This is part 1 of my series called, “Creating Silver.” This blog and its posts will talk about the troubles I went through brainstorming, writing, and publishing The Silver Ninja. I will talk about user reviews, sales, editing, marketing and any other miscellaneous obstacles I encountered along the way. I’m also going to talk about what went wrong.
What went horribly wrong…
Let’s start off with the writing. A lot of people seem to think that the difficulty in writing is in being able to have the patience to sit down and write something out. Although this is true for most people, it is far from being the most difficult part of the writing process. Writing truly becomes difficult when you need to explain the links and chains that you have already established in your head but have not put down on paper. When it does finally get typed up, you also need to make sure you communicated those ideas effectively.
There was one instance where I was reading the proof of my book and realized I made a continuity error in what season the book took place. I made one teeny tiny error that said something like, “The sun was setting a little earlier than usual as daylight savings hadn’t kicked in yet.” This tiny little sentence that I had forgotten about, changed the season from Spring to Winter. Well, winter would be cool (no pun intended)… except that I intended for everything to take place in the Spring and Summer.
This one, seemingly irrelevant oversight, changed the entire setting of my book! If it’s winter, the trees are bare of leaves; there may be snow on the ground; and Cindy would be wearing much heavier clothing. I easily corrected this mistake, but you can imagine as the reader, that this would be confusing to read. When you’re the writer, you don’t feel confused because you know what’s happening in your book. One of the commercials I saw on TV said it best, “It’s all up in here.” Meaning, he didn’t need his paperwork and documents because he had it all memorized.
Well the writer is that person who has it all up in their brain. You know the setting; you know why the character is behaving erratic; you know what they look like. When you as the writer are armed with this knowledge, (especially a new writer) you easily forget that you’re supposed to tell people what’s going on! Oh but wait! Nope, you can’t “tell” them not literally at least, because the reader wants to use their mind’s eye to envision the scene and the characters. So instead, you have to “show” them what’s going on and let their imagination assemble the pieces.
You can imagine how difficult this is for a writer, you can’t tell your reader anything but you have to show them what you’re envisioning and communicate it in easy to understand terms. But wait, hang on! The readers aren’t stupid, they don’t want you to talk to them as if they are babies and patronize them. So you have to find a mix between obscure words, mainstream words, and somehow find a way to make it seem like they belong in the same sentence with one another.
BUT WAIT! What if you reached the end of your 80,000 word book and realized that you want character C to replace character A because the story would be more interesting? Ho ho, well get ready to whip out your magnifying glass because now you have to comb through 80,000 words in order to make sure you caught all the changes.
You can’t just do Ctrl F and replace all, that will help you get started but won’t finish the job accurately. If your character was male and is replaced by a female character, well… now you have to look for all the he’s, his, him’s. If you do replace all, you run the risk of affecting ALL of your male characters. No, no, no, no, you have to re-read it for the 6 billionth time and make the changes as you’re reading it. But hey, it’s your 6 billionth time, so you kind of know every scene by heart and don’t realize that your brain is skimming over the corrections because it’s sick and tired of reading the book… again.
So when your editor or trusted friend reads over your laborious project, they start to find the spots that you missed and next thing you know, you’re surprised to learn that you missed a lot of spots. Oh, and God help you if you have more than 10 main or supporting characters to keep track of. You are f’ed my friend.
Not all is doom and gloom however, it’s just the necessary evil of the writing process. Obviously, experience will be the key factor in helping you avoid these issues, but you can’t build experience without actually writing something down. In fact, once you’re on a writing roll, it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences a writer can have. You start thinking about what’s going to happen next and how you can weave your way through the narrative. You start thinking about what kind of devious obstacles you can put forth for your character and then devise a way to solve them. You (the writer) are essentially the creator of your own problems. Keep that in mind when you start getting headaches trying to figure out how to write yourself out of the huge mess you created.
Really, the key to writing a good book is in my opinion 2 things:
1.) Being able to clearly communicate what you’re trying to say without patronizing the reader.
2.) Having characters and a plot you care about. You want the protagonist to win and you want the plot to keep you guessing, feed the plot with conflict and voila!
Now as proud as I am having written and published The Silver Ninja after 10 years, well, let’s be honest… it’s not perfect. I ran into a lot of problems writing this book and it shows. First off, the fact that it took me 10 years is usually not a good sign. I wrote it as a screenplay first, converted it into a prose narrative, switch it to first person perspective, then switched it back to 3rd person narrative. During all these changes, it was getting difficult to keep the plot and continuity consistent.
Not only that, but one of the big things that I didn’t have at my disposal was a general understanding of what readers liked to read. I really don’t have any “reader” friends, so it wasn’t possible to get writing feedback from people who read books all the time.This left me at a disadvantage of understanding where my writing fell on the love it or hate it spectrum. I didn’t know how what kind of descriptive language was acceptable; didn’t recognize the plot holes; didn’t see the continuity issues; and didn’t know if the message I was trying to convey was too vague. Then there’s always that wonderful surprise where a reader finds an issue that you overlooked, something about a chocolate banana? Either way, all these issues that were pointed out to me, shed to light the one critical thing that the book was lacking in.
What I really needed, was a content editor.
I’ll be talking about editing in Part 2 of Creating Silver.