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I'm often asked why I write. The simplest answer is: because I want to. But seriously, I love to write and when I'm pounding out the words on my little MacBookAir everything seems to feel right in the world.
Almost thirty years ago, I wrote my first song. After that, I wrote a few dozen more, along with a hundred poems... after all, aren't lyrics poetry too?
My first published prose happened to be one of those poems. On a whim, I'd sent a few off to a greeting card company and heard back from one of their editors. They sent me a contract, which I eagerly signed, licensing them to use my poem. They even gave me a credit on the card. I was on my way! Yeah! Well, not quite. Today, those poems and song lyrics are sitting in a box, buried somewhere in my basement. Maybe one day I'll go through the exercise of typing in all those poems (used a typewriter in those days), and then format them into something I can give away on Amazon. It'd be a project, but someone might give it a read.
I wrote my first novel almost fifteen years ago. A dreadful tale about the personification of Death—like that hasn't been done before. The writing was clunky, the grammar bad, but I was having fun. And then tragedy! With eighty percent of the first draft complete, my hard-drive crashed. Keep in mind that I am talking about a time before Dropbox or home networks and Drobos or even some decent backup software. I've kept the hard drive, promising myself to reclaim the platters if I ever make enough money from my writing. I do have one printed copy of that story, a partial at best, and guess where that is? The basement.
After almost finishing a novel, life got Lifey and a dozen years passed before the writing bug would strike again. I still remember the day… a Virginia Beach vacation with my family and a story suddenly popped in my head. I'm always coming up with stories, but this time I saw words too. Using an iPad and the Notes App, I jotted down the opening page. And that was that, I started writing and didn't stop for another 100k words..
I try to write and read a little every day, but life still gets lifey, and most of the time my lofty goal of a few thousand words amounts to just a few hundred. I never let that bother me—okay just a little—I do the best that I can. As for writing, I have a few things to share about that too, which you can find further down.
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If you're a new writer and trying to find the path to getting your words in front of readers, then indie publishing is one of the fastest.
Just recently, two well known authors wrote, edited and published new stories in the course of a single day. A few tweets, some posts on Facebook, and their fans were reading the new stories. And isn't that the goal?
How to get started?
When I'd first written a book, I had no idea what I was doing other than putting words on paper. I scoured the web, looking for answers to the questions I had, only to find that in most cases, I'd been asking the wrong questions. Publishing is a business: traditional or otherwise. Regardless of the success level you're after, put the time and effort into writing as much as you would with any other job.
Where did I find answers? How did I take that next step? I found Kindleboards.com, which has since been renamed to KBoards.com. Of particular value is the Writer's Cafe. I found myself visiting every day, asking questions, and even answering a few. I can't say enough about the community and how amazingly helpful the cafe is. I didn't personally know a single author before starting this journey. From the cafe, I've met dozens and have made new friendships.
There are a few recommendations that I kept, and still visit for a refresher every few months.
The first is Stephen King's On Writing: a must read! And when you finish reading it, then read it again. I'm not kidding.
Around the time of publishing my first book, Hugh Howey's Wool blew up. What an amazing run to watch, reading post after post at the cafe, wondering how far the story would go. Simply amazing.
From that success, Hugh gave back in the form of some fabulous blog posts. One post in particular was his advice to aspiring authors—bookmark his post and revisit it a few times a month and fill-up on inspiration. After all, inspiration is the secret sauce of every successful writer.
A piece of advice from Hugh's post that I've adopted is the balance of writing vs. everything else. Terrific writer and friend, Kay Bratt shares a similar message, and today I approach writing with this in mind. Today I'm a writer. Tomorrow I'll be a writer. I'll continue to be a writer and build my library for as long as I can. I've got the rest of my life to market and promote, but I have today to write.
I'll be the first to admit that promoting and marketing, and all that comes with it is not something that I commit as much time. When given the choice, I'll always side with putting my time into writing.
Once you've written your first story, you'll be in a position to hit the publish button. What are some of the tools and resources that I use? The list below is a basic list, which has been refined, and will continue to be updated as the tools continue to evolve.
Word - I put Microsoft Word first simply because nearly every platform that you can submit to will accept manuscripts in Word format. From Agents, to Amazon KDP and KindleWorlds, to every editor, Word is supported.
Pages - Apple's most excellent word processor, this is what I use every day. My love affair with this word processor blossomed a few years ago, but then with Apple's 5.0 release, the love has wilted some and I've started to feel a bit lost. The fix (though somewhat temporary) was to stay with version 4.3.
Scrivener - Quite a few authors have moved their entire writing workflow to the Scrivener platform. There isn't much that you can't do with Scrivener. After all story changes, and the umpteenth draft from the editor is vetted, it is time to format. You can always send the work out and have a service perform the formatting, but I like to do my own and Scrivener is one of the easiest.
Photoshop and InDesign - For cover work and print formatting. And like the eBook formatting, there are plenty of services out there, offering book covers and print formatting. I let time and challenge dictate the need. For the more ambitious covers, I go outside. The same is true for print formatting too.
Editors - I cannot emphasize enough just how very important it is to have your manuscript properly edited. If your manuscript is on the traditional publishing path then you can skip this step. However, if you're publishing on your own, then find an editor and work with them.
If you're lucky, you'll find a copy editor who can't help themselves and will wear the development editor's hat while working with your manuscript. Editors are readers first and can help a story shine with just a little bit of tugging and pushing.
Writer's Cafe - mentioned above. Stop right now, visit the Writer's Cafe and bookmark that page!!
Brian Johnson - The Breakfast Club
Who am I?
I'm a resident of Virginia, living with my wife and children, along with three cats (sometimes more), a mouse, parrot, lizard and the funniest chinchilla on the east coast.
Although I live in Virginia, my heart is still in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I grew up. And I hope that one day, I'll be able to call Philadelphia home again.
Growing up, I liked to read short stories, but struggled with the words. You see, I had a secret: a sad little secret. Ashamed and embarrassed, I was the little kid in the back row of the schoolroom, quietly moving my lips along with the class while everyone read aloud. I couldn't read. I couldn't write. I hoped nobody would notice, but they did. They always did.
By the time I'd reached the fourth grade, my secret wasn't a secret anymore. The teachers knew something was wrong. Dyslexia. Maybe that is why I liked science fiction so much? All those crazy looking glyphs on the screen, glowing, flashing.
The fix? Back to the third grade for me, and then special classes three days a week. It worked. Once I started reading, I never stopped. Stephen King, Piers Anthony, Dean Koontz, and even the Judy Blume books my sisters discarded.
I'm still one of the slowest readers I know, but school was never a problem again. I finally graduated the third grade, and then kept on going until I finished my Masters.
These days, I work as an engineer and spend my nights writing, editing and thinking up the next great story.