Never again! I know, I say that after typing The End on every novel I’ve ever written (yes, there are only three but let’s not get tacky with the truth).
“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH.” Jack Nicholson
You’re right Jack, but this time I really mean it…I think. Like the others, Roadside, started as just another winter project, something to do when it’s too cold to go out and take photos. And don’t start with stories about all those photographers who brave sub-zero weather and white-out blizzards to get their shots. Freezing your cojones off is not fun and since I’m not doing photos for a living, I don’t have to do that sort of stuff, so there!
Writing is fun, I enjoy it, obviously, or like mid-winter photography, I wouldn’t do it. The fun part is coming up with an idea, building a loose plot around it, and then filling in the details. I didn’t exactly have such a plan in mind for No Refuge, the first novel, and the whole story almost collapsed around my head when I wrote myself into a hole and had a devil of time figuring my way out of it. The plot of Fraidy Hole was pre-planned with the exception of the twist at the end. That idea came to me about two a.m. one morning while I was deciding whether to get up and pee or go back to sleep.
Sometimes I’m asked where I get such ideas. The writer, Stephen King, tells people that he hires an “idea guy” and they talk every morning. Of course we all know that Mr. King is a smart ass and a BS artist, but the man can tell a story. His book, On Writing, has been of tremendous help to me. My ideas come to me mostly between the two a.m. pee time and dawn when I finally get back to sleep.
During the process, I have a goal of writing 500 words a day, minimum. Sometimes I can do this in an hour and half, sometimes it takes three or more. I do it every morning, weekends included. One poster on a writer’s forum declared she could write 5000 words before noon. I could too if I said blah, blah, blah 5000 times. I think she was a romance writer. That might be the difference.
Sunday mornings are my favorite times to write as this is when I bring in my assistants, a bottle of Skyy vodka and a killer Bloody Mix, a private recipe from my old friend Donna Jane. Donna Jane received credit for her offering on the Acknowledgements page of Roadside.
But as I said earlier, typing The End is where the fun stops and the drudgery begins. First is the re-write. This is where you find all the holes in the plot, clean up the completely illogical, and fix little errors such as the hero driving a Ford in one chapter and a Chevy in the next.
Step two is what Stephen King calls, The Polish. This is where you make changes to add a little color, a dash of detail, or added suspense. For instance, instead of writing that “her earring sparkled with a twinkle of moonlight”, you could say “it was shinning like a diamond in a goat’s ass.” I probably wouldn’t say that, but I could.
Now you’re done writing, all wrapped up, right? Send it off and wait for the big bucks to start rolling in? No, no Mr. Hemmingway wannabe, you’ve only just begun. Did you forget about the big bad edit, that time sucker that drains your life away at every page? Did you overlook the misplaced commas, the errors in spacing, the word omissions, and the sound-alike words the spell checker so gleefully overlooks? Yes you did and many times. At this stage you need help, lots of it. You can enlist your friends and relatives (which I’ve done and most appreciate) or you can hire an editor who edits novels as a professional and fork over some significant bucks. With Roadside, I opted for door #2 and bit the bullet.
As it turned out, I learned a lot from Bethany of New York. She immediately identified some of my problems where the plot seemed to get discombobulated and wander off on tangents to nowhere. She showed me where detail is good, but how too much detail tends to interrupt the pace of the story and slow down the action. In the end, I considered it money well spent.
Editing over, done with, at last. Now we can send it off. Hold on there young fella, not quite yet. Now, if you’re going with Amazon as so many indy writers do, you must seek out and study the great Amazonian formatting requirements. We’re talking paragraph indents, margins, gutter margins, font size, font style, and don’t you dare do that, etc,. etc., etc. And just try to get Microsoft Word to do these things for you, go ahead and try. Drive a man to drink. Thanks again, Donna Jane.
Oh, did I forget to mention the cover? Yes, Virginia your work will need a cover design, a field so complex that people earn good money designing them. My wallet, already empty from editor fees, had nothing left for cover design, and so, as with the first two novels, I made my own from a photo. More rules to follow. Now you’re dealing with spine widths, bleed areas, dimensions, file size, and pixels per inch. Oh the joy.
Then, one day, your finger hovered over the button, you click Upload, sit back, and watch your mail for approval from on high that everything you did was within specs. (Feel free to have a drink while you wait). And miracle of miracles, there it was, a big and bold ACCEPTED.
Well, I can tell you that having your very own book listed on Amazon, along with three or four million other books pretty much just like it, is, oh, I don’t know. What’s the word I’m looking for? Satisfying? No, that’s not it. Futile? Yeah, that’s the one. You see, without some means of driving people to your little star in the galaxy, without multiple good reviews, you sit out there, frightened and alone, unloved and unnoticed, waiting in vain for the sales reports to brighten your day, to shine upon you, and bring a sparkle to your eye. Sort of like a diamond in a goat’s ass.