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 (www.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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