My Blog

Getting Ready for July Camp NaNoWriMo

This week (and probably the next two as well), I am getting ready for the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t already know what this means, it’s a free, online camp version of National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write anywhere from 10,000 words upward in 30 days.

I’m planning to write the rough draft of Time Will Tell, the first novel of a fantasy idea I got from a chance comment during April Camp. The idea started with a world with two suns, which creates a two-day time zone system. Hence the need for a fantasy world, since magic clearly has to be involved here.

Now that I’m committed to this project for July, that gives me 19 days to figure out my outline–a project I’ve been working on since April camp. This is a big project for me. I’ve got to figure out the world I’ve created, how two completely different kinds of magicians work their magic, decide how to fit in all the unique and fun characters I’ve already come up with, and make sure I’ve got enough conflict and plot to carry an entire novel. Fortunately, I’ve got an able brainstorming buddy in my brother, who is also a talented writer. But when it comes to the logical, story structure part, I’m basically on my own.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is just a rough draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. That’s what revisions are for. I have to shut off that part of my brain that wants to nitpick every little detail, and insists on criticizing everything I do. Writing is supposed to be fun, and this project was meant to be a fun, crazy, whimsical idea. Let’s hope I can survive this.

Writing and Formatting Software

I recently received the proof copy of Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories. I had spent hours trying to polish the stories, and two full days trying to format the book for print using LibreOffice. I do NOT recommend trying to format for print using a word processing program. Maybe some people can do it more easily than I can. What I found is that every time I closed the file and reopened it, the pages had shifted. My custom paragraph styles had been renamed and transformed. My page styles had changed, adding page numbers and headers where I needed a perfectly blank page.

I spent hours figuring it out. And I finally got it, and saved the file to pdf, and uploaded it to CreateSpace. I got the cover worked out and uploaded that pdf file. Then I ordered the proof copy. But there were problems.

I found one too many typos in the story, so I felt like I needed to go back in and correct them. But that meant going back to the shifting pages and formatting them again. Out of sheer frustration, I decided it was time to learn how to use Scribus, a free desktop publishing program.

I found a course on Udemy.com for learning how to use Scribus, but the course is mostly geared toward magazine layouts, since that’s what the instructor uses it for. It gave me a start, but I needed more. So I bought D. J. Mills’ e-book, Creating Print on Demand Covers and Interiors Using Scribus 1.4.1. That gave me much of the information I was missing and helped to create my own template. There may be better books available; I don’t know. I chose that one, because the author mentioned it on one of my writing forums. And it helped. I was able to get my book interior formatted in a lot less time than I had already spent on it.

I’m still not happy with the cover. It’s too orange, and after seeing the artwork for Catspaw, Persnickety looks too amateurish for me. I’m going to be working on my cover some more. And I still need to proof the interior of the book again, since I did make changes and reformatted. But at least the interior pages will stay where I put them, now. I know they aren’t going to suddenly move up, leaving a big blank space, or decide to throw in a page number where I didn’t want it.
Formatting for print is still nit-picky, detailed work. I think my eyes still hurt. I can see why a lot of indie authors only offer their books as e-books. I use Scrivener for all my writing, and it’s so easy to compile to an epub or a .mobi file.

And after all that work, it’s expensive to print a paperback using Print on Demand. The other option would be worse, ordering five hundred or a thousand copies of a book, and trying to sell them myself. Being an indie author is not a course for the faint of heart or the lazy. For that matter, neither is being an author. Yes, we probably are crazy for putting ourselves through this…for spending hours creating something that may never be read or appreciated. But there’s nothing like seeing your first book available for sale, or holding that printed book in your hand.

What Happened After The Beetle in the Bathtub

Earlier this week, I posted a short tongue-in-cheek story about a beetle in a bathtub. It was meant to be a little inspirational, and a little humorous. The idea was that if you keep trying, someone might feel sorry for you and help you out. Not long after I posted the story, it actually came true for me.

While struggling up the slippery wall of my own goals, I reached out to someone for information. The information turned into an exchange which got me something I need for much less than it was worth, or than I could remotely afford to pay. I won’t go into details, because I made a promise. Suffice it to say that someone reached down and gave me a boost to the next stage of my climb. I will be forever grateful to this person. But there’s something I’m even more grateful for.

This person’s kindness reminded me to be kinder myself—to reach out and help someone up when I get the chance. It reminded me that I need to look for those opportunities to “pay it forward” even when it means losing an hour or so of my precious work time.  So then the question is, what skills do I have that I could use to help people? I’ve thought about writing a book and donating the profits, as J. K. Rowling has done. I’ve thought about the skills I currently have, and the knowledge I’m trying to collect, and whether any of it is useful enough to  help new writers, or entrepreneurs trying to start a new business.  And I don’t know.

How do you pay it forward? How have people helped you in the past? What kind of help do you wish you could find?

Looking for Beta Readers

I’m looking for a few more beta readers for my manuscripts. Right now I am working on Catspaw, a young adult fantasy novel about a young prince who is turned into a kitten to save him from his evil uncle. Ten years later, he turns back into a human, and goes in search of his lost memories. As he learns of his past and prepares to face his uncle, he discovers that things are not what they seem.

I’m sending this manuscript out to my beta readers soon, so they can read it and tell me what they think…if they liked it…if the story works…if any parts of it are unclear, dull, or just choppy. I will be emailing out a digital file to my volunteers. If you would like to help me out by reading and giving me your opinion, use the contact form and let me know that you would like to be added to my list of beta readers, or email me at mail@jhknightley.com with your preferred email address.

For everyone else, stay tuned for updates on Catspaw!