Happy Thanksgiving!

This week’s blog post comes early, and will be short and sweet, because holidays 😉

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving (quite belated if you’re Canadian, sorry! 😉 )

Quick update on Grigory’s Gadget: I just sent my manuscript to the Writership editors on Friday for copy editing! I’m also starting to work with Deranged Doctor Design to start my cover and map designs. Very exciting stuff!

How I Found My Professional Editor

Good editing is vital for a good book. If you really want your book to shine, you need a professional editor. Editing your book yourself is great and all, but getting another, professional set of eyes can make a huge difference.

If you’re publishing traditionally, your publishing house likely has its own editor(s) on hand to work on your book. However, if you, like me, are self-publishing, you need to find an editor yourself. So how do you do that?

I consider myself very lucky, because the process turned out to be pretty easy for me. I discovered a website called Writership, which appealed to me for two reasons: 1) it was a website about writing, and 2) it had a nautical theme, which is a weakness of mine. When I first discovered them, they had a blog filled with writing advice, as well as a running and frequently-updated list of excellent writing prompts.

Shortly after I initially found them, they started looking for submissions for a new podcast they were working on. The topic of the podcast? Editing! They were looking for submissions of 5 pages of writing, that they then critiqued and discussed in each episode. I of course jumped on that opportunity, submitting the first 5 pages of my draft of Grigory’s Gadget. My critique was featured in their second episode, which you can listen to here!

I enjoyed their critique so much that when it came time to find an editor for my entire manuscript, the choice was obvious. They displayed everything I could look for in an editor:

  • They had a clear knack for the art of writing
  • All of their criticisms were constructive and coherent
  • They “got” my story.

This last point is important – you want to find an editor who understands and enjoys your genre. A romance editor is probably not the best choice for a horror novel, and vice versa! Add their reasonable pricing (based on my research of what to expect to pay for this type of editing), and the choice really was a no-brainer.

I’m finishing-up my manuscript now, and awaiting the funds from my Indiegogo Campaign (read about that here). Once that’s settled, I’ll send off my manuscript to Writership!

What I Learned From My Indiegogo Campaign

Background: I recently ran an Indiegogo Campaign to help fund my debut novel, Grigory’s Gadget. Since I’ve decided to self-publish, the cost of professional editing, cover design, etc. is my burden, rather than a publisher’s. For the editors and designers I’ve decided to work with (Writership and Deranged Doctor Design) that burden summed up to about $2,570. As a young professional fresh out of graduate school, I don’t exactly have that money lying around. That’s why I ran my campaign.

How I Set Up My Campaign: Two of the main things you have to figure out before launching a crowdfunding campaign are:

  • What will your contributors receive (perks)?
  • What is your funding goal?

You’ll want to set incentives for people to contribute to your campaign. If you, like me, are trying to fund a book, a copy of that book is an obvious choice. My list of perks included a copy of the eBook and/or a signed copy of the paperback. I also listed a bookmark among the perks, since Deranged Doctor Design includes bookmark design in their packages, and they’re pretty easy to produce. Then I got a little more creative. I make candles as a hobby, so another perk I added was a Grigory’s Gadget candle. I also used the website Adagio Teas to create custom blends themed around places and characters in my novel. It’s completely free to create the blends, and they’re affordable to purchase. Finally, I designed a simple Steamship Pirate t-shirt through Staples. Who doesn’t like a t-shirt? Basically, you want to create a range of perks to appeal to a range of people with a range of budgets.

You may notice that most of these perks cost money to produce, and then to ship. This is very important when determining the goal for your campaign. If I wanted to cover my costs of $2,570, my goal needed to be higher than that. To figure out how much higher, I made a spreadsheet of all of my perks, how much they cost to produce, how much they cost to ship, and how much I wanted them to be worth. I calculated how much profit I would make off of each perk, after Indiegogo’s fees, to then calculate how much I would need to sell to make that profit of $2,570. It wound up averaging to about $4,000*.

*I just want to pause here to highlight an important aspect of crowdfunding. If you run a campaign through Indiegogo, you can choose to go with their “Flexible Funding” option. This means that you keep whatever money you make, regardless of whether or not you hit your goal. Conversely, if you go through a website like Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing. With websites like that, you want to set your goal to something you’re fairly confident you can actually achieve. Since I had the Flexible Funding option, I went all-in with the total I would need to cover everything.

When all was said and done, and my campaign ended, I had raised $2,021: 51% of my goal. While that won’t cover all of my expenses related to my book, it’ll put a hell of a dent in them!

Lessons Learned:

  • Market your campaign before-hand: Let people know your campaign is coming, and when it will start. Start with friends, families, and anyone else you know who might want to contribute. This also gives those people a chance to spread the word to their own contacts.
  • Market your campaign consistently through its entire duration: A common mistake with crowdfunding campaigns is that people start the campaign and then let it sit there. Remind people about your campaign. Tweet, post on Facebook, use whatever other platforms you’re familiar with. If you don’t tell anyone about your campaign, and if you don’t remind people about your campaign, you won’t get very many (if any) contributions. People are busy, forgetful, waiting for a paycheck, etc. Don’t be a nag, but don’t ignore your campaign, either.
  • Get family and friends to reach out to their own contacts: Some people feel awkward about asking their friends and family for contributions. I completely understand that instinct, but it’s one you absolutely have to get over. The vast majority of my contributions came from friends and family members. The second-biggest group of contributions came from friends-of-friends and family-friends. Only two contributions came from complete strangers. Use any networks you have in place, and you’ll be much more successful. People that already know and like you are much more likely to support you.

