Tag Archives: Revision

The Cost of Self Publishing

Image Source – http://infocus.emc.com/

There’s so much advice out there about what to do or not to do for self-publishing.  Some of the most common include “Hire a professional graphic design artist to make your covers.  Even if you’re a graphic designer, don’t try to design your own, it’s a mistake.  Hire someone instead.”  Or, “hire an editor.  My god, hire an editor!”

That’s all fine and dandy, and perhaps even is sound advice.  Except…that all costs money.  And if you want someone who is actually good at it, it costs a lot of money.  In fact depending on the size of your manuscript, an editor will probably cost you more than a graphic design artist.  Worse still, if you want custom artwork made, hiring an artist will probably cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  Then that art still needs to be turned into a cover.

So, okay, you have a novel you want to self publish.  You want to publish it as strongly as you can.  But you don’t have a penny to spare, let alone $500 or more for just one of these services.  Sure there are cheaper ones out there…so maybe you’re lucky enough to find a cover artist who will do it for you for $100.  That’s still $100.  Not to mention an editor.  To speak nothing of advertising.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to self publish and you want to follow the advice of all of these people and pay for all of these services, you need a fair bit of money up front.  But what if you don’t have that money to spare?

Before anyone says it, I’ll say now what the two most common responses are to that question.  “Go traditional publishing” and “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”

To the first response, this usually comes from people, both those who are published and those who are not, that don’t seem to understand the challenges a writer faces finding an agent and/or publisher when they are an unknown.  Even if you have an amazing story written extremely well, you’re an unknown, and as I wrote in my previous blog about prequels, these industry professionals need to make money.  Not because they are greedy, quite the opposite: they need to live, just like you and I do.

So the other response, “You’ll find a way to make it happen.”  If only it was that easy.  Especially in today’s supposedly ‘recovered’ economy.  Perhaps my viewpoint is unique to where I live, but it would take me years to save up the money to hire editors and graphic designers.  For just one novel.  Let alone more.

“What’s your advice, then?”  Well, my advice is, if you have the skills, do it.  Take the time to do it right.  Research.  Work on it.  And if you have friends with the skills you need and they are willing to do it cheap or free, take advantage of that (but don’t expect them to, just ask, and if they say they can’t or won’t, don’t be offended by it.  Both editing and graphic design are serious and time-consuming skills to develop.)

I’m fortunate to have started developing both of these skills early on.  Editing for my love of writing, and graphic design when I was writing my fan fiction.  I’m no professional at the graphic design end of it, and I’m always learning.  But until I make enough money to hire these professionals, I have to rely on myself and my talented friends.

That is not a sin.  That does not mean your heart isn’t in it or you’re not willing to make sacrifices to make your dream come true.  It just means you’re willing to do whatever you can to work towards your dream.

Because if you don’t, if you say “I don’t have the money, therefore I’ll never get published,” then yes, you’re right, you won’t ever get published.  But if you take the risk, and take the time and make the effort to make your self-published novel the best that you have the resources to make it, then you’re taking steps towards making your dreams come true.

Taking steps, even baby steps, is better than doing nothing at all.

My Dream for the Future

I had an idea, and I hope there comes a day when I can actually make this happen.  I’d love to someday set up an organization that seeks out potential authors and helps them find affordable editors and artists, and even has funds to help them get their first novel off the ground right.  I’m not talking about an agency, we won’t publish it or find a publisher for them, we’ll merely provide them the contacts and resources needed for them to do it.  And education on how to do it.

Due to limited funding, I know we couldn’t help everyone.  But maybe if there were enough people working or volunteering, they could at least read manuscripts from potentials, and if the potentials don’t quite meet the standards needed to qualify, at least give them advice on what they can do to improve and have a better chance the next time they submit.

At the very least, help give budding authors the tools they need to make themselves better and have a chance at getting their names out there.

Here’s hoping I can gather the connections and resources to get something like that off the ground someday :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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From Writer’s Block to Creative Outpouring

Hi everyone,

On release day of The Sword of Dragons, I began telling the tale of how this epic story came into existence.  This is part 2 of that tale, the first part can be read here.

