Writing a Book in a Month: Week Four

The final week of writing your novel should be dedicated to editing and preparing for launch. 

In a perfect world, anyway. 

But we don’t live there. 

Miraculously, I finished the book a few days ahead of schedule. I read my ending several dozen times, because I’ve never been confident in my ability to write a solid conclusion. I’m a regular Ryan Murphy – all my finales suck. 

I decided to take a break for a day or two, and then come back to the book with a fresh mind. 

Cue me missing more days than I meant. 

I’m the master of procrastination, and a career-making project couldn’t avoid my wrath. Or sloth. Both words kind of work. 

I needed help editing, and I truly feel that writers should admit this to themselves. It’s completely fine to edit your own work, but to make a piece as perfect as it can be, you need outside eyes. Those other perspectives will tell you what you need to hear, even if you don’t want to. 

A couple friends of mine (also writers, and very dear to my heart – especially after all their help) were eager to see my project, and when I asked for their assistance, they were more than happy to lend a hand. I sent them copies of the manuscript and waited. 

And waited. 

And waited. 

One of the worst moments of being a writer, is waiting for feedback. 

Do they love it? Hate it? Are they bored? Oh God, help me, if they’re bored!!! 

After a couple days, I received my first few pages of notes. 

Admittedly, they hurt. I couldn’t blame anyone but myself, however, because some of the issues I was aware of. While writing, I struggled through certain parts – as any writer does with any story. I told myself I would come back during the editing phase. 

No matter how much we prepare, critiques can sting. The work is our baby, and we would do anything to defend it. 

But taking those criticisms and turning them into positive change? That’s the best thing you can do for your baby. Think of it this way: you’re making this creation the best possible version of itself, so it can stand on its own and succeed. 

My friends were telling me things I needed to hear, and honestly, the story became significantly better because of that. The parts I doubted were suddenly clear, fitting and flowing flawlessly with the rest of the book. The emotional payoff in the end made sense, with a few simple tweaks here and there.

Shortly after I made those edits, I received more feedback from another friend. They found details that were confusing – things I’d forgotten to elaborate on. I made mental notes to myself, but at this point, I should know that those never work. I’m too forgetful. 

With all the edits in hand, I worked through the day (and yes, I broke my four-hour maximum rule) to finish the final product.

Thankfully, I had already worked on the cover – which I absolutely recommend saving for the end. 

I had bigger fish to fry, and that came in the form of figuring out the Kindle Create program. First, I needed to install it. Though I can’t say why I was apprehensive, I ended up liking the software a lot more than I expected. Formatting wasn’t as big of a pain as I had imagined it to be, and making sure the ebook looked right was pretty easy. Kindle Create is kinda self-explanatory (thank God), and for the parts I felt any confusion towards, I just Googled. Now, I might just make a separate post explaining the program more in depth, so let me know if you have any questions.

This last part only took an hour or so, and then I was ready to assemble the Final final version. 

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is also quite easy to navigate. I plugged in all the information (and messed up only once on uploading the correct manuscript), checked one last time for errors, then submitted the book. 

Glancing at the clock, I couldn’t help but laugh. I spent so much time not having something published, and I realized it was time wasted. If I wrote a book in a month, what could I do in two? Three? 

I learned a lot from the challenge – most of which I’ll keep with me as I write future books. 

As for advice, I do have a few last pieces for you. 

1.) Don’t take critique too personally. Call those comments what they are: room for improvement. If you ever stop improving, are you really living? 

2.) Save the cover for last. You start your book with an idea of what you want, but stories can grow beyond expectations. They can take on a life of their own, and the final version may not fit what you originally pictured. It’s best to wait, so you can create a perfect cover for a perfect story. 

3.) If you have a deadline, make sure to collect some editors beforehand so nobody is rushing. Your editors are the last line of defense between you and a bad book. 

4.) Self-publishing is almost too easy. Don’t let yourself fall off track, because you might not get back on.

5.) You should prepare yourself. Sometimes, you’ll have to axe your favorite scenes. Sometimes, pieces just don’t fit. By all means, try to make them work if you really want – but know when to throw the towel in. Personally, I fight to the death for every scene I write. I’m confident in my ability as a writer to make everything work, and in the end, I think that’s what really matters. If you can justify it to yourself, go ahead. Which brings me to my final point.

6.) Write the stories YOU want to read. If you’re writing for one person, you’ll be surprised how many others hop on the bandwagon.

Writing a Book in a Month: Week Three

We all fuck up. 

We all have that moment where we realize we’ve made a grave mistake, and sometimes we might think, “Huh, this was definitely a foreshadowed moment in my life.” 

I recall thinking – early in my project – missing a couple days wouldn’t be the end of the world. As I mentioned in the last post, DO NOT LISTEN TO THAT MORON. That little voice telling you to relax? NO. They lie profusely, because all they want are chocolates and mindless hours of YouTube. 

How do I know? I’m glad you asked. 

Texas is the dumbest state in the country – and we have stiff competition with Florida in the running. 

Snow effectively spanked us. There were a lot of tragedies, but I won’t go into it. 

In my small town, people lost their minds. 

While the roads were dangerous, I was in a lucky (or, unlucky, depending on how you wanna look at it) position. I lived absurdly close to both work and a grocery store. Mind you, the town doesn’t take long to drive through in the first place, so… everywhere is close. I was just extra close. 

