If you know me booknerds, friends, and writers, you know that I don’t like giving writing advice. Advice on writing a book is literally everywhere, often contradictory, and often billed as a “do this and you can’t fail” or “this is the correct/only way to do a thing.” I don’t believe in that, nor subscribe to that mentality. So, know that when I talk about writing, it’s strictly through a lens of: this works for me, and therefore may work for you if you are looking for new things to try. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about setting the mood when I/you/we sit down to write!
My books all tend to be emotional whirlwinds; they include everything from unabashedly fun action, to swoony tender moments, to scenes of extreme emotional pain/grief. Those scenes can take a lot out of me when I write; from the frantic energy I feel when I write my fight scenes, to bringing myself to tears as I dig deep for those scenes where I am less than kind to my characters. Some writers can write out of sequence, but I can’t. I write linearly so if I get to a sad scene when I’m in a good mood, then I’ve got to go to a dark place to set the writing tone. Those writers who can write out of sequence can mark a scene or chapter as something emotionally devastating and will revisit that scene later, when the fun bits that match their current frame of mind are all taken care of. But, since that’s not a process that works for me personally, I’ve learned to improvise.
The biggest thing that helps me get into a particular mood is music. Paying for my Spotify was one of the best writing investments I’ve made as it gives me access to so, so much music. I can curate playlists based on what I need to convey. It helps me capture the flow and tempo of the chapter, regardless of my mind frame: from break up angry/sad music, to high tempo action scenes, and moments of bittersweet character growth. It can take a bit of time to comb through all that music to find what I need, but getting that sorted before I dive into the scene does tend to save me some time when it comes to revisions, as I’m not struggling so hard to fully capture a certain mood or frame of mind. There is one exception to this though: writing sexy sex scenes.
I don’t write a lot of detailed sex scenes. I was firmly in the YA camp for several years, after all. But now that I am writing more adult fiction, it’s becoming more common. Music can still help with this, but, if you’re like me and get embarrassed writing those closed-door scenes, setting the music just isn’t enough. What does help me, however, is wine. If I know a sex scene is in my characters future, that is the one kind of scene I can, and will, write out of sequence. Generally, because it’s fluff to the plot, I can put a big note that says: WRITE THIS LATER and then, when it is socially acceptable to drink, come back and finish the scene. Writing a little tipsy for those sex scenes keeps me from second guessing myself, and basically helps me just get out of my own way so I can get that first draft done. I don’t condone alcoholism or anything, but there is a reason why “Write drunk, and edit sober” is a saying that’s been around for a long time (and contrary to popular belief, Ernest Hemingway didn't actually say it)…
It may sound simple, too simple, dare I say, but this is a very Occam’s Razor scenario for me. Sometimes the simplest answer, or writing method, is the right one. Waiting for your muse or inspiration to strike, for you to be in the right mood before diving in can lead to your book never getting written. Sometimes, you do have to wait, and those blocks are bigger to get around. But if you’re simply waiting to write a scene or a chapter until you “feel like it”, then give setting some mood music a try! Or crack open your favorite adult beverage and let the words flow without overthinking every word you put on a page. Now, it should be said this is my method for first to second drafts only, but those are usually the hardest drafts, so there you go. I hope you found this helpful and/or interesting! And if you have any methods for how you set the mood for your writing or reading, please share! I’d love to see what others do.
Hey friends! So, as I work on getting my next book properly formatted and then uploaded so it can be, drum roll please, published (gasp!) I figured it was the perfect time to talk specifically about publishing. I get asked questions occasionally on what to do or what’s the difference between small press and self-publishing, but I realized I never did a basic post on the more… technical aspects of self-publishing, shall we say? There are so many people out there who say they have the perfect guide to publish your book, if you pay them. Seriously, even a quick search on Amazon for “how to publish” will get you thousands of results and that can be really overwhelming. Especially when you are sinking money into these resources. I am in no way the end-all-be-all expert when it comes to publishing, but I hope that by sharing what I’ve done and what worked for me, that at least gives people who are interested a starting point, or, if nothing else, gives all my favorite booknerds an inside look into what indie authors go through in order to get their books into your lovely, lovely hands.
So! You’ve written a book, gotten it edited, have a beautiful cover, and want to get it into the hands of readers. Firstly, congratulations! That’s an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. But where do you start in order to make that dream a reality? Well, first decide if you want to publish under your own publishing name, or if you are comfortable with being listed as a self-published book. Any option is fine, but personally, I like publishing under my own company name—StarfishInk. So, what I did, was I registered my publishing name as a Sole Proprietorship so that I own the name and company I'm publishing under, but it’s not an LLC so there weren’t extra legal hoops to jump through. This was the first step to making my books into a real business as I plan on releasing a lot of books in different series. But, if you only want to publish the one book, you may not want to do that, which is fine! This is not a requirement to publishing by any means, but just a layer you can add on depending on how you want your books data to be listed on places like Amazon.
