Completing a book in three months, start to publication, is do-able, but probably not recommended. Not unless you have exactly six things in your pocket. I’ll get to what those are in a minute.
On the eve of NaNoWriMo 2016, I had a little over 8000 words begun on an expansion novel of a heavily downloaded short story titled “The Tutor” (heavily downloaded for me, anyway, I think it was over 1500 downloads at the time). I had decided a few weeks before that I would utilize NaNo to finish the novel and perhaps have it ready for publication in April, as April is one of the four months each year that I’m slotted to publish with Wordwraith Books. It’s actually a self-imposed deadline, to be honest, but it keeps me on-track to build a library of books by Rod Galindo before I get too awful old (I just turned 47 this month, but I feel like I’m not a day over 30!).
But as the days of NaNo flew by and the story proved easier and faster and more fun to zoom through than I originally thought, I got more and more excited that I could actually finish the book right around when NaNo was over with, and come in at or around 60,000 words. This led me to believe I could actually publish what had become “Claire” in January instead of April, when I had planned before to simply release another short story to fill the January quota. Little did I know that the decision to publish “Claire” in January would create a Stress Monster. Well, I guess I did know it, I just thought I could control it. I guess all those cautionary sci fi tales taught me nothing, after all.
The Stress Monster wasn’t controllable, but it was manageable. It simply required some serious time management, and my skills at origami are by far more superior. And have you seen my origami? If you un-focus your eyes, and maybe squint, you might make out a swan. Or a paper airplane, depending on whether the power is out or not.
Both calculus and time management are serious tasks for me. I’d almost rather be figuring out f(x) or limits to infinity than slaloming around kids, work, my girlfriend, and the Army National Guard. The Army, by the way, had decided, during NaNo of all months, to notify me that I had won yet another all-expenses-paid trip to the Middle East. My third time a winner. Not unlike the bank ATM, I always seem to win at this particular game. So now I was even more determined to finish this expanded novel by the end of January, because I now had several weeks of training coming up: one week in December, one week in January, and three weeks in February. I knew it would be taxing and I would have zero time to edit a book. So I strapped my keyboard to my hands and knocked that puppy out. Amazing what a little external motivation will do for your goals.
Now, finishing a manuscript is one thing. But there’s a whole lot more to publishing a book than just typing “The End.” I needed time to get this flawless manuscript edited, then time to fix said manuscript because it was anything but flawless. Forget time for beta readers; I simply didn’t have 30 to 90 days to wait for them to get back with me. I had finished my first edit sometime in mid-December, but I had a serious problem. I needed an editor. I needed an editor at Christmastime. I needed an editor that could get my manuscript back to me inside 30 days. And I didn’t have a bunch of money (see Christmastime). Talk about a pickle. But I had a plan.
My friend Jeni Frontera (ahem, excuse me, J. R. Frontera, with a space after each period) [editor’s note: that’s right! Get it right!] had invited my girlfriend and I to a Harry Potter-themed engagement party for her sister, hosted by her mother, right after Christmas. Holy Hogwarts, Batman. This party was so exhaustively detailed in the Potterverse, down to the floating candles over the wooden tables in the grand dining hall, I can’t even begin to do it justice just telling you about it, so I won’t even bother. You’ll just have to look online for pictures or ask Jeni or Kristin or something. It was beyond anything you could imagine. If Jeni’s mother was a Dungeons and Dragons character, she would have a +5 to time management skills. But I digress.
To this party I brought a secret weapon. A bribe with which I was sure to not only get my editor, but also get my manuscript red-inked by my deadline, January 15th. This would allow me two weeks to re-edit the thing and do the dozens of other tasks necessary to make it available on Amazon as an e-book by January 31st.
If you didn’t know, Jeni—sorry, “J. R.”—is an amazing editor. [editor’s note: *blush* Aw, why thank you! You are too kind!] And she becomes available surprisingly fast if she looks down and finds herself holding a relatively expensive bottle of Crown Royale Black Reserve that she didn’t have to pay for. [editor’s note: … okay, this is true.] Throw in a relatively high stack of greenbacks on top of that, and even though there’s not really time for a line-edit, you will get a run-through that is incredibly more detailed than you ever expected. I owe her one. [editor’s note: It was a line edit. I can’t help it. And yes, you do owe me one! ;)]
So! I got the final chapter (story #12) back from Jeni around mid-January. I stayed up late like I used to and worked until 3 a.m. on many nights, and reported for military duty on January 28th with only minor setup items to complete on the e-book before Amazon would “publish” it. E-book formatting is easy compared to paperback formats; you don’t have to worry about exacting page-breaks and spacing as everything just kind of flows downward, and I for one don’t worry about embedding fonts and font sizes, as people tend to override things like that anyway. There is the Table of Contents to work out, which still vexes me on occasion, but I’ll get comfortable with it eventually.
