On reviews

As I have mentioned previously, reviews are the lifeblood of the self-publishing world.  For big-time authors like Jim Butcher and Brandon Sanderson, there are teams of people who work to get the works of these authors into the hands of reviewers.  For freshman authors – such as yours truly – you have to rely on friends, family, and if you’re very lucky, complete strangers for reviews.

Several months ago (October maybe?), a reviewer came onto my horizon.  This reviewer has an awesome gimmick for their reviews: you have to “immerse” him (the reader) or your book “dies”; hence the name of his reviews: Immerse or Die.

The concept is great.  He steps onto his treadmill, turns on his Kindle and begins reading.  He does 40 minutes on his treadmill, and if you manage to capture his imagination for the duration, your book “lives”.  If your book does not, he gives a very fair review of what went wrong, and where (time-wise) he got into the book.  From what I have seen, he has a preference for science-fiction but doesn’t blow off fantasy works.

So, here is where my book comes in.  I submitted my book to him to see how well I’d do.  To be honest, I held out hopes that he’d find my first published work to be shaky, but a great start.  I was not up to this task.  Let me offer here sincere thanks to Jefferson Smith and his review of my book.  I cannot thank him enough for this review.  Not because it is some gilded ticket to the upper tiers of author-hood (is that a word?), but because he gave me a real review.

On December 9th, 2015, Jefferson Smith published a review of my book on his site.  I will admit that my book “died” at the 2:26 mark.  Here is a link to the review.  Mr. Smith provided a candid, and honest, critique of my work.  I will honestly say; he’s largely right on with his assessment.  As a first time author, I have little experience with the profession of “writer”.  I made tons of mistakes in my first book.  I have spoken at length on how much I wish I could go back and “just re-write that one part….” and such. But, I won’t.

Reviews are always good, so long as they are helpful.  Mr. Smith’s analysis is outstanding.  And trust me, I could only wish he could’ve found some part of my book to be more to his liking, to entice him to finish reading the book.  My start might have been a tad rough, but the book ends well.  In the interest of providing my real opinion on his review, I was a little disappointed but happy that someone else had given it a chance.  As a freshman author, I always hold out hope that someone will love my story as much as I do.

What I’ve learned – six months in.

As a self-published author with a few sales (THANK YOU!), I will now impart what I have learned from the experience – so far.

  1. Writing is tons of fun.  Writing for yourself is super fun.  Writing for your friends and family is fun, but can be very stressful.  Writing for complete strangers, in hopes that they will like your story?  Fun but terrifying.
  2. Reviews are worth their weight in gold.  Any review.  Seriously ANY REVIEW.  Turns out, people aren’t interested in reading the first book from a freshman author when they have no expectation of quality.  Hence reviews and their importance.  More on this in another post.
  3. Writing the second book of a series is WAY harder – though much more fun – than writing the first.  The first is just me trying to see if I can do anything worthwhile with my story.  The second book is essentially me saying, “Yep, I can do this.  And I’m going to keep doing it.”
  4. Editing and revising (E&R) never seem to get easier.  All can say on this matter, at least, I’m making different mistakes.  E&R is where the meat-and-potatoes of writing happens.  Anyone can put words on a page.  Very few get it right on the first try – I certainly don’t.  It takes discipline actually to take the edit/revise steps seriously.

 

So there’s what I’ve learned.  Make no doubt, I’m not complaining about any of these things.  It’s been super fun so far, and I hope that it will continue to be fun.  I have tons of story ideas, all I need to do is add 14 hours to each day so I can write all of them.

CL

On taking the plunge

Like many authors before, I have often wondered what it would be like to take the proverbial plunge and be a full-time writer.  To exit my full-time, steady job and take up writing as my job.  It’s pretty scary to consider.  It’s entirely unknown.  You’d need to have some money saved, friends/family/loved ones who are encouraging but realistic.  You’d need a plan for what you were going to do to make sure you could keep a roof over your head.  And, most importantly, you’d need a hell of a good idea.

So I was reading Ms. Ana Spoke’s Blog yesterday, and I found myself considering what she is doing.  Ms. Spoke is the author of Shizzle, Inc (Book 1 of the Isa Maxwell Escapades).  She is also taking the plunge.

Ms. Spoke is making a brave, and highly bold, move as an author – she is taking off (six months!) from work to focus on writing.  This is a huge step.  One that I am nowhere near making.  But on reading her blog, I had to think about how that decision must feel.  While I doubt that Ms. Spoke is making such a bold move without careful consideration, I can only imagine how terrifying and exhilarating her decision is.

Per her blog, she intends to devote a great deal of time (six months) to being an author full-time.  She has even stated that her goal is to write not one, but two sequels to her first novel. Ms. Spoke is taking the plunge.  I hope that her experience works out well!  I certainly believe it will.  I can only wish her the very best of luck in this endeavor.

Someday, perhaps I shall follow in her steps.  Leave the relative safety of the steady known for the unknown.

Tarry not in those small, safe, comfortable places, for in them we find little more than comfort.  Eventually, that comfort can become our prison.

The night I pressed “Go”

So from what I understand of these things I am supposed to sit down and talk about my “process” and “where the idea came from”.  I feel like those are worthwhile ideas on which to speak, but I will save them for a later date.  For this – my first – blog post, I will speak briefly about pressing “go”.

I have enjoyed writing and telling stories for years.  There is just something awesome about the creativity I can bring to bear on such ideas.  I need a character who drags his left leg as he walks down the street.  Why does he drag his left leg?  Is it completely dead?  Does he have a cane?  I love figuring out all of those fundamental parts.  It’s just enjoyable to me.

In November of 2011, I sat down and wrote the first draft of a Grenheim’s Thorn.  It was part of the absolute chaos and fun that is National Novel Writing Month.  50,000 words in 30 days.  It’s pretty mental.  But in 2011 (my second attempt at NNWM), I was successful.  I won.  I finished my first draft on the 29th of November.  It was more than a little shocking to me.  I had my lovely wife give it a read, and she pointed out some critical (a topic for another blog entry) issues.  But she also pointed out that there was a decent story. So I continued polishing.  I approached a few friends and they gave my book a decent review.  Yes, there was work to be done, but it was certainly decent.

I will save you from having to read the full story of how my book came to be.  Needless to day, it took way longer than I thought it would and there was a great deal more work than I could’ve ever imagined.

The night I pressed “go”, to publish my story on Amazon was somewhat surreal.  I had to decide if I wanted to deal with potentially noone reading my book, or even liking the story.  At the end of the day, what’s the point of sitting on the sidelines? Go big or go home.  Risk the strike-out for the chance at a homerun.

So there it was, my book was available to the masses.  Good, bad or other, my book is there.  I hope that people read it.  I hope they like it.  I hope that people adore my storytelling and world-building.  And if they don’t I hope that they find something to like about my story.

— CL