Monday, June 22, 2015

How To Be An Indie Author 1: Beginning

By request, this is the first post in a series about self-publishing.  I'm going to go through and every week there will be at least one indie publishing post until I'm finished describing this process.

Through the series I will explain every aspect of the process, as I've learned it, including the pain in the ass parts and the obvious easy bits. If you are starting from the beginning, this will save you a lot of grief. If you're coming at this from the middle, you may have something to add. That would be good too (i.e. comment!). There is always more to learn, more to understand, and room for improvement. As such, accept this for what it is - my experience. It is BY NO MEANS the singular authority on self-publishing. It will, however, contain a lot of information that will be valuable to anyone considering such a venture.

I've written about indie publishing before, but always piecemeal. So
I'm going to pretend you're starting from the beginning.

That is, you don't have a book yet.


Is this a complete book idea?
Everyone has at least material for one book. At least. That said, everyone should not write that book. Writing is for disciplined people - people who commit to seeing a project through to the end. Most people will start a book and never finish it. Sometimes they'll start it several times over. Sometimes they'll brainstorm, outline, and even create a wiki for their world.

If that is all you can do, that's fine. Don't beat yourself up about it. Few people can handle the grueling process of writing a complete book.

But let's say you are disciplined. Let's say you actually finish things. Let's say, you have nothing else going on for a month and you'd like to finish a manuscript.

I've heard many different ideas about how to start, and how to finish. One that sounds good is to focus on a character. Develop a character, and then put them in a certain environment. Let the character drive the story from there, and they will, if they are a complete character. I like this as a concept, though I can't say this is how I write personally.

Another is to have a kernel of a story, or format, or whatever the hook is.

My first book, THE BROTHERS, was based on an idea of three real brothers, whose real story continues to fascinate me to this day. While the Grechs are not derived directly from these three boys, there are parts that are clear parallels. The idea of a fantasy novel based on them came to me twelve years before I wrote a single line of Khloe's story.

BELOW THE BELT came from a very different place - the need to have a science-fiction story that would appeal to female readers while still maintaining classic elements of the genre. It is affectionately called my "sell-out" book because I tried to write something commercially appealing...and...maybe it is. It sold as many copies as any of my other books. The idea was flippant, and I added pieces based on my husband's feedback and knowledge of the genre.

I can say, while I've publishing over ten books, I have probably twice as many ideas that never got off the ground. For one reason or another, I just never finished the books. So what's the difference?

Even if you never finish anything normally, you still may finish a book if the idea is right.

The idea must inspire commitment. This is especially true if writing is a hobby as opposed to your vocation. If the idea doesn't speak to you, you won't finish. Period.

Vetting Ideas

How do you know if an idea is good enough to carry you through to the end?

When I started writing, I needed the idea to nag at me. When I say nag, I mean it needs to keep popping up until I can't ignore it any more. The story idea needs to reach a point where I have to write it down or else go crazy.

This is why I have journals everywhere. And if it isn't a journal, it's a notepad. And if it isn't a notepad, it's an email to myself. I write down a few notes about whatever story kernel or character I have. If I find myself returning to that idea, imagining the next plot point or supporting characters or setting, then I know I need to write the book. This is especially true if I feel excited about the idea. If I keep thinking about the idea, but it drains my energy, it isn't worth my time. I probably won't finish writing it.

And most likely, neither will you.

If you're starting out from scratch, does your idea feel like it will carry you through? If you have a finished manuscript, how did you decide on your idea? Leave a comment below.

Check out next week's publishing post about process and of course, be sure to visit my website to support your neighborhood indie author!

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