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2018-01-28

Tax time

As anticipated, I finished my first round of editing of Collision Course. The initial feedback from the those who have been allowed to read the novel so far have been positive. My content editor did a quick read-through and enjoyed the book. Now, he's going to take another pass through it to see it the plot holds water. My cover artist also enjoyed it and is now working on a cover. I will wait until I hear back from my content editor (Lee Dilkie) before starting on my second editing pass. After that, the book goes to my wife for proofing.

Tax Time
For those of you who are self-published, you should have received a notification that your 1099s are ready to be printed through Amazon's website. If you opted for paper copies, they're either in the mail or have already arrived. So now what? If this is the first time you've done taxes for your writing business you should do some reading up on the tax laws concerning what you can and cannot deduct. Hopefully, you've been maintaining a detailed set of records for your new business. If you've done this before, then it's just a re-hash of last year.

Writers should realize that the IRS does allow you to consider your writing as a business. But, you must treat it as such. If you don't, then it's considered a hobby and you don't get to deduct anything. You will, however, need to pay taxes on your writing income. So what's the difference? Mostly, it's how you maintain your records. Having a separate bank account, separate credit card, and an office dedicated to writing is pretty much proof that your writing business is a business. If you're ever audited and your writing income and expenses are mixed in with your personal accounts, you're going to have a harder time convincing the agent that your writing is a business.

One sure way to ensure your writing is considered a business is to register it with an EIN. Since most writers are a sole proprietor, this EIN will be linked to your social security number. If you've gone the route of incorporating (as some writers I know have done) then you're all set--you have a business. An EIN is not absolutely required though and you can still claim your writing as a business as long as you can prove it is a legitimate business entity. How? Documentation!

Having a separate bank account is an enormous help. It also helps tremendously when tax time comes as all of your writing finances are contained in a single source. If you use Quicken or other software to track your finances, then getting the data you need to file your taxes is even easier. So what are the advantages of claiming your writing as a business? Deductions for one.

You can deduct travel costs, meals eaten during travel, meals eaten where business is discussed, and mileage for all business-related trips. The cost of paper, computers, printers, and other office supplies and equipment are also deductible. A portion of the cost of the internet service, as well as the cost of maintaining an author website, is also a deduction. Magazine subscriptions, writing software, membership fees, and virtually any other cost associated with your writing are deductible. If you meet the strict requirements of a home office, you can deduct that as well.

If you write as a hobby, you get none of these deductions. The key to surviving an audit though is meticulous documentation. Detailed financial records specific to your writing activities, mileage logs, a business log, and other detailed documentation is proof that you treat your writing as a business.

Filling out the forms is not difficult. I used to use one of the online programs to do my taxes. The cost is minimal. Nowadays, I do my taxes by hand. I don't mind reading the IRS publications and I prefer to know exactly how my taxes are prepared. The publications produced by the IRS are actually quite clear. If you want to be assured that your taxes are done right, read the publications yourself and then do your taxes by hand. After finding a $650.00 mistake a few years ago by a tax professional, I have always done my taxes myself.

2018-01-21

Editing

The first round of editing for Collision Course has begun. I have been off since Friday and have had a lot of time to edit. As such, I am about halfway through the first editing pass.

About 2 years ago, I had an idea for a short story. I started it, then set it aside because I really didn't know what to do with it. Last year, I caved in to the requests from my writers group and finished it. I still don't know what to do with it. My wife suggested I make it publicly available. Since I have no clue where I would even start to sell this story, I agreed. It's very short and will take about 10 or 15 minutes to read. Please feel free to distribute this story to anyone.

This is normally the time of year when I begin my series on how a writer should be treating their writing as a business. I'm going to defer this until next week. This post is being kept short because I really need to get back to editing. I prefer to do the first editing pass as quickly as possible so the entire story can be processed without delay. That's how I manage to find some of the biggest plot blunders. I've already found a few.

Back to editing.

2018-01-14

Editing to Begin soon

Collision Course has now sat idle for a couple of weeks and I've been focusing on all sorts of non-writing related activities. The urge to dive into the editing is growing which means I will be starting that process next weekend. I actually wanted to begin editing this weekend but the weather made it impossible. Last Thursday, our 18 inches of snow was nearly gone. The temperature was hovering around 50 and it was raining making a big mess of things. But that was about to change--quickly!

I took Friday off expecting bad weather. The day started off around 50 with rain and then the temperature began to drop. By noon, we saw our first sleet. By one o'clock, things were starting to be coated with a thin layer of ice. Luckily, the temperature continued to drop and by 3:00 it was snowing. My wife and I made an early trip out and then stayed inside. Instead of editing, I took care of cleaning up a lot of computer-related things I'd been putting off.

Saturday morning, I woke up to find the back door frozen shut (the handle won't even turn) and a drift blocking the front door. It took some effort to get it open. As soon as it was light enough outside, I began the process of clearing the driveway. The snow I was dealing with was the consistency of lightly packed sugar sitting on top of a layer of harder packed sugar on top of a coating of rough ice. The drifts were enough to cause my blower to chug forcing me to take smaller bites. I did my driveway as well as two of my neighbors. It was 12 degrees outside so I came in for a break. Later that day, after the sun had come out, I deiced the cars and thawed out the back door. No writing or editing got done as I spent more time outside than in.

