10 Things you should know when you first write a book

When I started working on my first book, I had the following plan:

  • I would finish the draft in four of five months at most
  • I would make a thorough review of the first manuscript and in one single edition round I would correct everything that is wrong.
  • My beta readers will read it in a couple of weeks and I would rejoice in his/her wonderful comments
  • I would find a great Literary agent in a blink of an eye
  • I would have the book published in that same year
  • I would live from my writing and would travel the world.

I was naïve. REALLY naive.

 

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This is the second year I’m investing in my first book. I’m still editing it. So far I’ve come to understand the following:

  1. Doing the first draft is by far the easiest and quickest part of the process

When I finished the first draft, I was so thrilled. I felt I have conquered the world and I could be called a writer. I was so proud of myself. I thought that finally I was making something good with my life, that I was looking towards the future, towards my goals, you get the point…The truth is that writing the first draft is the easiest part. You can even achieve it in one month (If you want to test the efficiency of NaNoWriMo). But rest assured the first draft will not be readable yet. Chances are it will still have lots of plot holes and huge amounts of rewrite to be done.

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2. Planning one round of revision is not realistic at all

There will be many rounds of revision. It’s hard to rewrite scenes, plot holes, and work on character development while editing your grammar and punctuation at the same time. You’ll probably need another round, and perhaps a third one, etc. Additionally, after your beta readers come to you with feedback, chances are you’ll probably need to change and rewrite many sections of your book which will lead you to another round of sentence structure/grammar review, etc., again.

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3. Leaving your first manuscript to rest for a couple of weeks and even a month is not a bad idea

I knew about this tip way before I finished my first manuscript. Nonetheless, I was in such a hurry of having everything done that as soon as I finished my first manuscript, I started to edit it on the very next day. I didn’t leave it to rest and breath. My head didn’t have time to clear enough to target my manuscript with a fresh point of view. The result was several pointless rounds of revision until I decided to finally give myself a break and leave the manuscript for a month. During this time, I wrote other short stories, I read more, etc. When I finally returned to my old good manuscript, my mind was fresh and I could detect more issues than in all those previous three rounds. I identified huge gaps where I could improve. If only I’ve done that before my first round of revision… I would’ve probably faced my manuscript with much better criteria from the first edition round.

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4.  Your beta readers won’t give you feedback in a couple of weeks

I had three good beta readers, but it took time to receive their feedback. You have to take into account that not all of them are available to read your manuscript as soon as you deliver it. Unless you’re paying for a beta reading service, most of these people will be doing you a favor. You’ll probably need to wait until they have time. Not all of them can read books in a couple of days; they might need more time. Not all of them have only your book to read; they might need to put it in their queue of “still to read books”.

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5. Good Beta Readers will say the truth and cause many changes in your book

Let’s face it. This is your first book ever. You can’t expect to nail a best seller that soon. You’ll need a lot of time,experience, and good listening skills. You need to pay attention to your beta reader’s feedback. And I’m talking about good beta readers, not your mom, your husband, etc., but people who will be able to judge the manuscript and say what is in their minds without any fear of hurting your feelings. You have to acknowledge that as the author of your book, you know how the plot works, you know how characters look in your mind, but sometimes you fail to translate this knowledge into the written world. Chances are you’ll still need to change and rewrite after your beta reader’s feedback.

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6. Character development is not achieved at once

If this is your first book, then you’ll probably struggle with nailing “character development”. Even if you outline characters before you start the book, they’ll probably develop and change as your plot changes. Their behaviors will change depending on how the direction of your books goes or how scenes are improved. Providing a three-dimensional character is harder than you think. It wasn’t until many revisions and feedback that I had enough tools to develop my characters as they should.

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7. Developing your voice doesn’t come so fast

It doesn’t matter how many books about writing you read and how many writing courses you attend. Developing your voice only comes with practice. Sometimes, you want to obey all writing rules and make your sentences’ structure perfect, but then you find yourself with a boring flat manuscript. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the rules. To break the rules, you need to know them first. But you can’t expect to find your writing voice in the first round of writing. Perhaps you won’t even find it in your first book.

