THE EXCITING JOURNEY OF Writing
a Fictional Book
"IT'S A LUXURY BEING A WRITER, BECAUSE ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT IS LIFE."
After months of writing, and re-writing, yesterday was a big day. We self-published our first book, and it was very exciting. The feeling of accomplishment can never be undervalued, nor should the accomplishment be taken for granted. It comes with several hours of commitment, determination, and perseverance.
However, if all that we wanted to say was that we published a book, and that we are published authors, than bravo, congratulations, we have succeeded. Yet, that was not our goal, no our goal is far loftier, which only leads to greater challenges. We have climbed out of the basement, but now the next challenge is self-promotion, and finding other platforms of distribution, while moving forward and working on improving our craft.
All of those people who have reached some level of fame, in their quest to be the best, have one thing in common. They practice their craft with total abandonment.
The following is attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who said:
“A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.”
While writing our first book, My DIARY My LOVE we simultaneously wrote a second book. We promised ourselves that we would continue to practice our craft, and continue to improve with each story.
Nikkole Hall, my writing partner, who also is a very talented, award-winning, singer, has shown me that desire is only a small part of the process. She is correct, it helps to have desire, but it was secondary. I was determined to not only write the first novel, but to write a second one at the same time, because I knew that we could.
With that accomplishment, comes more work, perseverance, steadfast determination, and more practice. We must hone our skills if we want to succeed in reaching our goals.
One of the absolute finds when putting the finishing touches on the first book was designing the cover, and finding an artist to convert that idea into a book cover. Nikkole pointed us to Fiverr. The idea for the cover needed to have a speedboat and a glider, but past that all we could do was conceptualize.
Nikkole and I worked on the cover and then went to Fiverr, a website that introduces a client to several various types of artists, from around the world. We visited the website and after looking at several talented people we found an artist in Eastern Europe. We sent them our basic concept, along with the title, and author, and paid $5.50 upfront. Twenty four hours later they sent back the first draft, and we were both pleasantly surprised at the results. After a minor adjustment, they re-submitted and below is the final product for our book cover.
We lucked out and found someone who understood our idea. Nikkole pointed out that since we gave them the basic layout, in the end, it was easier for both client and artist. The artist gave us exactly what we had hoped for, and more!
Once we had the file, it was easy to upload into Kindle and late afternoon today, 6-10-16, PST our book will be available for sale. It is a romantic comedy.
"Roger Hillstein has recently retired to a quiet way of life, but immediately life has other ideas. He meets Stephanie, and his calm existence quickly disappears. Soon, he discovers that this woman is an ever-changing chameleon, with a varied past. Through Stephanie, Roger has learned that he has only existed, and has not lived. With the encouragement of this quirky woman, a cautious Roger soon finds himself caught up in the middle of speed boat races, becomes an incoherent volunteer at a knife-throwing exhibition, and one day is falsely accused of murdering his good friend.
Who is she? Roger is not sure if the whimsical Stephanie is a government interrogator, a ninja warrior, an assassin, a mountain climber, a professional golfer, or just plain crazy. One thing is for sure, since her arrival, Stephanie is more than he had bargained for. Roger's days are now anything but ordinary, as slowly he learns to embrace life's adventure, and falls in love."
We used Fiverr for the covers of our second and third books, and have yet to be disappointed. For just over five dollars, a little imagination went a long way!
My DIARY My LOVE available on Kindle EBooks-ASIN: B01GUTHPG6
We are only a day or so away from publishing our first book. Information about self-publishing has been slightly confusing when it came to choosing which platform to launch with, and of course, Amazon was the first choice. However, KDP-Kindle Direct Publishing was not the direction we wanted to go, only because we did not want to give ninety days of exclusivity.
I spent several hours searching the web and reading several articles about the pros and cons of KDP versus a platform like Smashwords, whose platform shares the book with several other outlets, B&N, Apple, Kobo, and others. In this world, nothing is perfect, and I am finding that it is especially true in self-publishing.
Once we made a decision, of course self-doubt comes into the mix. There are hundreds if not thousands of articles, which tell you that the decision you just made regarding self-publishing, is both right, or wrong, you choose! Personally, I am a control freak, so the best answer I came up with, for Nikkole and myself, was to make a decision, go out into the world, and learn from our mistakes. Take baby steps, because mistakes are inevitable, in anything that any of us do.
However, the good news for us was that after contacting Amazon we found that we could publish with them, and not give exclusivity. I have been uploading the book's information, which was not as difficult as I expected, and should be out in the marketplace by June 13, 2016. Over the weekend, we will continue to research our other options, and publish with other platforms, within another week.
