In this interview, J. McSpadden will navigate us through completing your book, publishing, and her tricks to making the most out of your editing.
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This series aims at supporting writers as they begin the writing process, find themselves stuck in the middle, and as they finagle their way through the complex process of editing and publishing.You'll meet authors like Brandi Sumey, Ryan Krol, and Anna Fox, learn about their books, and dive into best practices for writing an incredible book.
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Let's Meet Our Author
J. McSpadden is a California born and raised girl, living in Los Angeles and working in the Film/TV industry. Right now, she is a TV producer by day and an author in all moments in-between. McSpadden is currently working on Book 2 in the Praetorian Rising series and doing what she can to plan for writing the outline of Book 3 during Nanowrimo 2020.
There is nothing better than waking up every day to do writing spring after writing sprint seeing the ideas rolling around in your head come to life.
Author Interview Questions
1. When looking at publishing your work and getting it out to readers, what do you believe determines your own personal success?
When first working on my book, the biggest success was publishing the book on my own. That is no easy feat when self publishing, it takes quite a lot of detailed attention plus a heaping amount of time. I think it honestly humbles someone to put that amount of effort into a book.
The moment I hit "PUBLISH" on my KDP account I was in my room, by myself after doing my final edits and read-throughs of the manuscript. I was completely alone, that moment of 'this is finally happening' completed in such an intimate way. It felt incredible, and it was something I didn't want to necessarily share.
However, a week later I had a huge birthday/publishing party. My friends made me a cake with my book cover printed on it in icing! That was such an incredible moment, too, sharing my personal success and inspiring others around me to reach for their goals and dreams alike.
Success to me after publishing is continuing to write, working on my second book, and ensuring I keep my mind in the game for marketing. Self-publishing doesn't stop at publishing the book. It is just the beginning.
2. What does your editing process look like?
This was the hardest part of writing for me, but also the most rewarding. At first, I had no idea what to do and I think everyone can have a mix of their own preference.
For me, I like to work out a solid first draft. The story, for the most part, is there, the characters have purpose and direction, and I can see the structure.
I hand this copy over to my editor and she goes through a concept/character structure pass. This helps me understand and see what the reader would see and how that differs from what I see and understand as the writer.
Then comes the hard, hard work.
I take her notes and I dive into a second draft. I make my fixes and edits, restructure where it's needed, and then I start at the beginning. I do a full editing pass to ensure my story is in order, it makes sense, and the characters are true to who I wrote them to be. This pass for me tasks the longest. I am trying to ensure I am not only writing something that make sense but that it's also closer to a final pass.
Once I feel this edit is good, I hand it back to my editor for the deep dive into grammatical fixes and buttoning up of any holes.
I then plan to do at least two more passes through the book, one overall and one in-depth. It takes quite a while, which is why when people ask me when I'll be done with the editing part I laugh and say, "Soon". In all honesty, I could edit and edit my book to death, adjusting and changing things that will work in different ways.
Having published a book, I now understand the difference between being afraid to put my work out there and editing my book because it needs more work.
3. How do you stay inspired during the editing process?
MUSIC and TELEVISION!
I'm not kidding, I listen to a lot of soundtracks: Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Westworld, Black Sails, Outlander, anything that has an epic and dramatic score. I rarely listen to music with words. My goal is to find certain songs that pull at specific emotions before writing a scene that I know I will need to be in a certain frame of mind for.
I also love to watch TV shows to pull from in terms of character emotion, balance, and inspiration. I can't tell you how many times I've paused a TV show or a movie to scribble down a sudden idea that was inspired by something perfectly executed in what I was watching.
When it comes to characters, inspiration comes from life really. They say write what you know, and, in life, there are often forms of inspiration all around us.
4. Around the middle and end of the book are generally where readers start seeing plot twists. What is your advice for writers when considering plot twists?
I think it depends on if you are writing a series or writing a stand-alone. For me, in writing a series I had to think of each book as it's own story, with an overarching plot building throughout the entire story.
