Thursday, July 09, 2020

Successful Self-Publishing: Write a Great Book (Part 2)

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of The Indie Authors Series 

JH: Writing a great book takes work and dedication. 
Laurisa White Reyes shares a few tips on how to stick with it to get the book you want.

Laurisa White Reyes is the award-winning author of seventeen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing. She is also the founder and senior editor of Skyrocket Press and teaches English composition at College of the Canyons in Southern California. Visit her website at

Take it away Laurisa...

“Finish what you start, no matter how painful it may be.” – Nastia Liukin

In my last post, I mentioned writers who get stuck and can’t finish their stories. After talking with dozens of writers with this problem, I discovered was most of them have in common.
Writer: “I just can’t finish my book.”

Me: “Let me guess. Every time you sit down to write, you re-read and revise what you wrote the day before.”

Writer: “Yes! How did you know?”
If you are in the habit of re-reading and revising what you’ve written the day before, stop it. Now. Your first draft is not the time for revising anything. This is the time to spew out anything and everything that comes out of your brain, through your fingers, onto the page or computer screen. No filter. No judgement. No editing. Period.

For writers who can’t make progress, I suggest a simple exercise. 

First, schedule a set time each day to write. 

Second, set a goal for either length of time or word count. Keep this manageable at first – fifteen minutes or 300 words – and work up to more. 

Third, when your word count or time is over, shut off the computer. Move on to something else like doing laundry or taking a shower. 

Fourth, and this is the most important step, the next day when you turn on your computer to write, DO NOT READ WHAT YOU WROTE THE DAY BEFORE. No exceptions! 

Fifth, repeat these steps each day until the first draft is complete. 

(Here's more on Onward...No? Write to the End or Go Back and Edit?)


You’ve finally finished your first draft! Congratulations! Treat yourself to something special like dinner at a nice restaurant, or a movie, or a day at Disneyland. Whatever floats your boat. You deserve it. You’ve been working hard, likely for months, maybe years, and have accomplished what relatively few people in this world have. You’ve written a book.

You may be tempted to dive right into editing this puppy. You’re anxious. Excited. Motivated. You want to share it with the world.

Please don’t. In fact, don’t even read it. That’s right. This is the time to sit back and take a breath. Take a lot of breaths.

You know what you do when you open a vintage bottle of wine? The cork pops off, but you don’t drink it right away. You let it breathe first. The same goes for your story. Leave it alone. Ignore it. Forget about it. For how long? At minimum, I recommend a month, but I prefer to set a project completely aside until I have finished writing the next first draft. Then that one goes into a drawer while I edit the first one.

Why do authors work so hard and so long on their books only to put them away for a while? Because that way, when they finally come back to them, they can read their stories with fresh eyes. It’s impossible for an author to be completely unbiased about his/her own story, but by distancing oneself from one’s manuscript for a time and focusing on something else, we give ourselves a new perspective, as if we are reading it for the first time, the way a new reader might.

This enables us to spot glaring errors in the plot, character development, story arch, voice, etc. that we simply cannot see when the story is still fresh in our minds. 

(Here's more on 5 Ways to Turn Off Your Inner Editor and Get More Writing Done)

Rewrite and Revise

Once the book has rested for a reasonable length of time, then you can return to it ready to hack it to death during the revision process, and that’s exactly what you should be prepared to do.

A few years back, I attended my first multi-day writers retreat with the Los Angeles SCBWI. We were divided into critique groups of about ten according to the age category of our works-in-progress. My roommate was a novice writer, fresh from the trenches. The first time our group read her excerpt and responded with honest feedback (that’s what critique groups are all about, as I’ll discuss in my next post), she couldn’t handle it. She barricaded herself in her room for a few hours and cried.

Many first-time writers feel emotionally attached to their stories. This is natural. Creating a book is like giving birth. It’s your baby. It’s perfect just the way it is. Why would you change anything about it?

Because when it comes right down to it, writing books is a business (unless you’re writing something just for your family). The ultimate goal is for people to pay money to read it. And no book coming right out of the gate is good enough to sell. 

(Here's more on Shifting Between Drafting and Editing)

Don’t get so attached to your story that you aren’t willing to chuck the whole thing, if that’s what’s necessary. 

Stephen King advises, “Kill your darlings.” What he means is be willing to delete even those sentences, pages, scenes you absolutely love if they do not contribute to the overall success of the book. I’ll add that sometimes the whole book might have to go.

How do you effectively revise a manuscript? There are no hard and fast rules about it but be prepared to rewrite your book several times over the course of many months or years to get it right. Each of my novels has been completely rewritten between eight and twelve times, and the final product rarely resembles the original draft. And I take my time. Several of my books spanned seven or more years between first draft and publication.

Your process will be different than mine. Find a method that suits you, but here are some general suggestions that many authors follow:
  • First time through, look for the big picture. Does the story work? Do the characters connect the way they should? Are there any plot holes, etc.? This is where you hack up the story if needed.
  • Second time through, look for details, descriptions, quality of writing.
  • Third time through, check your vocabulary. Look for redundant words and phrases, delete unnecessary adverbs, replace passive and dull verbs with active ones.
  • Fourth time through should be a professional line edit.
  • Fifth time through should be a revision based on feedback from your line editor.
  • Sixth time through should be a professional proofread.
  • Final time through is your polish.

Any of these steps can be repeated as many times as necessary until you get the story just right. Patience is key, and so is commitment and determination. Don’t give up. Keep at it as long as it takes. And whatever you do, DON’T PUBLISH UNTIL IT’S READY. Really, trust me. One of the worst mistakes self-published authors make is cutting corners and producing a book that has not been adequately revised and edited. Nothing will kill your chances at success faster than that. 

(Here's more on Tell Your Inner Editor to Calm the #$@! Down)

Skyrocket Press is currently accepting submissions to their 2nd Annual Novel Writing Contest (non-fiction books also welcome). The winner will be awarded $250 plus a publishing contract. For more information, visit

About 8 Secrets of Self Publishing

So, you’ve decided to self-publish your book. Great! What next? Time to consider these questions:
  • Is my book ready?
  • Can it be better?
  • Is self-publishing worth the effort?
  • Where will I find readers?
Publishing a book is easy. Successfully publishing a book takes commitment, teamwork, and yes—money. In 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing, award-winning author and Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press, Laurisa Reyes, explains what it takes to give your book that special ingredient that will shoot it towards success. Learn how to develop your craft, gather a publishing team, market your book, and much more as you travel the road of self-publishing. Whether you're a veteran or new to the field, this book is a valuable resource that needs to be on every writer's shelf.


  1. Thank you Laurisa and Janice!

  2. Thank you! People laugh, but I'm taking the long view with my writing. I'm currently working on two different series, plus there are other works (novels, novellas, short stories) in-between. Thus, when I edit a book I probably won't look at it again for close to a year. It's amazing what I uncover after so much time. Yes, I see the problems, but I also see the unrealized potential.