I sent a hard copy of my manuscript to my freelance editor in mid-December; just in time to set it aside and relax for the holidays. That night at dinner, I announced to the kids that this had been done, that the first draft of the book was officially finished, and they were excited for me. Then Anna asked if she could read the draft. Nora and Danny wanted to hear the story too.
"No," I said. "I'm sorry, but it's kind of written for grown-ups."
Their faces fell. They were not only dissapointed, but a little angry at having to wait all this time for me to finish something that it turns out they couldn't read anyway. I felt bad, and by the time the new year rolled around, Jody and I had the idea to write a short "chapter book" just for them. It would star characters that were modeled after them, and would be heavy with scenes based on things that had really happened in their lives. Jody would do chapter header illustrations and the cover, and we'd get a couple of copies printed up for their bookshelves.
It was a ton of fun. A couple of weeks later I had a good draft and Jody had done most of the illustrations. By the end of January we'd used Lulu.com to order a proof. I read it and found a number of typos and grammer problems. Also, some parts were too scary, others too silly. It needed more work, even if it was only for our kids.
About this time, the editor got back to me with her feedback on my novel and the kids' book took a back seat. I still plugged away at it over the next few months, but things moved slowly. I switched to CreateSpace because they had the trim size that I wanted. Jody modified the cover a few times (very few of her illustrations though--she pretty much nailed those the first time out). And so it slowly evolved.
By June, I'd re-read and edited the thing nearly a dozen times (while taking short breaks from the novel). I'd ordered four or five different proofs and found problems in each of them. It was starting to feel impossible to finish. Finally, in the third week of June, I forced myself to work on it every day with the challenge of calling it done, no matter what, by that Friday. I was desperate to get back to my novel, and the kids' book was supposed to be fun, not a burden. Plus, the kids were starting to suspect I'd never be done, and were getting frustrated with me.
So I finished it, ordered yet another proof, and read it to them the same day it arrived. They loved it, because they're my kids and it was about them. Anna did a book report on it. Nora took it in for show and tell. I made a handful of final edits and approved the changes without bothering to order another hard-copy proof. The kids begged me to make it publicly available so that their friends could get copies, so by early July, Escape from Devil's Canyon was up on Amazon. On July 17th Jody outed me on Facebook, and I officially became an author.
The whole experience was very fun and, more importantly, served as a fantastic dry-run to self-publishing. I learned how it works, what the timing is like, how much effort is involved, etc. And writing for a younger audience was fun too--something I may actually come back to with more seriousness in the future. But for now, I'm just happy to have finished something; it gives me hope for the novel.