Four Years of Writer’s Block

The path to writing the first 12 chapters of what was still called Sword of the Dragon was a slow but eventful one.  I rewrote the first chapter about 3 times before I was satisfied, and then moved on from there.  At the time, my system was to write a chapter, and then go back and proofread it before moving on to the next chapter.

Little did I know at the time that this was a mistake for me.  It slowed down the flow of the story, and stifled my creative outflow.  Wow, it sounds so technical when I put it that way…

College-GraduationIt was right around the time that I graduated from college in 2007 that the dreaded writer’s block hit.  And it hit hard.  From 2007 until 2011 I wrote two chapters of the novel, and maybe only 2 short stories.  It was the least productive time of my entire writing life.

What caused it?  A multitude of things.  But a big part of it was uncertainty in my life.  I was graduating with a Bachelor’s of English, but I was dissatisfied with it at that time.  I was already on course for switching to IT for a career, but was unable to secure a job right after graduation.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.
Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

My life became chaos.  I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, and my writing suffered for it immensely.  I did eventually find a part time job that then led to a full time job, but even as I changed jobs and began to make incredible progress in my IT career, my writing continued to suffer.

Breaking the Chains – Inspiration Strikes

I’ve been told that pulling out of writer’s block is one of the hardest things to do for any writer, and until this had happened, I had no idea just how hard.  But I did.

It wasn’t instantaneously, though.  I began writing short stories again, but didn’t complete any of them.  I had some false-starts on chapter 14 of Sword of the Dragon, and I went back and rewrote chapters 12 and 13 a couple of times.

What finally seemed to do it?  I moved to Colorado.  And my inspiration soared!aspen_colorado

In many ways, my move to Colorado was the best thing I could have ever done.  I was unhappy where I was in New Mexico, I was unhappy in my job, and I had a lot of painful memories there.  I was stuck in the past.

So I found a better job in Colorado and ran away from New Mexico.  There was more to do where I moved to, better quality of life, and a job that didn’t require me to work 12 hour shifts.  Massive improvements.

Within months, it started.  I finished chapter 15.  Then 16.  Then 17.  On and on it went.  And before I knew it, Sword of the Dragon was completed in 2012!!

Changing the Title

So why did I change Sword of the Dragon to The Sword of Dragons?  Because it’s such a cooler title?  Actually I think I lucked out on it, because I was dead-set on the original title.  I like The Sword of Dragons better :)

But the reason behind was simple: The day I decided to start querying for an agent, I did a search on amazon, and found a novel subtitled “The Sword of the Dragon.

Image Source - http://www.authorappleton.com/
Image Source – http://www.authorappleton.com/

While published long after I first came up with Sword of the Dragon, I am not despondent nor do I believe the author knew about my novels, how could he?  And the description of Scott Appleton’s novel sounds really cool, I fully intend to buy it and read it :)

Never-the-less, this required me to change the title of my series.  It took me about 5 minutes of thinking (the first 3 of which was me getting over the fact that I couldn’t use my title) to come up with the revised The Sword of Dragons.

Rejections, Redirects, and Self Publishing

With the title changed and all references in the manuscript changed, I began the arduous process of writing query letters and synopses.  After each rejected query letter, I reworked it.  Checked out some awesome helpful websites (Agent Query Connect is the best!  :D)

But no hits.  This didn’t deter me.  While I worked on finding an agent, I completed book 2 of the series, Burning Skies.  Compared to book 1’s six-year development, book 2’s year-long development was insanely fast!

I took a break from the series when I came up with Chronicles of the Sentinels, but that was yet another incredible outpour of creativity: I developed, wrote, and completed 2 rounds of proofreading on the novel in 3 months!!!!  It is safe to say that my writer’s block is really over, heheh.

But when a potential agent for Chronicles fell through, something sparked in me.  I realized how annoyed I was at the whole process.  And I kept thinking about Lindsey Stirling, who was rejected (quite brusquely) by the panel of “America’s Got Talent”, but through social media, was able to make a name for herself!

lindsey-stirling-celebrity

The key was when I asked my girlfriend one question: “Do you think I should self-publish?  Do you think I can even do it?  Can I make it as a self-published writer?”

