Fix PS3 Backup Error “Connect storage media at the save destination”

now for something completely different

And now for something completely different.

EDIT 2: I finally gave up on the a full backup/restore. It kept freezing near the end of the restore process (the infamous Error 800283F0). Most of my files transferred, but not my save data, game data, or main profile. Fortunately I backed up my saves. If you attempt this, the fix below did help with the formatting problem, but you may be better off deleting EVERYTHING, in which case you may be better off just putting your saves on a thumb drive or Playstation Plus and signing into your account on the new device. But if you do want to try this mess of a process, read on…

I apologize to my regular readers, as this is something completely unrelated to my usual blog. But I’ve been bashing my head against the wall trying to solve this problem for hours, and I’m hoping to save other folks the trouble. Tune in early next week for a post about running a successful book launch event. But on to this mad business!

If you are attempting to use the Playstation 3 backup utility to replace or upgrade your hard drive, you may have run into “Connect storage media at the save destination” when you attempt to start the process from system settings.

You probably already know you have to format the 2.5″ hard drive to FAT32, and that Windows cannot do this without another program. You may also know that you might need a dock or enclosure that runs off of an AC adapter rather than just USB (although this might not be a problem at all).

If you’re like me, after taking all the proper steps, you plugged the dock or enclosure into the PS3 and the system did not recognize the drive. After trying a 100 different solutions, you–once again, if you’re like me–started pulling your hair out.

Everywhere I looked recommended the free gui version of the Ridgecrop Fat32 format program. However, this turned out to be the point of failure for me. The drive was supposedly formatted, but the drive remained unallocated. It wasn’t until I ran the equally free Fat32Formatter that the sectors were properly allocated and now my system is starting the 300-hour process of backing itself up.

It’s pretty sad that Sony doesn’t provide reliable tools built specifically for their system and its many quirks. I know the PS3 is on the way out, but I’m guessing we’re not the only family that streams our video entertainment through the console instead of a cable box.

If Google, in its infinite wisdom, brought you here, feel free to check out my book. It’s a great way to unwind after nearly destroying your entertainment console.

EDIT: Remember, you’ll need one more HDD than you think, because your replacement drive has to be formatted when it goes into the machine. You can’t just backup and then plug in the drive with your backup files.

TL;DR: Try using Fat32Formatter on your drive instead.

Monsters All the Way Down is Available Now

Monsters All the Way Down

Once Upon a Time Called Now

A DNA test ties Brennan Wade to murders he did not commit. With Joan Runciter, the only surviving victim, he uncovers a world of horror.

Monsters All the Way Down is officially available for purchase! You can get it in softcover or for your Kindle from Amazon (more retailers to follow).

Amazon Link: Monsters All the Way Down softcover

Amazon Link: Monsters All the Way Down for Kindle

You can also purchase a signed copy directly from me with the PayPal link below. This is for US shipping only, please contact me for international orders.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Signed Softcover PayPal Link

For all of you that have helped me along the way, thank you. I couldn’t have done this without my family and friends.

Putting Your Book Cover on Canvas for Cheap

My first shipment of Monsters All the Way Down arrived! Less than two weeks to the launch party in Amarillo–everyone’s invited.

book stack

My wife had a great idea, and I wanted to share it with you folks. If you want a large, attractive way to show off your book cover at signings and the like, consider printing a canvas. I was able to get a quality 20 x 30-inch version, and it looks amazing.

book mantle

I got mine from Canvas People for only $44.80. Wait for their sales if you can! I held out for 60%-off and free shipping (which I believe is going on at the time of this writing). You may be able to shop around other sites for a cheaper price–just make sure to read reviews. I’m very happy with how mine turned out.

A couple of tips:

  • Give yourself as much of a buffer as you can before you need the canvas, because it took them about two weeks to ship my order.
  • Make sure you have a print quality version of your image. 300 dpi is usually recommended.
  • Consider how you’ll display it. The cheap easels I found locally were pretty flimsy, but they have some on Amazon with decent reviews.

There you have it: an easy way to spice up your reviews, and hopefully a cheap resource you can use for other projects.

*Full disclosure: I use Amazon affiliate links every chance I get, but I am unaffiliated with Canvas People. The referral program they use doesn’t give people nearly as good a deal as holding out for the 60% sale.

“How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?”

