Aah, the Easy Life of a Writer
by G G Collins
Without an idea, there can’t be a book. When I began writing Reluctant Medium, I had an idea. I asked the question: What if someone performed a ceremony to return the dead and the wrong person returned? From there, I created the character who would do this and began the journey to find out.
Fortunately, I never have a problem coming up with ideas. I won’t live long enough to write everything I want. But if you have trouble coming up with ideas, think about what you enjoy reading. Do you read fiction or nonfiction? What interests you: popular fiction, genre or literary? If you prefer nonfiction, do you enjoy biographies, how-to, spirituality, animal stories? There’s that old adage; write what you know. But you can also write what you can research. It can be a learning process for the writer too. Do you think you would enjoy research and conducting interviews? Once you know what to write about, it’s time to just do it.
Butt in the chair time. A few words about outlines; an individual process. Some writers love putting together a long, complicated outline. They write pages about each character, the scenes, background, on and on. But you can also make an outline that has some short paragraphs describing where you want to go with the story. Start a synopsis, fill in the blanks later and choose your character names. I prefer the latter approach. It fits my personality better. There’s no wrong path.
Once you done your research, the interviews and your outline, you’re ready to write. Decide when you have the best opportunity of some unencumbered time. Are you a morning person or a night owl? When is your energy the highest? A lot of writers have a fulltime job in addition to their writing. That doesn’t mean you can’t cull out two or three hours a day to write. Consistently writing is the key to success.
Simply stated, it’s a matter of being in that chair, hands on keyboard tapping out words. I don’t believe in writers’ block. Sure it’s difficult to begin, but start. If you don’t know how you want to open the book, then write the parts you have a better feel for. Some of us write description better, others are dialog demons. Our words are not sacred. They can be changed, probably will be changed during editing and polishing sessions. It might be helpful to join a writing group and do readings with others. Sometimes having a place to read your writing can help you get started and gain confidence. Do whatever it takes.
My words, my words! The first edit will likely be yours to do; maybe even the second and third. Eventually, you’ll likely need a professional to go through your manuscript. In my years working for a book publisher, there was only one author who could edit herself. She was terrific. The problem with self-editing: we know what we meant to say and we miss errors. And, that’s why newspapers have editors. The faster you have to turn in work, the more you need an editor. Keep a Chicago Manual of Style on hand for trips through your work.
Traditional route or self-publishing? It can take months or years or never, to haul in a traditional publisher or find a literary agent who will agree to represent your work. More and more, the traditional route is strewn with difficulties. Publishers or agents may not be accepting new clients or they aren’t accepting first-time authors. Sometimes they agree to look at your book and months go by without a reply. Your manuscript may be in a tall stack taking up space with other hopefuls, or the editor or agent just never gets around to sampling it. It can get pretty discouraging, but you can also come out a published book author. The easy answer? Try it and see what happens.
But if you prefer not to wait, self-publishing can be your answer. Two places are well-known for their support of the self-published author: Amazon and Smashwords. You do all the work, so get ready, but these are probably the fastest routes to a pub date. I decided to go with an eBook, but you can publish in paper at several places including Amazon.
DIY Formatting or Freelance Formatter? You will have to submit your book in a required format. If your computer skills aren’t up to it or you don’t have the time, there are formatters who can do the work for you. Smashwords has a listing of such formatter angels. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for author and founder Mark Coker‘s list.
You will also need a book cover. I created my own and you can do this, particularly if you have an art background. If you don’t feel up to this, Smashwords also has a group of people who design book covers.
You can also read about how I created my cover. Just look under the “Publishing” category in the sidebar of the Reluctant Medium at Large to locate it.
Once you have your book in the correct format, it’s a matter of following the directions and answering a few questions. Soon you will find yourself at the “Publish” button. Take a deep breath and click.
In Part Two of Building a Book, I’ll cover marketing and promotions and moving on the next book.
— G G Collins
Building Your Book Cover
The path not taken
When I decided to take the nontraditional path to publication, I relished the idea of creating the cover art for my book. I have an extensive background in art, but I believe it’s not essential to the task. There are so many ways to manipulate photographs and images today that most people can design a cover themselves with a little patience–remember, you’ve written a book. With some experimentation, a book cover is a possibility.
The process began by choosing one of my favorite pots. It was purchased in Santa Fe a couple decades ago and created by C.G. of the Jemez Pueblo. Its motifs are carefully defined and the artist used bright turquoise on one side. I added to this a sage smudge stick from The Ark, a metaphysical store in Santa Fe, a candle and several colors of feathers, one turquoise to repeat that color in the montage.
Putting it all together
For the background, I chose a painting I did years ago. The classroom assignment was to paint an “other worldly” scene. The leafless tree limbs and the skeletal buttes seemed just right for the look I wanted: a supernatural interpretation. What you see is not the entire painting, but just one corner of it. After arranging the objects, I set the painting behind the table and raised it using blocks until it was the best height.
With the tableau set, I began taking photos. At first, I didn’t light the candle. It was observed that without a flame, someone might mistake it for a glass of milk. Okay, point taken. Light the candle.
I took about a dozen photos. Distance was varied, objects positioned and repositioned. You can see the photo I chose before it was enhanced. I imported it to Picasa where I edited it in “Creative Kit.” There I used its effect called “Heat Map 2.0” to warm it in the “Thermal” setting. The second photo shows this warming process (and this photo has the unlighted candle). This one was heated too much and discarded. I tried again and liked that it blurred the photo just a little making it seem mysterious. The background gave it the sinister feel.
Turn some letters
Once I had the appearance I wanted, it was time to choose a typeface for the cover. Because it is a metaphysical story, it seemed better to go with a font that was not clearly defined. Picasa had several which fit the bill and you’ll notice them on the trial cover. Using the “Text” box, I was able to size it perfectly. Eventually, I chose “Angstrom.” I liked the caps and the weather-beaten appearance of the letters.
The font for the author name was easy because I wanted that straightforward and clear. “Georgia” gave that clean, sharp look I wanted. Voila, a book cover!
While building a book cover is intensive work, it’s also creative and great fun.
Ahead of the curve
Self-publishers, begin thinking of your cover long before the manuscript is complete. Pick up clues from your storyline. Would an action, still life or photo be most appropriate? Do you want people in it? Landscape only? Or conceptual work? If you use a photograph or art work other than your own, please make sure it is “public domain” or you have permission from the photographer or artist.
The phrase, “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” dates back to the days when all covers looked the same. Today, you should be able to tell a book by its cover. Traditional publishers work hard to establish a brand for each author’s book. Indie publishers should too. If you’re writing a series, each cover should resemble the other to give you a trademark design.
Building your own book cover is a chance to have some fun, stretch those creative muscles in another direction. Give it some thought. Draw sketches, and set your imagination loose.
— G G Collins