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What Went Right / Wrong While Writing My First Book

It’s officially been a month since the release of Dew Upon Glass…And what a month it’s been!

I’m still reeling from how well my first release has gone. I’ve sold about 15 copies, and have a couple of amazing reviews. I can’t thank my readers enough for welcoming me into the author community with such open arms.

As I’ve learned a lot from this process, I figured I’d talk a little about what went well and what didn’t so much; A little something for up and coming authors or aspiring writers.

If there’s one thing that’s helped more than anything, it’s been learning and taking note from other’s experiences. There’s always going to be a certain amount you’ll need to learn through your own mistakes and gains, but every piece of knowledge can help drive you forward.

So…What Went Right?

Let’s start with the good stuff first! After all, publishing a book, be it self or through publisher, is a huge thing – And one of the best things you should do after the fact is appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

1. Most Important – I Did The Thing

I talk about this a lot, but I’ve wanted to be an author since I was young. I’ve always loved to read, and during the hard periods in my life I used pages upon pages of stories to escape and find some kind of solace. It’s a big part of the reason I’m still standing; I’m a heroine in my own story, and if the ones in my books haven’t given up, I shouldn’t either.

The last year has been tough on us all – I hadn’t read for well over a year before I started writing again.

But then I participated in an anthology – The MeltingPot Anthology.

I was welcomed with open arms by an amazing neurodivergent community, and the author – Sydnie Beaupre – Was the driving factor in where I’ve gotten. I owe them the world for that.

Prior to writing for the anthology about my experiences, I’d never finished a piece or been proud of my writing. English teachers would tell me how good I was, but when I reached out for encouragement from people in my life, it was dismissed. I think a lot of people can relate to how discouraging that can be.

But when Sydnie – a fellow author, writer, lover of books – when they told me how much they loved my writing, I felt a spark come alight again.

Having done a lot of reflection on my self-worth, my goals, my desires in life, that old flame ignited. I used to put so much of my self-acceptance on others. If they said I couldn’t do something, of course they were right.

As my passion came back to me, I started reading more and more. Articles about writing, stories from others, and one thing became clear;

Lots of people dream about being an author. Everyone has a story, and people love to talk about writing or how they’re going to make it one day. That said, not everyone does. And that’s okay! It’s more comfortable in a sense; keeping your work to yourself keeps it shielded from criticism. Not all of us are equipped for that…I’m still waiting for the eventual gut-punch from the first bad review.

That said, actions speak, and that really got me moving. Because as much as my first story might be a failure – and I wrote it with the intention of it not being my best work – I would be respected for at least going from saying to doing, and I think every author deserves that.

2. I Did NOT Re-Read My First Draft During the Writing Phase

A lot of people will tell you not to do this, but I feel like a lot of us don’t actually listen to that advice, even though it’s the most valuable asset to you pushing through.

I’ve had countless stories I’ve abandoned after a chapter. Why? Because I’d reread it a day or so after I wrote it…And I’d hate it. I feel like the way you interpret your work is similar to how people will hate the sound of their voices – Because you’re not used to it. The sound is different heard by you than heard on a recorder. The same goes for your writing. You aren’t necessarily used to it on the page in comparison to how it plays out in your mind.

That can be extremely disappointing, especially when you go the additional mile and start comparing your voice to that of a professional singer’s – You compare your words to the words of professional authors. It’s not the same, it’s not as good. At least, that’s how you see it.

It’s important to ONLY read your work when you’re done, for multiple reasons. The biggest reason in my mind is that you see your story as a whole by the time you’ve completed it.

First off, the accomplishment feels good. And then you read.

Sure, maybe it’s not like it played out in your head, but now you’re able to edit and adjust it. Similarly to when you go take singing lessons (which I did), you can record your voice through a song. Some sections won’t sound great, but all you need is to hear that one note that you hit – that one smooth sound, that one paragraph, and it keeps you motivated and invested in yourself.

You aren’t able to be like any other singer, not like any other writer, so you need to acknowledge yourself fully and with open arms.

3. I Did My Research

I think one of the most challenging things, even ABOVE the writing part, was the marketing and learning the self-publishing industry.

There are so many rules, guidelines, blog posts, articles…It can get a bit overwhelming and confusing. There’s so much information available, and it’s hard to know where to start off.

I committed myself to learning a little every day – Learn one thing a day, and take notes as much as possible.

In all honesty, the marketing stuff interests me quite a bit, and I’m still learning a lot. I can see my progress, though; Prior to deciding to write, I tried streaming. It’s something I’d love to try again, but back then my marketing was pretty bad. I couldn’t get past 99 Followers. Now I have almost 400, with regular comments and likes. It may not seem like a lot now, but it’s obvious the things I’ve learned with my research has paid off.

And marketing strategies will differ depending on what it is you’re trying to do. One thing I really liked with author-advice in particular was to avoid posting about my book too often, something I see a lot of people do.