Her unequivocal “yes” was that last boost I needed.  :)

The result of that decision so many months ago?  Well, you’ve all seen it.  The Sword of Dragons :D

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Time and Space

Hey everyone!

No, the title isn’t referring to time travel or Doctor Who (although I DO love that show :D )  In this case, I’m talking about the value I’ve learned in setting down a project for a while, and coming back to it with fresh eyes several weeks or even months later.

Image Source - http://www.fumozar.com/
Image Source – http://www.fumozar.com/

I’m sure a lot of writers have heard that before, I know I have, but recently I’ve discovered the true value in it.  You see, back when I first started this blog, which was also when I first got the idea for Chronicles of the Sentinels, I set aside book 2 of The Sword of Dragons, Burning Skies.  In fact my first blog post about Chronicles, here, was on June 14th, 2014.

Now I’m gearing up to write book 3 of the series, and to get myself motivated and back into the characters, I’ve gone back to re-read the first two novels.  Little did I know how much work I would need to do on both of them, but especially book 2!

I’m only 80 pages in and the pages are covered in red ink!  Why?  Was I really such a horrible writer when I wrote and edited it at the beginning of 2014?  Well, no, not exactly.

But for starters, having taken a step back, I’ve forgotten a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ thoughts to each page, each character, each plot element.  That means that when I read it now, I’m reading it more like any other reader would.  And I’m finding the plot holes, and the sentences that don’t make sense.

That I believe is the true value in stepping away from your work as a writer, and perhaps in any artistic endeavor.  You created the work, so you know what you intended it to be and to mean.  But the reader doesn’t.  The viewer of your art doesn’t.  The audience of your music doesn’t.

So do yourself a favor and step back for a while.  See your work as intended, through the eyes of an outside observer.

Never Stop Learning

I have also learned so, so much in the past seven months!  In fact in taking stock of what I did in 2014, the second half was a year of incredible growth for me in writing.

Image Source - RMFW.org
Image Source – RMFW.org

The most important beginning for me was going to the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference, for two reasons.  First, I learned so much from the workshops and classes there!

Second, and I think this is the most important part: I started attending a writer’s critique group hosted by RMFW.  And while I’ve only taken my own work to that group a couple of times, I’ve participated in as many of the meetings as I could.  I’ve read other writers’ pages, critiqued them, and most importantly, heard others’ critiques.

So now, with all of that accumulated (and still accumulating) knowledge, I’m finding so many ways to improve book 2!  When I’m done with it, I know it’ll be better than ever :)

I also realize that my journey in becoming a better writer has not ended and never, ever will.  I’ve always believed that a person should never stop growing, never stop improving themselves.  I want to make sure I always apply that philosophy to my writing, too.  I can always outdo myself, all I have to do is try :)

The best part is that as long as I can do that, readers will always be able to expect each new story to be better than the last!  :D

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Writing Critique Groups

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for how long it has been since I wrote a blog entry.  Two weeks to the day!  :-\  It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and a bit of a roller coaster.  Okay more than just a bit!

But, on the bright side of things, I have completed the revisions to Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, and only need to finish up a query letter and synopsis, and then I’m ready to send my pages to Ms. Diver!  I’ll post the manuscript’s stats at the bottom of this article :)

On to the subject matter for today’s article!  And this has a lot to do with becoming published and/or finding an agent.

The Other Half of the Job

Now before anyone says anything, no, I am not down-playing the importance of writing skill.  No matter what, you must have a quality piece of writing in order to have a chance at either mainstream publication or making your self-published work sell.

Having said that, I have learned this year just how important it is for a writer to get out from behind the pen and actively work on getting your name out there, or going out and meeting other writers, meeting publishers and agents face to face.

In general, writers are by nature introverted to some extent.  (This is not a universal truth, however!)  And I used to have the naive impression that all writers had to do was write, and then leave the rest up to the ‘professionals.’