I got my proof copies of Monsters All the Way Down. Because of the finality of this event, it got me thinking about one of the most common questions I get asked: “How long does it take to write a novel?” I thought I might share my own experience about how long it took from a blank page to a holy-cannoli-this-is-really-happening book.

Monsters All the Way Down proof copy

It even smells like a real book.

This is me baring my soul a bit. I know some writers can crank out a first draft in a matter of weeks, but that was not the case with me. I’ll try to keep my excuses to a minimum.

I started this book four years ago. I don’t know the exact date, but I had 11,000 words by June 24, 2010. This was a month after the birth of my son and a couple of months before I left my job for the stay-at-home dad gig. Our baby boy spent most of his time sleeping, and I could write 1,000-2,000 words on a good day. I thought I’d have the novel finished by Christmas.

Then a month passed and I only wrote 3,000 words. The next month, the word count increased by a mere 2,000. I now realized the wild optimism of my predictions. Fueled by Mountain Dew Live Wire, I wrote what I could between my son’s feedings and dirty diapers. I finished the first major section of the first draft on October 25.

As my newborn baby transformed into a bigger baby, I was writing less and less. After my wife fell asleep, I would write if I could. But as often as not, my son would wake up, so I was lying on the couch with him sleeping on my chest. We watched a lot of Cheers together during those night shifts.

I was writing in binges–this was long before I found a routine that worked for me. I finally hit the 60,000-word milestone on August 24, 2011, more than a year after I’d started. Momentum carried me to the end of my first draft on September 29. The sense of relief was overwhelming.

I starting revising and working through my supplemental file. After pulling an all-nighter, I sent out copies of my second draft to my beta reader volunteers in February, 2012. Looking back, it’s absurd I would take that step so early in the revision process. In my naiveté, I thought I was only a draft or two from a finished book. With input from my beta readers, I finished another draft by the time my daughter was born that May.

After months of wrangling a two-year-old and a newborn (and working non-stop every night on Monsters), I decided to use the summer to start another book and work on other projects. The plan was to start sending Monsters out to agents that fall, but caring for two small children is actually quite different than caring for one. I didn’t send out my first round of agent queries until February, 2013. The final product weighed in at about 86,000 words.

Without going into the details, I received exciting emails followed by disappointment. It was in March, 2014–after a four-month wait to hear that my most prospective publisher decided to pass–that I decided to self-publish my novel.

Finding a great cover artist ended up being easy, but the copy editing took longer than I expected (but the end result was worth every penny). I jumped through all the hoops, and I put a few of my short stories up for sale on Amazon and elsewhere to learn about the process. I’ll eventually blog about what I’ve learned about book layout and creating ebooks, and I’ll share some of the problems I had so that others might avoid them.

So there you have it. I expected it to take six months, but it took me three years to finish plus another year to release. There were many weeks and even a few months when I didn’t have the time or energy to work on the book at all, but finishing is worth it. If you take one thing away from this post, I want it to be: whatever your dream is, don’t give up. Even if it takes you years instead of months, don’t give up. Even if you realize the only way your work will reach your audience is if you put it out there yourself, don’t give up.

My father-in-law and I were just talking about the distance between the Want-To folks and the I-Did-It folks. I have to tell you, it feels good to sit back and say, “I did it. Guess it’s time to finish the next one.”

Ellipses . . . The Silent Killer

We all have our pet peeves. I know a woman that can’t stand the sound of someone rubbing a balloon. My dad has this thing about poor technique in the application of Elmer’s Glue. I’ve heard some great rants about inconsistent numbering in movie sequels.

I hate ellipses in dialogue.

My hatred for this punctuation borders on the irrational. If the third person narrator starts in with the ellipses, so help me, I will pull the eject lever.

Let me be clear: I don’t want to throw out the ellipsis altogether. It serves an important purpose in quoting sources, and the ellipses has a different effect when used in the word balloons of a comic book. My rant is directed only at the use of ellipses in a narrative.

Yes, there are even times an ellipsis is the perfect choice for character dialogue. But if you’re cramming the things into formal writing outside of a source quote, please, get help before it’s too late.

Here are three of my reasons you should leave out those hideous dot dot dots.

1. Ellipses make dialogue drag

Compare these two versions of a snippet of contrived speech:

“Abigail,” Ben said, “I love you. I’ve always loved you. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. My heart—my heart has burned for you since the moment we met.”

