Walking the Fine Line: Review Trading

Let’s begin by murdering the elephant in the room with a buckshot, skinning her with a rusty knife, and harvesting her ivory for pristine piano keys–I’m against it.

Review trading is a blatant hush-hush among indie writers that some participate without much thought, some with the belief that it’s just part of the game, and some with guilt that’d make Catholics envious.

The title for this entry was a forewarning because this is a complicated matter and my position on it is a bit of a fine waltz (or an awkward crunk) that could be easily misconstrued (like an awkward crunk). I readily admit that I could be shining my own position and this problem with the wrong kind of bulb.

What it actually is is simple: Author A asks Author B that they should read each other’s books and give each other reviews.

The concern lies within the innuendos that may or may not be there… like back when you were 16 at a keg party and talking to Minji Kim the Asian cheerleader that you’ve had a crush on before she developed and became popular so you know that you were into her for her soul and personality and she’s slightly tipsy and you are too and you don’t get if she’s hitting on you or not but her boyfriend Derek is across the room sipping on his red plastic cup and glaring at you like a diseased hawk with quads that’d burst your cherries like balls if he decided to kick you in the grapes.

Theoretically, the two authors would take their times to photosynthesize each other’s books and emit onto one another honest reviews and breathe in whatever the other had to say.

Because as we all know, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises (remember this because I’m going to tell you later how I lied by simply omitting four words).

Here’s the not-so Shayamalan: reality is a dick.

You see, criticisms are often more beneficial than praises for honing your craft. Criticisms are not often more beneficial than praises for paying your bills.

Yes, yes. Perhaps by having honest criticisms people would improve and write better books that’d sell to more people.

Again, theoretically true, but not always true in reality.

Selling is about marketing. Whether something is good or not doesn’t really matter as long as the package is good.

For books that’s about reviews and it’s cred. Sadly, unlike movies, most books cannot sell on notoriety of being bad. Especially considering as time passes, more and more people are thinking of books as sort of an investment–time investment. Why should they spend the time and money they could be using watching 3 minute videos on YouTube and Facebook and etc. on a bad book?

Specifically, for indie authors, this means the number of stars and the number of reviews attached to the name of their novel. Book marketing, like anything else, is complex and expensive but the foundation of it (for indie authors at least) starts from there.

So let’s go back to Author A and B. There isn’t a writer out there who’s not aware of this. Everyone’s aware that bad reviews can tangibly harm someone’s writing career.

I think most of us can agree that there’s some immorality there if the two understood they’d give each other a positive review no matter what.

However, the gray seeps in when the pressure to give one another honest reviews is challenged by peculiar circumstances.

Lets say Author A wrote a fantastic book and received a glittery review from B. But B wrote a dull novel and A was planning on giving them a review that reflected exactly that.

After receiving a good review, understandably, A could feel the pressure to plant some flowers into his review for B.

A is simply a person not wanting to harm someone who’s done them a favor.

“Favor”, as it often does, becomes the gray word here.

To prevent this problem from ever happening, many writers suggest to simply not ask other writers to trade reviews.  Let them discover your novel like any other readers and give you a review as an audience. Or ask a writer to simply give you a review with an understanding that this is a clean favor you’re asking from them and not a transaction.

But many of us starting out writers do need help from our peers to make it past the first few steps of our careers.

A method I found that is mostly acceptable is to give one another private reviews and ask for permission if they’d be okay with the review being public. Of course, this being discussed beforehand that the review will be performed in such a manner.

There’s a problem with this too, however, in that you could give someone a poor review and if you’re involved in a poor circle of writers this may circulate a bad branding to your name and people might not support you as they are aware that you probably don’t present them with any benefits.

Business be business, people be people, and life be life.

I’m writing about this topic because I felt like I missed a better timing for it. A writer friend of mine, Jessica Wren, invited me into her co-op group for authors.

As far as I know so far, they seem to be good people looking to help one another’s careers with integrity. I’m happy to be part of the group. Jessica is a pretty awesome person that I am glad to have met.

We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to make self and indie publishing a legitimate source for novels and storytelling. There’s no sense in cannibalizing our own fragile credibility for a small chance at brief success.

The road for indie writers is still unpaved, littered with broken glass, and filled with robbers.

What they shouldn’t take away from us are our names. Let’s protect that together.

ARAMIRU OUT!


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7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing While Writing My First Novel

These are the 7 things I’ve learned about writing ever since I decided to pursue a writing career with my first novel!

Bet you already knew that because you read the title.


1. Less is Almost Always More

Be the guide to your audience’s imagination and not the commandant.

This is the shortest one of the list because I didn’t want to be too ironic.

2. the Audience Can’t Read Your Mind

As we write we can see our stories in our heads. The cities and its glimmering windows at night, the faces of our characters and all of their complexions, and even the crumpled up page of a gossip paper tumbling down the filthy street.

We can see it all to the most minute details. Even if there’s some sort of a fantastic action happening, our minds don’t fail to keep track of all the participants and whatever they may be doing.

But the audience can’t peer into our minds.

So what Aramiru? That’s why we write isn’t it? To put down our imagination on paper? And do you know how cheesy and tacky it is to ask yourself questions in third person?

Yes.

It’s easy to forget the difference between the perspectives of our audience reading our books versus the perspectives of us, writers, writing our own books.

Accounting for this could simply mean making certain that only the necessary details are present when describing a scene or simply realizing what the the necessary details are.

Making sure the action sequences flow in a way where it’s easy for the readers to follow.

And not to lose ourselves having too much fun writing that we forget those who are reading.

This becomes even more important with the logic and the plot of the book. We are gods to our own books and we know all that will happen. But are we writing in a way so that the audience can understand our intentions and our infinite wisdom?

By understanding how the audience is perceiving the story is how we can plan the twists, the developments and the future.

Plot holes are bound to happen. Sometimes accidentally and sometimes purposefully. There are even times when something might not even be a plot hole but be perceived as such. Having a grasp of our audience’s views of our story can prevent foreseeable plot holes, reduce the damage of planned plot holes, and hopefully never allow unforgivable plot holes to happen.