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8. Don’t hire any editing service until you’ve received plenty feedback

I made the mistake of hiring an editing service (which was very good) before I got all the feedback. My third beta reader was able to send me his feedback after my manuscript was already edited by a professional editor. This feedback was very helpful and had lots of good advice plot-wise, which meant I had to do significant changes and rewrite many scenes and even chapters. The result, the professionally edited text was gone. It would’ve been certainly helpful to hire this service after all revisions and feedback.

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9. Consider your first book may not be publishable

In my plans above, I clearly talk about getting a literary agent, publishing it, and having enough earnings to live from my writing. The reality is different. And the truth is your first book could not be published yet or could not be published at all. You need to accept this fact from the beginning. It’s a learning curve. My mind already has tons of topics to write other books; they even sound more interesting than the manuscript I’m working with right now. Perhaps book two or three will be published. Perhaps my first book will be revisited in a couple of years and later published. At this point, I only care about improving my writing.

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10. This is only your first experience

Writing a first book is about gaining experience. It doesn’t matter how perfect your book idea is, how charming your characters are, or how beautifully you construct prose, the process is still tricky with the first book. You still need to learn how to handle feedback, how to detect plot holes, how to find your voice, how to make useful rounds of edition, etc. If you take this point of view, I guarantee you’ll find the experience more rewarding than the publishing result. You’ll be more excited about your next projects and you won’t suffer so much if the path of delivering your first book looks too hard. Best of all, you’ll encounter the true meaning of being a writer.

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Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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Oh men! we´d better achieve our dreams or….

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Oh men, If I thought I would had a weekend like the previous one, years ago, I would have laughed really hard. I´ve always envisioned myself writing a novel in the late years of my life. I would say “SOMEDAY I will write a book, when I´m retired, and have time, and blah blah…”, but then one day I just decided to say that is BS!  I will accomplish this dream “RIGHT NOW RIGHT HERE”, not in the near future, or someday when I´m in a retirement house, but NOW, when I have a day job and almost no time. I made the right decision…

For the past months, I´ve been trying to write my first novel. I started writing short stories first but when I got what I thought an interesting idea for a novel, I decided to give it a go. I decided I was going to put ‘writing´ as number one in my priorities list. No more “extra activities” that would drive me away from it. I would write everyday, if possible, until I actually made a habit of it.

Then, to not bore you anymore with the process to achieve this goal, I started to research about the process of writing books, how to build up characters, plots, etc. So much material about it, you wouldn´t believe me.

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Finally, I decided to enroll myself in the Writer´s Digest bootcamp: Agent One-on-One: First ten pages, which basically focused in the first ten pages of a novel. We got a video tutorial from Ms. Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Agency, who was brilliant, the cleverest person I´ve ever listened to. She gave excellent advice of what Agents were looking for and what she expected to find in the first pages of a novel. She also talked about all clichés, and all the times she got to reject queries from writers. I was “Oh my, I´ve never going to make it!” I did some research about her clients, looked in the web for their books, and believe me , those were quality material, beautiful books, written so amazingly that I was “I don’t stand a chance, English is not even my native language! I´ve never going to be at that level” But I was already registered in the course, with 200 $us invested, which here in my country is a LOT of money.

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So to shorten things, Paula Munier was assigned as the agent who would review my pages (out of five agents in the bootcamp). I was thrilled, maybe she was the toughest one, but the one I´ve imagined myself working with. I sent my pages, expecting to receive a critique that would say “this is not good, you really have to improve, you should consider changing careers, or are you sure you want to be a writer?” I was already mentally preparing myself for that, telling me that I would try not to take it so bad, that I would improve, that this was just a course, and that I was there to learn and to improve.

What I got was: “Nice work, Easy and Fun to read, Engaging premise, Likable hero, Colorful cast of characters, Unique great style” and I was … My god I was stunned.

