A self-published author’s diligence

Throughout development of The Greatest Game, conversations with friends, family and colleagues concerning self-publishing consistently saw a certain opinion rearing itself:

Self-published books are dreck. Publishing traditionally filters out the dreck.

While not an analytically sound opinion, perception and personal anecdotes matter when it comes to the reputation of a book. I’m not surprised by the oft-repeated opinion, as I myself have scoffed at some of the books allowed to sell on major eBook retailers. For instance, a popular YouTuber I follow wrote a book and sells it for the Kindle. The first word in the book is misspelled. eBook retailers only care about the formatting requirements for their digital readers. Unless a ton of negative feedback forces their hand, they don’t pay attention to the quality of the written word.

So the question becomes, how does a self-publishing author alleviate such widespread apprehension? Not easily. Offering a large sample on major eBook retailers like Amazon is the first step—I personally always choose the longest allowed sample for potential customers to skim. Beyond that, I believe it’s up to the author to allay fears.

This post is intended to shed light on my writing & editing methodology. I hope it answers unspoken questions, and lends confidence to those not quite sure about trying out one of my works.

When constructing a full-length novel, my due diligence goes as follows:

  • First, I spend months doing preliminary background research: Social studies, worldbuilding, exploration of technologies, character studies, and a rigorous plot outline mapping the story from beginning-end. Altogether they results in thousands of brainstormed words (The Greatest Game’s outline ended up a whopping 50K words) and a few dozen images. The following slideshow showcases some of the visual inspirations and sketches I produced:

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  • Before I start writing the first draft, I brush up on the writing style that’ll be employed. Typically in my case it is the Chicago Manual of Style. I hit the library and peruse the Chicago style offerings. My editor also reinforces the style.
  • As I write the first draft, I tend to write two–three chapters straight, then go back and thoroughly edit the chapters. Thus completes the first draft.
  • With a finished first draft in-hand, I beta read with select family, friends, and colleagues. In order to get an overall feeling of appeal across the elements of the story, I include a mix of fans and non-fans of speculative fiction for the beta. After receiving feedback, I make developmental adjustments. Sometimes entire sections disappear—I tend to overwrite, so new sections rarely appear.

lce

  • Then I send the draft to my editor, Keith Morrill of Little City Editing, for some copyediting. Keith’s credentials stem from his years as both a Latin and English teacher, his magazine editing, and his copyediting certificate from UC San Diego. Suffice to say, Keith is no greenhorn. We do two copyedit passes together via Track Changes.
  • After finishing with Keith, I do a complete, thorough final edit. This edit usually involves trimming down wordiness, pointless filler sentences, and correcting the rare stray errors neither of us caught.
  • Finally, after all that, I let Microsoft Word, with its squiggly blue and red underlines, tell me what’s wrong with the manuscript. Based on readability and logic, I accept or reject the software’s advice .

There you have it. My writing methodology as it currently stands. Of course, this methodology is not written in stone. It evolves as I evolve as an author. But as it stands, I believe it’s thorough and diligent. I trust that spelling it out alleviates apprehension.

Or at least ensures readers I’m not one to misspell the first word.

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About Malcolm Little

A native of British Columbia, my interests are diverse: Working with information technologies, pursuing a second degree in applied geography, and delving into character-driven stories. My multifaceted life experiences are evident in the stories Iwrite, where balancing the hard and the soft sides of the genre are of utmost importance. My first published novel, "Waves of Reprisal", is hopefully the first of many to come. Indeed, ideas for both stand-alone and series science fiction have gestated inside my consciousness for many years. It's time to let fingers crystallize those ideas into prose and dialogue. Recently my writing skills have extended into the realm of peer-reviewed scholarly articles, with published works appearing in Nature and Canadian Geographic. From time to time I might share interesting tidbits from my ongoing research.
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