I was wrong.  I’ve been learning all about what a writer should do beyond writing this year, and honestly is part of the reason I started this blog, and started my facebook page.  Whether you’re self-publishing or going main-stream, it is chiefly the writer’s responsibility to promote themselves and their work, to get their name out there.

Image Source - RMFW.org
Image Source – RMFW.org

Beyond even that, however, is the ‘mingling’ part.  And yes, RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference and my experiences there is a big reason behind tonight’s blog!

If you haven’t read it yet, read my blog that details my experiences there!  I met so many different writers, which in and of itself was incredible!  More than that, I got to meet editors and agents, and pitch to one, which led directly to finding an agent interested in my work!

The lesson learned there was that my one weekend at the conference was far, far more productive than cold-mailing query letters out.  Now of course, there is no guarantee that you’ll have any success going to such conferences.  You really must have a good product to sell, be a person an agent or editor wants to work with, and have a good pitch!!

There’s also something else that I am going to highly recommend all writers do…

Writing Critique Groups

kevin-wolfWhile I was at the conference, I was encouraged by Kevin Wolf to join a local critique group hosted by RMFW.  I’ve now been to two sessions, and I have to say that it is an incredibly helpful resource!

Not only do you get to meet and collaborate with other writers regularly, but you get multiple eyes on pieces of your work, which allows for a wide range of view points, opinions, and suggestions!  Plus if you’re lucky, you’ll have published writers in your group that could potentially give you advice in other aspects of the industry!

Having said that, I should caution that not all critique groups are alike.  I was lucky to have found a great group my first time out, but I’ve heard horror stories.  So I would recommend checking around, and if your first venture into a critique group doesn’t go well, look for another one, but don’t give up!

I know that those of you who live in a small town might not have such a group.  I have two recommendations.  First, there are online critique groups, so just do a search on the internet!  Second, try to create one in your area!  I would be willing to bet that there are at least a few writers even in the small towns :)  And even if that’s not the case, it can’t hurt to try!

So what do you all think?  Are there other resources ‘out there’ that you would recommend on top of this?  And if you do go out and find a critique group, or are already part of one, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them!  So please leave a comment below :)

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy Revision

So as promised, here are the stats for the revised version of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, now marketed as an Adult Modern Fantasy novel :)

Word Count: 75,237
Page Count: 231

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

It’s a marginal increase, not the 80,000 words I was wanting, but I was grateful for the opportunity to flesh it out without worrying about making it too long.  I feel like anything extra added to the story would be arbitrary at this point.  This increase doesn’t come from big chunks tacked on here and there, either, every single chapter has been modified to some extent, little modifications here and there.

This includes fleshing out Alycia’s character more, so I am very pleased with that :)

I’ll be sure to let everyone know when I finish my query and synopsis and send it out!  Thanks for reading.

-Jon Wasik

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Target Audience

Hi everyone!

As many of you read in my last article, agent Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency asked me to send her 30 pages and a synopsis after my pitch at the Colorado Gold conference!  I’m still so excited!  I also promised to tell you all more about what happened in that pitch, so here we are, as promised :)

The story actually started the day before my pitch to Ms. Diver.  Saturday, when I attended a class she hosted called “When is it YA?”  I discovered something: in my attempts to write a Young Adult novel, I had actually written an Adult Fantasy.  (She recently posted her presentation on her blog, check it out!)

Before anyone gets the wrong impression (too late?) I want to clear up some definitions here.  In the publishing industry, an adult fantasy does not mean it is a sexually-oriented novel.  That would actually fall under erotic literature.  Adult fantasy means the fiction is targeted for an audience 18 years or older.

As I sat in the class, one thing started to become apparent: Chronicles of the Sentinel was not, by the industry’s definition, a YA story.  The most obvious reason was that the 3 main characters are 22 years old.  While a 22 year old person is actually considered a young adult, in the publishing industry, YA ends at 18.