With all that said, the real work is marketing the book ourselves. Standing on a corner, in the world of Internet, and hocking our wares, means self-publishing and self-marketing. We are unknowns who are launching on a day, no special day, when hundreds of other new books, with new authors, are feeling the same way that we are. They are excited, and rightfully so, but the reality is we join several thousand other hopefuls who begin the climb, all at the same time. Not to mention, hundreds of thousands of authors who have already been writing for years.
We are about to embark on the road of self-publishing, and unfortunately a number of us will perish, along the way. I equate this to the Klondike Gold Rush, with thousands of us, slowly hiking up Chilkoot Pass. Each of us, hoping that when we reach the other side, we will claim a small bit of land, and begin to successfully mine for gold.
Like Nikkole and myself, all of us have completed the first part of the process, and have written a book. The platforms are no more than vehicles, making these books available to the public. If ours sells, congratulations to us, a small nugget or flake of gold. However, if on the other hand, no gold is discovered, again congratulations to us. We will make corrections, buy some new shovels, and dig deeper.
We have completed two other books, which we hope to have out in the market before year's end, but as is the case with most writers, the experience of writing and publishing our first book, and teh anticipation of finding that first bit of gold, is very exciting.
With only a few days left before our first book is self-published, I have to stop and reflect on the process, up to this point. The idea of writing is itself, a major undertaking. Throughout the project, I have equated it to mountain climbing, because you do have to train hard. There are many long arduous hours involved, and all before you take the first step.
There are no guarantees when the journey will be completed, but there are many lessons learned along the way. Every cliche imaginable would be accurate when it comes to writing a novel.
"When you feel like quitting, remember why you started."
"Don't quit, the beginning is the hardest."
"Dreams don't work unless you do."
"How badly you want something, dictates how hard you'll work at it."
"Practice until you're the best then practice to stay the best."
"Failure has been correctly identified as the line of least persistence."
"Part time commitment equals part time result."
Even after the novel was completed, it was re-read several times, just because. By the time we finished reading the novel for the umpteenth time, something could always be added, another sentence could be embellished, eliminated, or corrected. The process never ends, absolute perfection is impossible, however the pride of knowing that this part of the journey is behind us.
What is the next part of the journey? Bringing a novel to market, and everything that it takes to move through the unknown maze. It continues.
Two days ago, Cory Richards and Adrain Ballenger attempted to reach the top of Mount Everest, without oxygen tanks. Cory Richards made it to the top, but Adrain Ballinger stopped, unable to continue, only 1200 feet from summit.
For me personally, congratulations to Cory Richards for reaching his goal. However, the words from Adrain Ballinger resonate much louder. After he congratulated his partner, he spoke these words about himself the next morning, "I mean, it's heartbreaking, it really is. I'm still going through all of those emotions of failing after working so hard for something. It really was a group effort even though only one of us stood on top."
I thought to myself, what generous words Adrain spoke about Cory. Again, my congratulations, however how many second, third, and forth place finishes before I push myself harder. What do I need to do to be better today than I was yesterday?
Both men may have trained every day together, exactly the same way. Each one-climbed other mountains together, exercised together, ate the same food together, but somehow both did not reach the top together.
Getting to the top, being first, winning against impossible odds, are challenges that only I can overcome. I can watch a thousand infomercials, read the same number of books, or listen to numerous tapes about how to succeed. However, when all is said and done they were only guides.
If I want to do anything to push myself forward, it is purely up to me. We have finished our first book, Nikkole and I, but I equate that to climbing Everest. It's done, which means that we are only at Base Camp One. Cover for the book, publishing the book, marketing the book, selling the book, each one another base camp, which only gets us to the summit, maybe.
Once there, we will congratulate ourselves for a job completed, and that is all. As I pointed out to Nikkole, and if I am correct, on May 31, several thousand new ebooks will become available for sale on Amazon alone. That does not take into consideration the number of books published every other day with them and other companies.
The odds are staggering, and not only is it testing every emotion, but the reality is only the strong ones survive. My congratulations to Adrian and Cory for doing what most people wish they could do, but are too afraid to even attempt.
I have learned that writing takes a great deal of patience. Not only am I creating a story, but also more importantly I am working at refining the craft of storytelling. Some writers say they have been working on a single novel for several years and I wonder to myself why it might take that long to write one book. I reduced it down to simple math. The average page, with line spacing of 1.5 holds approximately 300-350 words, with a font size of 12.
