I broke out in a cold sweat.
The message from my editor was polite but clear. What I had sent her, in the single-spaced Pages format as multiple attachments, broadcast exactly what she would be dealing with if I became her client: A wet behind the ears newbie who had a lot to learn. In fact, I needed to learn everything at an accelerated pace because the book was ready for a professional look, and perhaps a professional polish.
I left my computer on that night hoping that in the morning, much like the millers’ daughter in “Rumpelstiltskin” I would find my document in the professional format I could send off to editor heaven. Alas, when I awoke the next morning my computer was as I had left it, awaiting my colorful vocabulary as I begged it to help me.
Here is a little bit of personal writing history. When I began to write my first novel seriously it never occurred to me to research what I might need after creating my chef d’oeuvre. It never occurred to me to check out certain details beyond the creative aspect. The only writers’ blogs I consulted or researched were P.D. James, Mary Higgins Clark and Agatha Christie. The suggestions I read pleased me. P.D. James wrote, “I always begin with setting, and very early on write the end. Then I work toward it, always allowing my reader the clues to work out the solution to the murder.” Christie was adamant that the ending does not surprise the reader, and Higgins Clark said her readers always knew what to expect of her. “No bad language or sex, strong female characters who face a dilemma or life changing decision,” she states.
And that is what I did. With no thought to process or pagination I developed characters, settings, and motivation. I wrote the ending and worked toward it, saving each section separately, printing it and putting it in a binder. Sigh. While my lack of structure and generally clueless process enabled me to create freely, I will never proceed this way again because to clean it took me a week and a half of converting to Word.doc and merging many, many separate files into one final document to send to my saintly editor.
After this fiasco, the learning curve I set for myself was steep. I reaped quick rewards as I started on a new manuscript, this time a novella, in a completely different manner. After writing the prologue and about 20 pages I decided to, shocker, write an outline of where I thought the story might end up. I used Word.doc right from the beginning religiously merging the document into one file as I completed the days writing. I established structured times during the week when, upon rising, I sat in front of my computer with a steaming cup of coffee and went right to where I had ended the day before. I avoided checking my email until after I had gotten at least 1-½ hours straight of serious writing in. I began to treat the process with respect, as Amanda Hocking says, “more like a business.” The business of writing didn’t take away from the creative aspect at all. Rather, in a very short period of time, less than two months, I had a first draft of 37,000 words.
Since I intend the new manuscript to start out as an e book, I avoided the things that create problems in Word, namely hard returns, using the tab key, etc. These are idiosyncrasies of Word and make the conversion to html format frustrating and painful. Word, it seems, is something best learned through actually using it, messing up and correcting your mistakes. I became a student of more learned writers on LinkedIn, absorbing the information they shared freely about everything writing related. I asked a friend to read my manuscript before I sent it off to my editor, unafraid of his constructive criticism. Constructive criticism can be your friend.
I did all this without a traditional publisher or a literary agent. I got my hands dirty, jumped down into the trenches and fought the good fight. The results we can achieve with the technology available to us are staggering. A cornucopia of programs and support are available for do-it-yourselfers. More importantly, the support from other indie authors can prove invaluable. Happy writing.
* * * * *
Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. She is the creator and contributing editor of the lifestyle blog, Culture and Cuisine Club.com. Born to Die-The Montauk Murders is her first novel in a series.[subscribe2]