Actual Ending

So excited BACK OF BEYOND has an actual real life ending! No jarring cliffhanger without a resolution for a rookie writer like in VERVE STONES. A climax that provides resolution to Spoon’s dilemma, wraps most plot points, and gently lays the groundwork for THE LEGEND OF SPOON #3. Now to send it to Robin Puelma for revisions and editing to see if she agrees.

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Self-Publishing is NOT for the Faint of Heart

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Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. I struggle with distractions, finding time to write, finishing drafts, and writer’s block. Not to mention, the need to be a teacher, dad, husband, and follower of Christ. When I decided to self-publish I really had no idea what I was getting into. It is a lot harder than I ever imagined (and I knew it would be hard). There are a few things I really dislike about it, but there is one part that I truly hate.

Accepting negative feedback from my editor friends (even when it’s essential) is high on my list. To help make this step easier on my heart, I’ve developed a system. First, I read through the entire edited manuscript and correct the easiest corrections like spelling and grammatical errors. Next, I read over the plot and character comments because they usually require only minor changes to the story. Finally, I address the meaty-feedback that calls for me to add or delete a scene, make major character adjustments, or rework my plotline.

Receiving negative reviews on Goodreads or Amazon is also high on my dislike list. Getting ratings and reviews is paramount to having any success as an author. For VERVE STONES, it was mostly my friends and family memberswhoreviewedthe book. These reviews convinced other readers on Goodreads and Amazon to purchase the eBook or paperback, or read the book on Amazon Unlimited. Negative rating and reviews are a painful part of putting my creation out for the world to judge. But I also believe that they demonstrate the authenticity of a book’s reviews. (After all, not everyone is going to like any given book. I mean, every book from the Harry Potter series had some one-star reviews so I’m certainly not alone.) That said, when you get a whopper like this review, it takes a few days to calm down and try to laugh it off.

Formatting. Formatting is the bane of my existence! (Spoiler alert: there is one thing I hate even more, but boy is this a close second.) I often joke that formatting is a curse word in my house. As a self-published writer, I am in charge of getting all the formatting just right. I must select fonts, sizes, and spacing. I add chapter titles and headers. I insert maps. I add gutters for the binding. I make sure everything you see (or don’t see) on the page looks as perfect as possible. When I first started, I naively thought this step would be easy. I mean I wrote a whole book. Surely, I can just upload it and it will look great. Nope. I spent over a week uploading a manuscript (over and over and over again) to CreateSpace Digital Proofer, which allows me to view my fully-formatted book in an online virtual environment. It must detect no errorsin the document. After pulling out what I little hair I have, I finally begged my technologically-gifted-wife for help. She discovered that I made a small error that was messing everything up. GRRR! As frustrating as formatting is, I still don’t consider it to be the worst part of being a self-published author.

My number one, worst, most difficult part of being a self-published author is—SELF-PROMOTION! Ew. I despise asking anyone for help. Especially my friends and family. I also loathe bragging about myself. (Those compliments you read on my blog are usually written by my wife. She reminds me to be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’d rather crawl under a rock, but I try.) The number of books for sale on Amazon is overwhelming. With so much competition, I struggle to find ways to promote my stories. Giveaways on Amazon work a smidge. Giveaways on Goodreads are expensive. Advertisements cost more money than I wish to spend on a hobby. I want to get my book into the hands of not just friends and family members, but strangers. I want my books to excite people to read and it brings me great joy when I hear they do.

I dream of a day where a team can do all these things for me, but for now, I continue to be grateful for a way to get my words out of my journals and into a book.

Any other self-publishers out there? What was the most frustrating part for you? Feel free to explain in the comments below.

Does This Happen to Anyone Else?

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Writer’s block is the real deal. My most common form of writer’s block is simply letting myself get distracted.

I’m two and a half chapters away from finishing my latest draft of BACK OF BEYOND. Two and a half chapters! This should be a cause for celebration. I should be dancing in the streets. I’m so close. A few hours from finishing. Yet, I can’t convince myself to finish the story.

This reminds me of when report cards are due in a week. All I ever want to do is reorganize my math manipulatives, deep clean student cubbies, and organize my classroom library. Anything and everything except completing those report cards.

