Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: September 2013

Editing the Heck Out of your Indie Novel – Part 4: Q&A

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In the course of my series on editing your indie novel (in case you missed it, you can find it here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3), I had an excellent question asked by commenter Tam Francis:

How do you know when to stop?

There comes a point where you have to just call it done and let it go, and acknowledge that no book is perfect. No book ever makes it to publication 100% free of problems or errors, no matter which route to publication it takes. Your book will have imperfections. Some of those imperfections are what make up your style and voice. If you over-edit, which you can do, you run the risk of editing yourself–your voice and style, the thing that makes this book uniquely YOU–right out of your story.

So how do you know when you’re there? One way to know is when your beta readers stop sending your manuscript back with notes pointing out things that need work and start telling you how great it is instead. But sometimes, beta readers can be nitpicky, and you have to learn to trust your gut about whether the problems they point out are indeed actual problems, or if they’re simply difficult to please. If you feel it’s the latter–especially if nobody else seems to have a problem with whatever it is they’re pointing out–you’ve got to accept that you can’t please everybody, and move on.

Basically, you want to make sure you’ve done the best you can in these areas:

– You’ve fixed glaring plot holes, and addressed the not-so-glaring ones in some way, whether that’s by plugging them up, offering some kind of hand-wavy explanation, or hanging a lantern on it–that is, having a character comment on the fact that it makes no darn sense. Generally, it’s best to plug up even the minor holes if you can, but sometimes you just have to resort to one of the other two techniques and move on. These are best reserved for things that qualify as fridge logic.

– You’ve fixed continuity errors and anything else that might pull the reader out of the story.

– You’ve cut boring scenes and tightened the pace (here’s a tip: if you get bored writing a scene, your readers will get bored reading it. It can go).

– You’ve fixed grammatical errors, or made sure that any grammar rules you’ve broken were broken artfully and on purpose.

– You’ve gone through and nuked words you tend to overuse (i.e., like, that, just), or gestures you repeat too often (he shrugged, she sighed, he shook his head), and converted passive tense to active.

– You’ve read your dialogue out loud to make sure it’s not stilted or awkward.

– You’ve corrected every typo, spelling mistake and formatting error that both you and your beta readers have been able to find.

If you’ve done all of those things, and the majority of your beta readers are giving you the green light, then you’re done. Slap your cover on it, upload it to your publishing sites and have yourself another beverage before moving on to your next book.

And the winner is…

I had a few good entries for my pro bono developmental edit giveaway, and it was really hard to choose between them. In the end, it came down to a gut feeling about which one I feel will benefit the most from my help. After a lot of deliberating, I decided to give the pro bono edit to…

Christy and her manuscript Picture Perfect Lies.

The runner up — and it’s a close second — is Tam Francis and The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress. Tam will be getting a certificate for 50% off of my standard rate.

Congratulations to our winner! And I’d still love to hear from the rest of my readers. If you have any more questions on editing for indies, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments. Same goes for if you have any advice to ad!

Free Story: Snack Machine

It’s the first day of fall! Hooray! To celebrate, here’s a free story to help get you in the mood for the Halloween season.

 

Snack Machine

 

You think strange thoughts sometimes when you work the night shift. Coming home in the dark late at night, it’s easy to imagine that something in the darkness is out to get you.

If your imagination is like Tina’s, you might think how creepy it would be if the thin, dark gap between the wall and the vending machine at the end of the hall was really a doorway to some otherworldly dimension.

And then you might laugh the thought away as you grab your chips and resist the urge to run back to your apartment.

She was tired when the thought occurred to her, after a long night on her feet at the diner, and it was a nice distraction from worrying about getting mugged on the way home. Or worse.

Tina liked having the machine there. It was her one consolation when her budget had forced her to settle on the tiny basement efficiency. She almost hadn’t been able to afford even that, what with the landlady wanting two month’s rent up front. Thankfully, she’d relented. “Had a lot of trouble with drifters sneaking out without paying their rent,” she’d said, “but I guess you don’t strike me as a drifter.”

Anyway, takeout places were usually closed when her shift ended, and a bag of chips was better than nothing when she felt too tired to cook. She kicked off her shoes and turned on The Late Late Show and munched on her bag of Sun Chips. At least she could pretend those were kind of healthy. When they were all gone, she brushed off the crumbs, crumpled up the bag and headed to bed.

Quick Update

This has been a busy week, and I wasn’t able to get my final editing post ready to post on time.  So that — along with the reveal of who won the pro bono manuscript edit — will get posted next week.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick update of what else I’ve been working on:

Last weekend I wrote most of another horror short. It’s got two more quick scenes to go, and then I’ll probably post it here when it’s finished, which I will attempt to do this weekend.

Last week I also finished the steampunk pixie story, but I haven’t started editing it yet. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with that one.

Once those are both wrapped, I’m going to get back to the flash fiction collection and try to wrap that up before Nanowrimo — which will be a challenge, because my creative writing time is pretty much limited to the weekend right now. But I’ll see what I can do.

