefully get some feedback from folks who hadn’t previously read one of the drafts to see what they think.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll publish sometime early in 2019. And that’ll be that.

Then, maybe, I’ll move on to another book. Or maybe I already have. Maybe I’ve been writing for the last year about being a dad and what fun, great and horrible things that’s brought into my life.

If you’re still following along here, thanks. If you’re new here, welcome. If you’re anxiously waiting for me to finish this book so you can read it, I’m sorry.

Editing continues!

I feel like editing is the bane of my existence. No matter how much I edit, there’s always more to edit.

I’m about a quarter of the way through the fourth draft’s edits, which so far have been minor, but it still needs to be done.

It’s been going a lot slower than I want it to, but it’s been a busy month and my other hobbies are taking precedence over this, but I’ll get there. I’m taking a week off at the end of the month to celebrate my birthday, as I do every year, so I’ll get a good chunk of it done then.

Once that’s done, off to the editor it goes, and then we take it from there.

Fingers crossed that early next year, we’ll have a second finished book for you to buy, read and (hopefully) love!

Third Draft is done!

I finished the third draft a week and a half ago and think I’ve incorporated all of the editor’s feedback in a way that makes sense and works for the story.

The next step is that I have to go through the process of reading the entire third draft again, page by page, chapter by chapter, making sure that all of these little edits I did to the various chapters and structures and layout actually make sense.

While you’re editing, it’s easy to just pick a spot somewhere and drop a whole new chapter in. But what if it doesn’t make sense in the context of the whole book? And what if I say something about a character in that new chapter that hasn’t actually been discovered until later in the book.

Continuity is important to a book. Much like when you realized something out-of-order happened on Lost, you’d notice it even more in a book. Going through and finding those things is always a challenge and one that you hope your editor can help with. Thankfully, my editor’s awesome and always catches those mistakes.

I’m planning to start reading tonight and hopefully finish in a couple of weeks. Then it’s back to writing and editing for a final draft before sending it back to Lauren for her last edits.

Fingers crossed that she likes this version better than the first draft I sent over!

Third Draft in progress

I won’t lie, when I first got Lauren’s feedback on my second draft, I was disheartened. I wanted to just throw the whole thing away and give up. With the lack of success of A Sour Chord and the negative feedback for the (then current) draft of My Last Days, I thought it might be time to end my experiment.

Then it hit me. It didn’t matter how successful I was at this. It didn’t matter how many copies I sold or how many books I’d sign. What mattered was that I got to do something I enjoy doing and that I’m financially stable enough to be able to spend money on artists and editors and promotions, even if I don’t make that money back.

So I hit My Last Days again. Hard. In the face. Okay, maybe not in the face, but I did trim a lot of fat already and added some more lean bits to the story. That’s a terrible metaphor, I’m sorry.

On July 1st, I started the third draft. I’m trying to incorporate as much of Lauren’s feedback as I can, while still staying try to the story that I set out to tell.

While, yes, I was upset by the feedback at first, as I’ve been editing, I realize that a lot of what she said is true. There’s a lot of validity to it and it’s proven quite helpful.

I’m still struggling with how to accomplish some of what I wanted to, while maintaining the changes that she thinks will be helpful, but I’ll get there. I’m already well past the date I wanted to be done with the book, so at this point it doesn’t much matter anymore. I’m on my own time now and hope to be done when I’m done. When I think it’s ready.

I’ve been setting aside an hour every night during the week to come back up to my desk to work on it. I’ve found that it’s too hard to just sit for an extra hour at the end of my workday, so I finish up, go downstairs, have some dinner, relax for a bit and then come back upstairs at 8pm after my brain’s settled down a bit.

The darkness seems to help some too – as the sun sets behind me and the room slowly darkens, it, somehow, helps my brain focus on what I’m trying to focus on.

Speaking of focusing, I use a wonderful OS X app called Alfred that makes a lot of what I do in my day job easier. I built a little “workflow” in it that helps me focus by forcing me to quit every app other than Scrivener (the app which I write in) and blocks all sorts of websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. It also queues up my “movie score and classical music” playlist and plays random tracks from that. I’ve found that writing to music with lyrics distracts me, so I write only when I’m listening to instrumental tracks. It helps me not sit in silence, but also helps me motivate myself with the changes in tempo as each track changes.

So, if you’re out there and still following along, thank you. I know I don’t have a huge fanbase, so I appreciate that you’re still along for this ride, this experiment, with me. I hope to have My Last Days done at some point in the future so that I can share it with you. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed working on it.