That being said, there are two big places to turn to in terms of printers for indie authors: IngramSpark, and Amazon. These aren’t the only ones, but I have used both to format, print, and publish my books. You don’t have to use either Amazon or Ingram to create the interior of your books, though. If you are skilled, you can do that yourself as there are several formatting services that can help you take your word doc and turn it into something publishable. Indesign programs can do this, as can Vellum and several others. I, however, do not have that kind of skill and so I use the creation services that Amazon has and use my own images for the chapter headers or scene breaks. Both Ingram and Amazon have pretty intuitive systems, but I do like Amazon’s better, but you may want to do both if you are planning on having your ebooks and paperbacks distributed wide (which means you don’t use Kindle Unlimited). Amazon is one of the only ebook providers to use the mobi file formats, most other ebook readers use epub. Both services will create these file types for you though, so you don’t have to worry about that, but, in case you couldn’t tell by now, IngramSpark and Amazon do not play well together. They are competitors, after all. So, for example, I use Ingram for Resistor’s hardcover as Amazon doesn’t have that capability (yet), but Amazon doesn’t like losing that sale, so they claim my book is not in stock, or not available for pre-order when it absolutely is. It’s petty, and, unfortunately, there’s not much indies can do to fight that. So, it becomes a question on where you want your book listed, and what process you find easiest to use, and then going with that. But the good thing with both of these services is they are Print on Demand (POD) so you never have to worry about setting a number of books you want printed for sale. As people buy them, they are printed to fulfill that demand. Of course, that doesn’t limit you from ordering author copies for yourself, but you can do that at any time after your book is available, as many times as you want, so you don’t have to worry about ordering too few if you run out of signed copies to sell on your website, for instance.
But the one thing you absolutely need to have? An ISBN number. You can either buy these from Bowker, or places like Amazon and IngramSpark will offer you an ISBN when you are setting up your book’s data in their respective systems. Personally, I like buying the ISBNs from Bowker as then I can use those numbers no matter where I publish. If you use Amazon’s ISBN, and then went to IngramSpark to put your paperback there and take advantage of their distribution channels, there could be complications with using the ISBN Amazon gave you. I like buying a lot of ISBN numbers from Bowker all at once, as each format of your book will get its own number, even if it’s the same book. So, for example, “Resistor” has a different ISBN number for its paperback, its hardcover, and its ebook. Buying big bundles from Bowker made sense for my purposes, but that can be pricey, so do what makes you feel comfortable financially, and you can always buy more if you want to.
A word of caution about Bowker: once you begin assigning ISBNs to your books, Bowker will ask you to fill out your book’s information. Things like price and release date etc. Some of these things you have to fill out, others are optional, like uploading your book cover into Bowker. Do not upload your book cover until you have done a cover reveal. Here’s why: Bowker shares your book information with search engines like Google. Which can be great because it makes finding your book easier for readers, but if you haven’t done your title or cover reveal yet, Bowker may spoil that for you, and getting them to take your cover down afterwards is a real pain… My advice? Only put in the bare minimum of what is required. You can always go back in and modify some of the information later, or fill out that optional information after your book releases, but your cover reveal is a big deal and it’s no fun when it accidentally gets spoiled.
There’s a lot more that goes into publishing, obviously, but it can get pretty nuanced, and these were the questions I was asked specifically recently, so if you have other questions, please let me know! This won’t be the last of my blog posts about publishing and just how and where to start with that process. But I don’t know what you do or don’t know, so don’t hesitate to ask! I’m still learning new things about the best (and easiest) way to get my books out there as, fortunately or unfortunately, this is a business that changes frequently and you can only learn by doing sometimes. Which means, yes, you will make mistakes. I’ve made lots of them! But with each book you publish, the more you learn and the easier it gets, I promise. But I hope this was at least a little helpful, or interesting, or maybe even gave you a new appreciation for all the things you didn’t realize indie authors have to consider when bringing a book to life.
I am a terrible tease. I know that, friends. But I was so focused on Paradigm Flux (which you can get now, huzzah!) that I’ve been pushing back the rest of the teasers for my bigger series… So, I think it’s about time I made good on some of my promises to share more about the next book in Ellinor’s series that will be coming out soon(ish)! I’m going to share a bit of the themes you can expect to see in the next book, as well as show off some of the art, and go into what’s next for Ellinor and her friends, all without spoiling the second or first book, I promise!