This is one of few on the list that’s hey-I-already-know-this-this-is-basic-you-shamefully-basic-person material. Yes, this should be pretty commonsense. However, it is also one of those tidbits where your perspective and skills with it will grow exponentially as you keep writing and have an audience that you can interact with.

At least, I did. And this an article of the things that I’ve learned. Me. And as the great Michael Jackson once said, “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

3. a Lot of Writers Think They Suck

Yep. We’re an insecure bunch. I used to look in the mirror and think to myself, “you’re an ugly spawn-of-semen-and-egg but that’s fine because you can live with that.”

Now, I look in the mirror and think, “your writing makes puppies cry and children lose faith in humanity. Can you live with that?”

No. No, I can’t.

And as I draw a smile on my face with a crimson lipstick so that I can at least pretend I’m smiling, I realize quickly that it doesn’t matter–at least it shouldn’t matter enough to stop me.

Me sucking. Not my pretty, pretty smile.

Look, there are some phenomenal writers out there. Those who had the gift and put in the hard work to become legends of this craft. And as writers, we also have to compete against timeless masters of writing from even centuries ago.

But it doesn’t have to be about competing with their work and talents.

What’s my work? What’s my talent? Why should I worry so much about what they are without even fully realizing what I am. Did I push myself to the limit to know that I’m not at their level? Does that even matter?

As a writer who wants to tell stories and writing being simply his medium to do that, I realized I just have to write well enough so that I can deliver my stories to the best of my abilities that’s most faithful to my vision.

What else can I do? Just stop writing and never pursue anything with it?

It’s not about being the best there is but being the best at telling your own story.

That doesn’t mean I gave up on becoming a great writer of the legends or something like that. But I think instead of looking at our flaws and telling ourselves we suck, it’s better to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why do we suck? Where are we lacking? What can we work on?

You do you and be the best you that you can be, because you’re not them and you are you and you have your own talents that only you can do the things that you do. You are awesome. Oh, you. You.

And you still shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re one of those writers who are more focused about the craft than the storytelling.

Here’s an overused quote from high school girls around the world that’s all over their Myspace, Xanga, or whatever the blazes the kids are using these days. Imagine these words with glitters and with a night sky backdrop.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Just don’t forget to find your own voice somewhere along your journey. Be your own star.

A pretty, pretty star.

TL;DR: It doesn’t matter if we suck, it only matters where we are going to go with our suckage.

4. But a Lot of Us Might Actually Suck

What? You think I’m just being quirky by making the entire list of back and forth paradoxical statements?

And I know what I said up there but the point I’m trying to make now is that we lack self-awareness in different ways. I think especially among us still becoming acquainted with our writing.

It’s really hard to measure where we stand with our writing unless we had the time to establish ourselves with a large group honest peers. For writers, this usually means reviewers and readers for the most part.

Look, within the creative community there’s this unwritten rule about not criticizing one another in public. In private? Shoot. Let the poops fly.

But don’t think of that as necessarily a bad thing. It’s simply manners. And it’s also a bit selfish for someone to expect a stranger or even a friend to give them a harsh reality check and say painfully honest things. It’s uncomfortable and hard for people to do that and in most cases we don’t have the right to force people to put themselves in a position to possibly open a can of worms/whupass.

That’s why I think you need to really appreciate someone who’s brave and honest enough to tell you that you suck and tells you why–always remember to thank those people.

(Obviously, there’s a difference between someone who’s a hater and he’s gonna hate, hate, hate and someone who’s calling you out on your flaws. )

At this stage of my writing ‘career’ (I put my big toe in the pool!) I want more people to tell me how I can improve rather than give me compliments and encouragements. Look, I’m no Dalai Lama. If someone criticizes me, depending on what it is, it’ll hurt. I may even question their criticisms little bit to see if they have merit or to understand it better.

But we have to know when we suck so that we can improve. Embrace and love the criticisms. If we can’t take criticisms, we can’t expect to get better.

It hurts but no pain, no gain. Find someone who will tell you that you’re bad and why you’re bad.

5. Editors Are Gods

A samurai once said, you must choose a worthy lord because you may slice your tummy for him someday.

I don’t know who said that.

I am not a samurai.

And I’m not really that well-versed in Japanese historical figures. I just wanted to add that so you can keep that in your mind as you read this section.

An editor will become your partner for your novel. You’re the mommy and the editor is the daddy. Yes, put your 60s gender stereotype hats on because otherwise that analogy doesn’t work.

Stephen King famously said “to write is human, to edit is divine.”

You should almost always listen to your editor because they are almost always right and they will always be the ones who’ll turn your manuscript into a novel. I knew an editor can make a difference but I just didn’t realize how much.

A good editor will help you-do-you, you-do-you better. You’re a piece ribeye and they’re the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil straight from Italy. They’re the trained outside eye and mind that the clutters of a single mind writing a book needs to clean up.

I am so thankful for my editor because she had to work through my first pile of mess. My style of writing is that I have to just puke my thoughts onto the page and then sort through it later. Because of the process I went through with her, I am exponentially better than where I was before.

Get a good editor. A good editor cares, understands, but is fearless in calling you out.

6. It’s Our Story

There are a lot of questions on writing forums about, “are my chapters too long?”, “is a goody-goody character boring”, “should I not make my character all-powerful”, “is a half-dragon, a half-elf character weird?”

The answer to all those, by the way, is: It entirely depends on your own story. Even the half-dragon, half-elf character. 

But this point isn’t about that obvious answer. It’s about the next step, the level up, of that point.

I wondered for a while how I can write my story. What were the rules? What was the general mold for doing something that I wanted to do?

And I honestly couldn’t really find anything that satisfied me and I quickly asked myself what was I doing? What am I exactly looking for?

I had an opportunity–especially as an indie writer–to write my book in a way that should be perfect for the story I wanted to tell. Why follow the conventions and the rules of others simply because it worked for them? It worked for them because it was their rules and conventions for their own stories.

We have to understand our own stories; what they are and what they aren’t.