Plot twists are a great device to encourage the readers to keep going, it's the call to action and the rush of adrenaline or emotion that pull in a reader. The first thing to learn is to create believable actions in your story. Writing a plot twist just to create movement will jar a reader; the action and forward motion of a story needs to have reason and purpose.
At the same time, remember that your readers are smarter than you think.
The best plot twists come out of nowhere, but if you leave bread crumbs and foreshadow these heightened moments, some of your readers will pick up on your clues. This is always a great moment as a reader when you see the payoff of a well-written scene turned on its head and going in a direction you never thought possible, and yet the clues were there the whole time.
5. Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?
This is a very personal question to every writer out there.
I worked toward traditional publishing, and trust me there are some serious benefits to having someone at your back to promote and sell your book. I didn't find this route appealing to my timeline or my goals.
I wanted to take control of my book cover, my story, my overall theme to marketing. I chose self-publishing out of my desire to have the say in what story and ideas I wanted to portray to my readers. Not that I would never think about the traditional publishing route, but I do feel like for this series that I want to follow through using my own voice. That comes with a heaping amount of work, not to mention very little in the mindset of profit but for me; it's worth it.
6. What are a few marketing do's and don'ts for authors?
Don't be afraid to put out TOO much.
There is never too much marketing, too many posts, too many ads, etc. You will always find a new reader with every post and ad you create, so don't feel like you are ever doing too much.
I highly recommend using platforms to promote your book, however, I have found very little feedback on Instagram and Facebook promotions. I use websites that send out a "promo" newsletter to those people that ARE interested in buying your book. I feel as though Insta and Facebook are filled with people who mostly don't care as much in general. Finding your targeted audience is the key.
One thing a lot of people get carried away with is being creative and changing to the themes of society and the fades. Stay focused on what you like, and push to be creative within your style. The more cohesive and structured your marketing is, the more people are able to recognize the posts and promo's as your work. Getting eye recognition is important, and it allows your followers to pay attention to you even when they are scrolling at a million miles a minute.
7. You get halfway through your book and you hate it. What do you do?
Oh man, the only answer to this is to find out why, and then rewrite it!
It took me eight years to write my first book, and a huge part of that is because I had no idea what I was doing.
The second part of that is that after giving my draft to my editor, she pointed out a HUGE flaw in my characters. I was writing a book about a strong female lead and I literally only had 1 female character in the ENTIRE FIRST BOOK of my series. My editor CALLED ME and said, I can't charge you for this because I need you to rewrite your story. This isn't the story you want to tell after what we discussed. She was right, and I was shocked I hadn't realized it. I was so focused on the whole series, that I didn't realize that all of my female characters would be introduced in the second book.
So I went back, made some serious changes, and honestly, my series will be better for it. It's a tough thing to do, I won't lie. It took me a long time to work through the adjustments, but in the end, writing something you are proud of is worth the time.
If you get to a portion of the book and you don't really like where it's going, what makes you think your readers will? You have to love your story, be obsessed with the characters, and always aching to know what is going to happen next to know that your readers will feel the same way.
Writing Praetorian Rising and working on this book series was something born out of unemployment and a lot of wine without having any friends to hang out with.
Becoming an author wasn't something I planned, so much as something I fell into.
Moving to Los Angeles without knowing anyone was hard, but I knew I wanted to do something in Film so I did what I could to find jobs here and there. The first six months I found myself on my balcony writing random short stories.
One night I had a crazy dream about this female heroine fighting for her life against an oppressive High King and I knew I had to work out a story for her. It didn't all come at once, it was slow and came in pieces but over the years I created this world and this story that I was ultimately obsessed with.
I am planning on getting Book 2 published by Fall 2021 which is quite the INTENSE goal seeing as I just published the first book in July 2019, but I feel it's a great goal to work towards. I want to keep my readers happy, and I also can't wait to talk to other people about the story!!
Keep in touch with J. McSpadden and see her progress on writing and self-publishing!
Writing is a beautiful, yet intense craft. If you're nervous to take the leap and start, don't doubt yourself! Ask for support and guidance from your writing community, practice, and read books and articles like this.
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