Back to the Drawing Board

After reading (and re-reading and re-reading) Lauren’s assessment of My Last Days and reluctantly agreeing with most of what she said, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

At first, it felt like she was cutting down my work, which made me a little upset. I think that’s understandable though, no one wants to be told they didn’t do a good job at something they worked so hard on for so long. But the more I read her feedback, I realized she was right. I think that annoyed me more than anything else with this process. How could I, all the times I read the book, not see the things she saw? I suppose, on some level, that’s good. If I wrote something perfect on the first try every try, I’d be doing better at this than I am, right?

While the story will mostly stay the same, as well the characters, a lot of the actions and routines that happen in the book will change. A lot of the annoyances with the main character – his traits, his attitude, his progression, will change.

My plan is to – once I’ve had some time to wrap my head around what to do – go back and re-outline the entire story with what I know and what I want to accomplish. Lauren’s feedback was really helpful in seeing the holes that needed to be filled.

While I’m a little bummed (okay, super bummed) that I won’t meet the completely arbitrary goal I set for myself on this, I’m excited to get back to work and put something out that will be more thorough, more enjoyed, and hopefully a better overall product.

So, while I was hoping that a blog post this time of year would be “Go get your copy!”, it’s not. It’s back to the drawing board, literally.

Editing’s in the works.

I’m really excited to share the news that Lauren, my editor extraordinaire, has received my second draft of My Last Days and has begun her journey on removing all of my unnecessary commas, overuse of characters thinking out loud, and she’ll probably point out how my main character’s a moron or something equally overlooked by everyone that read the first draft.

I feel like a little kid anxiously anticipating Christmas morning showing up, but it’s only October 1st. I can see the end almost there and I wish there was a fast forward button to get from point a to point b and just have it be done and ready for anyone who wants to read it to do so.

There’s still months left on the journey (if the last book’s editing process is any indicator), but we’ve done some things to make editing easier. This time, rather than using Word’s “track changes”, we’re using the app that I wrote both books in. I found some revision functionality that I didn’t know about during A Sour Chord’s writing process, so we’re going to use that. Hopefully that makes life easier for both of us.

More updates to come! Hopefully you’re as excited about my second book as I am. And if you’re curious, I’ve already started character creation for the third book. My mind truly never stops running.

Kindle Promos are Great!

There’s four major eBook providers, well three major ones and then Google. Of those major players (Google, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon), only Amazon lets you make your book free for a period of time. You get five days every six months to make your book free. I had good luck with it when I did it last year and just did it again last week. (If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you missed out on that announcement.)

Like last year, I had some good results. Lots and lots of downloads over the five day period, which coincided with my repetitive tweets and messaging about it. The number of downloads last week essentially doubled the number of people who’ve downloaded A Sour Chord. Which, granted, isn’t a whole lot in the last 9 months, but I’m still happy to be getting feedback from people about it.

A friend from high school read and finished it in a couple of days last week and had this to say:

Shit. Wow. Totally unexpected. Great job M. Jandreau. My hat is off to you. I LOVED LOVED LOVED it.

It was accompanied with a glowing (and much more wordy) review on Amazon, which truly made my day. I came into this not looking for money or fame, but looking to touch people emotionally, to get into their heads and make them think and feel and live and love. And that’s what I’ve been doing from the feedback I’ve been getting, and I truly love it.

My Last Days is just about ready to go to the editor to get chopped, sliced, butchered, beaten up, slapped around, and kicked in its proverbial teeth. I’m hoping that we’ll get through that pretty quickly and move onto the final draft before having the artwork done to be published.

Once that happens, my idea for book #3 will start getting planned out. Talk about an expensive hobby, I hope at least one of these books makes me a couple of bucks, because I’m bleeding money into this hobby of mine. Editors and artists are expensive!

If you read A Sour Chord, I’d really love it if you could drop a review on whichever site you bought/got it from. Even if you hated it, I still love seeing the feedback!

Time Flies, doesn’t it?

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last update. In fairness, I took a week off from everything – which is very unlike me – to move and get settled into my new place.

As I sit at my desk in my new office, the sound of morning commuters zipping by on the road, the sun shining in through the windows above my monitor, I’m optimistic about what this change brings to the table. Happy about where I’m going and what I’m doing, and elated to share all of it with you.

I’m happy to report that as of a couple of weeks ago, I’m done with the second draft of My Last Days. Lauren, my editor, is reading the first draft now to get a sense of the story.  Once she’s done, she’ll do the edits and give me her feedback and then we’ll get those incorporated into the book and call it a third draft.

Once the third draft is done,  I usually like to read it over once or twice before calling it a final draft. That way I’m really sure that I like the story. That’s usually an important thing when finishing up a book, right?