No one should be able to tell your story better than you can. So don’t follow any archetypes simply to follow an archetype. That archetype might not work for your story even if they seem to be in the genre, have similar characters, and present familiar themes and motifs.

Take advice from editors like they’re sprinkled with diamonds but take advice from writers with a grain of salt. Other than technical and perhaps even general content advice, other writers will see your story with their Ray-Bans.

Really chew on what I said up there before simply swallowing it in by the way. I’m not saying other writers can’t offer you knowledge and criticisms to write your own story better. But, I am saying, ultimately, you should know and own up to your own story.

With that said, we also have to be aware of there are certain general rules of writing that exists for a reason. These are the rules that’s been tested and proven through long history of writing and some that were born from the shifting metagames in the market.

For example, it’s been a while since slow paced books had any place in popular novels. People want fast paced stories that hooks them right away so that they could have the initial momentum to get through a 200-400 page novel.

There’s generally a lack of slow developing novels that gently brews and ages its plot and character to develop some sort of a liquor-reference-bourbon-reference-oaky-soaky-flavored plot.

I wonder if Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities was released in today’s world if it’d be popular at all.

And there’s another key there. Do you want to be popular or do you want to be critically acclaimed or both?

Do you want to make money and write vampire x gargoyles erotica? Or do you want to gamble your life by throwing your novel into the skyscraper of the fantasy genre?

In the end, it’s YOUR story. You do you and do what you want to do because I like the way you move. Just know that reality is always around the corner.

How many “you” do I have in this?

7. An Audience is Earned

Everything written should deserve some sort of an audience. A good audience will provide judgment to the writings and nurture them to grow or have them be killed and brutally murdered if necessary.

At this point, you can probably sense how important I think an audience is to a writer. That’s probably the secret #8th thing I’ve learned.

To a writer, there’s nothing more important than readers to help them understand themselves as a writer.

The greatest learning experience and growth I had with my writing so far has been through the beta-reading and editing. It does wonders for you and for your novel.

However, not everyone and everything earns an audience. You have to work for it.

Working doesn’t mean just write something but it means becoming worthy of someone’s time and effort. Because it takes both of those things things to read a book. Especially compared to what’s out there today to enjoy as entertainment like YouTube, Reddit, video games, and Vine (with that you’re literally competing against a 6 second entertainment where a person simply has to click to enjoy).

Even to the most avid readers this is true (even more so in a sense) because you’re asking them to devote to your book the time and effort they could have spent on other books they wanted to read.

So how do we earn an audience? During the writing process this means taking your own time and effort to gain beta readers and reviewers. Be cordial, accommodating, don’t grovel but still know that they’re doing you a favor at the end of the day unless you’re some sort of writing superstar.

But if you’re a writing superstar I wonder why you’re reading this entry up to this point.

Do you like me? Like what I wrote?

PM me 😉. Ooo la la.

When you’re done writing, whether you’re traditional or indie, you still have to do what you need to do to reach out to your readers.

That could mean book signings, public readings, promotional giveaways, making sure getting the reviews for your novel, and etc.

For indie writers this can be an extremely difficult process. An extremely difficult process. AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT PROCESS.

For traditionally published writers I understand it’s more-or-less already been setup for y’all.

It can be something simple as blogging. It’s fun, helpful, and I got to save my money on therapy bills.

I’m earning my readers through my blog by sharing my experiences and little things I learned here and there in hopes of helping, entertaining, and perhaps even proving that I am a writer worthy of their time. It’s also serving as an odd journal for this writing journey which is also nice.

Nothing in life is free. Even if someone deserves something doesn’t mean they don’t have to earn it–especially something as valuable as someone’s time.

BONUS: It’s Not Supposed to be Lucrative

Don’t write for money and fame. If you want that you’ll have much easier time with YouTube, acting, music, Twitch, and etc.

I’m not saying getting success in those avenues are easy. Far from it. It’s extremely hard. But at least they’re in the spotlight of the mainstream.

Writing really isn’t to an extent. It’s a dinosaur of an entertainment that’ll always have its place only because of its history, easy entry, and because of how quintessential it is to our civilization.

Write because you have to.

Write because if you don’t you feel like something is wrong with your life.

Write because every time you see someone else’s work you feel like you need to be in the arena competing as well.

Write because you love it.

The money will come or it may never come. Only difference is if that matters to you or not at the end of the day when you’re left just with your stack of papers.

And for the love of all that’s holy and Poseidon, don’t quit your day job or school to write.

It’s not fun to write hungry and it’s not fun to write worrying-about-lights-going-off-and-oh-my-god-is-that-tow-truck-here-for-my-car-no-its-not-thank-goodness-but-I-think-my-garbage-man-didn’t-take-my-garbage-today. There’s absolutely no romance in it. Especially, if you have loved ones who cares about you or if you have loved ones you have to take care of.

Life’s a game of chance. Bet smart. Don’t  bet on the 1% by throwing away on the 99.

Are you the next J. K. Rowling? Maybe Stephanie Meyers? Maybe Stephen King?

Who knows?

But none of them quit their day job to write and neither should you.

I’ll share someday why I want to warn so critically against people who’re thinking about quitting jobs and schools for a dream of making it big with writing. But that’s it for this entry.


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Twitter: @ASAramiru

My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]

Inside Story: I almost played Frisbee with my laptop writing this entry.  I thought the new Wordpress editor auto-saved now (which would be fantastic) after having drafts get loaded up again after I left the page before. Nope it does not. Hit that save button.

My Top 5 Fails as a First Time Self-Publisher

This was a post I made on Reddit a couple of weeks ago. It had a positive response so I thought I’d share it with everyone here as well. I’ll be doing a follow up post titled: My Top 5 Successes as a First Time Self-Publisher and perhaps another follow up titled: Breaking Down the Budget: How to Cut Costs.

These… are sort of sounding like some sort of mutant baby of late night infomercials and Buzzfeed…

Anyways! Enjoy! I hope these will be helpful!


