It's time to write your book. And publish it. To start off on the right foot, read through these helpful tips that will make the process easier.
Background: I wrote, edited, formatted, and published a literary novel of 384 pages in 1.5 years. I'm not a world famous author, but I did it (proof) so you can too.
Shameless plug: It's called Runaway Millionaire, a dramatic tale of family betrayal, ruthless ambition, and personal redemption. Readers follow protagonists Nathan Degland and his father Thomas as they experience identity theft, murder, cheating, wealth, power, love, crime, and drug addiction.
Here's the toolkit I used to write and publish my book.
Where to put your words
Tool #1: word processor. A manuscript starts as a nugget but ends as a colossus. You need to keep it in a safe, functional place as you build it.
I started with Apple Notes on my phone. I dictated the outline of the whole book during a 7-hour road trip.
Then I filled it in using Evernote. It's important to love your word processor -- you end up spending a lot of time in it. So it's important that it treats you right. Do you love the font? The headings? The spacing and leading? Does it save automatically?
When it grew, I ended up copying-and-pasting the manuscript in Google Docs for two reasons:
The ultimate test: are you an author?
Tool #2: a network of beta readers. To be an author requires multiple centimeters of thick skin. If you can't share your manuscript with beta readers for fear it will be critiqued, then you might not have what it takes to be an author.
A book needs to sell. Beta readers are your target audience. If they all point out the same way to improve it, then (using your judgment) make the change. The story will be better and it will sell more when you publish it.
I had eight beta readers who all recommended "small" changes that were actually monumental. They might think they're small changes, but even a tweak can send ripples throughout the entire manuscript.
When I heard two or three beta readers ask for the same thing (i.e., toning something down, or amplifying a scene), I listened and rewrote the part. Now that the book is published, I couldn't be happier with the final presentation and I'm grateful for the suggestions.
The unlikeliest way to find a professional editor
Tool #3: a professional editor. Some might think if you're self-publishing, you don't need a professional editor. I thought this too but then two things changed my mind: 1) a book is forever and once it's printed, you can never take it back, so you want it to be as perfect as possible, and 2) how I found the editor was unexpected.
I found my editor onReddit, in the subreddit /r/writing. After simply posting that I was looking for an editor, he anonymously reached out and said to send him the first 2,000 words and he'll edit it for free. I agreed and made a separate document for him to work on. He went through it making comments and suggestions.
His perspicacity surprised me. He did an amazing job.
I learned an editor is different from a writer in that an editor improves something that already exists and a writer creates something from nothing. He was able to get inside my head and tell my story better than I originally had.
I hired him at 25% up front and 75% when he finished. The deliverables were fantastic.
The greatest grind of being a self-published author
Tool #4: formatting software. This part is easy to avoid if you have money to spend on a professional who can do it for you, but if you're cheap and untrusting like me, you'll want to save the money and do it yourself.
I used Indesign to format my book for Createspace. It took over 48 hours to get it right. It's monotonous work. For example, removing the page number from every chapter page (I had 106 chapters) or adjusting the gutter margins.
It's a grind but when you're so close to publishing, the will to persevere is like holding your bladder when you're three minutes away from vacation. You can and you will force yourself to hold it. It's just mental strength.
"Am I crazy?" Don't journey alone.
Tool #5: a writing community. My friends aren't all novelists. I wrote alone, creating a world with characters and scenes nobody in my life knew about. It's lonely. As a first time novelist, I asked my cats the question, "Am I crazy?" dozens of times.
Two writing communities kept my will from folding to my conscience: The Writing Cooperative on Medium and the Writing subreddit (again). It was crucially important to have helpful people answer my questions such as, "What is the best way to describe a beautiful woman's face?" or "Is my book priced too high?"
Also, reading about other authors and chatting with them gave me a sense of relating and belonging -- an encouraging reminder that I'm not alone. Very motivating.
Where to sit
Tool #6: coffee shops. When you write a book, you spend hundreds of hours on your duff (unless you're fast and/or writing a short book). To be productive, you need to pick your seat strategically. This is how I chose where to sit:
What got me to the last sentence
Tool #7: a deep purpose. Writing a book for the sake of writing a book is not going to motivate you between keystrokes. Yes, it will motivate you when you're talking to your friends at a party or when you go to sleep thinking I can't wait to finish my book. Admittedly, I couldn't wait to say, "I wrote a book," or "I'm an author," but honestly, those phrases didn't help me put words on the screen.
What really motivated me was the final climax. I had no idea what the characters would say to each other at the end but I couldn't wait. Most of a book is the building of suspense through conflict. The end is when the butter hits the fan. The showdown. The reckoning. The denouement.
The ending also had meaning for who I was as a person. It defined me in part because I existed in my characters. Similar to a personality test, I couldn't wait to see the result and learn about myself.
Thinking about writing a book? Do it. Holding your own finished book in your hands was one of the most satisfying sensations in the world. It's a big project, but equipped with these tools, you are ready to begin (and complete) your journey.
Give me a shout if you'd like to chat about book writing.