“Abigail . . . ,” Ben said, “I love you . . . . I’ve always loved you. I . . . can’t sleep. I can’t . . . eat. My heart . . . my heart has burned for you . . . since the moment we met . . . .”

This is an exaggeration, but it demonstrates how ellipses suck the momentum out of dialogue. It also, to my surprise, made it sound like I cast Christopher Walken for the part of Ben.

If I don’t hear it in my mind as Christopher Walken or William Shatner, my mind translates it as drawing out the letters. “‘Abigailllllll,’ Ben said. ‘I love youuuuuuu.'”

Ellipses rob dialogue of momentum and urgency. They kill flow faster than mom’s spaghetti.

2. The Ellipsis is the wrong tool for the job.

Don’t get me wrong—I love dialogue that feels real. For better or worse, my favorite dialogue comes from folks like Joss Whedon and Brian Michael Bendis. I want my repartee witty, and I love false starts, stutters, and interruptions. In a perfect world, my dialogue would sound like the conversation you had with a friend that was so brilliant and funny, you curse yourself for not recording it.

But it’s incorrect to use ellipses for false starts, stutters, and being cut off. The proper punctuation in these instances is an em dash. Compare:

“Wait!” Abigail sceamed. “Ben, don’t . . .”

“Wait!” Abigail screamed. “Ben, don’t—”

In the second example, it looks like something interrupted Abigail. In the first, it sounds like Abigail had an attack of narcolepsy.

Ellipses don’t make conversations sound organic; they make your characters sound sleepy or bored. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to talk to someone who constantly trails off?

Use em dashes sparingly, or they will lose their effect, like exclamation points in old comic books. Unless you’re the Riddler, most sentences should end in a period.

If your character is inebriated, drugged, cripplingly shy, totally indecisive, or falling asleep, maybe an ellipsis is the right choice. Otherwise, think twice.

3. Ellipses are easy to screw up

I rarely see ellipses used correctly, and I have to look up the rules every time I use them. Which of the following is correct?

“I just don’t know . . . .”

“I just don’t know…”

I just don’t know? . . .”

Here’s a quick rundown on proper ellipsis usage. and Grammar Girl has a lengthy post on the same subject. But you’ll see disagreements everywhere about best practices. Just be consistent, and let the designer of your book deal with whatever your editor doesn’t cut for being boring or incorrect.

But if you’re doing your own book design like I am, you’ll have to decide what to do about ellipses. Despite my disdain, Monsters All the Way Down has three of them. Do I put a space in front of the ellipsis? Do I type a short space between the periods? If I use the glyph will the design police come for me in the night?

It is so much easier to just leave them out.

Of course, you can take all this advice or leave it. But your writing is important, so please be deliberate in your choices.

 


 

The late, great Charles M. Schulz is the only creator I give a full pass on ellipses.

A nice write-up on the proper use of ellipses and em dashes in dialogue.

 

The Weekend I Built a Dream Machine

Way back when we lived in our first apartment, my wife went away for the weekend. My best buddies were all busy, so I debated how to spend this sudden influx of me-time. Eat nothing but pizza? Marx Brothers marathon? Read all of Wikipedia?

I threw on a bootleg Muppet Babies DVD and built a Dream Machine.

Dream Machine animated

Thanks to David Cronenberg and Peter Weller, I’d become a bit obsessed with William S. Burroughs. This led me to a device designed by his friends Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville. Gysin thought the dreamachine would find its way into every home, as ubiquitous as a television set.

The hardest part about building my dreamachine was finding a cheap record player that played at 78 rpm (I have a decent turntable now, but I wouldn’t use it for a dreamachine–it might damage the motor). Most thrift store turntables only play 33 1/3 and 45 rpm, which will work but doesn’t look as cool. My mom was the one to find me an old school record player–“old school” as in 1970s public education–and the rest was just elbow grease.

