Not much to report, sadly

I’ve been chugging away at editing, as time permits. Well, I guess it’s more as my brain permits. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to just get this book done. Maybe I don’t believe in it as much as I need to. Maybe I don’t think people like it (the amount of people who started reading it is far more than the people who finished reading it.)

Maybe it’s a million different things. I don’t know. But, I keep pushing myself, a little bit at a time. Edit this, tweak that, push this over there, don’t make him say that, make her more independent, etc.

On the upside, my boss sent me what she refers to as the “tie fighter” keyboard. It’s designed in a very unusual way that’s supposed to be very ergonomically friendly but takes some time to get used to. I’ve had it almost two weeks and while I can type fine on it, for the most part, moving my hands to hit things like a function key, or number key, get tricky. Then I have to look in the mirrors. Oh, yes, there’s mirrors on it.

It’ll make more sense if you see it, so here:

The idea, according to its makes, is that you’re not rotating your shoulders to put your hands on the keyboard, which is better for your hands, nerves, neck, arms, and shoulders.

I do feel it helps with my hand. It hasn’t fully solved the issues, but it’s alleviated some of my pain, which is nice. I can type fine for a whole day without my hand really hurting, which is a nice change. The keys press a little deeper than I’d like, so that’s taking some getting used to, and the Command key is in the wrong space (because it’s a Windows keyboard, really).

Having the ability to type without pain is nice. It’s allowed me to — on the days where my brain feels like it — edit the final draft and add things to it without worrying about my hand hurting too much. If I could only get over the mental hurdle, finish it and move on, I’d be so happy.

As for the artwork, I started a contest on 99Designs to get cover art done. The gentleman who did the artwork for A Sour Chord is unavailable and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding someone online to do it, so I resorted to 99Designs, which is a website where you write up what you want and designers compete to win. They submit a bunch of entries, and you pick the winner.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel the contest because I didn’t feel like any of them really got the purpose of the book and were just too far off from what I was expecting. Which is weird, because I don’t know what I really want for the artwork. I feel like it’s just one of those things I’ll just know when I see it.

That’s it for this update. If you want to contribute and be helpful, poke me about editing. If I seem bored or uninterested, just say “how’s editing coming?” and shame me into finishing this thing.

Having Trouble Finding Motivation

It’s not writer’s block. For the purposes of the final draft, I’m “done” writing. It’s all about editing. It’s all about taking feedback from everyone who took the time to read the various drafts of the book (some of you multiple times) and making sense of it, and making the story make sense with it.

So why am I having a hard time motivating myself to do it? To finish it? To publish it?

Every day I have a recurring task in my to-do app, simply titled “Edit,” in the My Last Days project. And every day, I check it off and move on with my life. I tell myself things like “I’ll do it tomorrow”, or “there’s no sense in editing it, you don’t have an artist lined up to do the artwork” (don’t get me started on what a pain it’s been to find someone for that.

Is it because my hand hurts so much and typing is painful sometimes? Maybe. Is that an excuse? Possibly. (On a related note, I’ll be seeing the interim head of Orthopedics at Mass General in April about my hand, in hopes they can help more than the guy who cut me open two and a half years ago did).

I started reading James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” last week on the recommendation of my boss. It’s supposed to help you become a better person by making tiny changes in your habits. I’m hoping it’ll help me work through whatever it is that’s blocking me from finishing My Last Days.

And since I have so many ideas on the book I want to write after I finish My Last Days, I really want to get it done. I also want my hand to not hurt so much while typing, which is the reason I haven’t started writing the next book. If you recall, I wrote the entirety of the first draft of My Last Days while editing A Sour Chord all those years ago.

Thinking back on that, it seems like forever ago.


An Editing Update

It’s been a long road, there’s no denying that. I wrote the first draft of My Last Days back in 2015, while working on editing A Sour Chord. That seems like forever ago. Literally forever.

After some ups and downs with it, both caused by myself and by others, I’m finally chugging along full steam ahead to get it done.

A huge thank you to everyone who beta read any of the drafts over the years and offered completely honest feedback. I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t know about the “final” draft.

With that said, it’s back to editing to finally finish this project up, get it published and move onto the next one.

Of all of my test readers, one thing’s clear: my original ending was the right way to go. My editor didn’t like it, so I rewrote it completely before a lot of test readers read it. It never sat right with me, because it wasn’t how I truly wanted to end the story.

But, every single test reader suggested — without any prompt or hints from me about the original ending — a similar ending to what I’d originally wrote. Thankfully, my writing app kept a history of those chapters, so I’ve resurrected them already. I have to expand on it some more to really wrap it up, but the ending is close.

Then there’s a bunch of other things in there, throughout, that need tweaking and expanding on.

It’s happening though. I don’t have a goal of when I want to finish it by, but sometime in the next few months.

If you helped out and gave me honest feedback about things, thank you. I appreciate the effort some of you put into giving feedback and appreciate that you volunteered your time to help me out.

Copies sent to test readers!

I’m very excited to report that, as of yesterday, I’ve sent copies of My Last Days off to my test readers.

They’ll read through it and give me their feedback about the story, characters, plot, ending, etc.

Hopefully they like it and then we move on to the next steps. 

Things I still need to do: read through it one more time myself, start to finish, get artwork done for the cover and jacket, remember how to publish the eBook to the various ereader websites that exist out there.

Then it’s just a matter of getting it all done and publishing it. Then, the hard part starts; marketing. The part I’m least good at. Fingers crossed! My only internal goal is to sell more copies and have more readers than A Sour Chord. Which wasn’t much, so it shouldn’t be too hard to beat.

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!

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