University of Colorado - Denver campus
University of Colorado – Denver campus

More than that, it’s also what the story covers.  While Chris, Emmi and Alycia are college students, the majority of the story does not take place at school.  In fact you only see the college campus in chapter 1, and that’s it.  They are very much college-age individuals dealing with personal and interpersonal issues you might expect from college students, but these issues also easily bleed through into the post-college realm.

After discussing this with Ms. Diver during my pitch, I was surprised when she told me that marketing CotS for adults rather than YA was a good thing.  It has become difficult to sell YA Fantasy in the current market, but Adult Fantasy is selling.  In other words, it would be easier to get CotS published as an Adult Fantasy at this time.

From Just Right to Too Short

This has one unfortunate side effect: at just over 72,000 words, CotS:Legacy was just the right length for a YA novel.  But for adult fiction, it falls short of the generally accepted minimum of 80,000 words.

That means I have some work to do.  Ms. Diver pointed out that it could still work at 72k, but if possible to expand on it before sending her my 30 pages and synopsis.  So that is what I have set out to do!

For starters, I’m reading through the novel chapter-by-chapter and, where I feel it is needed or appropriate, I am enriching the language.  While I’m only 4 chapters in as of last night, I’m already realizing a mistake I had made: thinking that I needed to keep the language super simple for YA readers.

Image Source - lordsofanthair.com
Image Source – lordsofanthair.com

The fact of the matter is, young readers read up in age (a fact I learned at the conference.)  I know I did, I was reading adult-targeted fiction since before I even started writing.  I remember reading Lord of the Rings at age 11, and while I found it excruciatingly boring in parts (which I still do, even though I love it!), I devoured it and finished very quickly!

I should have never written down in the first place.  So in all honesty, going back through CotS:Legacy now, I’m really glad to be able to make the small changes and additions.  I don’t know that doing so by itself will make the novel reach 80k words, but it’ll be worth it, and so far in 4 chapters I’ve increased the word count by about 500.

Alycia’s Development

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

One thing I’d like to do is increase Alycia’s character development.  Like Emmi and Chris, she does go through a change in book 1, but it is much less pronounced, and I felt in the end that I hadn’t given her as much attention as I should have.

So that is something else I’ve been doing as I’ve gone along.  I’ve given her more attention, let her come alive as all good characters do, and this will be an additional focus throughout the novel.

I do not want to add anything arbitrary, but I want readers to have the chance to fall in love with her!  So instead of massive sections here and there that would ruin the flow of the story as it stands, I’m adding tidbits here and there, little character nuances to give her life.

Deadline?

Ms. Diver did not give me a deadline for when I should submit the pages to her, but this is my life, and just as I did while I first wrote CotS, I’m treating it like a 2nd full-time job.  So I’m giving myself a deadline of completing this revision by Sunday.  I don’t know that I’ll actually succeed, but it is an attainable goal.

I’d like to try to then read through the novel one more time, to ensure I didn’t mess up the flow.  Right now, it seems like it flows very well, and beta readers seem to agree with that!  I don’t want to sacrifice that flow just for an extra thousand words.

Final Thought – I’m Relieved It’s Not YA

Some of you might be surprised to read that, but honestly I’m glad to be writing in Adult and not YA, for one important reason: as I’ve started developing book 2, I’ve realized that fitting that story into a YA-length novel would be difficult at best.

But with 80 to 90k words to work with, I think book 2 will fit the bill perfectly, and will leave me room to develop all 3 of the protagonists as deeply as I want :)

As always, I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy

Hi everyone!

Last night, I finished the 2nd revision of book 1 of the Chronicles of the Sentinels!  :D  This was an exciting milestone, because it means that I finally, finally get to share the novel with others!

Every single milestone in writing a novel is exciting to me, and as I’ve said before, the actual writing stage is my favorite.  However, the idea that new eyes will get to read the story is so exciting to me!  What will they think about it?  How will they interpret it?  All of the subtle little subtext I put in, will they see it?

Most of all, I hope that it sparks the imagination of those who read it.  I hope they finish this relatively short novel and go “That was exciting!  Where’s book 2?”