Everything I used to build my machine:

Basic tools: craft blade, large flat piece of cardboard, electrical tape, large t-square , card stock, screwdriver

1. 78rpm turntable

2. 34″x32″ craft butcher paper

3. Thrift-store lamp

4. Light bulb cord and bulb

dream machine base

My wife supplied me with the black butcher paper. Following plans from the internet (check the links at the bottom), I created a grid with a t-square and used my card stock stencil patterns for the shapes. The most expensive part of the whole project was getting the thing laminated for stability. I met with some resistance on that step–the folks at the Kinko’s worried my paper might get torn up in the machine. If I built another one, I’d use a sturdier material that wouldn’t need lamination.

dream machine bulb

The lamp portion came from a thrift store, and I was able to connect it to the turntable through the tonearm hole (hence the need for a screwdriver to open up the turntable). The bulb hangs from a short light bulb cord, available at any hardware store. At one point the inside of the column was coated with sparkly wrapping paper, but it has long since come unstuck. Electrical tape holds the column together and keeps it on top of an old polka record.

You use the machine by leaning in quite close with your eyes closed. The spinning column causes the light to pulse at the right frequency, which you can adjust by the height you’re looking and the turntable speed adjustment. With your eyes closed, you see fractals and other shapes, much like when your rub your eyes. Worth the effort? I think so. It’s great for getting in the mood to write. And not only is it relaxing and meditative, it makes for a great conversation piece. It’s nice to combine it with headphones and some Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, or Portishead.

Dream Machine and me

My buddy Dustin Taylor took this photo during my author photo session.

(WARNING: Obviously, flashing lights can be dangerous for some people, such as those with epilepsy. Never turn this thing on before checking with everyone.)

Resources for building your own dreamachine:

http://www.noah.org/science/dreamachine/

http://ultraculture.org/blog/2013/11/27/build-dream-machine/

Also of interest:

FlicKer, a full documentary about the Machine available on Youtube and Amazon Prime.

Excerts from The Flicker, a 1965 film by Tony Conrad with a similar effect. This one is viewed with the eyes open.

At the time I built my machine, I couldn’t find the column to purchase at a reasonable price. It looks like now you can get them here (US) and here (UK). I’m unaffiliated with these stores, and have no idea about the quality.

My Most Frustrating Time Suck–Songs I Can’t Remember but Can’t Get Out of my Head

I’ll mark this problem-solving post “Oddly Specific.” The moral is, if you have something standing in the way of your work, don’t just bang your head against the wall. Find a solution!

It never fails. I sit down at my desk to crank out a scene, and I start hearing a song in my head. I listen to music while I write, so it’s usually not a problem–I fire up YouTube or the turntable and listen to whatever is on my mind.

But sometimes I don’t know what song is on an endless loop in my head.

If I can remember enough to google a lyric, it’s still not a problem. I can fire up YouTurn or the tubetable and get it out of my system.

The disaster arises when I have enough song in my head to drive me insane, but not enough to figure out which song is slowly killing me. You’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal, and maybe it isn’t–for normal people, I mean. But I have lost entire writing sessions to this madness, because the band in my head will not stop playing until I hear the song.

Just writing about this is giving me a headache, like my head is in a Three Stooges vice. Let me go grab an analgesic

Whew. Okay.

If this ever happens to you, hold off a little longer on seeking professional help, because here is the solution: Reddit’s r/tipofmytongue, a place where people help you remember what’s just on the tip of your tongue. When several “What was the name of that book?” forums failed me, the people there helped me remember the name of a children’s book my grandma used to read me. They’ve also saved me from a padded cell with a few songs.

Revolt of the Darumas, The

Finding this book was harder than decoding the Zodiac Killer’s unsolved cipher.

Sometimes it takes some time for those geniuses to figure it out, but the act of asking can be enough to get the music out of my head so I can work.

So next time you need help remembering a random factoid, make a Reddit account if you need to and remember to follow the rules for posting a request.

One more tip if you share my stuck song problem: keep a list that is easily accessible. Wasting precious working time only to realize it’s the second time you’re tried to remember the song is enough to drive a man to drink

I know I’ve plugged Reddit once before, but I promise I’m unaffiliated.

As for the much worse time suck I may have introduced you to, avoid Reddit on a day you’re trying to work–unless you have a song stuck in your head.

 

black-divider-no-background-md

Oh, you want to know some of the mystery songs I’ve had stuck in my head? Not all of these required a trip to TIPOFMYTONGUE.

That one song, it starts with organs and then the guitar comes in and goes DINEH DEH DINEH DEH. Not by The Postal Service!

That one song where a woman–at least I remember it being a woman–sings RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN…

That one (maybe?) creepy song where a man keeps yelling, “Who watches over you?”

That one song where the guy keeps repeating, “I could sleep. I could slee-eep. I could sleep. I could slee-eep.”