Longtime lurker here (sometimes a contributor on my other accounts)! With my book’s release last week (and waiting for the darn Thanksgiving dinner) I wanted to share my Top 5 Fails so that others don’t make the same mistakes. This is more for the other newbies like myself and for veterans to just giggle and groan at.

Some of these were faults of my own and some of these were angry Odin throwing pickles at me.

I’ll add some background information in the comment section so check that there for context.

But before we begin, I want to assure all of you that I’m not an idiot. Really, I’m not. My mom can back me up on this.

Mom?

Mom?

Mother?

Whatever. The reason I’m trying assure you all of my intelligence is because no matter how smart you are, you can still make mistakes. And right now the writing world is sort of the wild wild west with tempting uncertainties and vicious traps. Tread carefully and smartly.

The Top 5 Fails:

1. Lost the entire manuscript.

Okay… So… maybe this isn’t the best one to start off with after claiming that I’m not an idiot (I’m not?).

So this could be considered either Osiris throwing yams at me or a fault of my own for not knowing the basics of the modern digital age.

One evening I was working on the manuscript when my screen turned blue and gave me the middle finger. Tried restarting the computer and it just gave me more middle fingers.

Luckily, few of my friends are actually professionals in this field so I called them for help and long story short the files were unsalvageable.

Lesson here? Use cloud storage and/or external hard drive. Make it a habit to save into those at the end of writing sessions. This has honestly set me back probably anywhere from 6 months to 1.5 years–not necessarily because of the rewrite but because of how life and schedule works.

Timing is everything and don’t lose the timings of life because of a preventable tragedy.

2. Not timing things properly.

What did I just say up there? I don’t remember.

If you want reviews, you should be sending your books out generally 5-6 months before you plan to publish (the average cutoff time for most reviews is about 3 months before publishing date). You have to also understand many of them will not consider your book if you’re self-published/no-name writer and many of them may take longer to review a book than you’d think.

It takes about a week or two to be able to proof your physical copy of the novel (if you do CreateSpace you can do the digital proof which is immediate). After the proof it takes about 3 business days for it to show up on the market other than the printing service’s own website.

Beta-reading, editing, and even just the writing all should be scheduled in a way that each of those processes have the proper time they need to do their function properly while not dragging it on too long. I think this is something to pick up on by as one grows as a writer and understands their own pace to know where to cut the fat off and where to add… the… fat… on?

…In Japan you can actually order just the fat to grill and eat. That was fun and delicious.

I had my reasons for forcibly pushing my book out on a certain date but if you can help it don’t do the same. There were many opportunities I missed out on simply because of lack of better scheduling for whatever reason.

3. Not having a proper budget.

You get what you paid for.

If you’re self-publishing it helps immensely to have a healthy budget. Money will allow you to get ads, reviews, edits, arts, and pay the bills so that you don’t have to eat McChicken and a McDouble every other night and wonder if you’re gonna get cancer but strangely crave them when you don’t have them and cry because you feel like a Mackey-Dee addict as you pick up crumbs off your floor.

But when you put a McChicken inside a McDouble it’s a $2.50 USD spit from the heavens.

Anyways, money runs the world and such. We all know this. Check in the comment section for my personal budget which seemed like the minimum budget without compromising quality very much–if at all.

If I had a better budget I think it’d have helped significantly to make certain things happen faster, quicker, and done more professionally.

4. Not Realizing What Tools to Use for What

Use Scrivener. Really. Use Scrivener—especially—if you’re thinking about self-publishing.

This wasn’t really a fail but I’m just squeezing this one in to save some people the time and hassle. This program is a godsend and should be the quintessential tool for modern writers. There’s definitely a learning curve but if you become even at least comfortable with it, the program will help you save time and money in the long run… and save your teeth from being pulled out when you have to make the epub format.

Use InDesign if you can for formatting for the physical copy. The amazing folks at Scrivener (the customer services pretty awesome over there) flat out told me their program wasn’t really meant for endgame formatting.

They’re very correct about that.

InDesign. You’ll feel like a god of book formatting. Possibly the lamest god there is.

Try to avoid Google Doc. It can’t handle big files. I thought it’d be fun and modern to try Google Doc for editing. My editor knocked on my door and rubbed sea salt in my eyes. It’s only good for a quick, live editing sessions.

Finally, social media kicks ass. Serious ass. I’m incredibly obtuse and awkward with them as they always felt a bit weird with me. But if you learn to harness the power of social media you can effectively tip the scale between the big publishers and yourself with just a smartphone.

(EDIT 12/1/2014: From the comment section at /r/writing[1] from the discussion with /u/JustinBrower [2] :

Yes! You’re very correct!

InDesign is Terrible at eBook

Which is why I absolutely recommend everyone to use Scrivener which is pretty great at ePub formatting.

This should be the basic order:

  1. Write in Scrivener.
  2. Export to Word Doc and ePub.
  3. Transfer the Word Doc to inDesign for physical book formatting.
  4. Be happy that you didn’t go bald from tearing your hair out.
  5. Have a pint.

P.S. Take advantage of Calibre a free epub reader and conversion program if you have to.)

5. Not inquiring agents first.

Maybe in five to ten years things will have changed to a point where self-publishing can be as legitimate as traditional publishing.

People like Michael J. Sullivan is paving the path for that direction (check out his stories and tidbits all over the reddit and other writing forums) not to mention other famous traditionally published writers dipping their hands into self-publishing.

But for now… self-publishing isn’t there yet. Give yourself and your book a chance by inquiring agents/traditional publishing first. Yes, you might be taking a hit in terms of revenue and time but having traditionally published book will more open more doors than a self-published one (for now and depending on degree of success on self-published title).

If you get accepted, it’ll also takes loads off of your shoulders in workload so that you can focus more on writing. You can also put that book proudly on your resume while with self-published titles, due to stigmas or whatever, you really can’t/shouldn’t yet (unless you were notably successful). One can be comfortable in a resume and a portfolio while the other may really only shine in a portfolio.

Obviously, this is sort of me speaking from my own experiences and research so if anyone can tell me if I’m wrong please do so and add that into the discussion.