You do want to sell your book; but it should only be about 25% of what you post. Over-posting means people will start ignoring it, because they see so much of it, it gets annoying. Granted, some people get away with repetitive posts – I follow a few, but I never like or comment on their posts. They just aren’t interesting anymore.

Some of my favorite resources were the following, and I’d highly recommend checking them out;

I also learned a lot via Skillshare, which has a bunch of great courses covering Instagram and other Social Media marketing strategies. My favorite one there is “InstaFamous – Instagram Marketing 2020 – Followers to Profit” by Jun Wu. It’s a super long course, but I find he makes the courses fun and easy to follow, and you can implement something a little different after each lesson.

My only complain was I wished he’d have gone more in-depth with using / creating interesting content videos – I’d skip Lesson #5 “Why Viral Content Get So Much Views” (that was really just a compilation of his own stuff which wasn’t particularly helpful).

There are a few writing-esque courses, but I wouldn’t recommend them – I think the site is really good for marketing and other skills, but not particularly writing.

Another big thing? If you’re publishing via Amazon, please, please read all the resources. Thankfully, my first publishing experience with them went off without a hitch, but it’s because I read carefully and followed instructions. The one thing you don’t want during release is to have a Pre-Order fall through because the file didn’t upload correctly.

4. I Started Reading Again

This is something I’d wanted to do before I’d started writing again, but I realize now how important it was that I got back to it at the right time.

I don’t think all readers are or should be writers – However, I do thing all writers, authors especially, should be readers. After all, how are you supposed to know what you’re doing if not through experience? And I don’t just mean writing classes – I firmly believe you should know any product you want to sell. As we are in the writing business, we should know books – What makes them good, what makes them not so good.

Now, it shouldn’t go as far as believing you need to be exactly like your favorite writers. I take a lot of inspiration from Jennifer Armentrout. I’ve loved her work since I was young (well, younger). That said, I know I will never be her. What I can do though? Read her books, take reference from the scenes that make me feel, and use it to inspire my own writing.

Something she does that gave me a lot of comfort was she tends to break that “show don’t tell” rule. I’ve seen that time and again, and as much as it proves to be a good guideline, that’s all it is – A guideline.

There’s lots of them. Guidelines, prompts, “you do it like this” or “like that”. At the end of the day, though, I like to compare them to artists learning to draw hands.

They have guidelines (like, literal lines) they need to draw and follow when they start to learn to draw. That said, no two artists draw the same way. Some never even need the guidelines. Some need to take extensive anatomy courses to understand how to draw hands.

At the end of the day, though? Their hands will all look different, even if they all follow the same guideline.

I like to think that writing is the same – Some of us do need those guidelines, but some of us enjoy writing our own way. That doesn’t make our work any lesser, especially if we’re just starting out. Our work will develop and get better with time regardless of whether or not we follow guidelines. The doing part is the most important.

Now, I’m not saying never use guidelines – I’ve saved a bunch for reference, and I’ll likely use a lot of them. Not all of them are for everyone though – Use the ones you think will be most helpful to your journey.

5. I Set My Expectations

When I decided to write Dew, I made the plan to do it within a 3 month period. I sat down and spoke to my best friend, and I told him I was going to do this by the end of the year.

I can’t tell you why I was so intent on doing it. Possibly? Because I know myself, and I knew if I let the period of motivation I had to accomplish this slip, it wouldn’t have come back. That’s something I can’t thank myself enough for – Now that it’s done, doing it again and again will be a piece of cake.

Now, from the beginning I knew that Dew was absolutely not going to be my best work. And I am 1000% okay with that – It wasn’t meant to be.

The purpose of Dew was for me to break through the barrier of past criticism, discouragement, and my own anxiety. It was to prove to myself what I could accomplish if I really, really wanted to.

It’s possible to make it, but you need to know what’s coming and prepare mentally for it.

While writing the book, I had my bestie keep me accountable and push me when I hesitated. I decided on the end date, and it came faster than I could have imagined. I got anxious, I panicked, I cried, I fretted about a lot of things – But I didn’t worry about how good the book was going to be.

After it was complete and out in the world, I had an amazing community that encouraged me and picked up Dew (and they are honestly my biggest cheerleaders, I can’t thank them enough).

I set a goal of getting 5 reviews and 5 books sales. I haven’t obtained all the reviews yet, but I got the book sales.

Next? 10 books – Accomplished.

Now? 25 is the next goal, and I’m getting pretty close.

It’s good to set out exactly what you want with your book before you start marketing it, before you get it edited, maybe even before you write it. Is this book for you? Mine was. Is it for others? Who is it for, and why are you doing it within the timeframe you are?

If you want the book to be a Masterpiece, obviously you’ll plan to spend far more time on it.

The point is, make a plan and manage your expectations.

This can also be done in a positive light; one of the things that really kept me going was remembering one fact I heard once.

