Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part I

I am an independent author-publisher. I love what I do. But there are things I wish I knew before I published. 

Things I wish I Knew Before I Published by Lynette M. Burrows is illustrated by a photograph looking down on a man typing on a typewriter.

I spent years learning how to write a story. Having listened to more than a few science fiction authors, I knew more than the average person about the book publishing industry. I tried the traditional publishing route. My two literary agents were superb at their jobs. They landed me a couple of “close but no thanks” responses from trad publishers. A friend urged me to go the independent route.

I did a great deal of research about traditional publishing vs. independent published. Finally, I decided independent publishing was best for me and my book. Despite all my research, there are many things I wish I knew before I published my book. Today, I’ll discuss the big picture ones.

It’s A Business

If you want to make money from your books, writing is a business. The choice between traditionally published or indie published is a business decision.

Use the resources of writer organizations like the Authors Guild or Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) to educate yourself on best practices. Here on Writers in the Storm, there are many posts to help you decide. John Peragine discusses Six Self-Publishing Considerations. Piper Bayard’s three-part series, Indie Publishing 101, is also very helpful.

The Business of Being Traditionally Published

The big 5 traditional publishers are relatively big business. But even traditionally published authors need some business skills.

For most traditional publishers to consider your book, you will need an agent. Which agents are best for you to query? Do you sign a contract? Or have a verbal agreement? Know the advantages and disadvantages of both. Be very clear on what the agent will do for you. Make certain you understand the agent’s commission and charges. What if you or your agent decide to end your relationship? How do you do that? What happens to your books?

If the agent sells your manuscript, you will sign a contract with the publisher. Not all agents are savvy about contracts. Make sure you understand what contract clauses you should avoid. Know what rights you sign over to the publisher.

Curious About the Indie Author Side?

In this post, I compare and contrast what the traditional published author might need to know with what the independent author-publisher might know, plus a short paragraph about a few things I wish I knew before I published. 

Despite my lack of knowledge that would have been helpful, I wouldn’t change my mind or my love of the life of an independent author-publisher. 

Read the rest on Writers in the Storm.

Image Credits

Photo by Vlad Deep on Unsplash

Re-visioning Again

It’s summer. I’ve got a book going live in a couple of weeks and there are family issues to attend. So, this Wednesday post is directing you back to an eight-week blog post series I wrote a long while ago. It’s my version of revising your manuscript. I call it re-visioning.

Image of laptop computer, notebook and pen, phone, and coffee--all of which may be needed when re-visioning your story

Re-visioning Your Story: week 1 

Revision is probably the single most difficult thing a writer must do. Now, I know some of you are going to remind me that there are those who advise not to revise, except to editorial demand. I believe there are some writers out that who have so internalized the process that for them there is little or no revision needed. I’m not one of those writers . . . yet.

Am I an expert on revision? I don’t claim to be an expert. Or to know THE ONE WAY to revise. But, I have done a lot of revision – the wrong way. I have also read tons of how to write books and blogs, and taken more than a few classes. I’ve had a few stories published and I have taught a few writing classes. So I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you. Read more.

Are Your Character’s Goals Golden?

Goals are what make your characters strong or weak, sympathetic or not, and finally, goals in opposition create conflict. Read more.

Conflict: Twist the Knife Slowly

Violence is not Conflict. It is not action. It is not bickering, or worry, or dreams, or traveling. Unfortunately, many seasoned and novice writers mistake one or all of those things for conflict. Read more.

Do Your Characters Play Well with Others

Every character in your story must be there for a purpose. A story is not like life where you meet random people that appear and disappear without disturbing your world. Every character should serve your story by doing the work of the story. Read more.

As the Plot Turns

Plot is a series of scenes where something changes, each scene building intensity and tension, increasing your reader’s sense of foreboding, until there is a devastating fear that your focal character may not attain his goal, followed by a release of tension in a satisfying manner. Read more:

Is There a Time and Place in Your Story?

Getting the time and place right is like the difference between Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Windsor castle. Read more.

From the End to the Beginning

No amount of convincing characters, intricate or thrilling plot, nor vivid story world construction can overcome a poorly crafted story end. And a failed ending of your story will cause an agent, editor, or reader to put down the book never to pick up another of your stories. But a great ending will reward your reader with an emotional payoff. Hooked, he’ll eagerly seek out more of your stories. So how do you construct a great ending? Re-visioning your ending will make it stronger. Read more.