I personally didn’t do any inquiries because I set out to self-publish so I just stayed on that path. That’s sort of the way I am. Self-publishing is the new frontier and there is something exciting and adventurous about it. But like many of those who went on the Oregon Trail, you might not be the one who strike gold and really should have stayed back in New York because now you’re dying of dysentery.

Unless you’re one of the few, self-publishing doesn’t really leave you with much other than the sense of accomplishment of having your ebook… being added on to the mountain of ebooks.

So if you’re serious about becoming a professional writer I’d recommend considering traditional publishing before going to self-publishing.


That’s all folks! There are oodles of more fails and some successes I’d love to share but this turned out to be much longer already than I anticipated! I’ll answer any questions if anyone has any!

P.S. My book is also free today for Thanksgiving! If anyone’s interested let me know!


Background Info:

Time till completion: ~3 Years

Budget: Very low. The recession effectively kicked my ass. So my idea for the budget for the book was to keep it as low as possible without compromising the quality of the novel as much as possible.

I’ve spent so far:

Editor: $200.00

Artist for the Cover Art: $100.00

Website Domain: $15.00

Proof Copies of the Novel: ~$20.00 (shipping costs are fantastic) Other Spending (ISBN, Supplies, Copy Right, Comfort food, etc.): ~$300.00

Lot of these were covered by scraping away at my wallet and through a small, somewhat successful, KickStarter.

To save on costs, I did the cover design and the copyediting/formatting myself. You can be the judge of whether or not I did a good job:

Cover Design: http://imgur.com/LAeNIBK[1][1]

Sample of the Physical Copy of the Novel for formatting: www.tinyurl.com/samplecopy


See you all soon with the 7th Entry7 Things I’ve Learned About Writing is up next!

Keep Up With  the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru

My novel is currently available on Amazon.com! Check it out [HERE]

Holding My Book in My Hands // Thank You Readers.

It was honestly a bit bittersweet.

This is breaking the whole “Entries are about the stuff that happened while writing the book,” but I thought it was significant enough for the blog and myself to discuss this now.

My ebook was released on the November 21st. I actually received the proof copy of the novel on the release day due to some shipping delays.  I didn’t worry too much about it since I already saw the physical copies for the KickStarter backers in the previous week and the two editions essentially shared the same cover design with only slight changes for the spine and the back.

The back was fine.

The spine looked great.

But the front cover that used to the same file for the KickStarter copies were some how dun’ goofed.

In a sense, it was fitting considering how the whole journey had been. It was also somewhat metaphorical of the things I could have done better.

I remembered back to just a week before when I was cutting the tapes on the package for the KickStarter copies. Was I excited? Not really. I was only filled with dread for the release day just a week ahead and yet somewhat looking forward to being able to put this chapter of my life to an end.

Glistening covers of the novels peeked through the crunched up brown packaging papers. My mind emptied out all the thoughts floating around. I gingerly removed one of the books in the tightly packed box.

When I held that book in my hand and I could actually smell that paper… all the thoughts of the days ahead were just… gone. Instead I was absorbed into the memories of all the days before that led up to that exact moment. In my hands was the result of what I started on the hard, dirty floor of a motel room 3 years ago. Even just a few months back, I was wondering if I would be able to see the damn thing.

I flipped through it as every chapter and page turned into a scrap book of memories. Instead of the letters and words, I saw the moments and events that made everything on these pages possible. Each chapter, sometimes even just a single page, told a tale of their own to me.

Late evenings and sacrificed weekends.

Triumphs and failures.

My friends and family.

A life-changing adventure that will meet its humble, if not insignificant, ending in just a week.

1114141357
The KickStarter Edition
1114141358
Creme colored pages because it’s easier on the eyes.

 

1114141357a
the back of the KickStarter Edition. Color scheme and the blurb is different than the copies for sale.

There were things I’ve gained that I never would have gained and there were also things I’ve lost that I would have never lost if I didn’t decide to write 3 years ago.

Was I happy with the dividends?

It was a journey that was perhaps more exciting and dramatic than I could have ever planned for or imagined (and boy was it longer than I ever anticipated). And a  journey that perhaps didn’t have the proper ending that it deserved waiting for it at the end. (Or perhaps it was the most fitting)

I showed my mother the KickStarter copy. She smiled and clapped in joy. I was told I did a good job and she took photos to share it with her friends. I was more-or-less stunned by her reaction. I didn’t expect it. I’m wondering now how my face looked to her but seeing her smile over my book is a good memory to have.

I gave a copy to my editor who also seemed much happier than I was.

My friends who’ve supported me also extended their congratulations.

One KickStarter backer that I delivered the novel in person to greeted me with a smile and excitement. We chatted for a while of what could be my future ahead and we ended the conversation with him letting me know that he was excited to read it.

If anything, I wish there was a better ending–even if it isn’t the most fitting one– for them.

Don’t get me wrong. There was a small part of me that was definitely a bit bittersweet because I thought I deserved more (like a child) for all I’ve put into this project.

But as I set the book back down, I realized I was mostly bittersweet not because of the ending itself but because of the fact that the journey was ending. There were many things that could have went better and many things I could have done better–maybe I wasn’t satisfied with it ending just yet.

Maybe,  I just really enjoyed the ride. I enjoyed working on this dream and believing (sometimes even pretending) that it was possible. That I was tearing away the fantasy from the dream until it turned into reality. During this ride my life went to places that I never thought it could go. Some great, some terrible but all of it were fruitful experiences.

I was bittersweet because even though I wasn’t satisfied yet, I knew given my circumstances I’d have put my pursuit on hold. I want to write more. I still have stories to tell.

But knowing that now for a certain even after all this was, in and of itself, another gift from this journey. It was a grand adventure and I think whatever happens from this point on nothing will change that. I’m glad I decided to write. I’m happy I was able to finish. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.

…although technically I guess the journey isn’t over yet. Maybe this entry was just more of me venting and I may have had no idea yet what I was talking about… Alrighty then.


 

Oh, and hey readers. Yes, you there with a disappointed look on your face!

