Let’s Throw This Thing Together
“Ruins of the Mind” (my debut book), has been a learning experience to say the least. A pleasant one mind you, but also a complete wake-up call on how books are put together. The stories in the book were written basically over the last five years (along with about twenty to thirty other stories that are not in the book).
About eight months ago I sat down and decided, ‘okay, let’s see what the world thinks of my stories.’ Just to find out if I really should pursue this “writing thing” as my friends call it. In reality, I wanted it to take off, I mean, really take off. I would love it if people looked at my stories and said, “That touched me.” or “I really connected with that character.” Although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to make some money at it, in truth, I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want people to really enjoy my writing as much as I enjoy creating it.
At this point, I’m not yet sure if that will be the case. Six months from now, I suppose I will have a better idea. Only time will tell.
Judge a book by it’s cover
So, I thought to myself, I’ll take my ten favorite stories, throw them in a book with a simple cover and see what people think. I created myself a nice, but simple cover and wasn’t really that happy with it. After talking to my cousin (Julia Koller) who is also a professional book cover designer my eyes were quickly opened.
She said to me “Look, this cover isn’t just a book cover. This is something that should represent your stories and it needs to be something that people can see quickly when they are looking through the hundreds or thousands of thumbnails out there on websites.”
People say “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but let’s face it, it’s the first thing you see when you’re looking through the horde of books on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles or any bookshelf. I hadn’t even considered that aspect. I decided then and there to hire her to design the cover. Something which under the time constraints I had set could not have been easy. However, being the professional she is, she pulled it off flawlessly and seeing the first draft in back and white of my cover while driving to Ohio, I was floored. I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked. The final design turned out to be even more incredible. Not only does it catch the eye, it represents the stories beautifully.
Commas and Dashes and Spelling, Oh My!
Next, I sat down with a few friends of mine who had done some editing for stories for me in the past. I said, “Would you mind helping me fine tune a couple of these stories so I can put them in a book?” Indeed they agreed to look them over. I got back one of my stories from a very good friend of mine who said, “Jason, there is no way that this story is going to get published without some professional editing… which I am just not a professional at.”.
A bit dismayed, (especially since I didn’t know any editors) I was ready to shelf the project, when my father told me that he and his wife knew someone who had been editing for years and was phenomenal at it. So, I said, “Okay, she can take a look at it.”, half expecting her to come back and say ‘don’t publish this, it’s junk.’.
I sent off my manuscript to Linda Sickinger, thinking I would get back a file with perhaps a few edits here and there or even more, a recommendation not to publish it. If I did get edits, I though it might be some punctuation or sentence restructuring… The file I got back was a jaw dropper. First, let me preface this with the fact that she put in the email “I love this story, it’s a beautifully written story”. I am quite certain that I had sent her a file full of black text, however there was now more red than black. There were tons of markups in every single paragraph of the story.
Now, I will confess that at first, it was a shock. However, once I accepted some of the track changes and saw what she was really doing with the story, a broad smile came across my face. She had taken a story that was well written and made it shine like a brand new copper penny. I was so impressed with how well the paragraphs read and flowed, I knew in an instant I was dealing with a hardcore professional editor. Not only did she know exactly what to restructure and change, she knew how to do it in such a way that just made everything ebb and flow so much more smoothly than I could have imagined.
The more we worked on the book, the more files flowed back and forth from Ohio to Massachusetts… the more I realized how beautiful this book was becoming. Linda never changed my characters or the guts of the story, but rather fine tuned it in such a way that the edges felt smooth, the notes of the song didn’t screech anymore, but sang in chorus and harmony. It was if she had taken a sculpture that was already beautiful and found all the right grits of sandpaper and polish to make it museum quality.
A Learning Process
The true blessing of the entire project has been learning how to write better. Learning how to adjust the way I write to make the editing easier. Sure, there will always be editing after a story is done, but being able to have a much tighter package prior to editing is what really makes everything more efficient. Linda taught me what to look for, Julia taught me what to show and how to show it and along the way I have also taught myself as much about social and network marketing as possible.
It’s all part of the learning process in becoming a new author I suppose. In short, what was the one thing I could say I got from this experience? It is – Don’t discount any advice and don’t do a half-job. A piece of written work, is just a piece of writing, if that’s all you treat it as. Treat it as something you love, give it a nice blanket, some food and a home that you and it can be proud of, and hopefully it will reward you in turn and turn out to be not just a piece of writing… but something that you can be proud of and something that others will love. As I hope you love “Ruins of the Mind”.