Putting the Pieces Together

PIt’s been a long haul, but you’ve analyzed your story for seven long lessons, from Character Goals to Plot Twists to the End and the Beginning. Now it’s time for putting the pieces together.  Finally, it’s time to fix it.  What?  You’re worried that you can’t fix it or that fixing it will destroy what you loved about it?  Take a deep breath.  You’ve done your homework, right?  No reason to worry.  You have all the tools you need to shine it up and fall in love with it all over again. Read more

I hope you enjoyed these. The thing about these posts is that you can also use them to create a story. Instead of re-visioning it becomes envisioning your story. Think I’ll use these to help me get the next novel written. How about you?

Greek for a Day

What do you do when you want to travel abroad but can’t afford the time or expense? If you want to go to Greece or learn about Greece for a work-in-progress (I wouldn’t know who was doing that). You go to a Greek Food Festival and become a Greek for a day.

What do you do when you want to travel abroad but can't afford the time or expense? If you want to go to Greece or learn about Greece for a work-in-progress (I wouldn't know who was doing that). You go to a Greek Food Festival and become a Greek for a day.

Waiting in line while mouthwatering aromas waft through the air. . . . then the tasting begins!

Lynette M. Burrows, author
Flaming Saganaki Chees via Arnold Inuyaki on Flickr Commons

Flaming Cheese Saganaki (pronounced sah-ghah-NAH-kee). The term saganaki refers to the two-handled vessel in which appetizers are served. The cheese is pan-fried and at the last minute (often at the table) a Greek brandy or Ourzo is poured over the cheese and set aflame with a shout of “Opa!.” You can find the recipe here.

Want to know more about Greek food? You can find all you want to know about Greek food at Matt Barrett’s travel guides.

The boutique complete with souvenirs from Greece. Notice the ladies behind the counter in their festive attire.



No Greek food festival is complete without dancing.

Greek festival dancing_web

Did You Know?

Greeks are notorious for late arrivals to events. In fact, when they observe someone arriving at an event on time they say “he is English.”

When something is incomprehensible to an American we say, “It’s Greek to me.” But to the Greeks, “It’s Chinese to me.”

When a Greek exaggerates or hides the truth, he’s “pouring on the sauce.”

Shaping thumb and forefinger to a ring as in the American gesture meaning okay is an obscene gesture to Greeks.

Many Greeks have a cactus plant near the entrance to their home. The spines or prickles of the cactus are thought to ward off the evil eye from the property.

You can find more information about Greek traditions and superstitions from an expat who lives in Athens.

And the best information comes from conversations you have with the folks who remember these traditions and superstitions and a few stories about a Yaya (grandmother).

While travel to the country is the best option when learning about another culture. And the internet can be a treasure trove of information.  There’s nothing quite like being almost there, at a local festival, tasting the food, listening to the music, and enjoying the stories.

Have you been Greek for a day? 

If not Greece, what country have you visited without leaving your national borders?

Putting the Pieces Together

Part 8: Revisioning Your Story

Wow.  It’s been a long haul, but you’ve analyzed your story for seven long lessons, from Character Goals to Plot Twists to the End and the Beginning. Now it’s time for putting the pieces together.  Finally, it’s time to fix it.  What?  You’re worried that you can’t fix it or that fixing it will destroy what you loved about it?  Take a deep breath.  You’ve done your homework, right?  No reason to worry.  You have all the tools you need to shine it up and fall in love with it all over again.

Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces

What You’ll Need

For this lesson, you will need all of your notes from the previous seven lessons, a pen and paper, lots of it,  music, snacks and fluids, a three-ring binder or other organizing notebook, and uninterrupted time.  You see we’ve been working on preparing your mind, your muse if you prefer.  And now, you’re going to tell your muse that it’s time to work.


Gather all of your notes and your manuscript.  You will need a large stack of paper and several pens (you don’t want to run out of ink in the middle of inspiration, do you?)  Lay in some easy to eat, healthy snacks and lots of water.  You need to stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar up in order to be your most creative and productive.


For many people, music helps focus them as they write.  If you are one of those people, select a song or two that inspires you to write.  Be sure it’s something you can listen to over and over.  Perhaps you are one who prefers white noise or no noise, please feel free to surround yourself with an environment that makes you productive as a writer.

My favorite revisioning music includes Escala performing Palladio by Karl Jenkins.


