This post is courtesy of J.E. Mueller, indie author of Fire’s Song. She has generously offered to give advice to first-time indie-published authors!
How does one even become an author? This crazy writing world leads to so many odd twists and turns, but at least it all starts the same. The love of a good story, and the desire to write one. There is no wrong way to begin a tale. Editing can perfect it later. The best thing to do is just to dive in. Want to jump straight to the action? Do it! Or maybe you need massive details to get a better feel for your world? By all means! Just start.
But what then?
Ah, now this is where things can start to get a little crazy. There are those who plan an intricate plot, and those who fly by the seats of their pants. Personally, I am a pantser. I do have a direction I want to head in, the idea of a story with an end goal in mind. I might even know major turning points. After I start, I try and let the plot just flow, and let the characters take the wheel. For me, forcing them into a structured plot doesn’t work. I get frustrated and discouraged if I plan too much and my characters just don’t want to do the thing.
So, I live and let be.
There is no wrong way to end a novel.
I love endings that are neatly tied up, and ones that have the biggest cliffhanger, making me beg for more. I love ones that make you want more of the world, and books where I’m satisfied completely. The only thing important about the end is that it’s true to the story. Forcing an end to go against the tide for this effect or that, it just tends to feel exactly that… forced.
What to do next? Nothing. You finished, set that book aside.
Give yourself at least a week off from it. It’s important to let your mind take a break so you can see it more clearly. Oh, I do encourage you to keep writing though. Maybe the next in the series or a new tale altogether. Maybe some prompts or blogs, some exercises outside of your comfort zone. Whatever you do, give yourself at least a week to distance yourself from your book and plot. It will make editing that first draft easier. A clear head is better for both you and the book.
Your story may take several drafts or just a few. Personally, mine take several. My first book, the beginning half went through at last eight revision cycles. The last half just four or five. I know several authors who spend much less time on this process, and that’s okay! It doesn’t mean one book is better than the other.
After that, find some people who you know will give you an honest opinion and have them read it. Get their feedback. You may want to change a few things after this, and you may not. Not all opinions are right, but it is good to know where you stand with a small audience. It can help fix unexpected plot holes or help to develop characters and setting more.
Next up, after any edits you made in the beta reader phase, it’s time for an editor! Yes, you need an editor. No, your BFF probably isn’t going to work out. I say this because as best as we try, it really does help to bring in someone who is more of an expert on these things. They will make your book fantastic. And save you from having a wall of scones when you really wanted a wall of sconces (actual example).
While that’s getting cleaned up, I highly encourage you to look for a cover artist, and if you don’t know formatting to look for a formatter. And again, unless your BFF has experience here, it’s best to stick with a pro. Covers sell. It’s normally the reader’s first impression. I try so hard not to judge indie books by covers. I know funds are tight for most of us… but my goodness is it flipping hard. I fall head over heels for a great cover. Sure, a great blurb on the back helps, but if the cover sucks, I probably won’t ever get to that part. I may be judgey there, but I know I’m not alone, so if you want the truth, there it is.
Once you’ve got your book back from your editor and changes are made the last few steps are a lot of fun. You get to see your cover and formatting in book form! I know some people want to skip the final step of ordering a proof copy, but I highly encourage you to get one and read it over. It looks so different in print you might find a few last minute things to fix.
So you want to write a second book and you pantsed the first…. Good news! That’s okay!
You can pants a series. Having some general goals and direction is all you need. Like I said about the first book, the most important thing is staying true to the story. Let your characters continue to be themselves. How do they handle new problems, stress, and struggles is what really makes the story move and plot thicken.
You pantsed the first book and now you suddenly want to outline? Do your thing!
The nice thing about this writing thing is there is no real right or wrong. What works for one person may not work for you. What works for one story may not work for your next. Try new things, see how things flow. There are so many different outlines and structures to try and one may be just what you’re looking for.
If something isn’t working for you, then drop it. Never be afraid to try something new because it might not work. There’s equal chance that it just might, and if not, you can at least explain it to someone else.
The best thing to note here, there isn’t a right or wrong with writing. My suggestions here are based on my experiences. These things work for many, but some find other techniques work better for them. I highly recommend these things from my success and encourage you to share your tips from your success. in the comments.