Yesterday I clicked the publish button on my first book, Oranje. It’s been a long time coming, and the process has definitely been one that’s taught me a lot, and I wanted to share that information with everyone. Note: this is what worked for me and my writing process, so your mileage may vary, but some of the tips I think are good for everyone who writes or self-publishes.
Outlining helps make sense of the plot – This I think especially applies with series or longer works. Oranje is 112,000 words and the first in a four part series. Outlining the book in advance, a few bullet points per chapter, has helped me keep track of all the story threads and make sure they all progressed properly. It’s also meant I can dive straight into book 2 as I know where I need to go with the story.
First drafts allow you to suck – The important thing about a first draft is getting to the end. It’s very difficult to judge the story of a book without having the whole thing in front of you to look at. Quality should not be a concern for the first draft, get the words on the page, get to the end, and then see what needs to be changed or adjusted.
Second drafts are for story – This is where you can get everything sorted out. Sure your first draft might have story lines that go nowhere, or sections that circle and meander around. That’s fine. The second draft is where you sort it out and nail down the story. Improving the quality of the prose and writing is always good, but until you’ve got the story sorted you might end up editing stuff you end up removing anyway.
Have other people read your work – Art does not exist in a vacuum, and books are no exception. The story might be perfectly clear and understandable to you because it lives in your head, but to others it might be confusing or difficult to understand. Giving your story to people you trust to read can help give you the feedback to push the book a few more notches up the quality ladder.
Editors improve the quality of your writing and also the story – First, if you’re self-publishing, hire an editor, you should be aiming to put the highest quality work you can. They help by not only improving your prose and writing, but they will likely be the first person to really read your work with a thoroughly critical eye. Listen to what they say, but also remember what you were aiming for with your story as well.
Proofreaders are a must – The more eyes you get to go over your book once it’s finished, the fewer errors there will be in it when it’s released. It’s that simple. People will always miss some errors when reading, the best way to catch them is to have many eyeballs go over it.
Great covers help show the quality of your work and help advertise the book – Another bit of advice more for authors going the self-publishing route. If you want your work to look professional, you need a professional cover as well. It can be expensive at times, but the money you invest in a good cover will be seen in the quality of what you end up with. I used Jason Gurley, who’s also done covers for Hugh Howey.
The book description is vital – You can have the best book in the world, but if the description sucks very few people will buy it. This is the second hook to get people to read your work, after the cover. Spend enough time working on it, and seek feedback on others. You want something that shows what the story is without going into too much detail, you want to make someone want to read more.
As I said at the start of this post, this is what worked for me, and enabled me to write and finish my first ever book. This advice won’t work for everyone, but I hope it helps some people with your writing. Thank you for reading.
If anyone’s interested in checking out my book, you can find links to it on the various Amazon stores here.