The Other Side

The Other Side

Hey, there. I’m Courtney, a sixteen year old aspiring author. I think one of the questions I get asked the most is “Who or what inspired you to start writing?” Really, I have never known how to answer that specific question. I still don’t know how to answer it. I have loved reading and writing ever since I was five or six. Since that point, I have written a lot of stories. I say written, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve finished them. Sometimes, I start writing and then lose interest in the topic or get lost in the writing. Whenever that happens, I can’t continue. Bye-bye book. And then I have to start over.

But, in November of 2013, I finished writing a book. In October of that same year, my History teacher gave me an opportunity to spend my class time learning about something else. When he asked what I would want to learn about, I only had one answer; writing. So, that’s what I did. He talked to my English teacher and made arrangements so I could spend class time with her to work on my book. Trust me, all three of us were absolutely thrilled about the idea.

Near the end of October, my English teacher decided that I should write a book for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo challenges people to write a 50,000 word book within the entire month of November. If you meet the goal, you win little prizes at the end of the month. I was stoked about the idea.

So, I started writing. I ended up finishing my book a couple days before the deadline, which would have been the last day of November. And, I’m not going to lie, juggling school and NaNoWriMo was a little stressful. Writing really does take more time than just sitting down and writing. You have to allow yourself time to take in what you’ve written so far and discover how to move on from that. Great focus is great when you’re writing; it really helps you keep your thoughts going down a single path. But, at the same time, writer’s block really likes to strike when you’re on a roll.

Stand up, walk around. Go outside, listen to your favorite song. Drink some coffee, eat something. Do what works for you to get past that brick wall. Sometimes, you can’t get past it. That’s when you have to take a long break until an idea comes to you. Honestly, my ideas come to me all the time, and at the most random points in my day. I could be fixing supper, writing, playing a game, washing my hands, or doing anything else, and an idea will come to me. I walk around the house physically talking out, and acting out, a scene that should happen in my book, including dialogue; it’s the easiest way to remember it all. That’s when I go to my ipad or my notebook and write it all down before I forget. For the same reasons, I keep my ipad by me at almost all times, even when I’m sleeping.
This way, if I get an idea while I’m sleeping, I can just roll over, turn on my ipad, and write it all out. Without my crazy habits, my books would never be finished. There is no way I could ever remember all of my random ideas without writing them all down. But, back to NaNoWriMo.

Shortly after I finished my book, my English teacher arranged for me to meet with a published author friend of hers. Now, not everyone has this opportunity, but I was lucky enough to have it. We talked for awhile, I read her a passage in my book, and she gave me some very helpful tips about writing. She even told me how to go about getting published. After that meeting, I sat down and began to edit my book. Editing takes more than one read through, especially if you plan on editing by yourself. My English teacher actually sat down and did her own edits on the book and let me decide if I wanted to add them or not. I made a fair amount of her corrections and then took another three passes at my book before I decided it was good enough to go to my next step.

Through NaNoWriMo, I found CreateSpace, a self publishing website. Keep in mind that everything I did on this website was absolutely free. You can design your own cover, choose what you want the interior to look like, and even add your own author photo for free. CreateSpace also offers several paid options. If you don’t want to design your own cover, they will design one for you, but it does cost money. Due to being sixteen and not wanting to make my mom buy all of these extras from CreateSpace, I made my own cover. CreateSpace actually has their own cover creator that you can use for free to make your cover. It works rather nicely for someone who has never made a book cover.

Once my cover was made, I added in my actual document. CreateSpace sent it through several procedures to make sure the words wouldn’t be cut off once printed. This process alone took me a very long time. Your margins have to be exact and so does your gutter. The gutter is what took me forever to figure out. I had never used a gutter before because I had never attempted to publish anything. The gutter ends up on what would be the left side of the page if it were printed. The gutter is basically the spine of the book. It allows the pages to fold over each other without cutting off any of your words.

Once I finally figured out how this worked, it was smooth sailing from there. I had to add some more information, check over my book a couple more times, and send it in to be proofed. CreateSpace proofs your book simply to make sure everything will be ok when printed. This can take up to 24 hours; however, mine was done in a little under twelve hours. They send you an email once the proof is done. You’re required to submit that it has been proofed and that you’re satisfied with the product.

At this point, you start setting you book price, royalties, and what platforms you want to sell on.

CreateSpace also allows you to sell on AmazonKindle, which I decided to do. So, I went over to Amazon, put in my book title, added my cover, added some background information on the book, and sent it in to be reviewed. By the end of the day, my book had been published on Kindle. At the age of sixteen, I am a published author. My book is available around the world, both as a paperback and an ebook.

This July, NaNoWriMo is holding the same contest; write a book in a month, but you get to set your own word goal this time around. I have decided to do this NaNoWriMo, as well. If anyone else out there wants to be an author, I highly suggest starting with NaNoWriMo. As long as you meet the word goal, you win prizes. NaNoWriMo is all about helping authors around the world become known for what they love doing; writing. Hand in hand, NaNoWriMo and CreateSpace are free programs that help people turn their dreams into reality.

Within nine months, I went from being nothing more than a teenage girl with a dream to a teenage girl that had finally fulfilled that dream. It’s truly amazing what a person can do simply because they had people rooting for them on the sides.