In the second book, Ellinor is dealing with some massive consequences from her actions, which really comes as no surprise, that’s pretty much all sequels in a nut shell. But some of those consequences, at least for Ellinor, are internal. Ellinor is being forced to grow and change, which includes her dealing with her prejudices and fears head on, as well as confronting her long-standing grief over her departed husband. Ellinor has to repair her broken relationships, which include her forging new ones, too. But, of course, as new relationships are forged, it also begs the question: who can Ellinor trust? Who will legitimately help? And is Ellinor ready to move forward when it’s easier to stay the same angry person she’s grown so accustomed to?
I love a good character driven novel any day of the week, but this wouldn’t be Ellinor if her newest book didn’t also include a lot of action—and lots of colorful swearing, let’s be honest. But, according to my beta readers, this latest book is one of my most cinematic when it comes to the action of this book. For example: choreographed fight arenas housed in rave-like mega clubs. Need I say more? Well, even if I do, I won’t because spoilers. This is in addition to this novel being such an atmospheric read, of course. But, since I shared this on my Instagram feed, here’s a little close up of some of the art that you can expect to see as pre-order bonuses, as well as get in the full color hardcover eventually.
Now, in order for Ellinor to do all the above, she’s got to leave Erhard behind. Which means, yes! This book is set in a new location! And, yes! I am sharing the map with you right now for this new place! And while I’m not sharing more than the map (sorry, no title reveals just yet) I can also give you a time-frame for the release of this baby: late Fall. I can say that because I have just gotten the first round of edits back from my editor. However, because this book will go through one more round, plus the cover is still in the works along with a few more pieces of character art (some you can even see right now if you subscribe to my book club!) I can’t be more specific than that. Still, I hope you enjoyed this itsy-bitsy teaser, and I promise: more will be revealed soon!
Hello my friends! Since I just finished the first draft of the 3rd book in Ellinor’s series, it seems only appropriate that I talk about some of the struggles of being a writer. Are you surprised that I am not talking about how exciting it is to write THE END on a book? Well, there is a reason for that—that excitement takes a while to come, at least for me. Why? Because there is a lot that happens, emotionally, while writing a book—in any form, first draft, final revisions, publication etc.—and the first sensation after completing a story for me, is one of being absolutely wrecked and drained. Even with that, I’d never want to trade what I do for another career or job. I love my books, the characters I craft, and the worlds they inhabit, but that doesn’t mean that things don’t get difficult. So, as I work through those emotions ahead of starting revisions, allow me to tell you a bit about what I, personally, find the hardest things about being a writer and novelist.
The first thing: the isolation that comes naturally with writing a book. It’s something that you, and you alone, write. Even if a book has co-authors, often the writer of that chapter or that character ends up writing those things alone, working through the problems and plot holes solo. And, for me, I am the only writer in my family, and while some of my family are big readers, reading a book and writing one are very different. It gets hard to be able to tell them my struggles or the things I am trying to do or accomplish in a story, what I should name a book or a character in order to fit a feeling or vibe and asking for help, or why I am so tired when I’ve just been making stuff up all day. They struggle to understand, and they do try, but ultimately, they don’t really “get it” and I get self-conscious about bothering them over something I think they find boring or don’t care about, and I tend to isolate myself from them even further. This gets even worse when I am writing something emotionally devastating.
I have to get myself “in the mood” to write certain things or scenes. Sometimes that can be fun if I need to drink some red wine when writing something particularly sexy! But not so much if I have to, let’s just say, killed a character or brake anothers heart and I have to write those scenes where the remaining characters are distraught over the emotional trauma they are enduring. When I get into those scenes, I ultimately pull my emotional heartstrings until I’m in a near depressive state, or worse. Which is not only hard on me, but those in my family who don’t understand how I can get this low over something that I love doing so much. It’s complicated to say the least, and can make me avoid writing for long stretches of time because I just don’t want to do that to myself or the people around me. On the flip side, though, it does work wonders for working through my own shit, so there is a lot of good that can come with this sort of thing, but it’s also a very hard thing to do—both emotionally and mentally just from the pure act of writing something that is, potentially, very dark.
