Monday, June 4, 2012

The Journey of Self-Publishing #1: First Drafts and Revisions

Thoughts At One In The Morning is proud to present a blog post series for unpublished writers on the self-publishing world. I have asked four indie authors to share with you the different steps they have taken on their journey. They will discuss the writing process itself, the steps in between, and publishing itself. Please join us every week for a new topic on the journey to becoming an indie author!

Our Indie Author panel:

Marie Landry, author of Blue Sky Days
You can find her on her blog Ramblings Of A Daydreamer.

A.M. Hargrove, author of The Guardians Of The Vesteron series
You can find her on her blog A.M. Hargrove.

Avery Sawyer, author of Notes To Self
You can find her on her website The Teashop Girls.

Michelle Flick, author of The Owens Legacy: Revelations
You can find her on her blog Oh! For the LOVE of BOOKS!.


This week on The Journey of Self-Publishing:

~First Drafts and Revisions~

So… I’m writing a book and want to get published. What can I do to make my book the best it can be?

Michelle Flick: Have every single person you know who likes to read, read your book. I learned quickly how important people's opinions are and they will pick up on things you missed.

Marie Landry: My three best tips would be: don’t rush it; make sure you have multiple people read and critique it; and read as much as possible in the genre you’re writing, so you know what works and what doesn’t work, then apply those principles to your own writing.

Avery Sawyer: Ask as many people as you can to read it and give you feedback. Spend time working on several revisions. This process should take months, not days or weeks. Once your draft is absolutely as strong as you and your four closet friends can get it, pay a professional editor to copy-edit it. Readers hate typos, even minor ones.

A.M. Hargrove: Join Goodreads and join groups that match up with your genre. There are tons of groups with tons of members. Read some of the popular books the group is discussing. Then read the reviews to understand the readers' expectations. Become friends with readers and find beta readers that can guide you and suggest ways to make your story better. Then, when your final draft is complete, find a good editor. Ask other authors who they use. Make connections through other authors.

How did you go about your first draft and revisions?

Michelle Flick: I finished the first draft - gave it to a friend - and prayed it wasn't horrible. She pointed out some gaping holes, some good stuff, and asked me questions to further develop what I had written. So in the end, find someone to edit the first draft who is supportive of you.

Marie Landry: I wrote the first draft of Blue Sky Days when I was 20. I knew it needed a lot of fleshing out, but I had no idea what to add, or how to make it better. I put it away for seven years, and when I brought it back out last year, I was better equipped to ‘finish’ it (life experience, writing experience, writing school, etc). I doubled the word count during the first round of revisions, and then added another 10-20,000 words through the rest of the revisions. I looked at what needed to be changed, what needed to be clarified, how to make the characters better, that sort of thing.

Avery Sawyer: I pretty much followed the advice [I stated] above. I had the help of my agent and his assistant as well. I know this isn’t always an option for self-published authors, which is why critique groups, family members, and trusted friends are so important.

A.M. Hargrove: I revise as I write. It's easier for me to make major changes that way. I learned the hard way though. At first, I sent the entire manuscript to beta readers. Then I had major revisions to make. Now, I sent them sections. That way if major changes need to be made, I can get them done and continue on with the story, instead of having to go back and change entire sections.

Did you outline or free write?

Marie Landry: A bit of both. When I get an idea, I write it down, and usually as I’m writing it down, more of the story unfolds and I keep writing. Sometimes it’s linear, sometimes it’s all over the place, but I make sure to write it all down. Then in the actual writing process, at least half of what goes into the story is stuff that pops up out of nowhere. I’ve learned to just go with it.

Avery Sawyer: I mostly free write, but I’ve outlined on occasion. I’ll usually figure out what needs to happen in a scene before I sit down to write it. My novels are fairly episodic, which makes the process easier for me.

A.M. Hargrove:  I do a loose outline and then free write. My characters start to develop themselves. They speak to me and that's how I form my subplots, conflicts, etc. When I start, I have the most rudimentary idea of how it will pan out, but everything in between develops as I go along.

Is there anything you would do differently?

Avery Sawyer: I should be more disciplined and outline more. I’m going to make myself do that next time. (I say this every time).

A.M. Hargrove: When I wrote Survival, I had no idea that Goodreads existed, nor did I know what a beta reader was. If I could do it all over, I would have joined Goodreads a year or more before I did and then do what I suggested above. I would join groups and connect with bloggers and other authors and solicit their advice.


Thank you for the great advice on first drafts and revisions!

Join us next week when our Indie Author panel will discuss in more detail Beta Readers and the importance of them for your novel.


  1. Thanks for the great advice. I'm already loving this new segment. I think my biggest issue is that I don't have any patience whatsoever and keep expecting that the whole process can be done in a matter of weeks as opposed to months. My MS is with beta readers at the moment and in many ways, I dread that even more than if it were with readers!

    1. I've been dealing with that too--wanting it to go faster and getting frustrated when it takes longer. I was hoping to be further along at this point of the year, at least to where you are! I don't think you need to worry too much, you're a great writer. I shouldn't be talking though, I am a bit paranoid of sharing my MS with beta readers. :P

  2. Great advise, it is good to see so many different ways to go about the first draft. I have been wondering lately if I am doing things wrong, but it looks like there really is no wrong way to go about writing a first draft. I am really looking forward to next week about beta readers!

    1. That's the great thing about the different perspectives, isn't it? I've been learning so much about authors lately and it makes me feel pretty good about my writing. :)

  3. Great advice! Especially sending your MS to a copy editor. I'm so wary of indie books because of bad grammar, spelling etc.

    1. I know! ;) I think, aside from being able to write well, the most important thing is to make sure to get a REALLY good editor.


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