I started this blog to share my experiences. Part of it was because I really wanted to have a record this experience, part of it was because I thought it’d help me understand this experience, and part of it was because this was something that I was told I should do during this experience.

The point I’m trying to get at is that I’m not going to deny that I started this blog mostly for myself. Even as much as I hope this blog is at the very least entertaining and maybe at its rare moments informative–if not helpful–I started this for me.

But… that sort of changed very quickly once I got started.

I always took this blog very seriously and truly appreciated all the readers who read any of my entries. Knowing that some of you decided to give me part of your time to read what I’ve wrote is a surreal feeling.

Seeing any views and likes on my blog have been super encouraging and delightful. Some of the repeat readers like Damyanti (http://en.gravatar.com/damyantig. Check out her sites if you’re interested in writing! She has some cool stuff) really pushed me to worker harder and harder on this blog.

So although I may have started this blog mostly for myself… I feel I’d be being dishonest to say it’s only about myself now.

I’m not very good at this social media stuff (my Twitter account is a testament to that) and I’m not even sure how to really show my appreciation other than saying,

Thank you.  

I mean that.

Sincerely,
 A. S. Aramiru

P. S. Here’s the new cover design I made that I was talking about earlier. I think I’m getting better at this and interior formatting than writing. The sample has also been [updated] and it looks very pretty:

#6x9 cover BLACK HALO png

 

Here’s the previous cover design for comparison:

15610910_cover

 

P. S. 2 During this weekend I’ll post another Interlude with more character bios! See y’all then

Finding Motivations from Nothing

Alright, this post is going to be unedited so it’ll be rough and ugly.

 

“Finding Motivations from Nothing.”

Phew, it took a long time for me to actually publish this blog entry. Too long.

When I started this blog I made it pretty clear that I wasn’t really out to teach anyone.  I wanted to simply relay my experiences and if that happened to help anyone out there—fantastic. I’m pretty sure this blog is a desperate attempt for me to find some value in the mistakes I’ve made and the experiences that I had. Yes, I should admit this blog is, in a sense, my self-therapy.

I mean, did you know that it’s cheaper to buy alcohol and drugs than to get actual therapy? I do neither of those things but I’m just saying… I mean… doesn’t that say something about our society? I suppose Dr. Whoever deserves to be paid more than Billy-down-the-block-from-Wal-Mart but… wait….where was I? What was I talking about?

Yes. Motivation. Writing. Family friendly blog!

Eh-hem!

I’m certain—at some point—that many writers who’ve attempted to make a living with their work faced this problem. Deciding to dedicate/risk a significant portion of your life to writing changes the craft from being just about the craft. The perspective and the mindset transforms—it has to when your livelihood depends on it. I’m sure it’ll become about the craft again as time passes and we find our own happy places in our careers, but in the beginning it’s about the shift from a hobbyist to a professional.

That’s much more work and commitment than it sounds.

But for this transformation to actually happen and for the writer to have actually considered taking on the transformation in the first place, there are few key motivations that they would have had to have.

1) The dream. For some that may be seeing your book at a store. For some it may be simply having completed writing a novel. And for some it’s swimming in that sweet, sweet writing money. The pool of George Washingtons sprinkled with Lincolns. How soft or how hard that pool may be entirely depends on how big you can dream.

2) The joy. It’s immensely fun to create and lose yourself in your fantasy—to build and grow your characters and your world. It’s like that scene from the Matrix where they just stare at bunch of green numbers and letters flowing down the computer screen but in their eyes they see a woman in a red dress. We writers end up falling in love chasing after that woman in the red dress.

3) The drive. It’s the self-discipline to finish what you started. The desire to accomplish something with the short amount of time we have in this world. An ambition without drive won’t go anywhere.

If you lack “1,” you probably don’t want this enough.

If you lack “2,” this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

If you lack “3,” it’s likely that you have a bigger problem on your hands than making writing your career.

But how far can these three motivations take you?

It sort of depends on how potent your “3” is, how long it takes you to finish your work, and the immediacy and the amount of reward you’ll receive for the work.

Let’s ignore the first factor I mentioned (the “3”) because that’s sort of the “x” factor. It can be used to basically overcome any trouble I’ve mentioned and didn’t mention as long as it’s strong enough.

So let’s dig into the second and the third factor.

If you’re a fortunate enough writer who finished their work within a few months (or whatever length of time that was short enough that you didn’t deplete your motivation powers and burn out) and who was accepted by a big publisher…. Or if you’re a self-publisher who already had the funds and the connections to have reviewers and advertisers promote your book (or simply not care much about your sales because you won’t be hungry at the end of the day if the book doesn’t sell well)… then you were probably lucky enough to not hit your breaking point during the writing process.

For you, maybe, lacking motivation only mattered to the extent of meeting deadlines.

But what if you’re a broke nobody whose work is taking longer than you ever anticipated for whatever reason?  What if you are someone whose work just wasn’t flashy or (cold hard truth) good enough to catch the eyes of agents and publishers?

You write day after day as the visions of your dreams and the sense of joy in your work become muddled. Maybe you start feeling like you really should be spending your time doing better things with your life than wasting it on a childish dream. Because for the lot of us it’s “time” that’s really the most precious and the most lacking thing in our lives.

If you’re lucky it’s because you’re busy piling up successes in other areas of your life.

If you’re unlucky it’s because you’re busy mending holes and finding shelters from the hailstorms in your life.

The dream can only push you so far until it feels too much like just a dream. The joy can only entrance you for so long until the joy feels empty and unearned.

Why write when I can do something that’ll actually pay the bills?

Why write when I can catch up on some sleep?

Why write when I spend a little more time with my loved ones? Make the next page of my life with them instead of another page of me sitting in front of a computer all night.

Time passing by feels as if you are watching your life drive away and leaving you stranded at a rest stop somewhere.

Right around this time, reality sinks in.

Chance of succeeding as a writer? Slim-to-none.

As a self-published writer? Hope you know how to do things other than just writing.

Your work? It’s an untested product in an overly saturated market.

