Now that my first novel is almost here (it’s currently in the formatting and cover design phase), I thought I’d try to answer a few questions about the writing and publishing process from my experience. I’ve had the privilege of visiting with other aspiring authors and certain questions seem to come up over and over again.

Here are the top 5

How do you come up with ideas to write about?

The main concept for “Son of the Age” came from growing up with an absentee father. I had to learn what it meant to become a man without my dad around and I know that’s true for many other men. So, in this case, the idea came from my own life. “Write what you know” is a mantra often spoken by writers. If you can turn a personal experience into an engaging story, then you’ve got gold because you already know what’s happening inside your character’s head. Think about what you’ve been through, and what you’ve learned, and start there.

How long does it take to write a book?

It really depends. Initially, I had a goal to write 1,000 words a day and be done with the first draft in two months. Unfortunately, 1,000 words felt overwhelming so I skipped a lot of days. It took me almost three years to write the first half of the book because of that. When I lowered my daily word count to 250, I got the second half of the book done in three months! The moral of the story is to set goals that you’re likely to keep and you can probably get it done in less than a year.

How do you keep your thoughts organized?

“Son of the Age” started with a bunch of ideas and a loose thread to follow. I use a writing program called Scrivener. It allowed me to write in a non-linear fashion. I had a folder for each chapter and, when I got an idea, I’d drop it in the appropriate folder. It was like adding clay to a statue a little at a time and, when I was done, I had my statue. Whether it was a work of art or not remains to be seen! If you’re even THINKING about writing, I would highly recommend that you give Scrivener a try. It’s used by professionals everywhere and I wouldn’t try tackling a book without it.

What do you do when you’re stuck?

Sometimes you’re just not sure how to get from point A to point B and sometimes you just don’t feel inspired. That’s when I would go for a walk. Unplugging, stepping away, getting some fresh air, and removing distractions does absolute wonders. When you let your brain relax, it comes up with some amazing solutions to your problems! On many of my walks, I would listen to instrumental music that fit the mood to my story. The experimental/celtic improv CD “From Silence” by Dave Bainbridge and Troy Donockley became the soundtrack to my book and listening to it while I walked unlocked idea after idea for me.

Are you going to self-publish or publish traditionally?

I get asked this one a lot. Initially, I was going to submit to publishers but, when I heard that traditionally published authors have to do their own marketing and promotions just like self-published authors do, I decided that I would rather do all that work for a 70% royalty instead of a measly 15%. I attended a writers workshop recently, taught by a very successful author of 130 books. When I asked him what the advantage of a traditional publishing deal was, he said, “The prestige of saying you’re published by Random House.” I’m OK without that. The other thing I’ve enjoyed about self-publishing is having full creative control. My novel has quite a few personally inspired elements to it and I couldn’t imagine letting a publisher mess with them.

So those are just a few things I learned from my writing journey thus far. I really hope they help. If you have any questions about writing or publishing your own book, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.