As busy as this week has been, last night I hit a wall of both mental and physical exhaustion, and woke up this morning with a big bucket of CAN’T. So I’m basically giving myself a three-day weekend to rest. Well, today wasn’t a day of rest so much as getting chores and errands out of the way so I can relax most of the weekend. Hopefully, two days of putting my feet up and indulging my creative side will give me back my mojo for Monday.

Editing the Heck Out of Your Indie Novel – Part Three: 3rd Draft to Print

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This is part three in what’s shaping up to be a four-part series. If you missed part one, which mainly covers WHY you should take extra pains in editing your indie novel, you can read it here. Part two, covering initial revisions and rounding up good first readers, is here.

 

 

Step Five

Send it to your beta readers. This group should look for both story problems AND technical problems. While you wait for feedback from this group, round up yet another group of beta readers. This last group should contain your eagle-eyed grammar cop friends, because they’ll be focusing mainly on looking for technical errors. These last two groups might sound redundant, but believe me, the interim group is necessary. They’ll catch things the first readers missed as far as story problems, and also get you well under way to a clean and polished fourth draft.

Step Six

Repeat Step Four with the latest round of feedback. This time, as you read through your manuscript and make edits, you’ll want to go through the whole thing, sentence by sentence. Start by doing a blanket find & delete of words you know you tend to overuse. Read every sentence and paragraph and justify every word, every dialogue attribution, every piece of punctuation, every chapter break and paragraph break and scene break. Read it aloud to yourself — especially the dialogue — to make sure nothing is stilted or awkwardly written.

Once you’re satisfied, or you just can’t stand to look at it anymore, celebrate completing your fourth draft and send it to the last group of beta readers.

Step Seven

Protip: don’t send it to this entire group at once. Send it to the majority, but hold off on sending it to the most trusted and eagle-eyed members of the group. Once you get the initial feedback, go through the manuscript again, formatting it for publication and fixing any errors they pointed out as you go.

Now that it’s all formatted and proofed, send it to the last of your beta readers. If possible, send it to them in its final format. Send one an e-book file and send the other a paperback proof copy. Have them look for formatting errors as well as typos and grammar & spelling errors. This is important, as these things WILL come back to bite you when people start leaving reviews.

If they find errors, fix them. Order another proof and check that the errors are indeed fixed in the print edition.

Congratulations. You have completed your fifth and final draft. NOW you are ready to unleash your masterpiece on the world. Upgrade your beverage to a glass of champagne and toast yourself as you upload your novel files to your various publishing platforms, confident in the knowledge that you did everything humanly possible to make it professional and legit.

Now to recap: that’s SEVEN steps involving FIVE drafts and FOUR different groups of readers. That’s what it takes to bring your novel up to a professional, publishable, ready-for-primetime level “by yourself.” If indeed you want your readers to regard you as a professional and take you seriously, don’t take any shortcuts that don’t involve simply hiring a professional editor to do most of this for you. And if you can afford to do that? Then just do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have any questions for me about the editing process? If so, leave it in a comment. If it’s not already addressed in the next two parts of this series, I’ll do a follow-up Q&A post at the end. Also, I’d LOVE to hear any editing tips you have to offer.

Ready for the Q&A? You can read it here.

Launching Today! Read Eucha Falls for 99 Cents

Eucha Falls coverQuick update to let everyone know that Eucha Falls is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s a short story on the longer side coming in at just under 10,000 words (Amazon says that translate to 39 pages of print, but that’s irrelevant in an e-book).

Here’s the official description:

A year following her brother’s mysterious disappearance, Melanie Fisher is determined to get answers. Her quest takes her to the site of an abandoned amusement park, where she finds a lost video camera containing evidence that her brother was losing his mind. As she digs deeper, she finds that the madness is catching. But is it really madness, or evidence of something much more real, and much more sinister than she could have ever imagined?

Updates on Eucha Falls and the Steampunk Cyborg Short

Eucha Falls coverGood news for anyone who has been waiting to read my pseudo-Slenderman, loosely creepypasta inspired, haunted amusement park story Eucha Falls: the wait is almost over!

The bad news is that the anthology to which it’s been under submission for the last several months politely declined its inclusion (I received a very polite rejection signed by Ellen Datlow herself. I’m cheering myself up by pretending that they’re not all signed with her name and that at least one of the slush readers thought it was worthy of her attention). So, that gamble didn’t pay off. I’m really not at all upset by the rejection. I’m much more upset that I put my initial publishing plans on hold for several months only to be told that it’s not quite what they were looking for, when it could have been out there earning me royalties and, hopefully, some fans.

This is why I self-publish, y’all.

At any rate, it’s already been thoroughly edited and beta’d, so I’m going to do my best to get it ready to release this weekend. That should be doable, as the cover (seen left) is ready, and all I have left to do is add front and back matter. But I’m having company on Saturday, and this is also the weekend of my wedding anniversary (which is actually Monday), so I’m not making any promises. Still, it should be available sometime next week.

