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Jodie's Blogs

My Self-Publishing Process (Part 1)

I've been asked by a few different people about the process that I go through to self-publish, and I would be more than happy to share my process. Before I start, I want to warn that this is going to be a lengthy blog even after breaking it into two parts. People have said to me they could never publish a book. You can, if you tried. But it is hard work. A lot goes into it, but the reward is well worth it. I use a planner to keep track of where I am, especially since I have four books going at the same time. I am addicted to being busy and I am not by a long shot, an expert. Do your research, ask questions, make mistakes and learn from them. It's what I did, and I have no regrets.

 

Research, Outline and Prep

I'm the type of author who plans everything out before I write. I do my character sketches, scene breakdowns, research what I need on setting and anything that I don't know. Historical takes more research than contemporary, but there is still a fair amount of research that I did for The Gangster's Daughter. Like with diets, there is so much help for outlining and prepping for writing that it can be overwhelming. I've fallen into a groove over the years in knowing what I need, but what I need might not work for what someone else might need.

 

Write the Book

Write, write, write! Bestselling author Jodi Picoult said: "You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." That is so true. After years of getting in my own way, I write what comes to mind getting it onto the page. I know 98% (or more) isn't going to be perfect right out of the gate. That's the beauty of editing. I can perfect it later–and I'll get to my editing process. I edit no less than 4 times. There are some people that edit far more than that, but if I kept on editing (and getting in my own way), I would still be an unpublished author.

 

Read, Edit, Rewrite and Write the Back Cover Summary

Other than writing the book, this is the step where I spend the most time. This is where the two screens on my work computer come in handy. I put my first draft on one screen and a brand spanking new blank page on the second screen, and I rewrite it. Once I've rewritten the book, I use my ProWritingAid program to help me tighten up sentences. That's about all it's good for. The very first publication (in Amazon) of my first book was proof of what type of errors it did not catch. As much as I would like to blame the program for it, I should have known better and reviewed it myself more thoroughly before I submitted. That's the good thing about life though–you live and you learn. The program does a good job with helping with sentence clarity, redundant words and overly long sentences, so it's not a total waste. I also write the back cover summary draft.

 

Engage Beta Readers

I have had a lot of luck with people volunteering to be beta readers for my first two books (and future books). I have so many that I have a list of people who I can ask, but I have those who have told me in no uncertain terms that they are willing to always do it for me. This is another important step because I need unbiased opinions before I engage my developmental editor. The editor is the biggest expense. Beta readers must read it and give feedback promptly. I try to engage at least 3 beta readers.

 

Edit Again

Once I get feedback from the beta readers, I edit again. I don't do the same process as I do with the first edit. Instead, I go through the suggestions and determine chapter by chapter where I need to tighten things up and make things more clear. I've had good luck in that my beta readers have pointed out some pretty simple things to remedy.

 

Send to a Developmental Editor

This is the big one. I'm not going to lie. The first one cost me $1,400 to hire the developmental editor, but I do not regret it for one minute. I use a website call Reedsy. Reedsy connects you with professionals who can help you edit, design, and market. There are others, but it's for publicity, ghostwriting and translating. Self-publishing requires hiring for editing; I opted for developmental editing. Above all else, you need a developmental editor. Writers can't be subjective enough with their own writing to do what a developmental editor can do. What is that, you ask? A developmental editor reviews chapters and advice on character, story, and pacing. It is not the same as a copy editor, who does a line-by-line edit to improve accuracy and readability. After finishing proofreading, the book goes through copy editing as the last step. Reedsy allows you to search and get quotes from professionals you will hire to do these jobs. I love my editor, Becky Wallace, based on what she does for me–I will never go with someone else unless she stops doing what she does. She is outstanding at what she does!

 

Edit Again and Proofread

Becky's developmental edit includes a letter outlining points and a chapter-by-chapter review of changes. I say suggested because as she stated in her notes to me–I'm the writer and this is my work. She is merely making suggestions based on her opinions. I can accept them, or not. My choice. It's the same with the manuscript. She provides her changes, suggestions and comments in the manuscript as tracked changes so I can see everything she has changed. She also includes copyediting for the first 50 pages as a perk. It was refreshingly nice to see the bad writing habits I had gotten into and learn from. I take the time to read through the letter first to see where I need to focus before I did into the manuscript. It took me two solid works of non-stop editing evenings and weekends for The Gangster's Daughter and it was soooo worth it. Her suggestions prompted my brain to shoot in several ways and I think it paid off and made the story so much better than it was. It was great to begin with, but now it's better.