Then, suddenly, the story is done! Hooray! Except, for me, this is the part where my imposter syndrome starts talking the loudest. It tells me things like: this book is trash, I’m not a good enough writer to pull this story off, that I will never think of another story to write again, and the last thing I wrote was as good as I’ll ever get. It takes a lot for me to shut that voice off, unfortunately, which is partially why my books don’t come out all that quickly. I struggle with knowing when the book and story is “good enough”—not just in terms of me editing and revising it, but also knowing when it’s ready for others to read the story. Because then it’s out of my control, and the reader—whether the book is out in the wild or just my beta readers—gets to interpret my words however they want and they can feel something I didn’t intend, which could be a good thing, but it’s also terrifying! It’s usually not until the books is 100% done, as in I’m putting it up for pre-order, when I feel that sense of accomplishment and excitement that makes all the low points worth it (even if you see me “bragging” on social media beforehand on finishing something, that’s mostly just me knowing that it's something I should be doing rather than genuine most of the time). However, other writers may go through a completely different process, and that’s fine and completely true for them, this is just what I go through, personally.
Of course, there are other hard parts about being a writer depending on your particular path—finding an agent, getting a cover designer, marketing etc.—but this is more the physical and emotional “hardship”, if you will, of publishing a novel. Authors are emotional, creative people, and we literally pour our heart and soul into our craft, which sometimes means it will take years for a book to be published as we work through all these complex emotions. So, remember to be kind to your friendly neighborhood writers, because even the happiest and sweetest book you read probably took more out of the writer than you may see!
It’s been a minute since I’ve talked about my writing process, friends. I had planned to write about it in November for NaNoWriMo when it felt most appropriate. But I was in the throes of writing my book and getting to that 50k word mark that I just didn’t… And then there was the madness of the holidays and the world in general, and anyway, here we are. So, let me tell you a bit about how I go about writing a first draft of a novel, and what that feels like because it’s such a unique roller coaster that I don’t think many people really understand or appreciate the unique agony that is a first draft. At least for me. Because, and I’ll be honest with you, I hate writing first drafts…
For my Monster of Selkirk series, I edited as I went while I wrote the first draft. Basically, each time I wrote a chapter or a scene, I’d go back and revise and edit until I was happy with the flow, and then move on. That was fine, until I realized that it didn’t actually speed up the revising process. I still had to go back and plug those plot holes and fix those inconsistencies within the story once the book was “done”. And, ultimately, for me, it left me a bit blind to the whole picture of the book and story. So, for my newest series (Ellinor), now that I have grown and learned more as a writer, I only write forward.
Writing forward, once I have my super rough outline of where the plot needs to go and where the story ends, is exactly how it sounds: only write forward. No going back to revise or edit as I go. Instead, I take notes in a journal by my desk of the things I need to add, or beef up, or of things I’ve just remembered, so that I can go back during revisions and add them as a cohesive whole. Writing forward is just putting words on a page, crafting the bones of the story so that in revisions, I’m essentially adding the muscle and nervous system, making everything both functional and beautiful. THAT is the part I love most of this process. Not making those bones and just getting the rough story out without worrying about the words I am using to tell the story, but revising and making everything flow, and finding the RIGHT words rather than just any old thing that comes to mind. The reason? It’s that journal I was telling you about.
You see, I take A LOT of notes while I write of things that I’ll need to change, add, or remove as I’m writing that first draft. And the more I progress in the story, the higher my word count goes, the more notes I have on each chapter. Just knowing the number of changes I’ll have to make, the things I have to fix… It can get daunting. Ultimately, I KNOW that these things, these notes that I make, will make for a stronger story and a more exciting narrative when it’s all said and done, but until then, these notes of “problems”, if you will, like to rile up my imposter syndrome. The more notes I take, the easier it becomes for that voice in my head that says I’m a fraud and I should just stop, that this book is trash, to get louder and louder. It’s a habit I’m trying to stop, but it does take a lot of mental effort.
All first drafts are rough, no matter the fame of the author, how many books they’ve written, or how old they are. First drafts are never, ever perfect. They are the first ingredient in a recipe. If you were to judge a cake by it’s first ingredient, before it gets baked, then yes, it’ll taste disgusting (also, yes, I’ve stolen this analogy from somewhere…). But no one ever serves a bowl of flour and eggs and calls it a cake, and writing a book is a lot like that. It gets so easy to compare my first draft to another authors finished product, hell, even my previous finished products, and then get depressed because it’s no where near that level of awesome yet. It’s easy to forget that those published books took years to get into the final shape they are in, and even then, there is probably still improvements they could make.
So, while I may hate writing first drafts because of my—sometimes toxic—perfectionism, it’s a necessary part of the progression, and I still wouldn’t trade this process, this job, for anything else in the world. So, if you’re a writer and struggling, maybe a look at my process will help. Maybe it’ll help validate that your feelings are normal and it does get better. And if you’re a reader, a fellow booknerd, maybe a little glimpse into this authors world will help you better understand why it takes so damn long for the book you are eagerly waiting for to be born.