Of course she also described the parts where I could improve, like improving the flow of the scenes, avoiding overwriting, American grammar and punctuation (the British influence of course), and some issues with my second scene.  But nonetheless, I was thrilled.

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And true, there is still a lot to improve, but it is all about the HARD WORK, and nothing else. If you want to write, you have to do it all the time. You have to read millions of books, if you want to improve your craft. It´s hard work and nothing else. Revision after revision and craziness along the way of course! I usually find myself about to go nuts when I get into one of those hard “revision” sessions, like I would dream with characters and get traumatized with grammar rules. But it is worth it.

In the end, we don´t get a second life, we only have this one, we´d better make the best of it. That means we only have NOW and THIS LIFE to make our dreams come true. We’d better devote ourselves and work our asses off to achieve our dreams, or else when are we going to do it? There is no other way around.

Believe in your dreams and just work the hell out of yourself to make them come true!

 

How late is it to change paths?

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Well I studied Industrial Engineering, did a Master degree on Environmental Studies, worked on a couple of companies in the production, planning and logistics area, did some consulting on Quality Management Systems, Good Manufacturing Practices, Industrial Safety. Before that, I worked in the Purchases department of another company, did some work on external trade and even took some courses on Customs regulations in my country. I also worked on project management in a software development company and even occupied a position as “E-commerce sales analyst” ah… and I also sold cars in a car dealer shop.  And I could be going on for a couple more paragraphs on the many things I did and studied in approximately 8 years. I´ve changed jobs so many times that I actually hate to fill in Resumes just because I can´t remember already many things… On the other side, I´ve seen many people who graduated with me from the University getting stable jobs and promotions and now earning good money.

I also went on the entrepreneur side and I´m still going on it as I like it (and I see it as my main income source). But now I have settled down a little bit, I have managed to find a job that gives me some sort of “peace of conscience”, one job that doesn´t make me want to run away as fast possible from it.  I´m not looking anymore for other job opportunities in the newspaper. I´m ok where I´m, like I mentioned in a previous post, I work in Software Development Company as a Technical Writer. This is completely different from my previous job experience and educational background, but I like it, I actually like the “writer” part more than anything, and I think that I´m on the way to something good and bigger yet, but most important, I´m on the correct path…. I always knew since I was very young that this was the path… but I guess I wasn´t brave enough to look for it… I was too worried thinking on what the family and friends would think… since all the people I knew where studying these complex careers like engineerings and that stuff and getting jobs and working their ass off it…

So is it too late for this change? Of course not! I´m actually grateful that I´m still young to do this change, I knew deeply that I wanted to this change but I always thought that I was going to do it later, in the future, you know after I got married and raised kids and that regular things that we think is what we must only strive for…

Of course, I would have liked to have this change before the 8 years or maybe I would have liked to have chosen a different career after school… but I wouldn´t have had the experiences that have allowed me to mature and see things the way I see them now. I can´t go in the past, but I´m lucky to have reached this point in life where I definitely know where I want to head… many people live their lives without knowing it and some of them know it but won´t do anything (for me the saddest thing that could happen).

So I´m reinventing myself, I don´t care anymore what are my degrees and post-degrees and my previous job experiences were, because none of those things make me happy. What I care is that I have a new chance now I´m willing to go with all for it!

So how about you? Do you think that it´s too late to change careers or paths? 

HOW HARD IS IT TO BE PERSISTENT?

So, PERSISTENCE, what is the definition of PERSISTENCE?

The Oxford dictionary says

“the fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition”

Well, we can understand this meaning, it is simple, and everybody knows it, but can we understand it well enough to apply it in our lives?

Since I remember, I use to make plans for improving my life; I would make things like these ones:

  1. Make a written, signed contract where I compromise myself with improving in all aspects: losing weight, going to the gym, learning mandarin or Italian (whatever was I felt I needed to learn at that time), read 3 books per month, learn this or that, etc.I would get to do this for a couple of days, maybe a week and then I would get weaker and I would just forget it.
  2. I would also do more detailed plans, I would write my resolutions in a paper, make detailed plans to achieve them and even set daily goals. I would buy a diary or notebook, just specifically for this purpose. I would start with all my enthusiasm and then the same would happen, I would forget it or just get consumed with the daily routine.