Now picture, if you will, one Major Galindo bouncing around in the back of a military van on January 31st, trying to make last-second approvals on Amazon’s KDP website after uploading final file versions mere minutes earlier from his room in the Army barracks on Fort Bliss, Texas. I say “bouncing around” because the driver couldn’t just go two blocks out of his way and stay on the paved roads, or “hardball”, as we call it. No. He had to go cross-country across a sand-field every morning to save half a kilometer of driving. The slow pace surely didn’t save any time, that I’m sure of. But even after the daily short trip across the field, the roads weren’t that much better.
So Galindo’s bouncing around, hoping his spasmatic index finger would fall upon the right pixels at the right time and get all his hard work out the door. Why didn’t I simply wait until I got back to the barracks that night? Because I’d made an announcement on social media that the book would be out on January 31st, and dab nab it, after all the hoops Jeni and I had jumped through to make it happen, I wasn’t about to miss my deadline!
And I didn’t. I made it. But did I really have to? Eh, probably not. I mean, while finishing the second round edits and completing the book and making it ready for upload to publishing sources were the meat and potatoes I’d cooked up, there is another important aspect of a book launch as well: letting the world know in proper fashion that you have a freaking book launch.
This is something I only half-ass did, given the time allotted. I merely announced my novel on Facebook and Twitter, and sent out an e-mail to the 35 or so folks on my e-mail list (15 of whom actually ever open my mail), and didn’t participate in the dozen or so other tasks that my writing partners tend to do before, during and after a book launch. SEE JENI’S BLOG POST ON BOOK LAUNCHES for an idea of what I’m talking about. I plan to do more when I release my next novel. This one I was just dying to get out the door. Because after nearly 2000 downloads of the short story version, I figured there surely was a demand for a novel, and I didn’t want to sit on this project for six months to a year, so I did what it took to get it out the door on-schedule.
Trouble is, I didn’t update the back matter in the short story e-book fast enough, and so most of those went out the door without any mention of a full novel version on the way. Nor did I make much fuss about it on social media ahead of time, save one Facebook post. 90 people did react to that, but only eight people reacted when I actually launched the thing. That made me think that I should have just waited until it was ready TO launch, and THEN mention the fact the book existed. I’m guessing a lot of people either skimmed over it thinking, “Eh, already saw that”, or saw the tiny picture in the Amazon link (vice the earlier large cover photo) and didn’t realize what it was. Anyhoo, lessons learned.
Just a random theory I came up with: if no one knows about your book, guess what happens? It sits on the virtual shelf in a dusty TRON bin inside the Master Control Program with bit bugs crawling all over it instead of being copied a million times by loving fans eager to eat it up and ask for seconds. Time for an ad campaign? Probably PAST time. Should I have waited those six months to a year to do the process correctly? Yeah, probably so. I will next time.
But, as taxing and crazy as those three months were, I did prove something. I proved that NaNo can indeed be a kickstarter for completing a novel, and not just typing “The End”, but editing it, getting it edited by someone smarter in such things than you, and actually publishing a quality product. I think it’s quality anyway. Jeni thinks it’s quality too, and that’s good enough for me. If by chance you want me to prove my claim, here’s a link. Judge for yourself. Use the LOOK INSIDE feature to check out the first two chapters for free. 🙂 Claire: The Tutor’s Ghost Stories
Remember those six things I mentioned earlier that you have to have in your pocket to be successful in such a feat as this? Here they are:
- MOTIVATION. Can’t do much of anything without the drive and passion to see your goal to the end.
- An actual FINISHED MANUSCRIPT. Not just a half-assed idea for a novel that even the great King, Brown, or Rowling would have to spend months sorting out, but a real, honest-to-Megatroid complete story that makes sense. This requires:
- PREPARATION. Plot it, don’t “Pants” it. I don’t need to say a lot more about this, except for SEE WORDWRAITHS NANO PREP WORKSHOP! This will make you successful even when it’s not autumn — and November is right around the corner.
- A SUPPORT SYSTEM, namely a kick-ass, active, supportive, motivated writing group that meets regularly and is as excited and passionate as you are about this whole writing “stuff.” (A properly motivated editor is essential here, and beta readers, if there’s time to enlist them, are very important too!).
- TIME. Self-explanatory. Just find it, for Kirk’s sake. I don’t care if it’s in the morning, at lunchtime, after work when all your co-workers head home, or at night when all the wee ones are dreaming of sugar plums, or all of the above. Just write and edit every single chance you get.
- LINT. I’d bet most successful writers in the 21st Century have lint in his or her pocket. If you’ve got lint, it probably means you have a roof over your head and a washer and dryer under it, too (or at least some means by which to clean your clothes in a set of modern machines on a regular basis). I’m going to go out on a limb now and bet that if you have those, you probably also have a computing device of some sort as well that will do word processing and connect to the Internet. I think that’s a safe bet if you’re actually reading these words. So if you have a roof over your head and a wad of lint from the dryer and a keyboard under your fingertips, you have few excuses not to be a happy and productive Pen-frickin-Master. Don’t spend another second online. This blog post is over, anyway. Go knock out a thousand words on that novel you’ve been working on. Go on. Just do yourself a favor and don’t try to knock it out and publish it in 90 days. Unless you’re Stephen King or Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling, then it’s okay to do it in 30. 🙂
– Rod Galindo and the Wordwraiths