Trade Secrets: Writing “Broken Promise Records”

Here’s a dirty secret: I wrote this blog months ago — in September, in fact. I’m doing that because right now, in the month of November, I am pouring all of my energy and effort into participating in National Novel Writing Month (or “NaNoWriMo”). I am planning so far ahead because maintaining my regular content is almost as important as the material that I am writing for novels and short stories.

To celebrate National Novel Writing Month, I’ve decided to share some of the “trade secrets,” or things you might not have expected to go into writing a novel — specifically for “Broken Promise Records.” I am doing that because I want to encourage all of the potential writers to convert their potential momentum into kinetic momentum. I don’t think I’ve ever made it a secret, but I think that there is enough creative energy out there for all of us and I want to do my part to give you all of the resources that I can.

In no particular order:

“Broken Promise Records” was a “pantser” effort – all that means is that I did not sit down to plot out the novel. I began typing at chapter one and stopped typing at the epilogue. There are a few different styles of writers; “pantsers” and “plotters” being the predominant ones, then hybrids begin to exist, collaborations even.

I made a lot of mistakes when I released the book – I earned a business degree and I should have known better than to just put out a book and then tell people about it. The smart money would have been to decide to release the book, tell people about it, and then release it. The time between the announcement and the release would have allowed for marketing activity to get people interested in the book. I can’t say I’d do anything different, I just want you to benefit from my experience.

Other mistakes include:

  • Rushing the decision on cover art
  • The day I chose to release the book
  • Getting frustrated when literary agents weren’t super excited about the project when I pitched it to them, clouding my judgement

If I could advise you on anything to do different, I’d say that you want to create your marketing and media profile now — create that facebook page, twitter account, instagram account, and begin interacting with folks who are writers and voracious readers. Create buzz about your novel that you are releasing.

I censored the book …a lot – the headspace that I was in when I was writing the book and when I was editing the book are two completely different headspaces. When I was writing the book, I was writing it for me. When I was editing the book, I was editing it for you. For example: I cut out a lot of “F” bombs. As an editor, I felt that it was unnecessary to advancing the story. Could the same emotion be conveyed without the use of the vulgarity? No? The F Bomb stays. It can? Take the F Bomb out.

I get a lot of feedback about how much smoking is in the book — joke’s on you, I cut a lot of smoking out of the book. Had it stayed, I might have been able to get an endorsement deal from a cigarette company (probably not). Consider the story: hopeless musicians are having the rug taken out from underneath them. What is the one vice they can indulge in without resulting to performing favors behind the gas station? They can smoke a cigarette. I was trying to equate each cigarette as an acknowledgement of despair.

I stopped myself from a lot of natural inclinations – “Broken Promise Records” is a very personal story for me. I was a musician who grew up in the North East, I didn’t live the glamorous rockstar lifestyle (I wasn’t destitute like our protagonists, either), and a lot of the stories (while changed to protect the innocent) do have very personal roots in reality. When I say that I stopped myself from natural inclinations, I mean that I stopped myself from putting so much of myself into the book, to allow the story to be its own story and not my story. I would have loved to put people’s names in the book, so that they could say that they were a part of something, but that would be bastardizing the organic nature of the story. I learned how to separate myself from the story being told and I am glad that I did.

I kept the fact that I was writing a book a secret – I’m not sure why — I know that everyone in my realm of influence would have been super supportive. I think that I didn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t sure what was going to come of it. I’d started writing books a million times and never went anywhere with them, I think I was afraid of “Broken Promise Records” being the same thing.

When it comes to telling people that you are in the middle of writing a book, it can go one of a few ways: 1. The people you tell will be supportive, 2. They will try to keep your expectations low because they don’t want you to be disappointed, or 3. They will bring you nothing but negativity. Be selective in who you tell, manage your expectations, manage the responses you get and how they affect you.

I was terrified of the response and reception of the book – I didn’t know that I wanted to be a writer when I was younger, so I feel like I missed out on a lot of years where I could have been sharpening my craft — in fifth grade, the teacher gave me a big bag of static because I used a word that she didn’t know (the word was tendril). My guidance counselors had no way of knowing that I had anything of a writing talent, and I was so focused on taking visual arts classes that I didn’t bother with creative writing classes. I started writing the book when I was twenty-nine years old, it took me a few years to finish.

I had a fear of how the book would be received because I hadn’t had the pleasure of having my creative writing be that vulnerable before. I can’t tell you where I found the gall to release the book, but I am sure glad that I did.

I’ve received more love and support than I think I deserve – a lot of people have been very gracious in supporting my endeavor — I’ve been trying to use traditional commercial channels for distribution because I would have felt bad leveraging my personal relationships with people to move the book. The people that bought the book have blown my mind and I will always be grateful to them. People I went to high school with, co-workers, former employers, friends, the response was overwhelming.

The feedback that I appreciate the most is the folks who have given me sincere constructive suggestions for my next work. That, in and of itself, is worth so very much and I don’t think that they realize it. Be ready to be surprised by how many people truly love you and are ready to support you.

I miss the characters in the book tremendously – If you’ve ever been curious what it is like for a writer to read their own work, it is a completely different experience for me. When I sit down and read “Broken Promise Records,” I am reading it just like you are. Both in reading and writing the characters, you are working with real aspects of personality and when those personalities are gone, you miss them.

If I ever come across the Genie and the Magic Lamp, I think I’d wish to hang out with the people in the book for a night. One of my favorite responses I get from people who read the book is that it reminds them of their friends from a long time ago — that’s how those characters feel like to me, old friends. I miss them.

Finding the encouragement to continue writing has been very enlightening – If I only ever wrote and published one book, I was ready to be happy. I mean, who can say that they had written a book? After the book was published and so many people showed their support, I had found a fulfillment that I hadn’t found with any of my other creative endeavors before. I have resolved that I will stop writing when I can no longer find enjoyment in it, or when I don’t have any more stories to tell — I don’t see that happening for a long while.

I’d like to thank Stephen King and Janet Evanovich for writing two of the biggest helpful writing resources on the planet.

If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you can get it in paperback and for the Amazon Kindle.

Thank you for checking out this week’s blog; send your encouragement and positive vibes as I am typing away at my novel for NaNoWriMo.

I’ll see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!

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