So this is the summary of the dozens of times that I have tried different approaches. Some methods would work better than others, but always at the end I was swallowed with the everyday routine.

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At this very moment, I´m with one method, I have a little notebook at work where I write the hours of the day and try to assess every hour I let pass, so I just put a happy or sad face next to it when I feel an hour has been productive or not. Until now, it´s been lasting more than any method. But, I must admit it, there are hours, even days, where I forget about this thing and I find myself filling hours with sad faces trying to remember what I had done before. I hope this method lasts….

But, besides this, I have actually realized the following: I´ve been persisting in improving my life, trying different methods but with the same idea: improving. So I have accused myself many times of not being persistent enough and it´s is true, in some ways… after all, the most difficult thing to achieve in life for me has being persistence.

But the idea is to persist right? And I have persisted in figuring it out these methods, even when they didn´t work, I would look for another one… little step by little step, mistake by mistake, and at the end NEVER SURRENDER…

And more than anything never stop persisting in trying to achieve our dreams, no matter how our methods are, but never give up on our dreams, never forget them….

I would like to finish with this quote:

“If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of Persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked seventy times and get up off the floor saying, Here comes Seventy One!”

DeVos, Richard

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Why daydreaming with open eyes is actually good…

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I´ve always daydreamed with open ever eyes since I have a recollection of memory. If you don´t know what I´m talking about, maybe you should read this Wikipedia definition first: (just to be sure we´re on the same page)

“Daydreaming is a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings, during which a person’s contact with reality is blurred and partially substituted by a visionary fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass, and experienced while awake.”

When I was younger I remember daydreaming while I was trying to “study” for school, maybe it was out of boredom or maybe I was trying to evade the “studying” aspect of that moment.

I used to dream about what I was going to do when I grew older, how my life was going to be and how would things be that If I were different, if I were richer if I were prettier and others things (the “if I were prettier” dreams were a result of my poor self-esteem at that time but now I have another concept of beauty…). I used to spend a lot of time on this, of 3 hours of study I would spend half of it dreaming about everything and nothing…

As time passed, I started to get stronger ideas of what I wanted to do with my life… do you think I stopped daydreaming? Not at all!, until now I still continue daydreaming all the time even when I´m at work….is it because I really have nothing better to do other than spending time imagining about the things that I would like to achieve or the type of life that I would like to have? Not really, actually I´m always struggling to find time for everything…

It’s because of my nature, I´m a daydreamer by default but I´m proud of it because it actually keeps me in focus in the goals and dreams I want to achieve. If I weren’t frequently remembered by these dreams, I would probably let common life pass by me, forgetting my main ideals and where I´m heading for.

From the perspective of loner, I don’t know if this really applies to “my type”, to my personality that tends to be more distant from people in general and perhaps more focused on my own objectives, but this is just a theory and maybe it would be nice to see your comments about this.. .

BUT, there is an important BUT for the frequent daydreamers, your dreams have to have a little closure of their own, if you want these dreams to really happen, you have to snap out of them by thinking “now what do I have to do if I want to achieve that…” or “well let´s start doing X so one day I can be like in dream Y”… When you come back to reality, or stop dreaming, don´t let this wonderful time that you´ve just spend by go without rescuing encouraging motivations for you to continue life focusing on the direction of your dreams, always give them this little closures, they make you feel better, trust me and it´s a wonderful way to get you excited of the good things that are still to come in the future…

Daydreaming lets you know that life should not be boring and that we shouldn’t accept regular routine, that there is so much out there that needs to be discovered.

If you daydream, find the motivation for following these dreams and planning the actions that are needed to achieve them.

Finally, a quote to remember:

“All people dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake up in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes and make them come true.”

D. H. Lawrence