Day 2: Classification and Self-Publishing as an Art

My apologies being a day late with this post. Sometimes life happens and gets in the way of the best intentions. Anyways…

Once I figured out the general plotline of Lore, I was trying to figure out a way to present it. Sure, it was going to be a novel, but how to make it a bit…adventurous? With all of the little storylines of gods versus humans, my original intent was to give each god their own unique short story as a chapter, and then as I laid out the stories and chapter after chapter, it would all turn into the novel as a whole. Think of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.

A fantastic read, but not for me.
A fantastic read, but not for me.

…the idea was a disaster on the scale of the Titanic.

So then I thought of when I used to play Magic. When I was a kid, I used to play the card gameMagic: the Gathering with friends. I remember seeing on the cards random quotes from some scripts. I honestly could not recall the sources. I’m pretty sure it’s not The Holy Bible by any means. But with the way the scripts were cited, they seemed to read that way. Since then, I had always thought how interesting it would be to write a book that could be quoted and read in that same style. Not as a holy scripture, by any means. But as a book that imparted wisdom in that way.

These were my original ideas when I set out to write Lore: the Legend of River.

Once the script was done, I began to ponder just what I held in my hand. Besides being concerned with faith and religion, some of the subjects touched on torture, necromancy, rape, death…not exactly easy subject lines to talk about at times. Prime topics to get your book challenged and on the Banned Books List (not that I’d mind that as it seems to be a great way to get easy publicity). But on the other hand, the storyline also includes positive themes like moving beyond appearances, seeking truth in turmoil, commitment, forgiveness, and sacrifice.

When I weighed the options, I finally decided to classify it as Young Adult – Science Fiction/Fantasy. Despite some of the heavy themes, the story follows Cattaran, a young man who grows among the gods. During the first few pages, Cattaran is only six-years-old. As he grows, he has questions and situations that young adults can relate to: first loves, contemplating friends versus enemies, and finding where your loyalties lay, all while dealing with adolescence. As much as some try to ignore these issues, these are subjects and topics that human beings of all ages address on a cognitive level at some point in their lives. Lore: the Legend of River would be first published as a Young Adult novel.

With my completed physical script, I began to ponder just how to get it out to the world. A dear friend of mine, Sal, owns a steampunk-themed bookstore called Off the Beaten Path Books and Emporium (if you live in the Metro Detroit area, I highly suggest you check it out). After some discussion with her about working with agents and publishers, she confided in me that most don’t make contact by the writer’s invitation. A lot of them hate solicitations and specifically don’t ask for them. This was actually good news to me because the idea of “selling” and “pimping” myself did not sit right with me. I have always wanted my work and art to stand for itself. I’m a firm believer of if you don’t like me for me, then shove it. I’m very stubborn that way. With self-publishing, a writer and artist are able to make their work all their own and then sell it! Instead of chasing down agents and publishers, I could make them come to me! It was perfect!

That being said, there are two points to be made about self-publishing that have really stood out for me: one, the editing process sucks, and two, formatting is an art form.

Editing can be very hard when you are the primary writer of a document. You could read the same thing over three times and not see the blatant spelling or grammar mistakes you have made. I believe it is because you are so familiar at that point with what you wrote that you don’t see it anymore. It’s committed to memory and it, in a way, doesn’t matter. What is my advice for getting past this?  Another two tips…

First, hire a friend to do the editing for you. Sure, you could pay a couple hundred bucks to have someone online do it for you, whom you’ll never see and never know if its man or machine and run the risk of having your work (which probably doesn’t have a copyright set up just yet) stolen from you (a legitimate fear for any writer). But I’m willing to bet that you have a trusted friend who is dying to read your brand spanking new script anyways, don’t you? It’s quite possible they would love to get into editing work professionally and don’t have the resources or experience to do so. See where I’m going with this? Because this is what I ended up doing.  Not only did I get a thorough editing of my first script, but I also got notes, feedback, and a first review on the script as a whole. Two for the price of one and my friend was happy to do it!

Do not trust this charming character!
Do not trust this charming character!

Second, as excited as you may be, you need to put the script away for a period of time, whether it’s a week, a month, or year. Any writer needs to do it at some point. This allows the brain to relax and give it more of a fresh start when you come back to it before publishing it in any way. This is what I did while Ray, my friendly personal editor, read overLore. When she came back with the script marked up and scribbled to heck, I was able to pull up the original document on my computer and marvel at what I missed! Like I said above, you can read over what you wrote and will miss your mistakes, especially if your word processor doesn’t pick up on them, no thanks to Mr. Clippit!

When you’re done with the editing, however, formatting tends to get you excited once again. Just like choosing specific words for your script, choosing fonts and visual themes for it adds an element of what you want the reader to feel as they pick up your book for the first time. Lore has both elements of darkness and light, so while I chose the font “Chiller” for my headers and chapter titles, I chose a book cover that was open and gave the reader some luminosity to associate with. What I am hoping is that it’ll be a way to draw in someone’s interests.

Here’s the bottom line. When you begin to write, you may not know what you will end up with. Novels and different forms of writing can take drastic turns that the author does not expect when they sit to work on them. I honestly didn’t think Lore would end up in the Young Adult genre, but I certainly have no doubts that it belongs there now that it’s completed. Not to mention that with editing and formatting the final product, I was able to make it into a true piece of art. This is one of the beauties I have found with self-publishing and I recommend that fact to any debut writer who is not connected to an agent or publisher. That debut novel you are writing is going to be all you. You are going to turn it into a beautiful piece of art and it is going to define you in so many ways in this profession that you can’t imagine. So don’t stress yourself out and take your time with it. Make that novel as much of you as you possibly can. You’ve worked that hard on it. You deserve for it to be that wonderful.

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