I got to open an exciting package yesterday from Blurb (a book printing company that I highly recommend). Blurb has been having deal after great deal after great deal since Thanksgiving. I took advantage of a 40% off coupon code and printed copies of my (very rough) works-in-progress. I was amazed at how awesome my books looked when I took them out of the box. I keep picking them up and admiring them. They look so professional. I feel quite proud for having completed a project, or rather, TWO projects. Merry Christmas to me!
I hope your Christmas is joyful and book-filled.
I recently took a break from editing my book and worked on some cover art. Instead of “borrowing” images from the internet, I decided to do some original artwork.
My novel is a historical thriller that intertwines the story of Queen Elizabeth I with a modern tale, complete with puzzles. I wanted my cover to look modern, but hint at the history that is included within.
First, I printed off some reference pictures. Queen Elizabeth I is pretty iconic, so I thought her image would look great on a cover.
Next, I sketched out a design and colored it in. Afterwards, I scanned it into my computer so I could play around with the image.
I tried out different layouts and fonts. I want the cover to be clean, but something that would interest me if I saw it on a bookshelf. As of yet, I haven’t hit on the winning design, but I’m enjoying the process. Now that I look at it, I think readers may get the wrong impression about the book – the Queen Elizabeth sections are much shorter than the modern day parts. I’ll have to rethink this and keep playing around. I also felt like my font choices were pretty limited. I’ll have to download some new ones soon.
What about a book’s design makes you want to pick it up off the shelf?
Oh, what’s that you say? You’ve never read one of my books before? That’s because I am not a famous author. My books do not appear in any library or bookstore anywhere. It’s hard to get your hands on a book when it doesn’t exist! Even so, I’m going to talk a little bit about my writing process today.
- An idea usually floats around in my head for awhile before it ever gets close to a piece of paper. Most likely, I have thought about it a lot while in the shower! And when I can’t get to sleep at night, I start plotting in my head. For some reason, this helps me sleep!
- I like to write the types of books that I read, so my books have a YA vibe – fast paced, teen or college-age characters, with some humor and romance.
- I’ll use some online name generators and baby naming websites to help name characters.
- For some projects, I’ll have to do research. For example, one of my projects is a historical thriller à la Steve Berry/Dan Brown that intertwines a modern day story with Queen Elizabeth I, so I needed to learn a lot about Queen Elizabeth. I printed copies of the information I found, highlighted them, and made notes of anything that was useful to me. I also printed off information about how succession of the crown works.
- A very basic plot line will help me map out what I want the story to do, but this often changes as I start writing.
- Jotting down notes of character descriptions and settings (sometimes even using Google Maps) helps me stay consistent as I write.
- Even though I really love my laptop and tablets, I usually start out with a handwritten copy of my story. This gives me the ability to doodle as I get stuck, and keeps me away from the very distracting internet.
- The exception to this was when I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2013. I didn’t have time to write and type it all up later, so I did all the writing on my laptop.
- Writing a rough draft takes a LONG time. I’ll often reach a point and get STUCK. This makes me want to give up, but eventually I’ll figure out a way to get the story back on track.
- After I’ve written a nice big chunk of story, I type it up and print it out. Then I go through and mark it up. I add missing details or more interesting word choices, cut anything that isn’t necessary, and move lines around so the story makes more sense. I also continue writing and add on to the story.
- I’ll basically stay in this revising/drafting/revising/drafting loop for awhile.
- Another thing I’ve started doing is making my story available to read on my Kindle and tablets so I can see if I enjoy my story. Am I writing something I’d like to read? Am I writing something other people would like to read?
- I don’t bother editing until the story is finished or close to being finished. Again, I print the document and mark it up. I especially watch out for verb tenses. And those darn adverbs that keep filling up the page!
- I’ll also refer to grammar sites online to make sure my punctuation is correct and that my metaphors are worded correctly.
- I also circle words that are overused and search for more interesting words with thesaurus.com.
- Sometimes I’ll take a break when I get stuck and work on cover designs instead. This is a good way to feel productive…without actually writing!
- When I’ve gone through the entire writing process and feel proud of the work I’ve accomplished, I use Blurb to create a real copy of my work.
So while I’m a long way off from becoming a bestseller, I really enjoy working on my writing projects. It also helps me understand and appreciate the talent and hard work that must go into all of the books I read every year. Writing a novel is not easy, and anyone who says it is probably hasn’t tried it themselves!
What are your tips and tricks for writing a book?
A Reading Update:
Since my last update, I finished reading a book and am 60% through another. I read the second book in Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty series called It’s Not Summer Without You in just a few days. I really enjoy Jenny Han’s novels and have read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You, as well as the Burn for Burn trilogy she wrote with Siobhan Vivian. The Summer series has three books in it, so I’ve still got to read that one, but overall, I feel like the Summer series is the weakest of Han’s works. The main character, Belly, is just a bit too juvenile and whiny. She adores two brothers and can’t figure out which one she should date. Their mom is dealing with cancer, so I was sometimes annoyed by how much Belly thought of herself. That being said, the (ridiculous) love triangle sucked me in and I have to read the third book in the series to see how it ends!
Currently, I’m reading Invincible Summer by Alice Adams. Since this book cleverly has “Summer” in the title, it was on a lot of “perfect summer reads” lists. The book is adult fiction and follows four friends as they navigate relationships and careers after college. There are parts of this book that I like, and even moments I can relate to because I’m similar to the character’s ages and places in life, but I’m still on the fence about it. I’m over halfway through the novel and I still can’t tell why the book is called Invincible Summer. Sure, the epigraph has a quote that uses the phrase “invincible summer,” but I thought more of the book would take place during the summer, or that there would be an epic summer that would impact the characters’ lives. I guess I’ll just have to keep reading to find out more.
A Writing Update:
I went back to a novel that I had been working on years ago and discovered that I had written an ending AND gone through and edited it once. I was surprised at this! So I’m going to make the changes to the text and then print up a copy. I know it’s rough, but I can’t see what I’m working with yet. I think seeing it in its entirety will be useful. Also, I’ll feel like I actually finished a writing project.
What are you reading and writing this Creativember?