I’m hoping to be done with this by May, which is when A Sour Chord went live in the bookstores last year, but we’ll see. This is still very much a hobby (I haven’t even sold 100 copies of A Sour Chord yet, and still only have 3 reviews on Amazon) so I’m not in a huge rush. But if I can knock out a book a year, that’s not too shabby in my opinion. Sure, it’s a financial drain to pay for all of the editing and artwork and publishing fees when you’re not making any money back, but it’s nice to know that even if one single person reads it and loves it and calls it their favorite book, that’s good enough for me. Just having someone flipping through the pages of a book I wrote on their iPad or Kindle is something that’s completely amazing to me. I’m really happy I’ve gone on this journey.

Which reminds me, maybe it’s time to give away some Kindle copies of A Sour Chord again!

An Editing Update

I’m chugging away like a madman on the second draft of My Last Days, editing out long unneeded parts, making my characters stronger and solidifying the story itself.

By my math, I’m about 30% done with the second draft and Lauren (my editor extraordinaire) is ready in the wings for when I’m done and will tackle her part. I’m hoping to sit down with her and show her the app I’ve been using to write in, in hopes that we can both work in the same application to make life that much easier for me. Thinking back about how we did it with “track changes” in Microsoft Word last time is giving me anxiety all around. It was daunting and time consuming and to be honest, I hated every second of it.

My goal is to be done editing by mid-January to hand it over to Lauren and let her churn away at her process and then hit the ground running for the final draft.

I’m hoping I can have this done and published by mid-May again, which’d put me at the exact year mark since A Sour Chord went on sale. If I can churn out a book per year, I’m pretty happy with myself.

If you’re interested in checking out My Last Days (as it stands now) to offer some feedback, reach out (either via the Contact form above, or Twitter or Facebook) and I’ll hook you up with a copy!

Back on Track!

I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling a little defeated lately. The lack of sales of A Sour Chord – though mostly my fault for not really marketing it – have me questioning why I’m even doing this. Not because I want the money, that’s not – and never has been – what this is about. I just want people to read what I write.

If I could make it completely free all the time, I would.

I’ve started diving back into My Last Days now, reading it aloud, to try to get to a second draft. I’ve been making notes as I go along, hoping that I can refine the story and get to a better place with it.

It’s such an arduous process to read and re-read and re-read something over and over again. Well, reading it’s not the problem. Trying to separate myself from it to the point where I can constructively criticize my own work is what I’m having a tough time with.

I was hoping that I could have outsiders do that for me, and provide objective criticism, but a lot of those people who offered to read the first draft and provide feedback flaked out for whatever reason. That, in and of itself, had me questioning whether or not the book was so bad that those people didn’t even want to finish reading it.

Though the few that did said they enjoyed it, so it’s tough to say.

Regardless of what happened with those people (maybe they’re just flakey people, who knows), I’m pressing on and going to get through this first draft re-reading by the end of the month. Then I’ll move on to a second draft before sending it to my editor to run through.

My goal is to have this completely done and ready for publishing around the same time that A Sour Chord went live in the bookstores, which was mid-May of this year. So, fingers crossed that I’ll get it done on the same schedule.

How do other authors do it?

I published A Sour Chord on May 18th of this year and immediately went back to work on My Last Days, trying to finish that book’s first draft.

Since then, sales of A Sour Chord have dropped off significantly, selling maybe one or two copies a month on Kindle or iBooks, none on the other platforms. I don’t know how other authors do it, really. Mentally focusing on finishing writing one book, while still trying to promote the other.

I imagine that the more books I write and publish, the harder this will become. Trying to promote four or five books while finishing a sixth seems like an impossible feat.

I supposed in some cases, successful authors have marketing people or teams that handle that aspect of their business. But since I’m making less than a buck a month selling A Sour Chord, I can’t really afford to spend any money to hire someone to run that part of this for me.

It gets you down a little bit, seeing your hard work get lost in a seas of a million or more other self published authors, all trying to get the attention of someone looking to spend a buck on a book they haven’t heard of. But then something magical happens. A message, a tweet, a random email from a stranger. Someone telling you that they read your book and loved it.

That happened last week, and it made me smile all through the weekend.

A friend’s dad read it. Someone I’ve never met in my life, but I’ve known his daughter for 20+ years. He stayed up past his bedtime for weeks reading it, and really enjoyed it. He sent me a Facebook message to tell me that he really liked the book and couldn’t wait until the next book was released.

It’s the small things. The lives you get to touch, the emotions you get to evoke, the smiles you know you caused. It’s those little things that make this all worthwhile.

This may never be a full time job or a business for me, or frankly anything more than just a hobby. But I think it’s something I’ll always do and always want to do.

I’m still progressing along with My Last Days. I have a few folks still reading it now and hope to incorporate their feedback before getting into the second draft. It always seems to take longer than I’d like with this process, but it is what it is. I’m doing my best to not get discouraged (and also to not just start on a third book while I’m waiting on this one.)

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