Veteran’s View – from the Trenches

My guest today is what you would call a seasoned veteran.   I always pay attention when someone is giving advice who has been there, done that, and succeeded. These are people that we can learn from.

Such a pleasant person to talk with, and open to sharing  his experiences.  Talk about a fascinating mind – this man has one! I got a sneak-peak into  his upcoming book and I am already hooked!  Please welcome Mr. Jeffrey Cook on NaNo.


  • Are you a nano newbie? Seasoned veteran? Old timer?

I’m a seasoned veteran at this point. This will be my 5th year doing Nanowrimo.

  •  Have you finished and/or won nano in the past?

I’ve won every year that I’ve taken part. Usually, technically, winning 3 or more times over. I tend not to feel satisfied with Nanowrimo unless I get a first draft of a project done, though. there has been a couple years where I’ve made a lot of progress, and gotten 200k words done on three or four different projects, but didn’t finish my main draft.

  • How many words do you usually average per day? 

I usually get around 5 to 7k words a day during most Nanos. My best year was my first at a little over 10k per day, but that was all I was doing then.

Yeah, in the first nano, I wasn’t setting out to write a trilogy. I was just writing. It turned into 315k words, so I ended up breaking it up into 3 books. But they were all written, in terrible first draft form, that first year. This time, I set out to write a series.

  •  How do you prepare for nano? 

Ahead of any new writing project, Nanowrimo or otherwise, I make a playlist first. As soon as that’s done, I write an outline, usually with 1 or 2 sentences to sum up each chapter. The outline usually doesn’t last long before its revised, but I like to have the rough roadmap.

  • How many hours do you see that you wil be able to write each day?

I’m a full-time author now. Sadly, that doesn’t leave as much time for writing as I’d like, or as it seems like I’d be able to, amidst editing, marketing, keeping up with the social media side, going to conventions, etc., but I still put in at least a couple hours a day on actual writing projects, and more when I’m able.

  •  How do you feel about the marketing side of it? 

Honestly, I’m of two minds. I love making new connections and talking to people. I’ve made some new good friends from it. But I hate the busywork aspects. I wish I could hire a publicist who knew and understood a lot of it to handle a lot of it. It takes time away from writing for little idea of any return. That’s part of why I’m always grateful for bloggers and other people who are looking for content – it benefits me in terms of exposure. In general, outside of the actual face-time with people, though, I don’t like marketing much.

How do you handle editing?

I have a professional editor who is also sometimes a co-writer who is wonderful and saves my sanity on a regular basis. Finding the right editor is also a big help. I’ve worked with a few – and my current one really clicked well. So I’m keeping her. She deserves all the credit I can give her.

 But that is consistently part of my advice to authors, because I love meeting other writers and helping people get through the rough patches based on my learning experience and the things authors told me when starting out…

There are 2 things any author should be prepared for, unless they’re part of the minority with the right skillset: a professional editor (or friend who will be honest with you and has the right skillset) – and a cover artist.

  • Cover art – I have an idea in my head of what I want, and I need to find someone that con execute that idea to look good because if I try to do it – FAIL.
  • Yeah, I’m not an artist. I lucked into the first cover. I found it, already done, on Deviantart. I asked the artist if I could buy it, he said I could have it, just credit him on /everything/, because it was an old piece for him, and he wanted exposure. Then he disappeared – no responses, his website stopped updating, etc., just as there was lots of chaos in Eastern Europe. So, just as I was discussing hiring him for book 2. So aside from not knowing what happened to an awesome person, I needed to find someone who could duplicate the landscaping style for book 2 on short notice.

    Thankfully, Will Sweet does a really good job with landscape type work

  • Tell me briefly your nano book idea, and what inspired it.

I have a few projects going at once, including anthology submissions and an idea that refuses to go away if I don’t add to it now and then. My primary project, though, is a YA Urban Fantasy. I love mythology, and have been wanting to do something with a lot of inspiration drawn from myth – so I’m working on a project that will tie in the four lost cities of the fae, the four treasures of Ireland, and faerie myths. The main character is a teen girl who didn’t know she was a half-breed, whose sidhe blood has led her to have severe ADHD most of her life. She learns that she’s the daughter of one of the Unseelie lords, and has to navigate the faerie courts to make sure the Unseelie, often seen (not always undeservedly) as the ‘bad guys’, takes power when they’re supposed to on Halloween. The hope is to make it the first of a four book series.

  • Your book idea sounds amazing. I am a total sucker for mythology and specifically Celtic mythology and the Tuatha deDanaan.

Thank you. And yeah, I’ve been a huge mythology buff since I was little.

 One of the first things I really read was an old issue of Thor #276 back in the late 70’s, when I was 4, and comics were a great reward. It got me started researching the real mythology.
  •  Do you have a routine or ritual that you go through before you begin writing?

I get most of my actual writing work done late at night, once my wife and two of the three dogs go to bed. I can get editing and other work done before that, but I do my best actual writing when its quiet aside from the music, and when there’s less likely to be many interruptions. Otherwise, there’s not much ritual involved.

  •   I’m a nightowl by nature, but it doesn’t seem to work in  our family structure. I guess I still have to work on that aspect. What do you use for your writing?  Word? Scrivener?  Pen and paper?

Open office.  I also keep a notebook with me at all times when I’m not at home.

Do you find free writing during nano liberating or do you struggle to not edit as you go?

I find Nano extremely liberating. I’ve become pretty comfortable with editing later, or doing a little clean-up and sending things to my editor as I go, which she has said she specifically prefers over getting whole books at once, even if the ‘as I go’ method means she’s getting short bits of first draft instead of larger third drafts.

 Do you write chronologically or when you hit a  tight spot, do you jump to another scene and come back?

I usually write chronologically, but I will do bits and pieces of other scenes. I do tend to write my last paragraph early on, so I at least know the ending, even if I need to twist some of the middle later to make sure it still happens.

How long do you let it sit before you go back and edit and revise?

I used to let things sit for about a month. I have a professional editor now, though, so things tend to be sent to her as soon as I finish each chapter. Then I do revisions and rewrites when needed as she gets back to me.

What kind of support system do you have?  Family? Friends?  

It really has helped to have friends and family who support the ambition. I know a lot of people don’t. And I really do appreciate it when people ask me how the next book is coming along. It helps keep me motivated. I know a lot of aspiring writers don’t have that.

My wife has been really supportive, and doesn’t read anything I write so she can just be happily supportive instead of feeling the need to critique. My housemate loves asking how things are coming along. He’s driven me to Portland and Bellingham – 3 hour drives, repeatedly, because I’m disabled and can’t handle driving that long. My mother and close friends have been consistently very supportive – they like my posts, share events, encourage me to keep going, and buy signed books.










Bio: Author Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle, Washington, but the Dawn of Steam series are his first novels. When not reading, researching or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.

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Twitter: @JeffreyCook74



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