In fact, I’ve already sent my novel out to I think 8 beta readers (and am about to send it to a 9th :) )  I am so excited and looking forward to seeing their responses!!

The Titles of Chronicles

As you can see from the title of this blog article, I finally came up with a name for the 1st book, simply, “Legacy.”  I reserve the right to change that, of course, but I think it fits the story nicely :)

More than that, I kind of have some ideas for titles for all 3 books by keeping to the simplicity of it.  So while every novel’s title will begin with “Chronicles of the Sentinels,” the individual book’s title will be 1 descriptive word.

I don’t want to reveal all of the titles right here, for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is I may change them after writing the novels.  Also, there is a certain hype that comes with revealing a novel’s title, so I want to save that for when I’m hyping the 2nd and 3rd books :)

So, book 1 is officially called: Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy

What next?

Well, for starters, I wait for beta readers to finish and give feedback.  I hope to hear back from at least a couple of them before the writing conference.

Image Source - http://www.rmfw.org/
Image Source – http://www.rmfw.org/

The next milestone is the Writer’s Conference in September, and for that, I need to start researching how to pitch a novel, and start practicing!  2 weeks isn’t a long time to figure out how to do something I’ve never done before.  However, if I continue to treat this as part of the writing process, IE: put hours into it every day, I’m confident I’ll be ready :)

Do any of my fellow writers out there have any advice on pitching a novel in person?  What are your experiences?

Oh, and before I forget, the numbers from revision #2!

Chronicles of the Sentinels – 3rd Draft by the Numbers

There may still be some revisions after I get feedback from beta readers, but here it is, as polished as I can make it right now :)

Word Count: 72,970
Page Count: 226

That’s almost 100 words more than the 2nd draft, so there was a net increase.  Interesting since there were, in some cases, whole sentences I removed, others I tightened up.

Thanks for reading, everyone!
-Jon

Chronicles of the Sentinels – 1st Revision Completed!

Hi everyone!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve completed the 1st revision of Chronicles of the Sentinels!

1st printed copy of Chronicles of the Sentinels book 1
1st printed copy of Chronicles of the Sentinels book 1

What does this mean?  Well for starters, it means I’m one step closer to sending it out to beta readers.  I continue to follow my writing process, which I wrote a two-part article about, and so tonight I printed out a hard-copy of the manuscript and will begin the 2nd proofread tomorrow.  I usually catch a lot more and red-ink in a lot more revisions in this step, plus I just like reading paper better than on a laptop :)

When I told one of my friends that I finished read-through #1, she asked me, “So what did you think?”  Well, I like it!  For starters, it made me laugh throughout the novel, not non-stop but lots of little moments here and there.  The fact that I’m laughing at it when I wrote it is pretty good: I don’t usually do that in my own novels.  I hope beta readers laugh as much as I did :)

It’s actually the shortest novel I’ve ever written, the previous three novels were all high-fantasy and usually well over 300 pages.  So it packs a lot of punch for only 220+ pages!  A lot happens, including some awesome character moments!  I don’t know if it is because of all of the pre-writing work I did or what, but all of the characters and their interactions came out very well, in my opinion :)

Image Source - http://branislavboda.deviantart.com
Image Source – http://branislavboda.deviantart.com

I think Emmi definitely goes through the most difficulties in the story, however not only does that pave the way for character development in book 1, it opens the door for a lot more in book 2!  I think the development for Chris and Alycia is a lot more subtle, so I’ll be interested to hear what readers think about each of them :)  There’s so much I want to talk about in the novel, but I don’t want to spoil it all for everyone!

I still haven’t decided on a volume title for this first novel, and that’s starting to bother me.  It’s getting down to the wire and I really have to make a decision.  I think that’ll be the last hurdle I need to overcome before I send it to beta readers.  I want to give them as complete a package as possible.

Chronicles of the Sentinels – 2nd Draft By the Numbers

A little change from the 1st revision, which I had documented in this article.

Word Count: 72,872
Page Count: 226

I’ll be curious to see how big of a difference revision #2 makes :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon