Are You an Innie or an Outie?

Most professional authors, agents, etc. will advise you to cut your first draft by about 10%, so you can whittle out the fat and make it clean, lean and entertaining. That advice never worked for me as I always wrote my first drafts far too short. My first draft of my (eventually) published book was so short they told me to add 20,000 words to bring it to standard length.

My background in writing started in media, print and television and eventually the web. Words counts in those areas is ridiculously short but the trick there is to be punchy, get to the point and tell the story as thoroughly as you can in the space allowed. That’s what I did.

That training is ingrained in my writing. I get to the point then have to go back and fill in the details I left out.

I am an innie.

Other people I know write first drafts that can be double the appropriate word count for a specific type of book. 500,000 words makes a really good epic fantasy or a trilogy but a novel of that size is likely to be returned, unopened, postage collect.

This is something you need to recognize in yourself. Just say it: I’m an outie. I write long first drafts so I know that I will be cutting and tightening, using better words to say what takes a sentence or two, when I edit the thing. Don’t worry about it initially, just do it long.

For me, and my ilk, we know we need to look for places to expand, to fill in the descriptions of people and places and actions for our readers. So don’t worry if your first draft ends up at 50,000 words. You’ll put them in later. Just be an innie.

My Big Switch (from traditional to self publishing)

I was determined to publish my first book in the traditional way. It just felt like all the work I put into writing, editing, rewriting, pitching, getting rejected and continuing to try to sell the book would have been wasted if I simply gave up and put it out myself. That and I had to answer the real question underlying all of my efforts: was my book good enough to get published? It sounds bad I know but, as writers of any type or genre we are always putting ourselves out there for the approval of others. It felt like self publishing was and admission that no one actually wanted my book. I could have reached that realization after my first 100 or so rejections. 

Finally the book was picked up by a small publisher in Ontario and I had my life's dream in hand. I was a published author. As it was, there was no difference between the two as far as the effort required on my part to sell the book. I have known authors who benefitted from working with large publishers, with publicists and agents and all that, but I didn't get that. I got the right to say I was traditionally published which got me into bookstores, libraries and official government records. I still had to personally sell the book, which I did with book signings, library visits and any other opportunity I could find. Then the worst thing that could happen, did happen. 

I had finished writing the sequel to the first book and submitted it to my publisher only to find they had closed shop and no longer existed. This presented several problems: the first book had been out about a year and my efforts to sell the book were beginning to catch on. I had sold a few hundred books myself but I had no idea how many had sold through stores or Amazon. Now, with the book being orphaned, people could no longer buy the book. My one actual published novel had vanished from the bookshelves, real nd digital, overnight. Not only that, it basically killed the sequel as well as very few publishers will consider picking up a sequel to a book they don't sell. 

So what do I do? After a reasonable time of mourning the loss of my status as a published author, I set out to re-register the book and put it out under my own name. This was easier than it might have been otherwise because I had access to the original files for the book and the people who I worked with from the old publisher. Always keep your contacts in the industry, you never know when you may need to work with them again. 

Now it's done. Jacky the Brave is once again on the market at Amazon, Kobo and Apple as well as for Print on Demand. Now I can finish editing the sequel and prepare it for publishing as well. 

I would like to return to the traditional publishing world with a future book but right now I don't see a difference. A good self-published work requires the same level of effort and professionalism as traditionally published books, there are no shortcuts. Anyone can put their writing out for people to read, but that doesn't mean they all should.