The end of November, I published my first novel. Sharp Focus is the first book in a series of mysteries featuring a photographer sleuth. I had already self-published short stories, but this was the first novel and I was making it available both as digital and as POD. Learning covers and formatting was like going back to school again. A huge learning curve, but kind of fun as well.
Right after publication, I left the country for a trip to Europe. I had a wonderful time seeing the Christmas markets in Austria, Germany and Prague, but I felt like half of me was at home, anxiously waiting to see how my book baby was being received.
My marketing plan is to wait until I have a larger body of work before I fully push for sales and readers, but I can happily say that my first book has met my sales expectations (admittedly low as a first time novelist). I come into this new year, 2014, with a feeling of accomplishment as well as a daunting list of projects to complete now that I have the ball rolling.
My friends and family have been amazingly supportive and I thank all of them for their encouragement and purchases.
Some things to look forward to this year are publication of Depth of Field: the second in the mystery series, a contemporary fantasy novel, a romantic suspense novel, more short stories and compilations, and then…we’ll see how much time is left in the year. I’ll be posting more regular updates, hopefully weekly, on this blog as to how things are going as well as my observations on this literary life.
Paper and digital at Amazon, digital at B&N, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords
I knew there would be challenges in writing a novel. Just having the stamina for keeping up with a book length story was new as most of my writing experience had been with short stories and articles. But I had no idea keeping track of my characters would be so difficult.
My main character is obviously someone I know pretty well by now. But she doesn’t live in a vacuum. She has family and friends and neighbors and work contacts. And then, of course, there are the people who are new to her life that she meets in the process of solving the mystery.
For side characters who provide information or add color to the story, there aren’t any real difficulties. I write them and then move on. The recurring characters are more problematic. These are people important to the story or who are important to the main character (making them important to the story – hopefully!). A person may appear in the first couple of chapters and then show up again in the middle or towards the end of the book. Keeping track of what they look like, their personality traits, their way of speaking, is more difficult than I was expecting it to be. No one wants to go back through 30,000 words to find out whether “Bob” had a beard or not.
I found that after I had written my first 7 chapters, I had to go back and fill out notecards for each of my characters. These cards are lists of physical and personality traits for the characters I’m populating the story with. I may even end up writing whole biographies for some of them as they will show up again in other books. (Stand-alone mysteries are fine but I love a good series).
Someone I know once suggested I find pictures of people in magazines who match what I imagine my characters to look like. I imagine this could be helpful too with providing continuity. Readers remember small details. I know that when I read a series of books I find it distracting when characters change from book to book without any explanation. One book series I read (and I won’t name names) had one character who smoked in the first book and then in book three had never smoked in her life. That drives me crazy so I’m doing my best to not inflict such trauma on my own readers.