Not that all four of our current 1,000 Days in Writerspark eBooks are published on several key eBook outlets, I thought I’d take a moment to exhale a bit and explain a bit about the process that got us to this point. It has been a long long process.
It was just a little more than 15 years ago, on April 8, 1999, 1:29 a.m., that I pressed Enter on my keyboard and brought my Writerspark creative writing group to life on Yahoo Groups. Choosing the right venue took a great deal of consideration, and over the years we had a couple of detours to other venues but various glitches inevitably brought us back to Yahoo. Just getting the group up and running required an incredible amount of thought and work. but I got it done.
One thing that didn’t require much thought is what I wanted the group to be. Having experienced writer’s block on numerous occasions, and after speaking with other writers online and in person, I realized that random inspirations often serve to end writer’s block and get writers back on track–often with entirely new ideas. Thus I decided that Writerspark would be all about writing seeds, or as we have come to call them: Exercises.
The next question was how often to post exercise, and would I compose my own or link to others already available online. That, too, was an easy question to answer. I would write my own, and they would be daily. Daile, to give writers a choice of whether to work today’s, or tomorrow’s or the next day’s. that proved to be a sound decision.
Then came the name. I doodled names on paper for weeks, struggling to find a name that wouldn’t seem trite or become outmoded in short order. Finally, I decided that since the idea was to spark the creative energies or writers we would name our group Writerspark. this had an additional meaning in that it was a kind of Internet park where writers could play: Writers Park.
Over the past 15-plus years, members have come and gone, each enjoying the exercises and learning much about the craft of writing and their own writing abilities as they worked the exercises and shared critiques. Some have been with us since the beginning.
Other details had to be worked out, if the group was to function in an orderly manner: What would be our rules. How to format subject lines? Whether to allow general discussions? Where to store exercise images, and more.
All that just to get things started.
Next came this blog. I wanted a place where I could let the world know about Writerspark and provide a venue to write about things writerly. Choosing a venue for this proved draining, as a good many online blogging vendors had cropped up, along with various Web-imbedded personal blogging tools. I finally decided to add a WordPress blog to our Writerspark Web site, a choice that has proven the right one for many reasons, not the least of which is control. we are not owing to any vendor for what we can and can not do with our blog.
Again, the naming issue cropped up. lots of possibilities came to mind, but I finally decided on what is the most simple yet compatible name that popped up: Writersblog.
The possibility of publishing our exercises, which by the time I actually produced passable copy to upload had risen to near 3,000, eBooks had come into their own, with Kindle and Nook selling in numbers. Without much in the way of guidelines available at the time, I compiled the first two eBooks into .epub format and pumped them up to Barnes & Noble, converted to Acrobat for Web readers, and eventually to Kindle.
Getting those books ready took much work. line by line editing of more than 2,000 pages was excruciating, but eventually we had workable pages and sent them up. but almost immediately I noticed typos and other problems that needed to be addressed, but life got in the way and I had to set that aside. Still, we sold a few eBooks and earned the funds to extend our Web hosting a while.
The next round involved re-editing the first two while I edited and then compiled three eBooks for publication. this process took several months, but finally we had a better looking product and replaced the original two and published the third. more were sold.
Finally, I had our 4,000th exercise in hand and immediately set to work editing that volume. in the midst of that process, however, I discovered Smashwords, another online publishing venue, and The Smashwords Style Guide. This guide showed me a better way to format and ultimately to begin and grow any future works so that they convert into much cleaner eBooks. The problem was that in order to achieve these improvements it was necessary for me to strip every single bit of formatting and every image from every exercise in every eBook, by copying it from the Word doc originals, pasting all into Notepad, and then re-copying from Notepad to a fresh Word doc. Not only that, I would have to create Styles in Word that could be applied to each element of each exercise in every eBook.
If you’re thinking of publishing an eBook, or any book for that matter, I can’t recommend The Smashwords Style Guide strongly enough.
So I learned about Styles, reverted to raw format, and set about three more months of editing, formatting, compiling, and publishing. even got around to creating better front and back content, complete with a links-based contents page and contact links at the end. pretty jazzy.
Our four eBook 1,000 Days in Writerspark series is now up in every popular format.
Just this past week, I made the decision to move Writerspark from Yohoo to our new group home at Google Groups. This was not an easy decision, as past moves had flopped and the that thought nagged at me. Still, some serious bugs in the Yahoo system caused problems for our members, and if you can’t get emails or see images, it’s kinda hard to do exercises or communicate with a group. so we moved to Writerspark at Google Groups.
Feel free to join us there, but be warned: Participation is required. We are a no-lurkers zone.
I have no idea how many man hours have gone into this process. The term “a lot” will have to suffice. although I do, of course, hope to generate a modest income from the sale of these books, the reason for publishing them is the same as my original reason for founding Writerspark: To help writers kick writer’s block and find unexpected inspiration. At $2.99 for 1,000 exercises. That comes down to about 1/3-cent per exercise. Not a bad deal. I have no illusions of best seller status; creative writers are a niche market, and only a tiny fraction will likely hear about these eBooks, but it is my hope that folks will spread the word, snag a copy or the set, and little by little our seeds will result in a garden of new stories and poems.
On to Volume 5!