 

Write Dedication, Acknowledgements, Author's Note (if applicable), and Update Author Bio

This is the most challenging (seriously) of the process. Wouldn't everyone want a book dedicated to them? Of course! But it's not that easy. Usually I have in mind who I want to dedicate to, but to write the dedication without sounding dorky or mushy I'm no good at. The acknowledgements, I will honestly say I will thank my beta readers (by name) and my followers and readers every time. That's a straightforward decision for me. Without them–and you–this wouldn't be happening to me. If I have something to share with my readers about the story or facts, I will provide an Author's Note. I should review my author bio with each book to make sure it remains accurate, even though it won't change much.

 

My next blog will cover ISBNs, cover and interior design, reviews, proofs, and marketing. Not everyone will follow the same process, but if you have questions about what I do, please don't hesitate to reach out to me with questions! I didn't do this alone, and neither should you!

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My Astrological Sign and How It Fits Me

My astrological sign is Virgo, which is August 23 through September 23. The Zodiac element is Earth. Researching astrology in Wikipedia revealed a link to Demeter and Persephone. Demeter is the Greek goddess of the harvest. Persephone is her daughter and queen of the Underworld. I love Greek mythology, maybe not to write, but I enjoy reading it.

 

A Virgo's strengths are loyal, analytical, kind, hardworking, and practical. I can't disagree with any of those. They describe me perfectly. Every single one of them. Weaknesses are shyness, worry, overly critical of self and others, and all work and no play. Again, I can't disagree with those, although I have been working on the overly critical of self and other's weakness.

 

Animals, healthy food, books, nature and cleanliness are among likes of a Virgo. Here is where I disagree. Animals, yes. I never want to see an animal suffer. If I could rescue every suffering animal, I would. Books, oh absolutely. Hello! I'm a writer! You can't exactly be a writer without being a reader. Nature and cleanliness, yes and yes. Healthy food? Uh, no. I like the thought of healthy food; I don't like to eat healthy food.

 

Dislikes are right on. I dislike rudeness, asking for help, and taking center stage. Taking center stage is the most difficult in my pursuit of living my dream, but it's worth it to see my words in print. To see people enjoy my stories, my characters, my worlds.

 

Interestingly enough, Virgos have an attention to detail and humanity, making us one of the most caring of the zodiac signs. We lead organized lives, even when things become chaotic. And true to my sign, my concern for details is so strong that I am overly critical and concerned about things that others don't really care about. I constantly worry about fixing something that may or may not be fixable.

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Coming Up With Character Names

Coming up with character names is tricky. The name chosen needs to fit the character's personality and their physical description. Contemporary novels are slightly easier than historical novels in considering names, but you still need to have that right fit. In The Gangster's Daughter, which was an idea in my mind for many years, I knew immediately that my main character names were going to be Regan and Cameron. There was no doubt about it. Everyone else either did not exist yet, and I had to find the right name, or the name changed. Regan's father, Gavriel, was originally going to be Bruce.

 

I do a bit of research on nationality when choosing a name, but it doesn't always work. Gavriel is an Italian name. I have some books that I use that break down names by nationality, and I use these but I also use the internet. The internet is a wondrous place to find information. I discovered a website that makes up character names from given criteria. Criteria such as gender, character type, nationality and birth year. I don't always find what I'm looking for there, but it's interesting what it generates. There've been times when I have heard a name in passing and thought 'that is a cool name'.

 

Historical is harder to come up with names. In The Duke's Daughter, I changed the heroine's name at least five times. I finally settled on Evie, and it fit her perfectly. This is equally true with the hero Xander. His name changed at least five times, as well. In fact, almost all the characters in The Duke's Daughter have had a name change. This is also a story that has been on my mind for many years.

 

Choosing names for historical characters requires consideration of era, personality, and appearance, while avoiding absurdity. I've come across some names of era's that I wouldn't dare put in a novel, and there are some names that are unique but don't fit the character. Historical names are everywhere between baffling and classic. I take a long time pouring through books and the internet, using every resource I can to find the name that fits my character perfectly.

 

Surnames are a different story. Going way back, surnames weren't used until after the Norman conquest. They identified an individual's trade, birthplace, physical features, and sometimes father's name. Once surnames came into play, you now have to put two names together that make sense and fit the character. Think of famous character's such as Harry Potter (yes, you caught me). Reading the books, or watching the movies, can you think of this character with any other name? Probably not. It fits his character just as Hagrid, Hermione and Ron.

