The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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Monday Update: Editing progress, Gaiman’s way, and taking a semi-hiatus

Just a quick update this week, mainly to say that I’m putting this here blog on semi-hiatus until I catch up on all this editing. I’ve also put all of my writing projects on the back burner until I clear my editing backlog.

Of course, my freelancing work is also ramping back up after basically being out of work for the last five months, so it’s still going to be a juggling act. Something’s got to give, and when my plate gets too full blogging is always the first casualty.

I’m still not quite one-third of the way through my revision of Deliverance. Like I said on Twitter last week…

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Cleaning up rambley story vomit is a long and painstaking process. It’s making me wonder if slowing down and editing as I go, rather than fast-drafting and then editing this way, might actually make this whole process faster overall? I may need to rethink my process when it comes to future projects.

Over the weekend I watched an interview between Neil Gaiman and Tim Ferris in which I was reminded of Gaiman’s process, in which he writes his first drafts longhand (in a very nice journal using very nice fountain pens that probably cost more than I make in a year), which forces him to slow down and be more thoughtful as he goes (rather than vomiting the story onto a screen), and then revises as he types up his manuscript. I’ve actually emulated this process before (a few chapters of Kindred Spirits were written this way), but alas, I’ve got an undiagnosed something-or-other going on with my right wrist (it’s like carpal tunnel, I think, but on my pinky side) that would prevent me from doing an entire manuscript this way. Plus, I’m trying to turn books out faster, and I’m not sure this method would lend itself to that.

At any rate, that interview is over 90 minutes long, but it’s worth every minute if you’re fan of Neil Gaiman.

 

In lieu of these updates, I’m lining up some guest posts from some fellow authors you might not have heard of, but whom I think you might enjoy getting to know. Watch for the first of those, from J.K. Bovi, author of Zombies, Y’all and other Southern-fried paranormal adventures, next week.

And although none of this is especially prank-worthy, considering the date I feel like I need to say that none of this is an April Fool’s joke.

And speaking of April Fool’s Day, did you know that every year on this date, Bill Waterson and Berkely Breathed get together for a collaboration as Calvin & Hobbes take over Bloom County? That’s not a prank, it’s a gift (and if you’re too young to even know what I’m talking about or care, you seriously need to get off my lawn). Click here to see this year’s strip.

Finally, please enjoy this photo of deer grazing on our front lawn, sneakily taken through the kitchen window blinds so as not to scare them off.

PCOS diet update, Halloween craft explosion, TV ramblings & other blather

After a full week on the new PCOS-friendly diet (no gluten, no dairy, mostly low-glycemic carbs), I can report that all week long I was more energetic and more clear-headed. I was also less moody (which, considering it was a PMS week, is really saying a lot), and by the end of the week I was sleeping better. I haven’t yet noticed any lessening of my external PCOS symptoms, but I figure that will probably take considerably more time than just a week. But if I can just keep all this energy and eliminate the brain fog for good, then that will make it all worth it.

I didn’t stick to it as diligently over the weekend. On Saturday Matt made bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers with cream cheese filling (a little overpoweringly spicy, but SO delicious), and then on Sunday he made brats, which I suppose I could have enjoyed sans hot dog buns, but I chose not to. And then since I was already in for a penny, I had ice cream. Oh, and that morning I had pumpkin spice bread for breakfast. Mmm. But I’m back on track today, and finding that the weekend indulgences didn’t derail me from feeling good like I worried they would.

I finally got out all of the Halloween decorations over the weekend, and got crafty and made a few additional items. You can see how all that turned out:

Halloween decorations 2014

For closeups, take a gander at my Instagram feed.

While I got my crochet on, I also caught up on all my shows, including Once Upon a Time, which was better than I expected. I appreciate that they’re basically telling a sequel to Frozen with those characters and not re-hashing the movie (which I still haven’t seen), and also that they haven’t completely derailed Regina’s pseudo-redemption arc. Although that show can’t do a decent redemption arc to save its life, so my expectation bar is set pretty low.

As for Castle, they’re just being mean, although I do like that they’re trying something new with (what I’m assuming will be) a season-long mystery to solve (and now watch them have it all tied up by the end of the second ep. Which I won’t see till next weekend, so don’t spoil me if you watch it tonight).