I’m experiencing the same predicament. I’m completing home projects, researching practice bass amps, selling items on marketplace, and writing blog posts when I should be finishing the final chapters!

Does this happen to anyone else? If so, any tips to help me get done what I actually need to do? Thanks for commenting!

Question: BACK OF BEYOND

Brady asked, “How is Back of Beyond looking? I’m just itching to read more of The Legend of Spoon!”

I wish I could say it’s ready today. Best guess, four to six months. I’m making changes to the last few chapters, which I’m working on most mornings. I’m going to have my friend, author, Robin Puelma, read it over again. Then I will make any changes needed before I have two more friends read it over. These edits can take three weeks to three months each. I am super excited for this next book! Hopefully, the final edits will go faster than expected. They often do. Thank you for your patience! I’m working hard to finish BACK OF BEYOND, even while I’m on summer vacation with my family. I have it formatted and the cover complete so when editing is finished, I’ll be able to publish it quickly.

When reading a new series, I hate waiting for the next book to come out. When I first started reading Harry Potter, only the first few books were out. It was torture waiting for the next book! What books have you found yourself waiting impatiently for the next in series?

 

Top 5 Hooks

Way back in 2008, my friend Megan agreed to read through an early version of VERVE STONES. Her being an avid reader, and an English language arts teacher, made her a perfect first editor. She singlehandedly helped me slog through my rookie writing woes. Her feedback aided my skills in character development, flashbacks, and my all-time nemesis the comma. Her comments allowed me to create a much improved story.

Megan’s revision I struggled with most of all needing a hook. A narrative hook is the opening of a story that “hooks” or grabs the reader’s attention so that he or she will keep reading. (Sorry, can’t hold back my teacher mode.) I remember reading the first page in every book I ever read on Amazon.com. Or wanted to read. My research eventually led me to create, “The man had no face,” as my first line in VERVE STONES.

These are my top five favorite hooks I discovered. Today, I use four of these as examples when I teach narrative writing to my third grade class. May these hooks encourage your own writing as much as they did mine!

Savvy by Ingrid Law

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The fact that I needed to reread the first sentence to fully grasp why her family needed to move inland makes this an unforgettable hook.

 

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

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This is an outstanding hook because of its use of reverse psychology.

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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This fearful hook is intensified with an ominous picture.

 

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

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After reading the first two pages, I was so hooked I immediately bought a copy of this book.

 

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

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Stating the simple fact of going to the grocery store and with the, “Wait, what?” moment makes this hook perfect.

 

Anyone Else Feel This Way?

No matter how many times I send them to Dustin, Dawn, Taylor, or Robin. No matter if it’s a first or final draft. I always think my latest draft is perfect. This draft is a best seller. I justify my overactive pride with the fact I’ve been writing for a hobby since 2006. My skills have improved immensely. I’ve finally figured out this writing thing. Then a friend returns the draft with more red text than black.

I crash back to earth a few days later. I read their comments first. Try to take in everything without getting upset. Some feedback is in areas I knew needed to be fixed. Most are changes I never noticed. Ones that totally enhance the story. Or edits which keep me from writing like one of my third graders.

What I’m trying to say is thank you to my friends who edit my drafts. Without you, VERVE STONES, NINTH NIGHT, UNDER, and BACK OF BEYOND would never exist!

Venting

Plugging away on BACK OF BEYOND. To be honest, I’m feeling frustrated. It’s been almost three years since I self-published VERVE STONES. I wrote over half of BACK OF BEYOND years before that date. I desperately want to finish. My students, friends, and family keep asking me if I’m finished yet. I can see the end of the draft even if not far, far off.

Self-publishing takes me a very long time. Especially because my AMAZING FRIENDS have to take time out their own busy lives to edit my work. My manuscripts always require a great of improvements. Staring at the incredible cover by Jake doesn’t help either.

I daydream about being an author full time. Writing for hours each day instead of minutes. Having editors to burden with my drafts instead of friends. Being able to finish several other picture books, stories, and series I started and never have time to write. My job, friends, family, and God come before writing. I will keep praying this can be my job instead.

Time to get back to work.