 

The main thing I have to remember when I'm trying to come up with the perfect character name is not to let it hang me up. I noted dozens of possibilities, then move on. For my fourth novel (not yet named), I found my two main character names right away, but I have several other characters I have to come up with, so I noted several more. I also need dog names and breeds for this one, so this is going to be a fun one. It might change later, it might not. Typically, I have character names set before writing, so I don't miss any changes.

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The Inspiration Behind The Gangster's Daughter

Pinpointing the inspiration behind any of my books is difficult, and I'll tell you why. Have you ever heard a song that caused goosebumps on your skin? Or a scene in a movie that had you in awe? That is me with a combination of both. I have heard so many songs and seen so many movie scenes that have morphed into my dreams.

 

I'm not talking about copying a movie scene into a scene in my books. That's illegal. Almost every single spark of an idea I have had for a story has been a scene in my head that I watched from a third person's view in my dreams. I'm standing there watching a part of a story unfold, except it's just one tiny piece and I have to figure out the rest of it. One idea transforms into several more and so on until I have somewhat of a story. But a story is more than just a string of scenes. There has to be a plot. There has to be a theme. Characters, who are deep and flawed, like they are real people.

 

My inspiration behind The Gangster's Daughter stemmed from a single idea of a modern-day betrothal. I love history and history is what I have always written. There were several ways I tried to bend this story into a historical piece, but no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn't fit that way. And I couldn't be happier that it turned out how it did. This book didn't belong to the historical romance genre. It's romantic suspense through and through.

 

I needed Regan to be a strong, independent woman and she could do that best in the modern day world. It's true that many women have fought decade after decade for equal rights, and rightly so! But I felt that she would have been her best person today rather than say…1910's or 1920's.

 

The wonderful thing about story-weaving is that you can make up anything you want to, as long as the plot and characters are strong. Without those, you've got nothing.

 

I don't want to give away too much until people have a chance to actually read the book! For those of you who have signed up for my email list, in my July newsletter I've shared some of my playlist. My playlists are the inspiration behind everything I write. I thrive on music. I urge you to look up some of those songs and give them a listen, and after you read the book – try to picture a scene to one of those songs! And that is my inspiration behind every word I write.

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What Do I Do When I'm Not Writing?

Begin camping season! Usually we start our camping season in April, but because of unforeseen circumstances, we could not start until Memorial Weekend. The RV dealership did not finish the warranty work and winterizing, leading to nearly $2,000 in damages. Every single faucet (kitchen, bathroom, shower), toilet seal and the water heater had issues. We were lucky to bring it to Pleasureland RV in St. Cloud (MN). They fixed all the issues caused by not winterizing and more. And because we put up a fight, the other dealer paid them for the damages because of their negligence in not winterizing.

 

I needed this past weekend away, put my feet up and relax with a cocktail or a beer and enjoy some friends. Something that I could not do for a while. We've had a hell of a winter, and I've been holed up getting The Gangster's Daughter off and running. It has all been worth it. Or it will be when I get the proof in my hand this weekend.

 

Camping has become increasingly popular since the start of COVID-19. Reservations are hard to get. Especially if you like state parks like we do. I don't blame people for it. Camping is a wonderful way to spend some time outside. I admit I'm pampered with our camper, but I wasn't always this way.

 

I started camping when I was sixteen, a long, long, very long time ago, when my first actual boyfriend, Brian, and his family introduced me to camping. Tent camping at its finest. His mom taught me how to make cheesy potatoes and we had the best times. We camped for many years, from AJ Acres in Clearwater (MN) to Brainerd International Speedway (MN) for the Muscle Car Shootout to Nisswa (MN). I believe we did Pequot Lakes one year. We camped with his brothers and their wives, with friends, and we camped every chance we could get. And those were memories I will take with me forever.

 

Camping extended into my first marriage, although not as much. We did camp at BIR a few different times, but not much other than that. In 2015, Joe and I began camping in the back of his pickup truck. From that moment, I vowed I was getting a camper. And wouldn't you know… the following spring, we bought our first travel. We upgraded to the top-of-the-line travel trailer last year, and I think we're set for a while.

 

We don't have any reservations so far and Chad Strege in Luck, WI, is our only option for camping. We have several weekends that are already booked with family activities, and my first book's release is also affecting our event schedule. With all that being said, I can't complain.

 

Camping is the best time, whether you're in a tent or in a camper. Sit around the campfire with a cocktail or a smore, with your significant other and/or your kids, and enjoy life. You won't regret it. Unless you don't like bugs, bears, and you're afraid of the dark.

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