I didn’t get any writing done over the weekend, but I did meet my word count this morning, bringing the total on the untitled Restless Spirits sequel to 3,885.

I’ve (so far) got a fairly light week ahead of me as far as my freelance workload goes, so that should work out to give me the time I need to do the final edits on Midnight Snacks and get it ready for next week’s launch (you can pre-order it now for your Kindle, if you’re so inclined). I’m also hoping to get an official website up for my editing and self-publishing services.

So that’s how my week (and weekend) went. What about you? Did you watch anything that made you want to scream, or squee? Has Halloween exploded all over your house? How did you spend your weekend? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Progress All Around

The cat room is really starting to resemble a craft room again. I’ve only got one more corner to deal with, but I’ve been saving the worst for last, so that will probably take a day or two to conquer. Once that’s done, I should be able to set my sewing machine up in a permanent spot where my desk used to be (if I can find something sturdy enough to set it on, since Matt has co-opted our card table for the office), thus eliminating one of my (several) excuses for never sewing.

But then it will be time to tackle the walk-in closet, where I committed the error of trying to keep both the litter boxes and various craft supplies and other odds and ends. And despite having a perfectly good litter box right there, they still had to pee on a lot of what’s in there. I know I’ve got a basket of old tee-shirts in there that I was planning to do crafty things with at some point, so I’ll need to decide whether it’s worth it to try and salvage them. Really, most of what’s in that closet is old and broken things I’d planned to recycle into craft projects, so it won’t be the end of the world if I just toss it all so I can be done with it.

***

I’m already almost done with the first editing pass for the horror collection. I just need to type up my changes, then it will be ready for beta readers.

Also, working in the cat room without anything to listen to has indeed been conducive to developing the new novel. I now have several scenes mapped out, along with some snatches of dialogue written down, plus I now know the major beats of the story and how each act needs to end. This whole coming up with ideas while cleaning thing might end up being very good for my house.

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!

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.

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.

Editing the Heck out of Your Indie Novel – Part One: The Extra Mile

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If there is one professional service that indie authors should be spending their money on prior to publishing their books, it’s editing. Unfortunately, many (too many) self-published authors don’t do this. Some think they don’t need to. But many of them, especially in the beginning, simply can’t afford to.

If you fall into the latter camp, does that mean you shouldn’t publish your book? No. But it does mean that you shouldn’t publish your book until you’ve gone the extra mile (or five) in the editing process. It means you shouldn’t be in a such rush to share your story with the world that you neglect these steps, and it means you should NEVER shrug off manuscript problems thinking that if the story is good enough nobody will care. Because let me tell you something about mistakes in indie books:

PEOPLE CARE.

Sure, I have yet to read a book from a major publishing house that didn’t have its fair share of typos or other errors. I also have yet to read a review of any of these books that mentions said errors. But for some reason, reviewers tend to hold self-published books to a higher standard, and no matter how much they love your story, they will mention errors in their reviews. Some will even deduct points, or those coveted stars, because of them. A bad edit, or no edit at all, can hurt sales and harm your reputation as a writer.

Worse yet, it contributes to the perception that indies are basically one big slush pile unleashed on the masses and that only books that have been vetted by a major New York publishing house are truly worthy. So please: do us all a favor and GET YOUR BOOK EDITED.

So back to what to do if you can’t afford a professional edit. I’ve been there with both of my novels, so I’ve got some experience in this — and overall it’s been a good experience. Not to say that either of my books were perfect the first time I put them on the market, but what errors were pointed out in reviews were few enough and minor enough that I’m pretty confident my self-editing method is about as effective as it gets (oh, and as soon as I notice a reviewer point out an error, I immediately FIX it, then republished the book — that’s not something traditionally published authors get to do). Hopefully, by sharing my method here we’ll have fewer barely-edited and rushed-to-publication books winding up on the market.

There is a lot of great advice out there already about how to edit your manuscript. The thing is, most of it is by established authors, most of whom either are or have been traditionally published. They are primarily concerned with getting your manuscript to a point that an agent or editor will want to read it, presuming that if it gets accepted by one or both of those then it’s going to go through another round of editing (or several) with the publisher.