Now, it's Sunday and I'm debating if I should start editing or wait until next weekend. I do have a considerable amount of Java reading I need to do and my website still needs to be finished. I won't be making up my mind until after I finish this post.

My wife and I Skyped with our friends in Minnesota. Heather (my best friend's wife) is my cover artist and she's been reading the first draft so she can come up with an appropriate cover. She told me she loved the book so far and was laughing her ass off in certain places. I was so glad to hear this as this particular book was a difficult to write and I wanted to try to give it a bit of humor as well as structure it to keep the reader wanting more. Based on her feedback, I succeeded.

In other news, I will be returning to Launch Pad again this year. I originally attended Launch Pad in 2012 and I've been going back ever since. It is an experience you will never forget. If you are an author, editor, illustrator, script-writer, movie producer, or anyone who creates material for the public, you should seriously consider applying for Launch Pad. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please pass this on to them. The only out of pocket expense is your round-trip ticket to Denver and Launch Pad might be able to help cover this cost. This year's workshop runs from May 28th to June 3rd. I've already booked my flight.

I will also be attending the Cleveland Concoction science fiction convention from March 9th to March 11th. I will be on several panels and my books will be available for sale in the convention's bookstore.

2018-01-01

Welcome to 2018

2017 is now history and 2018 has arrived. I finished last year by finishing the first draft of my next novel Collision Course. The final word count is a bit less than my normal target but that's fine. When a book is finished, it's finished. I will be letting the book rest for a few weeks and before starting the editing process. The manuscript will also go out to my content editor in Canada as well as my cover artist in Minnesota. The content editor will let me know if I've screwed up the overall plot. He gets a very early draft so I don't have to do multiple massive edits. My cover artist needs to have a copy as soon as possible so she can begin work on another of her fantastic covers. The process takes almost as long as it takes me to do my editing passes.

The process of getting a novel ready for publication is a long one. Rushing it will result in the release of a bad final product. I will be making several editing passes before the manuscript is ready. The first pass is fairly high level and I do it over a short period of time. This lets me clean up the overall plot. I might rearrange chapters, add a chapter, or on a rare occasion delete one. By the time this is finished I usually have my content editor's input. I will use his feedback to go back and make any large-scale changes that are required. At the end of this process, the manuscript's chapters are in their correct order and the general plot is in good shape.

All of the preceding work is done in Scrivener. I like to use it because I can keep two documents open at the same time and moving chapters around is a piece of cake. I realize this can be done just as easily in Microsoft Word, but Scrivener is designed for writers and it just works better in my opinion. When I'm doing my detailed editing though, I prefer Word. At the end of the rough editing process, I transfer the manuscript to Word.

The next editing pass is far more detailed and takes place after allowing some time to pass giving me a fresh look at things. Here, I add descriptions and make subtle changes to sentence structure to allow the story to flow as smoothly as possible and to bring the story to life in the reader's imagination. There is a fine art to doing this that I have yet to master. Add too much description and your reader's imagination is constrained to what the author sees in their mind. Add too little and the reader might imagine something that clashes with what the author needs them to visualize. It's during this pass that I also find a lot of strange grammatical errors as I look to give each sentence a proper place in the overall manuscript.

Sometimes, I will go through the manuscript one more time making sure that all the sentences work together to move the story along. If the detailed editing pass was done properly, this is nothing more than a quick read. After I'm satisfied with the finished product, I print it out and give it to my wife who is my grammarian. She is not a fan of science fiction and it typically takes her many weeks to review a novel. I take her comments and enter them into the manuscript. This is also usually when I begin working on my next novel.

When all the grammatical errors have been corrected, the manuscript is sent off to a reader in Germany for a final check. Having a second proofreader ensures I have the best possible product for release to the public. While the novel is getting its final review, I register for my copyright and begin the process of creating the print version. The interior is formatted to the proper size, page numbers are added, headers are created, and chapter page breaks are defined.

Usually, by this point in time, I have a final version of my cover art. If I get this sooner, I can build a cover while my wife is doing her editing. I create the cover by downloading a template from CreateSpace and building the cover in Photoshop Elements by merging in the artwork and adding all the other stuff that's on a cover (title, author name, back cover description, author photo, etc.). I use an estimate of the page count for this process. Once the cover is done, I generate a JPG and let the world see it for the first time.
 
This is also when I plan for a release date and begin promoting the book on social media. I can also upload a preliminary copy to Amazon and allow pre-release orders to begin.

The final step is to upload the Kindle version of the book to Amazon. I then generate a PDF of the print version and then look at it as if I was looking at a book. The problem here is that the book is actually shown as a mirror image of how it's going to be printed with the left page appearing on the right-side of the screen. This is an artifact of how the book is printed and I've gotten used to it. When I'm satisfied the PDF is 100% correct, I check the page counts and if needed download a new template and rebuild the cover. If the page count was accurate, I can skip this step.  Finally, after everything is done, the book is uploaded to CreateSpace and the process is complete.

As you can see, a lot goes into publishing a novel and if you're a self-published author it all falls on you to make it happen. I will let you know here as this long process works its way to completion.