The field of your work? A senile beast that’s still desperately trying to hold onto its golden years while the whole world has already moved on.

Your competition?  Ironically, too many.

Family and friends are split between those who know and those who don’t know. Split between those who give your their support and those who give you their concerns.

Your mind starts to play tricks.

The work you were satisfied with yesterday feels like they all need to be scrapped.

Other people’s works are unenjoyable because you end up analyzing it and breaking it down to science and wondering about your own work and how you’re doing.

At your most petty and ugly moments, you wonder how certain works could be so successful when they’re so trite, mundane, and cowardly. You know it’s wrong to think this way. You know it’s detrimental to yourself to think this way. But you can’t help it.

Because at the end of the day, you’re just tired and bored of writing for nothing. The motivations you had at the start are depleted. Maybe you’re even a little scared that you’re at the end already and things won’t change.

It gets harder to keep going even with your mind dangling a carrot in front of you because you realize maybe you’ll never get that carrot. Or because you realize there’s a reason why the carrot is dangling out of reach in the first place.

What do you mean the horse is already long dead? *wipes horse blood off*

What do you mean the point was already made like a page ago and I’m just writing to read my own voice? All I’m trying to say is it can get really tough to keep going and not being able to keep going can have much more dreadful implications to some than others.

Oops. *wipes horse blood off again*

The treatment I gave myself (other than binge eating Wendy’s to the point of the manager and I getting to know each other, pumping irons as if the weights owed me money, and taking vacations in fantasy lands of movies and videogames) was making my own motivations.

I don’t know what that would mean for others but for me it was making the decision that I may pay a great price for in the future. At the same time, that very decision was also the best thing I’ve done for my first project.

Beta-Reading.

Even though I knew that this was the path I had to take to complete my project, but it took me a little while to have the muster up the courage to just do it.

I’m not really a shy person or someone who’s afraid embarrassing himself (I mean, of course, I’d rather not).  But using English was, and to an extent it still is, a bit terrifying to me and it’s something that I never really managed to have a thick skin for. To be honest, I should really make some time to improve my English especially since I want to keep writing. Even though I became better about exposing my English abilities through Beta-Reading, I’m still to this day a bit insecure about it.  I think it might be the only thing that I’m really insecure about these days other than my suspicions that I might be balding.

And I really don’t like being insecure about anything… I think it’s a weakness in character and something that I should really address anytime I feel that way. Especially since I think, to an extent (though apparently science says otherwise), English is something I can improve on. If I’m balding, I’m screwed. That may push me over the edge to try to crowdfund hair implants for myself.

My uncles on my mom’s side aren’t bald though. No one’s bald in either of the gene pools. I’d be the first and my descendants would curse me for it.

But anyways, normally beta-readings are done when the novel is polished to the point that it wouldn’t be too embarrassing to show anyone. The beta-readers would read what would be close to the finished product.

I wasn’t even done writing mine let alone had it gone through an editor or even proof-read. All there was were a few drafts of earlier chapters, notes, and general plans for the rest of the novel in my head.

But I always thought it’d be interesting to do a beta-reading in a serialized format. I’d send a batch of chapters out every week and have discussions with my beta-readers every other week. Since this was my first project and the project itself was fairly complex for someone who’s never written anything longer than a thesis paper, I thought this process would give me the compass that I needed. The feedback I’d receive would allow me see if the plot points, tools, and what not, were delivered to the readers the way I intended.

The only thing that held me back was the fear of being naked by revealing my kryptonite to the beta-readers while at the same time telling these people, “yeah, so I’m trying to make this into a thing in my life. Like, hopefully live off of it.”

No one knew I was interested in writing or that I was capable of writing anything substantial.

Technically, I didn’t even know myself if I could write since this was my first venture into serious writing. I could very well be a terrible writer or even just a meh writer. If I could, I’d rather build a machine that’d hook up to my brain and simply create a movie or a book directly with what’s in my mind.

… I mean I suppose it’s possible that my imagination could also be crap and in that case the machine would be useless….

…But I wanted to keep writing. I wanted to be able to measure myself and see if I can improve—to find out where my limits are with this craft. For me this meant finding an audience and finding critics. That was my motivation. I’d accept that I am a crap writer as long as I knew for certain that I was crap.

I handpicked about eight people to be my beta-readers. Each of them selected for various reasons based on what I knew of them: their beliefs, insights, biases, tastes, and etc. The number I actually had in my mind was four, but I decided to double that amount because I wasn’t entirely sure how reliable beta-readers would be.

Ironically, out of the eight, only four read the whole novel and took the time to do the meet ups with me.

So, each week (or sometimes every couple of weeks with few hiatuses in between) I’d let my fingers puke out whatever was on my mind into the computer and once I had enough of piles of puke to form few chapters, I’d send them out to the beta-readers in a batch. I puked because it was a way to keep me writing instead of second-guessing and fixing every darn sentence and never making progress.

There were total of 22 batches and the beta-reading, including the meetings, took about a year to finish.

Most of these batches were only cleaned up and molded into what would closely resemble the final product after they were sent out. My beta-readers were troopers.

Eventually, after the beta-reading ended, the batches went through an editing process by me and then by my editor. Then we edited it again together over and over until we were at least happy enough to have it pried out of our hands. I was told that the first one will never feel complete and never feel good enough to publish… and that was true.

But I remember feeling an incredible contentment during one of the editing sessions knowing that I at least had some sort of a completed form of my novel.

I did it.

The days when I couldn’t even see the peak of this mountain flashed through my mind—when I was beaten, defeated, and at times even hopeless. But I was there now—at the peak—only a few steps away from planting the flag.

For me doing the beta-reading gave me the motivation I needed to keep writing. Not to mention the beta-reading meetings were some of the most fun and educational experiences I had with this project. They are also the fondest memories I have with my novel so far.

So how to find motivations from nothing? You can’t. But you can give yourself some new motivations.

Refuel that spark by giving meaning to your work again. I recommend finding something that’ll help you with your work in the long run—something that’ll be at least beneficial if not memorable.

