Marilyn Holdsworth

Broken Pieces - Rachel Thompson

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Richard Stephenson – “Independent Author” – An Oxymoron

“Independent Author” – An Oxymoron

by Richard Stephenson

That phrase for me is the textbook definition of an oxymoron, like “Act Naturally” or “Jumbo Shrimp”.  I understand that the term was coined to mean independent of the Big Six publishing houses.  The meaning of the term should stop right there and should never be used in any other sense.

I started writing “Collapse” back in March.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to write a novel when I sat down in front of my iMac.  I just wanted to see if I could do it.  I spit out a few chapters and eventually made an outline.  I let my wife and best friend read it and they were impressed.  They encouraged me to keep writing and told me I had talent.  After the first seven chapters I was excited to get the word out and decided to release a sneak peek.  I dumped each chapter into an online grammar check website and made a lot of corrections thinking it was polished and ready for distribution.

Holy cow was I wrong!

I got a lot of feedback from friends and family about how much they enjoyed the story, a few told me that it had some typos and grammar issues.  They also added that it didn’t take away from the story, but the mistakes were there.  About a week later I did a Google search of my novel to see if any interest was growing and found my way into a forum on a book lover’s website.  They tore me to pieces.  After highlighting a few glaring mistakes on the first page, I took the time to slow down and investigate.  Sure enough, the first page had two pretty big grammar mistakes.  I slowly and carefully read the first chapter to find more and more mistakes.  Just hold on a second, I proclaimed, what about the online grammar checks I did?  Surely they caught everything, right?  Nope.  Not even close.  It was clear that I needed help, lots and lots of help.  It was time to find an editor.

I took down the sneak peek and received a gift from God.  It turned out that I knew a retired high school English teacher and didn’t even know it.  My sister-in-law’s mother-in-law had been very excited about the news that I was writing a novel.  I simply thought that she was a supportive fan.  She always replied to my Facebook posts and shared the news on her’s.  She kindly offered to edit out the mistakes from my sneak peek and she did a fantastic job.  She informed me that in her spare time, she edits for friends and family (books, magazine articles, etc.)  Within a few days, the sneak peek was back up   I asked Susan if she would be willing to look at the chapters as I finished them and she enthusiastically said yes.  She stuck with me to the end and polished my manuscript into what it is today.

With an editor on board, I realized I still needed help.  I needed proof readers to give me input on the story. The story made perfect sense to me seeing as how I was the one writing it.  I had to make sure that it would make sense to the average reader.  My proof readers were there to point out when the story starting getting confusing.  They also pointed out contradictions and factual errors that I didn’t catch.  The most memorable one was during Chief Harris’s introductory chapter.  I wrote that one of the hurricanes he weathered, Hurricane Ike (one that I weathered myself) was a Category 5 storm.  Well, it was pointed out to me that Ike was not a 5, he was a 3.  You would think that the memorable event of a raging hurricane passing over me at 4am would ensure I would get that detail right.  That mistake was one of many I made during the creation of “Collapse”.  If I didn’t have proof readers to help me out, the book would have a lot of embarrassing errors.

Once I decided on a release date for my novel, I knew that the book needed a cover.  While I like to think I have a talent for writing, I know without a doubt that I have absolutely no artistic skills whatsoever.  While I am quite the computer nerd, I have no talent with graphic design programs.  Play “Draw Something” with me on your iPhone and see for yourself, I’m a horrible artist.  I was fortunate enough to have interacted with a wonderful artist on Twitter.  Laura Wright LaRoche at did a fantastic job.  After exchanging a few emails detailing exactly what I wanted, she sent me the design in just a couple of days.  I only wanted a a few minor changes and got this masterpiece.

My advice to any aspiring independent author, get help.  You’re going to need it.

Buy now @ Amazon

Genre – Dystopian

Rating – R

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