As much as I get nervous about how my work will be received, even if only 1% of people like my work – That’s 70,000,000 people. Like, holy SHIT. That’s a lot right? The only thing I have to do is reach those people. And it’ll take time to do, there’ll be tears along the way – But everyone has a community just waiting for them to rise up.

6. I Made Author Friends

Naturally, having social media means you’re going to get in contact with new people all over the world. A lot of these people are great potential customers – And a lot valuable resources and supporters.

I’m happy to have gotten in contact with a great community of people – Some I can talk casually about books with, others I fawn over writing with, and more still I love interacting with just via posts.

Regardless of what we give to one another, the most important and valuable asset is the support we provide.

Authors, especially indies or those just starting out, need to have people in their circle who just…Get it. Y’know? Likeminded people who strive for the same goal and are working hard to learn and achieve however they can.

All these people come with their own knowledge and experiences, and they will be the most precious supporters you can find.

Likewise, helping others also means you become a resource, and what better way to get involved in a community than to give back? Thankfully my buddies get that I’m super introverted like, almost always haha!

Now For the Bad…

Obviously, first times mean mistakes will be made – I will say, I’m fairly pleased overall with what I did and how I did it. That said, I do have things I would have definitely done differently.

1. I Didn’t Use Beta’s / Alpha’s

Now granted, a 3 month period is not very long – So I didn’t utilize Beta or Alpha readers. That’s something I definitely would have wanted to do differently.

I did send out ARC’s, but I should have done this earlier on.

Frankly, one thing that really ate away at me was a few grammar mistakes that got through. One of my ARC readers and a fellow debut author reached out to point them out, but by the time I realized they were there, the manuscript had already been uploaded and I couldn’t fix it.

I was heartbroken.

As much as I had come to terms with the fact that this wouldn’t be my best piece, the one thing I pride myself in is lacking grammatical errors or actual literary mistakes – And I had several.

I cried when I found out, I panicked. A long talk with my bestie and some comfort from the ARC reader eventually got me down, but I still carry that disappointment with me.

For the future, I definitely want to utilize all these processed more, and with greater length in time. I’m currently doing edits on my next WIP, and I’ll be starting research on the Alpha / Beta process to see exactly when I should be doing this and how. Thankfully, I have some fellow indies that are amazing resources in and of themselves!

2. I Only Referenced One Editor – And Not a Good One

This kind of ties into the prior point, but during the short editing period I had, I only referenced one editor.

Obviously, because I’m just starting out, I went cheap.

It’s totally okay to stay within budget and go cheap to cut costs – Getting some editing done is far better than getting none done.

That said, the editor I hired did very little, and missed some mistakes that I would have expected them to find if one of the ARC readers could. I didn’t receive any constructive feedback – which is what I had paid for – and was only praised. Thinking back, I essentially paid someone to tell me everything was fine.

Maybe that’s what some authors want, but I wasn’t content with that.

What I want is to be told how I can be better, what I can fix, etc. I’m always striving to improve, so I don’t like being told I’m doing everything right. This isn’t my day job where I have a set list of tasks I couldn’t possibly fuck up on; this is a creative job I need to be flexible with.

That said, it was a learning experience. Next time I’ll ne doing more research before selecting an editor, and I’ll likely try to get more than one professional point of view.

I already have a great list of potentials I’ve met over Instagram. Thankfully, it’s good for finding lots of people in the Bookstagram and Authorgram community – There’s resources available as far as the eye can see!

3. I Participated in NaNoWriMo During Release Month

Alright, this might be something other people would have an easier time with – But I definitely overdid it.

I’d never participated before this year, and though I don’t regret all of it, I do wish I hadn’t done it. I had a lot already on my plate, and frankly trying to write another piece while in the publishing process led to a really fast, really hard burnout.

In my mind, I figured it would be a good idea to get my next WIP underway. 50,000 words in a month was nothing – I did it with Dew.

That said, I gave myself a lot of flexibility while writing Dew.

It started out strong, and in the end I did have most of a new manuscript down and ready for editing. That said, there are a lot of scenes I know I could have done better and added more detail into. Sure it can be done during editing (I already have a list of things to add and adjust), but I like having a good foundation to work off of, and I didn’t find my foundation this time around very strong.

I’d definitely like to try NaNoWriMo again, but I will definitely do it when I actually have the time free to – Not while during a release, and certainly not if I have other pieces I need to tend to.

NaNo is an option, not a necessity.

In the End…

There’s probably far more things that I did, both right and wrong. I’ll likely write up some follow ups to this post when I think of more, but frankly it is 11 PM and I am tired. And still have edits to do. Totally not avoiding those, heh.

New Years is coming up, and at the end of the day, I’m proud I achieved my biggest goal.

It wasn’t a 2020 goal, nor a 2019 goal, nor a 2018 goal.

It was a life goal, and above all else? You deserve to reach it just as much as I did. And if you get anything out of this, please get this – Do the thing first. Just do it, and whatever comes after is just a lesson to bring forward into the next time you do the thing.

Until then? Have a Happy New Year!

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