I don’t think any of us should feel ashamed to feel overwhelmed and to find our selves lacking motivation to keep going. It’s like running a marathon—sometimes you hit your limit and you have to walk. You only lose if you quit. All the work you put into leaving all that road behind you would have been for naught only if you quit. But if you keep giving yourself a reason to walk forward you’re still in the race and every step you take is a step towards the finish line…. so on and so forth, yada, yada, maybe you’ll even find your second wind, yada, yada and when you finally get to cross the finish line whether your last place or not it won’t matter blah, blah, blah. Cliche, cliche, Powerade commercial, American-cheddar-cheese-cheesy, y’all get it.

The struggle is real for every single one of us but it’s also up to us to do whatever it takes to get something out of the struggle.

Hasslehoff smile.

80s Electro-outro-music.

Roll credits.

 

Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru
Shameless Plug: My book, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian (Young Adult Urban Fantasy), is out on November 21st 2014!

Check it out! HERE!
SAMPLE: HERE!

P.S. So… this should have been released earlier this week but I had trouble being comfortable enough with this entry to release it until now (holy cow it’s 5 am and I need get up in 2 hours). I’m going to keep that outdated(?) date on the “Shameless Plug” on there as a badge of shame. Good night everybody.

P.S. 2 (Oh, right. How could I pay the price for the beta-reading in the future? The abomination that is Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian ALPHA version that the beta-readers had to read is floating around somewhere on the internet. My editor and I actually discussed perhaps releasing samples of this version one day to discuss the power of editing and the changes I’ve/We’ve made)

 

Update: I Promise I’m Alive!

The blog at least deserves some sort of an explanation of what I’ve been up to so here it is:

 

~LIFE AFTER A SUCCESSFUL KICKSTARTER~

 

Much like everything else with this project, the events after the KickStarter were anything but smooth.

Aside from life complicating, there were some problems receiving funds from a couple of the backers which caused a few delays.  Getting the backer rewards, which was planned beforehand and should have been the simplest part of all this, turned out to be an adventure of its own as well. Some of the highlights of it were: braving through a dark forest on a stormy night, endless drives on the freeway, a broken car,  and punching a baby kidnapper. Only one of those things are untrue.

Other than that, most of my writing time was taken up working on the 6×9 format (which was one part that I actually didn’t expect to be so time consuming but ended up taking up a ridiculous amount of time) for the print copy of the novel for the KickStarter backers, working on the full book cover for the said print copy of the novel, another—final—editing run through of the novel, becoming paranoid and second guessing every aspect of the novel,  how many more times can I say of the novel when I’m writing about… oh yes… I also made another attempt at making a better EPUB format of the novel.

It was a splendid way of making me feel really disappointed and defeated over a weekend.

Obviously, EPUB is very important as the plan is to self-publish but at the same time it made me hate myself, Kindle, EPUB, and all of you freedom loving readers out there who wants to change the fonts to whatever you want with the book you’re reading.

Let me tell you about EPUB formatting.  EPUB formatting is like the construction noise on a Sunday should-have-been-tranquil-morning,  it’s that dude who asks you for something not when you were leaving but when you came back to the table to sit down, IT’S that nasty cop who breaks the speed limit, cuts you off, gives you the finger, put his gun out the window, shoots in the air while screaming “WHAT YOU GONNA DO?! I’M THE POPO!”

EPUB is the Cecilia Gimenez to InDesign.  Apparently only way (someone can correct me if they know better) to make EPUB format at least half as presentable as InDesign is to be well versed in CSS, go through licensing issues, and even then it’ll only work with supporting devices.  The format was never designed to be pretty – I get that but I feel like it’s robbing the novel’s presentation and part of its intended experience. It might be far from being extraordinary, but I’ve spent lot of time and energy into the formatting and it’s just a very incomplete feeling to put this out as my product and cheat whatever reader it may find from the full experience I planned and wanted to give them.

Anyways, my advice? Use Scrivener to write your initial work as it is one of the best tools out there for writers.  Then use InDesign to create that book of your dreams (unless you’re hiring out but part of the fun of self-publishing is that you can do everything). Be enamored by your creation and  then find a hard, clean surface to bash your head in as it becomes neutered through the process of converting it to EPUB (Calibre is a nice free program that’ll at least hold your hand through the pain. I recommend going through Calibre before turning your file over to Amazon for their converter).

If someone wants to enlighten me and let me know I’m wrong about everything that’s EPUB (or about life) I’m more than willing to listen.

So that’s it! This was quickie. You’ll be able to tell the quickies when they lack even the most basic editing.

The next two actual entries that are being worked on are:


How to Find Motivations From Nothing” – as I mentioned before.

&

“a Date with My Characters” – My editor for the novel thought this would be a good one because she thought it was an unique process.

&

People Come & Go” –  The personal entry I had in mind has been scrapped and currently I’m set on doing this topic I alluded to in my previous entries.


All of these will either have to be scheduled with one of my editors or I may just post them raw if I feel it’ll take too long to have them edited.

Before I finish this entry, I’d like to take a moment to give a sincere apology about my lack of better updates and not being able to keep up with the schedule that I said I’d follow. Though I’m usually timely with most aspects of my life, I found that I still struggle being able to properly estimate my schedule and timings with anything regarding writing.

I’m sorry.

P. S. A couple of people told me it’d be a good idea to write about my experiences with KickStarter. I started a draft or two but I became a bit uncertain regarding  if I was telling anyone, anything substantial.  If you thought – KickStarter is mostly for tech and people already with a following – you’d be correct. Even though I found my small success, I wouldn’t recommend it for people who are not an established figure as a reliable mean of getting funding for their project. However, if you’re taking it as something “not much to lose but a lot to gain” sort of deal – go for it. But there are definitely a proper way of doing things for this mindset as well. You have to approach it and think about it differently.

There were also some unexpected developments through KickStarter that I’m not sure if significant but I guess might be interesting to share… though nothing ever came of it…

…screw it.  Let’s put  a quickie regarding KickStarter on queue as well.

 

The novel, Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian,  is currently scheduled to be released on 11/11/2014!
Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru