I am deep in revisions for my first fantasy novel, The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen. I am on the clock because I want my editor to start work on it next month. As I go over my work, I realize how horrified I would have been not going back over this. As usual, I want to share what I am learning with you. In this new Indie Author Basics series, I am sharing some signs I have noticed that indicate that you are probably not ready to Self-Publish that book.
You Skip the Revision Process
Step one in the process of Self-Publishing is to write the book. It is unnecessary to self-edit during this stage because it would be challenging to finish the book if you are editing as you are writing. Step one is like a brain dump where you are getting everything down on paper. It is the most exciting part of the journey as you let your ideas and creativity flow. Step one is creating the rough draft of your story, the version of your manuscript that is complete but not polished.
I know a writer is not ready to Self-Publish when they skip the revision process.
Revisions are rewrites of the manuscript before sending it to a professional editor.
It is AFTER the book is finished because you don’t want to edit as you write (you’ll never finish) but BEFORE the professional edit.
The rewrite is more challenging than the rough draft because you are not only putting your ideas on paper, but now you are organizing those ideas, cutting out what doesn’t work, and working with what does work. The revision stage (rewrites) strengthens your work into something worthy of publication.
If you skip this stage, you are publishing your rough draft. If you send the rough draft to an editor, you will still ultimately publish your manuscript’s rough draft version. While the editor can clean it up some, it is not the editor’s job to write the book for you. If you are looking for someone to write the book for you, you need a Ghostwriter. If you want to write your own book, it is essential not to skip the revision process when you are Self-Publishing.
The rough draft is not the final draft and will not be the best representation of your writing.
How to Know if You Have Skipped Revisions:
You just finished writing the book. You have made it to the end, and you are done. You take this book , create a PDF, and upload it to Amazon. You have not gone back to rewrite or make corrections, and you have not had it properly edited. If I have described you, you have skipped the revision process.
Technology has been your godsend. You have finished recording your book using speech-to-text technology that has translated your words to the page. You finish the book, but you don’t rewrite what you spoke into the document for comprehension. Everything is kind of all over the place. If I have described you, you have skipped the revision process.
You just finished writing the book. You have made it to the end, and you are done. Then, you take this version (the rough draft) and send it to an editor. If I have described you, you have also skipped the revision process. And unfortunately, for your editor they have the job of rewriting your book. If they are a quality editor, they will send the MS back to you and request a rewrite.
If you have not gone back over your rough draft to make changes, this is a sign you are not ready to Self-Publish.
In her CNN interview with Anderson, Gorman spoke about the power of words and all the research that went into her poem, such as reviewing texts from poets of previous inaugurations and studying other orators like Frederick Douglass.
“I did a lot of research ever since I found out I was going to be the inaugural poet in late December. Really doing a deep literature dive of other orators.”
I highlight this because research is not a word we hear often associated with poetry, but the best poets do it. It is not only about stringing some rhymes together. The best poets are avid researchers, readers, and students.
While writing “The Hill We Climb,” the poet listened to music that helped put her “in a historic and epic mind-set,” including soundtracks from “The Crown,” “Lincoln,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hamilton.”
“I wasn’t trying to write something in which those events were painted as an irregularity or different from an America that I know,” said Gorman of the events of January 6th. “America is messy. And I have to recognize that in the poem. I can’t ignore that or erase it.”
I think we can all agree that Maya Angelou had talent, but Angelou also studied the art. In her muteness, she listened to how people spoke, the inflection of their voices, the way their arms and hands moved. She listened to the black ministers and the melody of the preachers, musicians, and performers. She read books of all kinds, traveled to different countries, and learned other languages.
What is the lesson here?
Good poetry is a good study. It is more than the rhyme of a creative mind, but how that creativity can take elements of real life, history, and experience and weave it together with language that is so fluid and precise that it enters the heart and goes right down to the soul.
Lesson #2: When You Are Not Writing/Speaking, Read
In the five years, Angelou was mute, she read every book in the black school library and every book she could get from the white school library. She memorized James Weldon Johnson, Paul Lawerence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. She memorized Shakespear, whole plays, and fifty sonnets. Angelou memorized Edgar Allen Poe and all the poetry.
When Angelou decided to speak, she had a lot to say and many ways to say it.
Gorman is also a reader.
“When she’s not watching cooking shows, Gorman copes with isolation by reading books to prepare her for that future. She picked up former President Obama’s “A Promised Land” the day it came out. She’s also reading Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History,” which interrogates long-standing historical narratives from the Haitian Revolution to the Alamo.”
Lesson #3: Learning from Others
I am not going to say that I agree with every lyric of Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb.” Still, I enjoyed the intelligence of the delivery, the poetic techniques used, the alliteration, and the metaphoric skill. I have listened to other poems of Amanda’s, and I love the sound of her voice and the movement of her hands at pivotal points. It is not overly dramatic but poised and elegant.
At the Roar, Grand Slam Gorman said, “The air smelled of Hollywood and desperation.” Gorman’s enunciation of words and clarity of speech speaks to her comprehension of the information. Rather from her speech impediment or the love of poetry, you can tell that Gorman has studied language, and it comes through beautifully in her speech.
Maya Angelou has one of the most powerful voices I had ever heard. We are so blessed that she did not stay silent! What I noticed about Angelou was how she did not limit her reading. Maya embraced different voices and cultures, and I believe this nurtured her perspective so that it stretched wide, and from her poetry, you can hear the wisdom of understanding shine through.
Lesson number three is perhaps the most important one of all.
You do not have to agree with everything someone says or does to learn from them. Remember that Yah spoke to Balaam through the mouth of a donkey. (Numb. 22:28)
“I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.”
Please help me extend a warm welcome to Andi Brooks.
Welcome to the PBS Blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Andi Brooks. I am originally from England, but I have lived in Tokyo for the last 15 years.
Nice! What would your perfect writing room look like?
That’s an interesting question as I was thinking about that only last week. I would love to have a desk in the bay window of a Victorian house overlooking the sea. A rugged, stormy coastline would suit me very well. I love to walk along the beach alone in winter and search the black waves for inspiration.
Yess. That sounds soo relaxing. Let’s talk about when you published your first book? What was that like?
My first book was a collaboration with the American writer Frank Dello Stritto. “Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” was originally published in 2000 and reprinted as an updated and expanded second edition in 2015. A biography of the famous Hollywood actor forever associated with Count Dracula’s role on stage and in the 1931 film, the book was the culmination of a decade of research. It was very exciting to see it in print and gratifying to have it universally praised by critics and readers.
Before working on the book, I wrote articles on vintage horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films for magazines in the UK and America. After the book was published, I put together a Bela Lugosi blog (https://beladraculalugosi.com/) to share the research material and wrote a silly poetry book, but I mainly devoted myself to writing music and promoting live shows in Tokyo.
Apart from one article on the love affair between Bela Lugosi and Clara Bow, which won the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award in 2017, I wasn’t really involved in writing much until I threw myself into Ghostly Tales of Japan.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a writer? The most exciting thing?
The most difficult aspect of being a writer for me is trying to overcome a lack of faith in my ability. I generally know when an idea is good, but I can’t overcome my doubts about my skill as a writer. If I hadn’t been firm with myself, I would still be revising the stories in my latest book, but there has to come a time when you have to say that enough is enough and put your pen aside. As it was, the stories in Ghostly Tales of Japan went through endless rewrites. I agonized over every choice of word and punctuation. It is good to strive for perfection, but you have to realize that there is really no such thing. Being always dissatisfied is a good motivator always to try harder.
The best thing about being a writer is hearing back from readers who have enjoyed reading your work. It makes all of the pain that goes into writing worthwhile.
We do tend to judge ourselves harshly but hearing feedback from readers makes it worthwhile for sure. Andi, who is your favorite writer?
It depends on my mood, but H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft were firm favourites for many years. The scale of their imaginations is astounding.
Wait, wait, wait. I gotta ask you about the TV show real quick. Lovecraft Country, did you watch? Like or Nah?
I’ve never heard of it!
Living in Japan, you can miss an awful lot unless you watch Netflix and the like, which I don’t. I always tend to hear about things long after the fact.
Lovecraft is great for radio adaptations, but tends not to do so well on the screen. I did love the Reanimator films, but I haven’t seen many over good adaptations. I did a quick search online for Lovecraft Country and watched a clip. I can’t really tell if it’s for me or not, but you have sparked my interest, so I will give it a go.
And give it a go you should!
I also love the ghost stories written by M. R. James. I don’t think he has ever been better. At the moment, however, I am completely immersed in the writing of Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all-time favourite novels. I have reread it so many times. Although I said that there is no such thing as perfection, this book is as close as it comes. Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s skill was breathtaking. It is such a tragedy that he died so early. The world has been denied the many wonderful books he could have written, but what he left behind is something to be very grateful for. I have literally just put down The Angel’s Game, the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven, to pop through my letterbox.
I love it. What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
Perhaps Oh! The Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss. I read it to my son many times when he was small. The truth in that wonderful book will always be relevant. It made me reflect on the ups and downs of my life. Things certainly haven’t always gone to plan, but the disappointments resulted in me taking a different path, which led to where I am today, which is not a bad place to be.
What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was at school, a career advisor told me that I should forget dreaming of being a writer, an artist, or a musician and get a job in a factory because it was regular work. I have ignored the advice of his like ever since.
I don’t blame you! Like, whaatt.
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Music has been a big part of my life since my teens. I can’t imagine a day without music. I’ve been in many bands, either playing bass, guitar or singing. About three years ago, I put the guitars aside and decided to start making electronic music. It was something that had been in the back of my mind for a very long time. I regret not trying earlier because it has given me total musical freedom, but better late than never! You can find my electronic musical misadventures on my Bandcamp page (https://airstripone1.bandcamp.com/).
I love it. Musical Therapy is a real thing for sure. We love music on the PBS Blog. In fact, today’s Throwback Thursday! What kind of music do you like?
I listen to a very wide range of music. I like to have something to suit whatever mood I am in. My first music love was the 1970s British band T. Rex. They inspired me to try my hand at making my own music. David Bowie was also a big influence in the 1970s. Then along came punk rock, which was the perfect soundtrack for my teens. Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-ray Spex, and, of course, The Sex Pistols had a deep impact on me.
Towards the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, I loved British electronic music. Along the way, I’ve listened to everything from folk to jazz. I must give a special mention to Christmas music. I love Christmas and its music, both traditional and popular. I think I have around two hundred CDs of Christmas music!
Sheesh, Andi. Lol
Today, I have listened to underground Japanese electronic music, Nina Simone, the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, some solo albums by Mick Karn, and David Sylvian of the band Japan. I have an insatiable appetite for music, and I am addicted to buying CDs and records. I try to find something new to listen to almost every day.
What songs have you completely memorized?
My memory is absolutely dreadful! There are some song which I have been listening to for over forty years, and I still don’t know all the lyrics. It’s bizarre! The only song, apart from ones which I have written – and I’m not sure that I can remember them, which I think I know all of the lyrics of is, like many people, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It’s not a song I usually listen to, but somehow it has wormed its way into my brain. If you only know the words to one song, it’s not a bad choice. I remember lines from movies more but often forget the plots. I love movies as much as music. One day I would like to make my own.
If you could live in a movie, which would it be?
I’m not sure that I would like to live in any of the movies I watch, being a lifelong horror fan.
Even the non-horror films I like tend to have elements of darkness that I wouldn’t want to experience. If I’m forced to choose, perhaps it would be Lost Horizon – the Frank Capra original, not the musical remake. I don’t think I would hesitate to accept the offer of escaping the madness of this world to spend my days in the utopia of Shangri-La.
If you could, would you visit the past?
I would love to. There are so many great periods I would like to visit, but wherever I decided to go, I think I would stop off in 1979 first to give a few words of advice to my teenage self. I’m not sure that he would listen, but there are two facts of life that I wish he had known!
Thank you, Andi, for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Andi Brooks is a writer of English and Irish descent based in Tokyo. He began writing on vintage horror and science fiction films for American and UK magazines in 1991. With Frank J. Dello Stritto, he co-wrote “Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” (Cult Movies Press 2000), a critically acclaimed biography of the Hollywood legend forever associated with the role of Dracula. In 2017, he received the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for ‘Dracula and the It Girl,’ an article which recounted the short-lived love affair between Bela Lugosi and silent screen star Clara Bow. In 2020, he published “Ghostly Tales of Japan,” a collection of thirty original ghostly stories set in various Japanese history periods. He is currently writing a second volume of ghostly Japanese stories and a guide to the terrifying sites of Tokyo.
To my surprise, so many people enjoyed the first chapter, so I came back the next week and wrote another chapter and then another and then another until I had written eighteen chapters of a book I never intended to write.
The more I shared, the more readers loved it. This got me excited!
In 2020, while we were all bored in the house and in the house bored, I worked on finishing the book. It is now a full-length novel I will release later this year.
If you have been following this blog over the years, you are already familiar with The Women with Blue Eyes (now titled The Women with Blue Eyes: Rise of the Fallen) and I am so excited to finish it for you.
Moral of the Story
It’s okay to step outside the box and write something different, especially if it’s something you know readers would enjoy. Master P is not just a rapper, he is also a full-blown businessman with several products. He has everything from cereal to oodles and noodles, to potato chips to fish fry.
As I was drafting this post, I tried to think of how to explain that it’s okay to write in a genre you are not typically known for without sacrificing your author brand.
My first thought was to remind you that you are the brand, not the book. It is less about the genre and more about how you stay true to your message.
Recently I was advised to “stay in my lane” of military and espionage writing so that I could be considered for that niche. This is especially so because my background supports this lane.
Yet when I mentioned staying in my lane to an entertainment industry exec, she had an interesting POV about branding oneself as a writer.
She didn’t agree with staying in one’s lane in terms of specific genres. Instead, her advice to me was to remain the same lens and perspective across genres.
“Remain the same lens and perspective across genres.”
I love this because it frees the writer from the genre box. In my own words, I would say to write in whatever genre you want, but keep your message consistent. While Master P does many different things he wasn’t known for before, his “No Limit” message stayed the same.
Since I usually write Black Historical Fiction, my story will incorporate black history, all the way down to how I represent the characters. In Greek Mythology, Paschar is the angel of vision and is a white male. In my version, Paschar is still a fallen angel, but she operates in the skin of a black woman.
I’ve also infused black history into the narrative with my character’s background and dialogue. If you’ve been following the series on this blog, Miss Vicky is a new character you haven’t met yet. She is a member of the renovation committee at the new Altgeld Projects and former cook for the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. Here is an excerpt from her giving black history to a couple of corner boys working for Big Sam’s organization:
Closer to the buildings, girls jumped double-dutch on the sidewalk, and young boys stood up on their bikes, riding them back and forth. The boys wore no shirt, and yellow headscarves hung out of their back pants pockets. Their pants were always sagging, revealing their boxers underneath. They knew they will be scolded by Miss Vicky if caught. She was always telling them to pull their pants up and giving the history of Buck Breaking. It was the practice of slave owners raping black men as a form of punishment on the plantations and then forcing them to sag their pants in the fields, so everyone knew the cost of disobedience.
“Nuh, uh,” the boys would protest, “I heard that started in the jails Miss Vicky.”