Plan at least one whole day, if possible, that you will be completely uninterrupted.  Yes, I know some of you have small children or others who depend on you for care.  If you can’t get a whole day, you can’t.  Do the best that you can.  Make it the longest uninterrupted time period you can.

The Day Before

Prepare your writing space.  Put your supplies where they are handy.  Your notes in front of you and the paper and pens off to the side.

Read your notes and scene cards.  Read them One Time Only.  I mean it.  You’re feeding your muse one last time. Find the story sentence you created for your story.  Does it still say what you want your story to be about?  If it does write it across the top of your first sheet of paper.  Do not write anything else.  If your mind/muse keeps bringing up ideas, tell it ‘that might be a good idea, keep working on it.’ And put it out of your mind for today.  Put your notes and your manuscript away.  You will not look at them again for a while.  Get a good night’s sleep.

Revisioning Day

This is the day you’ve dedicated to completing the revisioning of your story.  You’ve got your pen and paper, you fluids and snacks laid in, your notes in front of you, your music or white noise or silence going.  Now is the time.  Without looking at your notes, begin writing the outline of your story.  Do not say no to any idea that flows onto your paper.  Write fast.  Do not worry about whether this outline is the same as your original.  Just write.  Ideally, you will finish your outline in one day.  If you don’t, that’s all right, keep the interruptions to a minimum until you are finished. (For those of you who find handwriting difficult, do what is comfortable for you. This should be a pleasure, not painful.)

The New Outline

Written fast, the new outline will have some surprises for you.  You may have thought of new scenes that sharpen the conflict or focus of your story.  You may have some plot holes.  Now you can compare your new outline with your scene cards.  Study the two with an editorial eye.  Decide which scenes will build the conflict, the story you’ve been dreaming of.   Make certain the conflict builds, the pace builds, and your character faces a choice.  Write new scene cards, matching your new outline.  Does your story sentence still apply?  If not, write a revised story sentence.

Your Project Bible

Once you have your revised outline, you need to create your Project Bible.  Revising a novel is a long process.  This is going to be your reference while you do your rewrite.  It will help keep you organized and keep your details consistent.

clippings from sample project bible
Images from Lynette’s Project Bible

Your Project Bible will have sections in it for each major character, for each location where your characters interact, any research or photos that you need to keep facts straight, and a timeline.

Character Section

In each character’s section, you will list physical attributes, habits, clothing preferences, pet’s names, backstory, and maybe even a family tree.

Location Section

In each location section, you will have a layout map of the location so that you can move your characters to that location consistently.  In your layout use pictures or descriptions so you know what interiors look like from color to number and types of furniture, to where the squeak in the floor is.  If it’s an outdoor location you may need to include a topographical map, lists, and photos of the flora and fauna that are indigenous to the area.  Don’t forget to include all five senses in this section.

Research Section

Your research section will have the research you’ve done that keeps your story authentic.  You may also want some of your favorite writing books on hand. Books like Story, Writing the Breakout Novel, or even Techniques of the Selling Writer can be handy inspiration or instruction.


Finally, your timeline section will have the timeline of your story and your story world.  This may need to include the actual, historical timeline if you’re writing a historical novel.  If you are writing a science fiction novel your Project Bible may need to include a section on science, religion, planets, or space travel vehicles. Add things to your Project Bible as you rewrite your novel and discover new details, characters, or locations.

It’s Time!

With your new outline, your new scene cards and your new Project notebook beside you, it’s time to begin the rewrite.  Rewriting your novel will be an experience of joy and frustration, but trust the process.  And no matter what, finish the rewrite.  You will learn something about your writing, your writing process, and yourself that will be sure to be invaluable to you in your career.


If you haven’t been following this series.  Please check out the first six posts on Re-visioning Your Story:

Lesson 1: Re-Visioning Your Story

Lesson 2: Are Your Character’s Goals Golden?

Lesson 3: Twist the Knife Slowly

Lesson 4: Do Your Characters Play Well With Others?

Lesson 5: As the Plot Turns

Lesson 6: Is There a Time and Place in Your Story?

Lesson 7: From the End to the Beginning

Thank You and Good Luck

And it’s the end of this series of posts.  Thank you so much for hanging in there with me.  And please, let me know if this has been helpful to you.  Even if you don’t finish your rewrite for a year, stop by, tell me how it went.  I’m rooting for you!

Do you use a revision process? Where is it similar and dissimilar from this one?