But as an indie author, you ARE the publisher. That means that you’ve got to go through the whole process as a writer–and then go through it all AGAIN as a publisher.

This means a lot of drafts. It takes a lot of time and there’s going to come a point where your eyes feel like they’re going to melt and leak out of their sockets if you have to look at that blasted manuscript one more time. But stick with it, because I promise, it will be worth the extra effort.

This is turning into a monster of a post, so I’m going to stop here and split it into three parts. Next week, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty as I start going step by step through my editing process.

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 to start editing? Proceed to Part Two.

Beta Readers Wanted

I’m only six scenes away from finishing the second draft of Dominion of the Damned, which means I’ll most likely finish it up tomorrow, and then it will be ready to be seen by eyes other than my own.

I already have three beta readers lined up. I’d like to have two more. I think five is a good number — not too many to be overwhelmed by the amount of feedback, but a good comparative sampling to look for agreement and consensus about what needs to be fixed vs. trying to cater to individual reader quirks.

I’ll be giving my betas a free copy of the final e-book, as well as a mention in the acknowledgments. Requirements are that you actually, honestly have the time to read it and turn it around in a couple of weeks, that you’re not afraid to be honest, but you also have the good sense not to be mean about it. Protip: a good way to soften the blow of criticism is to also take time to point out the things that stand out that you like and think are good.

So, any volunteers? UPDATE: All of my beta slots have been filled. Thanks, everybody! I’ll be in touch when it’s ready.

Editing Bonanza!

…is not quite what this week turned out to be, although I did make good headway by finishing the first act and getting started on the second. It turned out that I had to devote a big chunk of my week to clearing a big pile of storm debris out of my side yard. I had planned to take care of it once the weather warmed up, but the city said “Nope! Do it now or pay a fine.”

So… maybe next week. No, what am i saying? I don’t mean maybe. I mean Yes! Definitely! Next week I will edit every day! And I will get this book done! Soon! -ish.

-ish because I’ll still have one more pass to do after this one, and that after the beta readers have gotten ahold of it. Which reminds me… I’m going to need some beta readers, so feel free to drop a comment and let me know if you’re interested. But on this, the first pass, I’m mainly focusing on story problems, patching up continuity holes and making sure everything makes sense and is paced well. On the next pass I’ll focus more on the words and spiffying up the writing, and I’ll format it for publication as I go.

As for story problems, I haven’t noticed anything significant yet, but I know it’s not completely issue-free, so it’s just a matter of time. I do, however, think that I’ll only have to do minimal re-writing of the problematic scenes, so that’s encouraging.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that for now, because really, I’m just blathering, because my body is achey and tired from clearing away all those limbs, and my brain is almost as tired from cramming in as much work as possible in between yard work sessions. I, dear readers, am ready to crash. TGIF, indeed.

No More Excuses

Time to WriteIt’s time, y’all. As mentioned in my last post, the web site project that was eating my time and patience is done, and the big web site support client I signed last November let their contract expire. That means I’ve got some breathing room, and hence, no more excuses.

And so I hereby proclaim for all to see that, starting Monday (because I’ve already got a jam-packed weekend so it really won’t do to start then… okay, maybe I haven’t really run out of excuses yet. SHUT UP!), I’m going back to the daily routine that I kept for most of last year: devoting the first two hours of my day (after my morning devotional and breakfast, that is) to writing, editing and publishing tasks. NO EXCEPTIONS. And no Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or e-mail or even turning on my phone until my writing time is done.

This routine worked quite well for getting DOMINION written, so it ought to do for getting it edited and published, too. And when I was doing this I still managed to get other work done.

Actually, if I’m being totally honest with myself, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been spending those two hours messing about online instead of doing anything truly productive, anyway. So it’s time to nip that in the bud and start opening Scrivener instead of Facebook when I sit down with my morning coffee.

I expect you to hold me to this, people. If you see me on a social network before at least 1:30 PM Central (and yes, if you do the math you’ll realize that means I generally sleep in until about 9:30 or 10:00. Don’t judge me. That’s one of the perks of being a freelancer), please don’t hesitate to scold me and shame me into logging off and getting to work. Doing whatever the virtual equivalent is of your impression of Donald Sutherland at the end of Body Snatchers ought to do the trick.

Get to work Jean!

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