On Writing – Process Improvements

Beneath the Wood is finished. I took the thing from idea, to draft, to second draft, to third draft, querying, to Kindle, back to fourth draft, then to a paperback edition. I started BtW in July 2015, and it’s done as of the very start of 2017. A year and a half even.

I wanted to take a moment to discuss my initial approach to Beneath the Wood, what the journey ended up being, and how I learned from it for future project management. I discussed in a much older post how before writing BtW I deleted all my previous writing in order to force focus and drive a single project to completion. When I started, and up until October 2016, my plan was to make it as good as I possibly could, query around to agents with it, and if nothing became of it, I’d know I’d gone the distance and could publish on Kindle.

Originally, I wanted to consider publishing it on Kindle in October “the end” of the road for the project, but when I shared the fact it was available for download, a few friends pointed out they’d have loved a paperback edition. I did some research and found the steps to self publish a paperback edition are actually not much more difficult than uploading to Kindle.

By this point, I had spent six months to write BtW, months on multiple rereads, rewrites from notes and feedback, and I happened to run into an old friend from my Newspaper days in college who- incidentally- does work on the side as a proofreader. I felt confident that the story was where it needed to be, but I knew from readers on the Kindle version that there were typos that I’m not as good at catching. So, (as also previously discussed), I hired her to do the final polish.

I also didn’t want a paperback edition of the book to have a placeholder cover. Call me vain, but if I’m going to that trouble to ask people to pay eight times more for something that’ll take up space on their shelves, I think it should have more than just a stock image and layout. So, I also commissioned an artist friend to make a cover for me while the book was in its final review with my aforementioned editor.

My point in all this is that over the course of the year and a half I was working on BtW, the goal post did move, and as it moved, I put more work in and added to the process in ways I didn’t foresee when I started (hiring a proofreader and cover artist for example.) I learned from small missteps (for example, I wish I had published Kindle and Paperback versions simultaneously).

So, I’ve got Five Talents now at the place where I started querying around BtW last year. However, this time, my thinking is: well I should hire my editor to proofread at some point, why not do so before I start querying? Also, my cover artist needs a good amount of time to let my commission prompt gestate, so why not let her know months ahead of when I’ll need the cover also?

The point is, as the above video prompted, I’ve rebuilt the process. I’ve learned from BtW, and while I am proud of the distance I took it and and satisfied in calling it a completed project which I stand beside proudly, I can improve the process and journey I took to get it there. I’m taking those steps to move forward now with Five Talents and eventually with Unicorns.

I warned my friends this week, who’ve been congratulating me and asking when the next one would be: “they’re coming hard and fast now. Beneath the Wood was the warm up.”

I’m honored to have been inspired to write the story at all, but I’m glad the story demanded the kind of patience and thoughtfulness that I could take it so slowly and learn from it as I did.

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