When is a manuscript “good enough”?

Just like I was surprised to realize I had been journaling for ten years (now up to 12 years), I’ll be participating in my 10th National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November. It’s weird to think that I’ve written nine books with this challenge over the years, even to the point where I’ve used the experience I’ve gained in doing so to publish other books outside my self-imposed NaNoWriMo publishing cycle (like the Cinema Connections book slated for release this September). Back when I wrote First Name Basis, I was so excited CreateSpace offered me five free proof copies of my book just for finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge. I really wanted that physical copy of the book I had just spent six weeks writing, but I also knew it needed some polishing so I’d be proud of what I had created. I asked some friends to help beta read, and I took their notes and performed a number of edits before finally clicking that “submit”...
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How much should you write?

Writing is my hobby. It is not my full-time job. It is not paying to support my family. Sure, it can make some money on the side, but I generally write to be creative. I have stories and ideas that I want to get onto the page and out to the world. I started writing for fun in college, creating a series of intertwined short stories I wanted to collect into a novel-length book. Nothing ever truly came of these short stories, other than to convince me that they were possible. Then I wrote my first novel. I found it ironic that I didn’t pursue a thesis-based Master’s Degree, but ended up doing nine months of research to write a thesis-length book in roughly six weeks. This was the largest thing I had ever written. Unlike my previous short stories, though, a coupon to get five free proof copies of this book was the impetus I needed to edit and polish...
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Why a book is more than just words

Go over to your bookshelf. Pick up your favorite book and open it up. What do you see? If your only answer is “words,” then take a second look. Flip through a few pages. Now, what do you see? Do you notice that it looks like a book? What do I mean by that? Essentially, all the other elements of page design—besides the words themselves—are what help make a book into what it is. That being said, I’ve seen some issues with self-published books that I feel I need to address. Good design balances negative space. Even though this post is mostly about the design of a book’s interior, the first place to start is with the words themselves. Open up your favorite book again and look at the words. Now, see where there are no words? The indents at the start of paragraphs and the chunks of space to the right of fast-paced dialogue create negative space that helps the reader...
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2019 and Beyond

While December was a good time to look back on all that I accomplished in 2018, now that it's January, it's time to look forward to the future. I have a lot of plates spinning right now, and a lot of manuscripts still waiting for me to edit them. Fortunately, I have plenty of projects that are wrapping up in 2019. The Buried Colony 2017's NaNoWriMo novel, The Buried Colony (originally titled as Frozen Planet) has gone through three editing passes in 2018 in preparations for one of the most terrifying things I have yet to do with my writing: submitting a manuscript to an agent. That's right! I'm going to spend 2019 pitching this hard sci-fi story to agents in the hope that I can have it be traditionally published in 2020. Since The Martian has helped make hard sci-fi a more viable genre in recent years, I hope that my exploration of how to potentially send humans outside the solar system is met...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 3/3]

Over the last few months, I’ve hopefully opened your eyes to some of the neat tricks you can use to help publish your book using the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Word is an obvious choice for writing, and Microsoft Excel can also be useful to manage lists and other planning information, but did you know there’s one more program that can help you publish your book as well? Up until now, the programs I’ve suggested are ones that you’d likely use anyway if you were trying to organize your work or polish your manuscript. The key was merely using the lesser-known tools within these programs to make your life as a writer easier. This month, I’d like to suggest something that might shock you and will require you to use a program in a slightly different manner than it’s usually used. That program is: MICROSOFT POWERPOINT Most people associate PowerPoint with corporations, presentations, and goofy animations. While these are the typical uses for the...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 2/3]

Last month, I told you how the Microsoft Office suite can help you with your writing. I covered Microsoft Word, and how it’s more powerful than just a standard word processor. By getting to know some of the more obscure features of these (usually) easily obtainable and available programs, writers can take control of their writing without having to purchase expensive computer programs. With Microsoft Word, I covered how Section Breaks, Styles, and Formatting can help a writer create a professional-looking book with less effort. Even though our next program isn’t used directly for the actual writing of a book, it is incredibly valuable for planning and prepping. It can also be used during the polishing phase of a manuscript as well. I refer, of course, to: MICROSOFT EXCEL As an engineer, I love to use spreadsheets, and Excel is the king of the spreadsheet programs. Any time I need to write a list or do some calculations, I open up a new...
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3 unexpected programs to help you publish a book [PART 1/3]

Many months ago, I described the amount of work a writer would need to do by themselves to publish a book. Not only is there research, formatting, and graphic design involved, the writer also has to write said book. This whole process can be daunting, especially in the digital age. We have so many different programs at our fingertips to help us plan, write, and publish. A lot of these programs can cost a significant amount of money. Sure, programs like Aeon Timeline, Evernote, and Scrivener might be worth the money in the long run, but you’ll inevitably have to learn how to use these programs, which can eat into your writing time. What if I were to tell you that there’s a suite of programs you probably already have installed on your computer that can accomplish many of the same functions as the programs that cost a lot more? Many of you probably already use these programs on a regular...
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The problem with self-publishing

As a self-published author, I was almost surprised to find how easy it was to get my book out there. Back in 2011, when I published First Name Basis, I used the tools available to me through my “print on demand” publisher of choice: CreateSpace. From the cover creator to the interior template, all the work I did on my book was my own. Sure, I had a few people read through it and give me some notes on proofreading errors and other minor tweaks, but in the end, I did all my own writing, editing, and formatting so that the story I wrote would be available to a broad audience. Since then, I have learned just how much more work must go into self-publishing a book. Still, it remains a free endeavor for anyone who wants to publish their own book. Self-publishing a book is surprisingly easy. Fast forward to today, and I have read more than my fair share of independent...
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What it takes to do it all

There are days I see the benefits of going with the traditional publishing route. When you are signed on with a publisher, they provide some of the hard work it takes to make a manuscript into a polished and publishable product. From editors to formatters to cover artists to distribution, these publishers have the resources to help an author be successful. But what about the self-published author? One of the common misconceptions about being an author (especially a self-published one) is that we only have to write. In reality, a self-published author needs to perform the entirety of the publishing process by themselves. Now, you may be asking yourself, “OK, you have to do it all, but what does that even mean?” Let’s start at the beginning of the process, and I’ll walk you through it. If you want to self-publish, you have many jobs to do. Many of the most famous authors have a research department (or person). These are the people...
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3 Simple Tips when submitting to an Anthology

3 Simple Tips when submitting to an Anthology

Despite the almost ubiquitous availability of affordable self-publishing these days, sometimes it can be difficult to make your mark as an author. In fact, I would almost argue that the proliferation of self-published works has made it much harder to reach an audience of readers, as they now have a multitude of options when it comes to reading material. With this challenge in mind, one of the ways you can boost your name recognition is through anthologies. While you won’t have as much control over your written work as you would if you self-published a series of your own short stories yourself, the benefit of an anthology is being included in a book with a number of other authors who have fanbases who might be similar to the people you are trying to reach. In fact, someone might buy an anthology because they know one of the authors, only to find that they really like your story as well, thus increasing...
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