Those are my lessons learned! Good luck with your own crowdfunding campaigns!

How I Won NaNoWriMo

First, a disclaimer: I’m not participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year. But I have a good reason. I’m editing the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo LAST year, one that was over 50,000 words by the end of the day on November 30th. Since I was able to successfully win NaNoWriMo (twice, actually: in 2010 and 2014), I thought I’d share some of the things that led to that success.

Another disclaimer, though: I’m a plotter, not a pantser (for the most part, sometimes I’m somewhat of a hybrid). That being said, most advice applies to both types of writers. So, here we go:

  • Schedule writing time each day – We’re busy people, and squeezing in the time to write 1,667+ words every day for 30 days straight takes effort. When I won NaNoWriMo in 2010, I was a sophomore in college studying engineering. I was also getting over a rough break-up. When I won again in 2014, I was simultaneously working on my Master’s thesis. It’s pretty rare I, or anyone I know, happens upon free time. And when we do, it’s readily filled with surfing the internet, watching TV, making plans with friends, staring at the wall while contemplating life’s deepest mysteries…basically, anything except writing. Unless you specifically plan your writing time. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day all month, unless that works for you. You can decide to write before work/school, or after. Write more on the weekends to make up for weekdays. Whatever works for you, just make sure you consciously work writing into your schedule.
  • Plan little rewards for meeting your word count – It could be snacks or sweets. It could be watching an episode of your favorite TV show. It could be taking a bath. Whatever will motivate you to get to that 1,667th word, so long as the reward doesn’t take up too much of your time 😉
  • Don’t edit during November-AT ALL – This is extremely difficult, I know. I’ve been writing since early elementary school, and until sophomore year of college, I was a constant editor. I’d edit way more than I’d write. Do you know what I got out of that? A couple chapters of a couple stories that never grew any longer. When I did NaNoWriMo in 2010, I forced myself to accept that my draft was awful. Like, really awful. Characters were inconsistent, with very flaky development. Plot points were forced. The tone and language didn’t match the setting. But you know what? I got to the end. And that novel in 2010 wound up serving as an outline for the novel I worked on in 2014. And now I’m working toward publishing it.
  • Don’t stop at a “good stopping point” – This one is tough. You’re in the zone, you’re writing that scene and you finish that scene. You check your word count for the day, and you’ve met your goal! Time to close it up and reward yourself. NOT SO FAST! Do you know what will happen when you open your novel tomorrow? You’ll be staring at the blank white page of a new scene, and we all know how intimidating that is. Instead, when you finish one scene, immediately start another scene and DON’T finish it. Let it hang in your mind until you open your novel again. That way, you’ll be itching to finish that scene, and the words will pour out more easily.
  • Don’t know which direction to take a scene? Write ALL THE OPTIONS – You’ve reached a fork in your plot’s road. Which direction seems best? Even though I tend to be a plotter, I do run into this pretty frequently within scenes. I know I want to get from A to B, but what happens in between? Since NaNoWriMo is all about word count, you have nothing to lose (and everything to gain) from simply writing every option you think of. For organization’s sake, I can’t recommend Scrivener enough. I have a lot of versions of scenes, and simply label them “Scene 1.0, Scene 2.0…” or “Scene Re-do”. You can decide after December 1st which version you like the best.
  • If you’re stuck, focus on ONE aspect of the scene – This could be dialogue, actions taken by your character, describing the scenery, or even dryly laying out what you hope to accomplish in that scene. For me, personally, I’ll focus on dialogue. After NaNoWriMo, my manuscript is riddled with scenes that are 99-100% dialogue. Since my stories tend to be character-driven, and writing dialogue tends to be something that comes easily to me, this helps me keep my momentum on slow days.
  • Still stuck? Write about why that might be – I enjoy reading over my NaNoWriMo manuscripts, and it’s not because they’re well-written (they are NOT, as I mentioned before). It’s because I interject other thoughts smack-dab in the middle of a scene when my brain gets tired. I’d complain about school, or how I don’t have any nutritious food in my house but am too lazy to go grocery shopping, etc. Hey, those words still count toward your total word count. And eventually, you might even segue back into your story!
  • STILL stuck? Scold yourself, seriously – This is the other reason I love re-reading my NaNoWriMo manuscripts. I get very sassy with myself when writer’s block strikes. I have a huge rant in my manuscript from 2010 about how I should have done more research about steamships before November started, and that if I had, I’d be able to write a more detailed scene that takes place on a steamship, and instead I have to make stuff up and pretend to know what I’m talking about. And then I jumped back into the story as if nothing had happened.
  • Attend local or online write-in events – Sometimes you need other people to motivate you to write. Check your Regional group on the NaNoWriMo website to see if there’s an active community getting together during the month. Groups will often meet in coffee shops (where else?) and write. If you can’t go, or don’t feel like going, to a local write-in, check out online ones! NaNoWriMo hosts them regularly on their YouTube channel, and other people organize their own. Search around to find one that suits you.
  • Remember to drink, eat, and sleep! – Keep yourself nourished and healthy. If you’re tired, or hungry, or thirsty, your writing will suffer. And, you know, so will your body. Remember that NaNoWriMo is a FUN thing, and it’s not worth ruining your health over!

So those are my main tips for successfully completing NaNoWriMo. Feel free to comment or ask questions. Good luck to everyone participating!