The freeze started on my second to last day. I helped salt and sand the most slick areas people would use (it’s a hospital, so naturally ALL of it gets a lot of foot traffic). I didn’t know what to expect, because like an idiot, I just didn’t read the weather reports. 

Snow never hit us, and I couldn’t remember the last time the roads were too icy to travel on. 

Boy, was I fucking stupid. 

I wake up to what should be my Friday, my last day before I can relax and do nothing (except work on my writing, of course). 

I’m the only employee other than my supervisor to show up. I work security, so it’s not like we can just… not be at work. 

I do my job for the day, careful not to slip and break anything (I almost do, twice). 

When I say goodbye, my supervisor asks if I can make myself available for the next day. Definitely not the day after, because everything should be fine. 

Spoiler alert: everything is not fine. 

I come in on both days off, because the roads are still frozen. In fact, they’ve frozen over worse! On top of that, I was in the midst of trying the Keto diet. So in between cooking foods that I strive to make bearable when reheated, I’m driving at two centimeters an hour to work, when I should be writing! 

If I could’ve gotten out of it, I would’ve. Unfortunately, my supervisor knew I lived nearby, and was already tasked with driving out to pick up people who were too nervous to drive. We gotta love that capitalism, baby. 

By the end of the day, I found myself exhausted. I could hardly think, let alone write. 

So for a grueling period, my story took a backseat to the day job. 

I felt unreasonable amounts of guilt and panic, which added on to stress I didn’t need to have in the first place. I kept wondering, will I finish in time? 

Will I be able to succeed in my challenge? 

What will I do if I fail? 

I know myself. I’m terrified of failure. 

I hate starting anything if I have a feeling I’ll suck. This is my worst trait, as it has gotten me out of several things that might’ve been great had I just tried

Instead of wasting time dwelling on the “could have been,” however, I forced myself to find time. Though I was stuck at my job, I had the task of sitting inside a guard shack to screen all the people coming in and out. I had access to a computer, and I could easily email files to myself. Rather than complain about burning eight hours doing nothing, I had the chance to get in my maximum of four hours. 

Pushing through the hump, I made it out to the other side. 

I had a good flow when I was able to write, and I put myself back on track. I only had so much time before the month ended, but I was ready to climb this uphill battle. 

I still needed to finish the grand finale and edit. 

Then, the hardest part. 

A cover, and a final title. 

Advice for the week: Push yourself when you can. Sometimes it’s good for you and your brain to see how far you can go. Don’t let arbitrary reasons stop you from doing what you want. 

Writing a Book in a Month: Week One

Admittedly, I started the project feeling confident. 

Sort of. 

I’m sitting at my desk, strumming my fingers along the keyboard as I think of a plot for my story. At this point, I’m scolding myself. I should’ve considered planning an outline first. Will this count towards the twenty-eight days? Maybe I can just finish a current work in progress. That wouldn’t be cheating. 

The first day came with a first hurdle. 

I’ve heard many writers discuss the pros and cons of outlines, and whether or not they’re useful. Personally, I enjoyed using them. 

Of course, every time I start writing, the story escapes me. There’s ideas and scenes which I never account for – scenes which I ultimately couldn’t see the story without. 

So maybe I’m a little bit on the fence. Currently, I like having outlines solely to stray from them. I consider them the bare bones, and since I’m only just starting, I have no idea what the meat and flesh looks like on this creature. I can’t predict what their final hair color will be, or what their strange scars and birth marks will look like. 

Those answers come as I write, and then again as I edit. 

Day one ended with nothing. 

I stared at the empty word document and hung my head in shame. 

I distracted myself with work around the house and going out for a quick coffee (masks and social distancing guidelines were included). 

On day two, an idea struck me. I ran on the treadmill and listened to music, when I remembered a word my brother-in-law told me: hikikomori. 

Hikikomori , also known as “acute social withdrawal,” is total withdrawal from society and seeking extreme degrees of social isolation and confinement. Hikikomori refers to both the phenomenon in general and the recluses themselves. 

I thought about a business he mentioned, where professional cuddlers would visit with these types of people to help them reintegrate into society. These people weren’t weird or scary. They were just like you and me – the only difference was they got a little lost on their journey in life. 

After using the cuddling business, some were able to lead successful and happy lives. They wanted to meet people, have friends, and start families. All they needed was a boost. 

I admired the idea, and the courage it must have taken to reach out for help. 

Then I realized: that is the story I want to tell. 

Thus, “The Cuddle Project” began. 

I opened a fresh browser to research names, jotting down notes in one of my (many, many) notebooks. The final choices only took a few revisions each, and I didn’t include this research and planning into my writing time. 

Once I finished deciding who the characters were, I set an alarm for one hour and began my story. Miraculously, I didn’t hate the first draft! I wrote surprisingly fast – the words poured out with an ease I hadn’t seen since I told my first story. 

When the buzzer went off, I realized I wrote twice as much as I normally would in that amount of time. I wondered if this was a fluke, or if cutting off all distraction really did help. I always thought music motivated me, but perhaps I had changed over the years. 

Or I could’ve just been wrong the entire time. 

I decided to test it on days three and four. 

While I did reach some struggle, I still wrote more than I expected. I finished an entire chapter, and mapped an outline in less than a week. The story began writing itself, and I found immense joy in my work. 

By the end of the week, I had general ideas of where I wanted to be by the middle of my story. 

However, problems awaited me. 

I had no idea how to write a suitable ending. 

Advice for the week: figure out the first half of your story, and only the first half. The rest will come to you along the way.