If I write one page a day, for 365 days, I will have written 109,500-127,750 words. The first novel I wrote, totaled 74,000 words, and was 200 pages. The next 76,000 words, and was 207 pages, and the third, in the first draft, is 84,700 words and 241 pages.
I know that quantity does not make a writer, but with practice, comes quality. All writers have a story about their first book. The important element for me is to keep going forward. It is important every day that I write. If I stop writing, then that would be giving up on me, and too many times in my life, that choice has been far too easy.
I have also found when writing, background music helps to create a mood. Writing is an art, one that only improves with practice. The final draft on the first novel is almost complete. However, as my partner has explained, this is only one part of a long voyage.
Recently, I read: Trust the timing of your life. Stay patient, stay calm, stay determined, stay focused, and most of all trust your journey.
On a cloudy and cold day, I dressed warm and went to the beach. Just to sit and think. What gives me the right to think that I am writer? The simple answer is "I DO." I owe it to myself to be the best writer that I can for myself. My experiences have given me license, and my determination the drive.
Each day in my life, which I have lived, is but a page in a novel. Some aspects of my novel are lengthy, spanning decades, while other parts are far shorter. Each day is a page of my life, broken up with several chapters, which are but moments.
Each of these moments an experience of happiness and laughter, sadness and crying, fear and courage, determination and tenacity, surprise and disappointment, planning and ad-libbing, victim and perpetrator, breathing and suffocating, hello and goodbye, acceptance and rejection, constant movement of ups and downs.
As I continue to turn the pages, I have learned about my strengths and weaknesses, as I learn to deal with my vanities and envies. Unbeknownst to me and during the creation of my novel literal fortunes have passed through my open hands. All because of my desire to keep up with someone else, or my neediness for instant gratification, or just plain shortsighted. Every day is page whether I like it or not!
Today, I can look back at anytime of my life and ask myself, "what if," and I am always secure in knowing, that a story will begin.
One of the wonderful rewards from writing is that I am able to make the characters do whatever I choose, within reason of course. For me the process begins with something simple, like a day in the park, or going into a department store, eating lunch, walking down a dark alley at 2 in the morning.
The possibilities of having something fantastic, scary, happy, or sad happen in each one of those venues is endless. Luckily, I'm a daydreamer, and have always been. Even as a child, I enjoyed being by myself, and could create numerous games to entertain myself.
I wrote one short story, where a nine year old boy stops by the window of bakery every morning, just as this renowned baker is displaying a tray full of beautifully made cupcakes for everyone to see. Every morning the boy stares at them, from outside the window. Every day, he shakes his head no, rejecting the tasty creations, then walks away. Leaving the famous baker completely devastated.
Creating fictional characters, along with fictional scenarios, ones that slightly bend the rules, but remain credible are very gratifying. Especially when the scene is finished, and something rather unexpected happens to either the protagonist or antagonist, then without difficulty it leads to a series of unanticipated events.
I honestly can say, after writing three complete novels, each story began with one premise, and for one reason or another, when completed, their endings were not even close to what I had first imagined they would be. I allowed myself to let the story develop on its own, and to let the characters come alive. The great part of all of this is in reality, I am in total control.
I found, at least for me, that living life and writing a book have so much in common. Both are difficult to do daily. Writing a book though, taught me more about how to live life, than I could have ever imagined. I had to commit to the first, in order to succeed in the second.
I went to You Tube and started listening to advice given by all sorts of writers, successful and some not so successful. I stayed true to myself, and didn't take everything they said as pure gospel. I was selective in the information that I found helpful.
The common thread for most true writers is that they are committed to themselves and their craft. "Write every day," all of them said. "Always, read books that you find interesting, and read as many as you can."
When I started the first book, I was proud that I wrote 300 words a day. Quickly, that escalated, and jumped to 800 words a day. By now though, I was somewhat obsessed with what I was doing, and soon after, I was pushing 1800 words a day. Within weeks, 3000 words a day was the acceptable number for me.
My reading didn't change much, but how I read did. I was now a student, and my favorite authors were my teachers. They were storytellers, and that is what I wanted to be, a teller of stories.
The commitment to myself was one thing, the effort, I soon discovered, another. That is where life came into focus. I could easily commit to losing 20 pounds, but the effort to achieve my idea of losing 20 pounds was something else. I wanted to walk every day, just because I felt healthier when I did, (my commitment), but finding the time seemed to be a different story. (My effort to live life.)
Once I finished the first book, and then re-read it, adding and subtracting words and sentences, I knew that not only had I committed to myself, but I made the effort, and for me, that is what counted.