Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Beautiful First Draft and Its Travail Through Self-Publishing

Obliged to write, for we have no choice in the matter, we impart the idea that it's fairly easy.  We love what we do, after all.  It's not that the writing is difficult -- on a good day, the words flow so effortlessly and that makes us very happy. For me, it takes around two years to write a book -- one of them took five. I don't rush things and I enjoy the process. When I get goosebumps reading the ending, I know I'm onto something good. I feel triumphant. This is the fun part of writing.

But then we have to put on our editor/proofreader hat and the real work begins. With the initial flush of success over, the manuscript has become your enemy.  It's waiting for you every time you pass your laptop. It whispers to you that there is probably another year of editing, proofreading, re-structuring ahead, and you'll never be able to stop making corrections which will grow and grow the more you get into the manuscript, and you'll need sudden re-writes at Chapter 19 or 20 that will change the whole idea, in which case you could need a new title.

You make it through to the end without losing your sanity and get a couple of friends to read it (certainly not able to hire a professional at this point, but you trust their avid-reader skills). One or two minor changes after that, and it's done.

Isn't it?

But we are self-publishing, aren't we? It's now time to become a printer. In this day and age it means re-formatting the whole book into a digital thing -- unrecognizable from the well-groomed MS on your hard drive. It is a bit of a torture at this stage. You do as you're told according to the instructions at your print site, but you have no real idea what you're doing. It takes ages. A little aside here -- when you've spent two years writing, more months editing, by the time you get back to the formatting thing that you did for your last book, you've completely forgotten how to do it. Just saying.

The new format, including the intro pages, ISBN (which you must obtain), index, chapter page numbers, is finally sent to your print-site. The robot at the other end digests everything you sent and either rejects pieces of it, or all of it, or offers a print copy (which you must buy) for you to proofread again. Things happen during the robot's digestive processes, and you'll be surprised what oddities have now occurred.

You fix them, uttering newly-acquired Anglo-Saxon words as you go. Back it goes to Robot. If you're lucky that's it. Your latest version of the book is now ready to be sold. (Which is a whole other story, where you learn about Marketing.) In my case, it took three submissions (and the purchase of three books) before Robot's version was acceptable. I won't say perfect. One friend found one or two more tiny errors. Robot did that, not me. My versions were absolutely perfect.

Last, you are going to need to offer an eBook. There are no excuses. It's essential. This means you're going to have to learn how to re-format your print version into yet another digital language. You'll manage. And on the way you'll discover a whole new vocabulary of curse-words. It could change your writing style for the future, which could be a good thing,

I'm at the "getting-MS-ready-for-first-submission-to-Robot" stage with my "Summer Must End" novel. I've made a deal with myself to work at it 3 days a week, and paint two days. The painting is such sweet relief.

Until next time.

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky