When I set out to write the first book, Max Hamby and the Blood Diamond, I had an excellent skeleton of most of the book. I had been jotting down notes, ideas, inspirational items for four years prior. I started writing in May 2014 and wrote like a mad woman until July 1st when the first draft was complete. After that I wrote two more drafts and finally published on September 18th. I put everything I had into that first book and was over the moon happy and proud of it. I still am, though even after two years, I find things that need to be "fixed". I knew right from the beginning that it would be a series...a seven book series. I can't tell you why seven, it just stuck in my head.
The first mistake I made was not doing some sort of outline for books 2 through 7. I've been writing by the seat of my pants ever since and for me, it's uncomfortable. I need some sort of semblance as to where the story is going to go. I've taken to making lists of the characters, what's going to happen (good and bad), setting, etc. It's okay, but I should've thought it all through from the start.
The second mistake I made was editing. After two years, I know I rushed to publish the first book. Yes, I know I should've hired an editor, but financially, that wasn't possible and it still isn't. I am on my own. I don't have family or friends who really read middle grade, so I've taken to going over the manuscripts a million times to be sure it reads right.
The third mistake I made was the cover. The very first cover was okay. Well, the background was okay, but the text was awful and the same for the second draft of the cover. The text faded into the background. The fourth draft was better, but I was told it was too arty and wouldn't appeal to children. The final draft was much better and it is the current cover, but in reality, it's not as good as I know it could be and yes, I believe it says, "Self Published". (I really didn't want that). I've thought about updating all the covers with brand new looks, but the addon to the third mistake is that I published all those draft covers for the first book. Yes, I know. Stupid. The first book has, at least, 3 or 4 covers to choose from and since Amazon does not let you delete them, well, I'm stuck. Thus the reason I haven't updating anything. Yes, I know. Everyone says to hire a cover artist. Trust me, I would if I could, but it's the same with hiring an editor....not going to happen.
The fourth mistake I made is genre. Maybe. I say maybe, because I LOVE middle grade fantasy. It is what I read, collect, get excited about write, etc. But, when other writers warned me that middle grade is an absolutely hard sell, hard to promote, hard to gain visibility/attention on....they were not kidding. Middle Grade books are THE hardest books to gain any traction on. There are two authors who I think are the closest to the Max Hamby series. They both write middle grade fantasy. They both have a series. They have followers, great reviews and their books have gained a bit of traction. I think that's fantastic. I've read them both and love their books. I just don't know how they do it. I think I've exhausted all forms of free promotion up to this point and will have to get a bit creative from here on out. ;)
When I first started writing the series, I was told to hold off, write romance, erotica, YA, etc. I gave it alot of thought and I even considered cozy mysteries, but none of those genres are me.
I used to be completely addicted to reading romance and I've even discovered I love reading cozy mysteries. Keyword: reading. I can't write romance/sex scenes to save my life and I wouldn't know where to begin with writing a mystery.
The fifth mistake I made (mainly after the first book was published) was comparing my book/s to other authors. (big authors, small authors, trad pubbed, self pubbed, etc.)
For all you beginning writers or even those of you like me, STOP COMPARING yourselves to other authors. It will only drive you insane and send you into a whirlwind of depression. It took me a while to learn that it's okay to be me, write the way I write, etc. I had to learn to let go and at times, disconnect from the internet. Once I did that, things started falling into place and I felt really, really good. Stop reading blogs, message boards, articles, FB, Twitter, if you can. It will make a world of difference.
The sixth mistake and probably the biggest is that I waited.
I actually started writing back in 2000 and for whatever reason I stopped and didn't pick it up again until 2009-2010. That is a LONG time. What can I say, I'm an idiot. I turned to art instead. I love art. I love looking at it, watching it in progress, etc. I wasted nine years teaching myself how to create art digitally. Yes, I said wasted. In truth, I'm not an artist. Through those years, I bought and read books on writing, collected magazines on writing and dreamed having my name on the cover of a book.
I know not everyone experiences this, but I knew in my soul that I was and am supposed to be writing. Not my head, heart or gut....my soul. It was screaming at me to write and I kept ignoring it.
I'm telling you right now, if your soul is screaming at you, LISTEN. Don't wait. Life is so short and you can come up with a million and one excuses. Trust me, I did. But, why? If you can't do what you want to do full time, then do it part time. Just set aside a small portion of your day to do what you know you should be doing. It will make a world of difference. Once I admitted that I AM A WRITER, I was on cloud 9.
Do you know that I had to have help in saying that out loud? My husband has known for twenty years that I am a writer, has been telling me to write and in 2014 MADE me say out loud, I AM A WRITER. LOL, I cried. Literally. I have no idea why, but I stuttered, stammered and blubbered like a baby to get those words out. Self esteem/self confidence issues? Possibly. But, I can't thank him enough for making me say it, for believing in me and for pushing me to get my butt in the chair.
The seventh mistake I currently make is getting depressed/sad/frustrated when I see the flatline within my KDP dashboard, as well as the other dashboards AND the lack of followers. This, I am learning, is stupid, a waste of time and a giant no-no. For those of you just beginning or like me, STOP looking. LOL. I know, I know. It's hard not to check in. I find myself still doing it and have to cut it out. Honestly, it doesn't matter how many followers you have and the sales (the KDP flatline) will come. As long as you write the best book you can possibly write and you know there's nothing more you can do to make it any better, then THAT is your greatest achievement.
Look at it this way (and yes, I do tell myself this), you just wrote a 20, 30, 40, 50 + word novel. That is HUGE! You did it! We did it! That is major and something to be massively proud of. All my books are (or almost) 50 thousand words a piece. You're darn right I'm proud of that. Am I J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or James Patterson? No and that is okay. My name is on the front cover of a book! The dream I had when I was a little girl came true! I'm almost done with the fifth book in the Max Hamby series....the FIFTH. I am proud of myself and you should be, too. I don't care if you haven't published yet, if you have one book or ten, YOU ARE AWESOME!
I think that's it for now, my friends. LOL, I don't usually write personal things, but there ya go. :) Please, don't lose heart. Keep going. You...We... need to have faith in ourselves, our writing and our ability to make our dreams come true. And remember, don't wait to begin. What is this life for if not to make ourselves happy?
Have a wonderful day!
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