“You heard wrong,” the middle-aged woman would protest, “that’s not to say it didn’t circulate in the jails, but that ain’t where it started. Buck Breaking was popular in the Caribbean ya see, and it involved white supremacists and slave owners raping a male slave in front of the public to embarrass him and make him feel less of a man. Buck Breaking became popular when slave rebellions went up. Enslaved men were first stripped naked and flogged.”
“What’s flogged Miss Vicky?”
“Boy, don’t they teach you nothing in school?”
The boy would laugh, holding onto the handles of his bicycle.
“He don’t go, Miss Vicky,” another boy would chide, laughing at his friend.
“You remember how ya mama beat you for stealing car parts last year? That’s flogging. Whippings. Beatings.”
“She flogged ya ass,” the boys’ friend would tease.
Vicky would hide her laughter and continue her lesson. “Like I said, they would flog—whoop the man in front of a crowd after they raped him to serve as a warning to other slaves. Sometimes enslaved men with families were forced to have sex with each other in front of their family, or they were raped in front of their sons…”
“Dang,” the boy would say, doing wheelies on his bike.
“Hmm hmm, sure did. Lot of ’em who had gone through the process of buck breaking killed themselves afterward or ran away and never returned. Better learn ya history.”
“Aiight,” the boys would say, smiling and riding off. Miss Vicky would go on to finish her laundry, and the boys would ride off and play. Secretly, they enjoyed listening to her black history stories and would ask her questions just to get her talking. Though, they still did not pull up their pants.
The boys were not regular teens. They were corner boys for Big Sam’s crew. The yellow bandanas that hung from their back pocket was proof that they belonged to the organization. Miss Vicky liked talking to them because they were innocent during these conversations. When she spoke to them, she saw their youthfulness peaking out from behind their eyes. It was hard trying to get a fourteen-year-old boy who paid all his mama’s bills with drug money and had already decided he was a man to listen to you, but when Miss Vicky told her stories, they listened. At these times, she could see them like she used to when they were just four and five years old before Scar recruited them.
How does a Black Historical Fiction writer write Fantasy? By infusing black history into the narrative. You will learn how it all ties in when you read the book.
Read. Read. Read.
Another tip I would add is to read books in that genre. No matter how deep your message, nothing will free you from not following the basic elements associated with that genre, so read, read, read. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with stepping outside the genre box.
Share Your Work
Next, don’t be afraid to share your work. I don’t know if I would have been as confident in this story as I am if not for my freedom readers and their feedback! Thank you all for helping me pick a subtitle. The winner (as you can see) is Rise of the Fallen!
Try It Out on the Blog
And finally, blogging is another great way to write your book! It gives you the chance to get instant feedback that could help you to stay motivated along the way.
“I don’t think Byron stands a chance from falling.”
“Wow wow wow. I am enjoying this story. I’m all invested. I can’t wait for the next installment. This story has some interesting characters. Keep up the excellent penmanship!!!!”
“I’m truly enjoying this :-). I’m glad I can click on episode 3 😛 Thank you EC. Much love from Spain.”
“Loved this and wanted to read more. Is there more?”
“You are an excellent writer.”
“Hi Yecheilyah! I’m new to this series. I will need to go back and catch up! Chapter ten is captivating.”
When Tina’s nephew Ronnie died, it traumatized her. It wasn’t just that he died. It was the way he died. After taking custody of Ronnie’s sisters and brother, Tina experienced supernatural phenomenons that eventually led to therapy and hallucinogenic suppressants. This didn’t help.
She meets Azbuga, an Archangel sent to tie the missing pieces together, still connecting her to Ronnie’s death.
Paschar is the angel of vision. She once saw the beauty of visions from the Almighty and projected these into human consciousness. Now, she is limited, capable only of seeing physical beauty, extracting energy from mortal man, and projecting illusions.
Paschar has fallen, and in a jealous rage, she attacks black men for their power. How dare he choose them over her?
Can Tina, Jason, and Az defeat Paschar and her legion once and for all? More black men are dying, and you can’t fight spiritual warfare with physical weapons.