That one ’80s song that gets stuck in my head. I think it’s in heavy rotation at the supermarket?

That one ’90s song sung by the lady that looks a little like my aunt and played on VH1 all the time around 1995.

How I Make Time to Write as a Stay-at-Home Parent

I read plenty of articles on establishing a writing routine. Unfortunately, the majority should have a disclaimer: “Irrelevant to parents of young children.”

My last job left me feeling burned out, so when the time came to decide what to do about our first-born, I volunteered to stay home. I reasoned that I would finally have the time and the mental energy to write.

This actually worked for the first few months I stayed at home. I wrote a good chunk of the first draft of Monsters All the Way Down during that time, and I thought I would be able to write and edit one book every year before my children started school. Even with the many long nights and the stress of being a new parent, it was one of the most pleasant autumns of my entire life.

It didn’t last.

I later found out most people thought I was either lying about staying home to write–“He just doesn’t like going to work”–or believed I was crazy to think I’d have any extra time. As soon as my son stopped sleeping most of the day, the time I had to write–and clean, and breathe, and think–disappeared. I’ve met writers who could write with their children running and screaming in the same room with them. Unfortunately, I am not one of those parents.

ear plugs

Free parenting advice: ear plugs take the edge off and add years to your life. You’ll still be able to hear your little angels screaming bloody murder.

I finished the first draft of  Monsters and revised it over the course of a hundred inefficient late nights. Some nights, after my family went to bed, I would sit down at my desk and cry, because I knew I was too exhausted to write anything.

After giving up on burning the candle on both ends, I tried working during the evenings after my wife got home from work. That wasn’t fair to her, and even though she didn’t say anything, I could tell how frustrating it got for her after even one night of coming home from work and then being totally in charge of the kids all evening while I sat in my office. So I went back to writing at night.

Of course, taking care of the kids all day and sitting at my desk all night was unsustainable. It took me too long to realize I’m not a very good dad when I’m exhausted. I’m grumpy, stressed, and not fun to be around. This also wasn’t fair to anyone, especially to my kids.

My writing came to a standstill as I got my parenting back on track. But this presented a problem, too. Like many people that love to create, I feel lost and–let’s face it–depressed when I’m not making anything. I still needed a routine that let me care for my kids but also gave me creative time to look forward to.

My solution is Sunday is my Writing Day, and I can’t express how much it has helped me. On Sundays, I get a full work day’s worth of writing. It only works because my amazing wife is supportive, and I’d like to think it’s a good way to make the most out of a difficult situation.

If you’re a single parent trying to write, you are my superhero. I can only hope you have a support system of family and friends to help you by watching kids for if you want to try a weekly Writing Day.

Is writing one day a week ideal? Not for me, but it’s better than the other alternatives I’ve tried. If you’re a stay-at-home parent struggling to make time to write, you might want to try staking a claim on one day a week to be your Writing Day. Here are some pointers, most of which I’m still working on myself:

  • Can’t do a full day? Try scheduling two regular evenings a week
  • Remember that your writing priorities are not shared by others. Be understanding, but be selfish with your Writing Day. In return, give your time to your family freely the rest of the week.
  • Take care of business, but remember there will always be something you could be doing other than writing. Things will keep.
  • Sometimes things come up that are more important than your writing day. Be mature about it and remember there will be other days to write.
  • If you have a Writing Day to look forward to, there’s no reason not to handle as many chores as possible the other days of the week. (I really need to work on this one!)
  • When you are having a tough time, remember that you have a Writing Day coming up. This has totally changed my outlook on bad days.
  • Headphones or ear plugs help drown out the sound of noisy children during your Writing Day.
  • If something comes up that makes you miss your usual day, do everything you can to reschedule it to a different day that week.
  • Even if you aren’t an outliner by nature–I’m not–you can make use of smaller outlines to better utilize your writing time. If I have a complicated section or scene coming up, I outline in my spare moments throughout the week so I can make the most out of Sunday.
  • During the week, find writing-related activities you can do with your children around, like reading good books, working on a blog, or building up your Twitter followers.
  • Utilize a mobile supplemental file to keep track of those beautiful ideas you have outside your Writing Day.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before, so you can get an early start. (This is another big one I need to work on!)
  • Set realistic goals. My last project was somewhat complex, so my goal was 3,000-5,000 words a session. I didn’t always meet it, but I always tried!
  • A to-do list is important for those days you need to accomplish more than writing as much as possible.
  • Any good advice that applies to a daily writing routine applies: eliminate distractions, have a clean work area, be productive, don’t look back.
  • Be the best parent you can be. It might be hard to believe, but your kids are more important than any book.

