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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Your First Draft is Not Perfect: Author Interview with I.M. Maynard

What made you decide to start writing middle-grade books?  
I’ve been writing off and on since about middle grade, and all sorts of different genres and formats, including screenplays and short stories. I started writing my Roger Tarkington and the Magic Calendar series after my son was born. I was reading a ton of picture books and chapter books and wanted to write something that he could read when he was older. 

How do you get into the mindset of that age group?
It was easy for me to get into the mindset of middle school aged students as friends and family had older children—about the age of the target of this book. Also, I consider myself a grownup kid, at least at heart, and so that always helps!

How long did it take for you to complete your first book? 

Because writing is a hobby, meaning I fit it in around my professional career and family responsibilities, my stories take longer to finish. It probably took me a full year to complete the first draft of book number one, which was after several months of ruminating with the idea and outlining the concept. 

How many rewrites did you do? 

Overall, book number one in the series required 2-3 major rewrites and then a half-dozen or so smaller rewrites for punctuation and dialogue revisions. After finishing book number one in the series, I immediately started to plot, write, and eventually finish book number two in the series before moving to the publishing process. During that publishing process, I plotted and began to write the third and final book in the series, which I hope to publish in early 2024.

What was the hardest part of putting together your books?

Like many writers, I love the shiny object, meaning that the next story idea is often more appealing than the story I am working on or just finished. I was not a disciplined editor or rewriter in my early writing. I often shifted my attention to another project rather than put in the work to make my current story better. I was so keen on the premise of the Roger Tarkington and the Magic Calendar series that I pushed myself to appreciate (and implement) the adage, writing is rewriting. For me, the hardest part was my first major rewrite of book number one. Rather than move onto another project, I took the constructive feedback of my story development editor, a good friend of mine, and dived into the rewriting process, which resulted in a much better story. So, if you are writing or interested in writing, don’t give up on your project. Keep at it, because writing really is about rewriting.


Did you personally design the full book, or did you have assistance with formatting or cover design, etc? 

While I initially pursued an agent, I opted to go the independent route instead to keep the goal of the series intact and, just as importantly, to publish at my pace given my other commitments. Luckily, one of my good friends is a talented story development editor. He provided high level constructive feedback that helped to make the series what it is today. 

The cover was designed by a professional that I found through online and podcast research. I formatted books one and two in the series through book formatting software. And while I edited book number one myself, I hired a copy editor associated with the cover design company for book number two, which was more costly but preferable. 

I would definitely recommend that writers turn to others for feedback of the first draft. I have found that family and friends are not the best options as they sometimes give the feedback that they think you want to hear. My editor friend and I have a strong enough relationship that can withstand constructive feedback, which is really what you need to make your story the best it can be.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had from readers?

My best reviews have been from student reviewers who really got my story. As background, my series is about an ordinary 11-year-old boy who comes across an extraordinary power: he can repeat days of the week by touching inside a day on his wall calendar. While the story has a science fiction/time travel angle, I wanted the story to focus on everyday middle school issues. The time travel twist was to keep the story interesting and unpredictable. These young reviewers read the book for what it was meant to be: a fun, entertaining read that includes tips for navigating middle school and middle school friendships. 

I also enjoy watching the progress of readers through Kindle Unlimited (KU), where you can see how many Kindle pages are read each day. Through the KU dashboard, I can see that readers are not only starting my series, but they are finishing it too, which is the biggest compliment for an author, especially authors who write in the 10-12 age group given there are so many other things these young students can be doing besides reading. In the end, my top goal as a writer is to develop a story that is interesting enough to maintain the attention and interest of young readers. So far, I have been successful in doing that.

Marketing is the biggest key to getting sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produced more sales rather than just clicks?

I have tried Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and book site promotions. I’ve also participated in book events in my region. Marketing is so critical and also the hardest for me given my limited time. Blog posts like this are also super helpful. So, thank you for what you do! It is so valuable for readers and authors.

What do you know now about publishing you wished you had known sooner?

I wish I would have done more preplanning for my book launch. I decided to publish during the pandemic, given I had more free time, and really just jumped in feet first. While I did research the process by reading articles and listening to podcasts, I wish I would have developed a better plan for launching my first book in the series.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?

Two come to mind. First, make sure you are super enthused about your idea because, if you do it right, you’ll be with that story and those characters for a long time. Two, and this builds off of the first tip, rewriting is critical. So, know that your first draft won’t be perfect, but that you can make it better in subsequent drafts. And beware of the shiny object. It is always more fun to start a fresh new story and develop new characters. But don’t fall for it. Stay at it and make the story you are currently writing the best it can be. 

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?

I am often asked if I outline my stories or if I simply start writing with a basic premise or character. I have tried both. I prefer outlining first. For me, there was nothing worse than setting aside time in my schedule to write, then spending the entire time staring at my computer thinking about what to write next. Now, I do that thinking in the outlining stage. However, rather than sitting behind my desk, I typically work on breaking my story while I am out for a walk, sitting on a bench, or eating a sandwich. I am only sitting down in front of my computer to write and edit the story. I prefer outlining first, but each writer should do what feels right to them.


What is the next book coming out ? Can you give me some details?

I am in the final rewrite phase of the third and final book in the Roger Tarkington and the Magic Calendar series. I am hoping to release it the beginning of 2024. Pick up books one and two now so you are prepared for the final!

Love the plot premise of this series, Hope you do as well and will check out the links below to buy one of the books. 

Author Page:

Goodreads Page:

Amazon Page:

And here's a bonus for my readers, leave a comment on this post and we'll pick one reader who'll receive a copy of one of this author's eBooks. So do that now. It can be as simple as I want to be in the giveaway. We'll chose a winner next Tuesday!

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