...from conception to marketplace for inspired writers who want to be authors
Let's go with the 'sculpting a wooden masterpiece' analogy...starting with chainsaws and axes
Writing your first draft is simple, really. Just draft, draft, draft, research. Outline. Research, draft, draft, draft. Don't worry about what your writing at this point. (Seriously. You probably won't keep half of it.)
Pocket Knives and Chisels
Revise, edit, revise, and revise to your personal liking.
180 grit Sandpaper
Send your manuscript to the first beta reader for opinions on overall plot structure, character development, understandability, and general likability. Revise accordingly. More drafting if necessary to fill in the plot-holes and clear up any confusions. Edit, edit, edit. Make sure every scene and character interaction has a solid purpose.
800 grit Sandpaper
Send your manuscript to a second beta reader for plot content and character/story arcs (to see if the first round of issues have been taken care of). Be aware of too many cooks in the kitchen. Revise and edit accordingly. Try not to lose sight of your original story idea--but do listen to editing comments with an open mind. Especially if you hear the same thing from different sources.
The more extensive your changes are, the more you should consider repeating this process with additional beta readers.
AT THIS POINT...
You might be thinking about seeking an agent or publisher. That's okay, but your chances might be a tad better if you proceeded with an actual proofreader before you do. Still, an editor, agent, or publisher will most likely do a few more rounds of content editing before moving forward with a final proofreader. It's all part of the process and quite normal. :-)
Send your manuscript to an alpha reader for a final round of line editing (proofreading)*. This person will (hopefully) keep an eye out for awkward phrasing and possible plot holes (if you’re lucky), but the majority of his/her effort will be focused on punctuation and grammar. The technical stuff.
Correct any issues he/she finds (without altering character ‘voice’), and do your absolute best to not make any changes that could potentially add more errors and require an additional final edit.
*You would think by now, that every possible error has been spotted by your incredibly talented and loyal beta readers, but you’d be wrong. If you plan to self-publish, do NOT risk leaving errors for your readers to find. Because one review implying that your book should have been edited (after ALL that work!) will not only stab you in the heart, but your book’s heart as well. You can always update and republish with apologies to readers, but you can't undo those reviews or prevent people from making assumptions based on those reviews.
A few more important things to remember in this stage: Back Cover Description (draft, edit, revise, test, repeat), Author Bio, Dedication, and Acknowledgments.
The Showcase and Gallery
No matter how much time, effort, and money you’ve invested in your masterpiece, the way you present it to the world can make it or break it.
Your amazing story WILL be judged by the cover, even if it’s NOT politically correct to judge a book by its cover.
I still see books on my kindle where entire chapters flow as single paragraphs, whether different people are speaking or not. I can only assume it’s a formatting glitch rather than an author error, or an "automated translation" file that went awry. It’s like those memes on Facebook saying, “If you can read this, you’re in the 1% who can!” Whatever.
My free time is far too valuable to put THAT much effort into reading for personal enjoyment. As a reader, I’d be asking for a refund and I may or may not leave a disappointing review.
There are good graphics that entice people to click on something (or at least read what’s written), and ho-hum graphics that people don’t even notice when scrolling through the news feeds. Be super careful about what you use to promote your book, or what you use to represent a quote from a character. The impressions you make DO matter.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Toward the final editing stages of your book (because many of the things on this list must be scheduled several months in advance), you should be considering plans for the following:
Most readers (unless they are authors) will never know how much work goes into creating and producing a finished novel. There will always be that ONE error that no one caught...that ONE person who feels obligated to tell the world your research must have been done by a 1st grader...and that ONE reader who checks in every month to see if the next book in the series is published yet, making it all worthwhile.
Write because you love it, no matter what the income is.
Write because you are driven by a passion that can't be stopped.
Happy New Year, and good luck with your 2017 writing goals!
Don't blame Amazon
There's is a real reason why Amazon put their digital foot down on bad formatting: It's a serious deal breaker for readers!
How long can you tolerate reading a book that has all the paragraphs running together? Or paragraphs with no indents or line space to signify there's a new paragraph? No author in their right mind would be so sloppy on purpose, but formatting issues happen more than you realize, or Amazon wouldn't have had to make such a public issue over the quality of the files they receive.
Let's assume you've been very attentive to your formatting, and it looks GREAT on your computer screen at home. Bad formatting happens when your file is translated into an epub (electronic publication) format for multiple devices. It happens when you HOPE Amazon's translation process from pdf to mobi keeps the majority of your formatting as you intended it.
But guess what? It's a computer program. It's not personal. When your file is rejected, they aren't dissing your story or content, or your stream-of-conscious writing style. They're saying the coding behind your text doesn't work. And the coding can be difficult to control in some writing programs.
Worse than being rejected by Amazon...is meeting their standards WITH bad formatting.
People don't often think about the actual formatting, but just imagine how your book will read if you lose all your italics. Readers (some) will assume you don't understand the basic writing rules and they'll be sure to complain in the reviews. (We all know how cruel reviewers can be.)
What if your chapters don't break where they're supposed to? It makes it very difficult for a reader to find their spot, or to jump back to find a certain scene. If pushing the forward or back button/icon takes you to the beginning or end of the book, instead of chapter heads, then it's a major pain. (It's also the price we pay for the convenience of digital. Have you noticed how hard it is to find your place once you lose it? Ugh.)
It's not that hard! You can do it!
Don't treat your finished novel like a submission for an agent/publisher. What's the standard layout for published novels in your genre? Open a book and get out a ruler! Look at lots of books. What do you see? EVERY book is different. Consistency is everything.
How? Use STYLES in Word instead of tool bar options. Don't use Tabs. Use 'space before' and 'space after' instead of line breaks. Fonts and font size matter. Chapter title positions matter. Headers and footers matter. Space between letters, words, and lines matter. Margins matter. Page numbers matter. Scene breaks matter. Basically...everything matters!
This is the stuff that few authors think about. Formatting is very deliberate. Nothing happens by accident. Consistency (in all these areas) is what allows your reader to be swept away by your story, rather than jarred by how your words are laid out.