Setting aside one day a week to write is difficult, and don’t develop any delusions about this being the perfect solution for busy parents. But it has already helped me work toward publishing one book, finish the first draft of another, and finish several short stories. Hopefully it will work until I go back to work or my kids start school.

Watching a book grow by only 3,000 to 5,000 words a week is difficult, but it beats your novel not growing at all. Don’t give up!

I usually tweet about my Sundays with the hashtag #SundayIsMyWritingDay.

What are your methods for finding time to write? Please share below.

One Trick That Helps Me Finish First Drafts

I’ve shared this with other writers before, and I’ve been told it was helpful. For some it might seem obvious, and I’m sure some variant is standard operating procedure for many. Still, this technique is a primary reason I’m able to finish my awful first drafts. I use it for both short stories and novels, and I’m sure you’re clever enough to find more applications.

Years ago, I was newly married and attending graduate school–perfect time to start a novel, right?

I obsessively outlined the entire book. I wrote and rewrote the first chapter a dozen times. When I finally made progress, I went back and rewrote that first chapter again and again.

I’m still married, and eventually I graduated. But I never finished the first draft of that novel.

We could argue it was the wrong time to start a book, or my detailed outlines killed my creativity. After all, I knew how it ended, so where was the fun in getting to the end? But this post isn’t “Outlining vs. Flying by the Seat of your Pants.”

Back at the time, I was obsessed with the story of Orpheus. For the unfamiliar, Orpheus descended into the underworld to rescue his lost love, Eurydice. He’s told she will follow him back to the surface as long as he doesn’t look back. Just before he reaches the surface, he doubts and turns around, only to see Eurydice disappear back into the abyss.

These themes even worked their way into my unfinished book–but I never made the crucial connection. Just like Orpheus, I was doomed because I kept looking back.

I told you to finish the first draft!

If only he had finished his first draft!

To avoid this terrible end, I stopped looking back.

That’s very poetic, Ryan, you’re thinking. It brings a tear to my eye. But it doesn’t tell me anything. Everyone knows you have to press on through your first draft, but how did you do it?

I make a supplemental file for every short story and novel. I use Google Drive, a free service. One Note is another free option, and you may already have it on your computer. Use whatever works for you. I use Drive because it’s simple and allows me to access the file from any computer or my phone. I name my files “(Title of story) – Supplemental.”

The supplemental file is for all the things I want to go back and change, my ideas for scenes I haven’t written yet, and anything else I need to remember but I’m not writing into the novel that instant. You can also delete a section from the story but stick it in the supplemental file if you want to hold onto it.

Brilliant idea while standing in line? Put it in the file. Finishing chapter 10 but realize the perfect way to reorder the first three chapters? Put it in the file. I type it in right away, before I have a chance to forget. Middle of the night, middle of a meal, doesn’t matter. I know better than to believe I’ll remember, and a grand idea once forgotten is an immeasurable loss.

How does the supplemental file change the game? It keeps me from meddling until the first draft is done. I finish the first pass and then work through the supplemental file, making those changes one at a time.

I’ve just started revisions on another novel, and today was a perfect examples of the supplemental file’s power at work.

I realized, fifty pages into the first draft, one male character should be female. In the old days, I would have gone back and changed what had come before to make the draft cohesive. But that way lies only madness. Instead I made a note in my file: “Change childhood friend to a girl.” I named her and kept on writing as if she had been in the book all along.

Today I returned to the completed draft and changed the character in those earlier sections with ease, without losing any of my sweet, sweet momentum. What could have cost valuable writing time instead made these early revisions a treat.

During revisions, I prioritize the changes I still want to make–I usually do the largest changes first. I highlight entries in the file once I’ve implemented them and use strikethroughs to show ideas I’ve discarded. This way I remember what’s taken care of and hold onto discards in case I change my mind a second time.

This process might go against the general advice to trim at least 10% off your first draft. If it helps, consider additions made with the supplemental file to be part of Draft 1.5. After making your supplemental changes, then you can start cutting and tightening everything up.