As an aside, I was briefly thinking about changing the title (again). There’s one element of the story that’s inspired by the creepypasta Candle Cove (which you should go read right now if you enjoy a slow build to the unsettlingly creepy). Last weekend I discovered that the author of Candle Cove, Kris Straub, has both a website and shared storyworld (though both have been on hiatus for quite some time now) that happens to go by the name of Ichor Falls, which hits a little too close to home, especially since I’m crediting one of his stories as inspiration. But I can’t really think of a more suitable title, and if he wants to take it as a shout-out (assuming he ever even discovers my story), that’s fine by me. [/aside]

As for the steampunk cyborg pixie story, which currently has the working title Special, it is very close to done. I only have time right now to write about 450 words per day, so it’s creeping along, but I’m at the climax and the denouement is outlined in detail. I originally started writing it to submit to another anthology that’s being produced by Clarkesworld,  but my experience with submitting Eucha Falls has made me decide to publish it myself rather than letting it languish in a slush pile for months on end. I posted an excerpt here last Friday, and now I’m trying to decide whether to go ahead and post the rest of it as a freebie here as well as making the e-book free. Right now I’m thinking that’s probably what I’ll do.

Also, and I know this is a long shot, but I have a very specific image in mind for the cover: a steampunk butterfly. If anyone knows of an artist or crafter or jewelry-maker who does that type of thing, who is a fan of my work (even of my old fanfic) and/or who is willing to barter for services or yarn-crafted goods or even baked goods, if you could put them in touch with me, or vice versa, that would be awesome.

Editing the Heck Out of Your Indie Novel – Part Two: Getting to 3rd Draft

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This is part two in what’s shaping up to be a four-part series. If you missed part one, which mainly covers WHY you should take extra pains in editing your indie novel, you can read it here.

In this post, we get down to the nitty-gritty. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Step One

Well, technically step one is to write the book. But for our purposes today we’re assuming you’ve already got a rough draft ready to go. If so, then put it away. Don’t look at it for at least a month. Spend this time recruiting first readers. Don’t worry about roping in the eagle-eyed grammar cops at this point. Look for people who have good instincts about storytelling and pacing, and people who are good at spotting plot holes and continuity glitches and things that just make no damn sense, and people who have a good ear for dialogue. Look for people who read a lot of fiction and/or watch a lot of episodic television.

Where do you find these people? This is where a good critique group can come in handy, but I usually put out a call for volunteers in my personal and social networks, stating what I’m looking for, what things I’m going to be focusing on this round, my time frame, etc.

Step Two

When you’re month is up, take out your rough draft and do the first pass. Fix the problems that you can identify all by yourself. I’m not really concerned with which method you use; just do what works for you. Chuck Wendig’s got some great advice on how to revise a manuscriptSo does Holly Lisle, and hers is 100% less profanity-laden.

After you’ve made your first developmental pass, do your first copy-edit pass. At this point you can go ahead and take the lazy route and use an automated grammar editor like Grammerly. Your purpose at this point isn’t to make it perfect — it’s simply to clean it up as much as possible to minimize errors that might distract your first readers.

Step Three

Now congratulate yourself on completing your second draft. Have a beer or your beverage of choice and fire it off to your first readers. Explain to them that it’s too early in the process for them to bother pointing out typos or grammar snafus, because there’s still a good chance that whatever scene contains such errors will get extensively rewritten or cut altogether.

These first readers should focus on developmental feedback. Does the dialogue ring true? Is characterization consistent? Are there any plot holes, or anything that confuses them or pulls them out of the story? Ask them to refrain from telling you what to fix or how to fix it — that’s your job to figure out. They just need to point out any such problems, and to be honest, even brutally so if necessary.

While you wait to hear back from them, start recruiting your next group of beta readers.

Step Four

Read the feedback as it comes in. Don’t do anything with it yet. Let your subconscious digest it (and give any hurt feelings or irritation a chance to subside). Once you’ve heard back from everyone (and given your emotions time to settle), open up your manuscript and go through it again, looking at the problematic parts and making story repairs according to the feedback.

This, for me, is the hardest part. It’s not really a good idea to just automatically change anything that’s been pointed out as problematic. You need to analyze it, and analyze the feedback and who’s giving it. Are they savvy about the genre? If not, is their confusion simply because they’re unfamiliar with the genre shorthand you used? If that’s the case, should you maybe not resort to genre shorthand, or should you trust your audience to know what you’re doing there without dumbing it down for them? This can be a hard balance to strike. Basically, I look for agreement, and lack thereof. If only one of my first readers doesn’t get my Doctor Who reference, for instance, I’m going to leave it in there for the other four who did. But I’m also going to take a second look at that reference to make sure it actually ads to the story. Whether you make a change based on feedback or not, be sure you justify every decision.

Finish your changes, run it through spellcheck and Grammerly again, and have another beverage. You just finished the third draft.

Do you have any questions for me about the editing process? If so, leave it in a comment. If it’s not already addressed in the next two parts of this series, I’ll do a follow-up Q&A post at the end. Also, I’d LOVE to hear any editing tips you have to offer.

Ready for Part Three? Read it here.

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