Using a supplemental file accomplishes at least three things:

  • You plow through the first draft without losing momentum.
  • You don’t forget those beautiful ideas.
  • You don’t waste time going back to cram in terrible ideas.

It’s also good practice to keep a separate character file and, if necessary, a world building file. And don’t forget to back up your supplemental files often; they’re nearly as important as your first draft, and you should back up your first draft after every writing session.

I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging. Do you have any advice for cranking out a first draft? If so, please share in the comments below.

Remember, don’t be like Orpheus. Don’t look back. Keep looking forward to your success.

How I Used Reddit’s r/writing to Find my Cover Designer

Monsters All the Way Down cover

Once I decided to go the self-publishing route for Monsters All the Way Down, I wanted to do it professionally or not at all. This meant hiring someone to do the cover.

Googling failed me. I sent out a Twitter SOS and connected with some excellent designers, but none were the right fit for Monsters–or for the novels in progress that will connect with it. I considered hiring a comic artist, but it became apparent designing the cover for a novel is different than illustrating for comics.

My buddy Josh Jordan hires photographer J.R. Blackwell and designer Daniel Solis to make some of his covers, but most cover designers in my price range put a heavy emphasis on stock images. There is nothing wrong with this approach, as evidenced by the majority of published books, but I wanted something a bit different.

I lurk Reddit’s r/writing, so I looked there. I stand before you now, the only person to have benefited from the infamous Reddit search engine.

This past NaNoWriMo, Rory Harnden made covers for author free of charge. Liking the look of them, I tracked down his website. I emailed the information he requested, and asked for a price quote on both an ebook cover and a wraparound print cover.

In my initial request, I attached some images I thought could help, including a devilish mask, a white suit, and an album cover with a style I liked.

Rory got back to me in the next day with a reasonable price. After payment and more information from my end, he worked up four impressive concepts. After narrowing it down to my favorite, I made a quick mockup to see how it looked as a thumbnail on Amazon. I got a confirming second opinion from my wife and asked Rory to run with it.

We emailed back and forth on the details. Rory’s in the Netherlands, so his 7 am is my midnight, but he always got back to me quickly. A couple of times I asked him to make a change only to regret it. He was consistently polite and didn’t mind changing it back to before my meddling. I asked him to include my favorite element from a rejected concept–dripping ooze–on the back cover.

Once the cover was finished, he sent me the images and other pertinent information–fonts used, copyright information, etc. I bothered him once more to make sure I could use elements from the cover in promotional material, and that was that.

Monsters All the Way Down wraparound cover

Along with print quality covers, I received the image in black and white, a version without text, and several versions of the formatted title as an image.

Elapsed time from request to files in hand: two weeks. Would have been even faster if I hadn’t gone back and forth on those minor details.

If you’re needing a cover–or any graphic design work, for that matter–I recommend Rory Harnden without reservation. He’s professional, fast, and accommodating of wishy-washy first-time publishers. You can contact him from his website at rrry.me.

My tips for self-publishers seeking a cover designer:

  • Establish your budget. You can be thrifty, but a $5 cover will probably look like a $5 cover.
  • Shop around. Google, Twitter, deviantART, and Reddit are places to cast a wide net.
  • Make sure you know the designer’s policy on revisions and how the material can be used.
  • Ask questions.
  • Make sure the cover looks great at the size of a postage stamp, as that will be how many first see it. Would it draw your attention if you scrolled past?
  • If you need a print cover, know your cover size and word count before seeking out a designer, even if it’s an estimate. CreateSpace and other print-on-demand services will provide a template your designer might need. 6 x 9 inches is a popular cover size, but I went with 5.25 x 8.
  • Provide suggestions and some starting points. You’ve lived with your book for a long time, but this will be the first the designer is hearing of it. You know the tone and motifs of your book better than anyone. Don’t expect the designer to read your book.
  • Ask for the changes you want. You’ll hopefully be associated with this image by billions of adoring fans, so it’s worth the time to get it right.
  • Realize it takes time to make those changes. You may get a quick turnaround, but it may be a day or more before you hear back.
  • If you’re planning on doing more than one book, keep that in mind. You may want a designer you can use for multiple projects, and some designers give a discount for work on a series.

So that’s the story of my first time getting a cover made. If you’ve had an experience with a cover designer, positive or negative, please share in the comments.

Monsters All the Way Down is scheduled for release August 1st.