Friday, March 30, 2012

On the Road of Revision

I did some checking about the amount of time I spent writing Book 3.  It appears it took five months to belch out that draft.  During that time I did little else in the way of side projects and other distractions.  Now that it is complete, a great weight has been lifted from me.  Revision takes much less work because I go more slowly and only do small bits of work here and there.

This approach works well for me when revising and it gives me time for other things in my life.  This is good timing because with Spring arriving I will want to spend time outside to tend to the garden, the tree, and the yard.

This means a lot more time thinking about the events in Book 2 and the new characters that are introduced. Given that the book is over 100,000 words (a personal best) it means I've got a lot of work ahead of me.  Hope it it ready to go by December.

But that's not the only potential pitfall.  In Book 2 several of the main characters get fleshed out.  The issue here is the fine line between drama and dramatizing scenes and melodrama (the type of thing you see in soap operas and reality TV shows).  I want drama; I eschew melodrama.

But the whole young adult crazy in fiction now seems to thrive on melodrama.  I find myself slipping down that path.  The good news is now is the time to revise it out of my story.  This is one reason I am proceeding slowly through the book.  I need to find the words and scenes that don't belong and remove them or change them so that the text sings.

Essentially this means I'm doing a developmental edit, a copy edit, and a review for word choice and sentence variation all at once.  I doubt I could go much faster even if I wanted to.

I think the editor is getting this after I'm done, just to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Back to the Future

Time to return to the 21st century, I think.  Over the weekend I completed the draft of Book 3 (67,000+ words) so it is time to go back to revising Book 2.  The plan is to revise and polish the novel so that is ready for release by the end of the year.  That should be possible, but we'll see.

The method I used for writing Book 3 was very old school; I was chained to my desktop computer typing.  There is no point to that in an age of mobile devices, but the iPad keyboard does not work well for typing.  I make many more typos that I would at my desktop computer.  I have since purchased a wireless keyboard for the device so perhaps the iPad will work out better for Book 4.

The technique I'm using for editing Book 2 is one of my own devising.  I read it on my Kindle and make notes.  Then I transcribe the notes to my draft on my computer.  This is a little labor-intensive but it worked really well for Book 1 and avoids the need of editing on paper.  I want to avoid using paper and printer ink for environmental reasons.  That's why I devised another approach in the first place.  It also seems to me to the way to go in the future.  I'm thinking that printers attached to computers may very well be as obsolete now as typewriters.

Theoretically, if I want a less labor-intensive approach,  I should be able to edit the draft of my novel on my iPad more easily.  The problem is edits are not setoff in anyway, the way one might Track Changes in Word.  And I need to track my edits so I can review them after I make them.  Only in this way do I know if the edit is right and does what I want.

As you can see, I am taking a lot of care in the editing process -- perhaps too much.  But I think it is worth it.  I need to make sure the text says what I want to convey and that is often hard because English is such a blunt instrument.  Nevertheless, this is how I got Book 1 to sing.  And this is how I will polish my work.

And in case you are thinking of trying this yourself, please don't.  My methods work for me because I am the one using them.  You will need different methods because you think differently and have different associations.  So experiment and see what works for you.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blogging 102

I've been told by various people and sources the same thing about blogging:

  • I need to provide useful information to the readers of the blog.
  • I need to sound like (or be) and expert on the subject or subjects upon which I blog.
  • I need to blog frequently enough to attract an audience.

Seriously?  Is this right?  I'm thinking only in part.  Sure, I want to provide useful information to my readers.  But how do I know what you will find useful?  Sometimes I strike a nerve, but I'm guessing I miss the mark as often as I hit it or perhaps I don't hit the mark very often at all.  I really don't know since I almost never heard from my readers.

And in regards to being or sounding like an expert, please.  Who is going to believe that I, a struggling writer with only a few successes to his credit is an expert on writing, publishing, and technology?  Sure I can give you my opinion, and what I learn as I go, but an expert?  More importantly, I notice that the people who I consider experts on writing, for example, don't give advice.  They write books.

And lastly, regarding the frequency with which I blog, I've been writing Mondays and Fridays, for almost two years now.  The audience I've attracted (assuming I've done that) I think is more from my asking people to follow the blog on Facebook than anything else.  And I've connected the blog to GoodReads and Twitter and that doesn't seem to have helped.  Although, as an aside, the number of Twitter followers is growing but I don't think that has anything to do with the blog, per se.

The bottom line here is I doubt the three points stated at the top of this post are completely correct and accurate.  It sounds to me to be poor advice but the only advice people have to give because they really don't know what works.

And in this world of mis-information that we live in I think a healthy dose of skepticism is in order.  What do you think?

P.S.  I also been told to end blog posts with a question for readers and voice an opinion.  In the words of Rocket J. Squirrel.  "The trick never works."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Selecting a Publisher

If you are self-publishing and have no interest in a more traditional approach, this post is not for you.  But if you want some assistance with the process of finding a publisher, keep reading.

Selecting a publisher, one that you'll enjoy working with is like selecting a car to drive, or a college to attend, or an employer -- it requires work on your end to do the research you need.

You need to do this research up front in case they accept your submission.  I almost never do that work because I almost always get rejected.  Almost.  And, of course, the one time I don't do that work up front is the one time I am accepted.

Not that is a big deal.  Even if you want to do the research after you are accepted, most publisher deals are limited to a number of years.  So if you decide to go ahead and take the deal, it won't last forever.  Additionally, it is often hard to know exactly what a publisher is going to be like until you work with them, despite the research you do.  In this way, selecting a publisher is like going to work for someone else, which you are in a sense.  I all the jobs I've ever taken, I never know what it is like working there until I take the job and work there.

Still, you want to do some research up front.  For example, you want to know which companies regularly publish in your genre and which companies accept submissions from new writers.  Writer's Market is a source for some of this information.  You can also search online.

From experience I can tell you, you'll want to focus on small presses.  These are small publishing houses that rely on new talent to grow.  Note that not all small presses are  equal.  I find some are really no more than one person doing most of the work.  I call these place micro presses (like a microbrewery).   I'm not a big fan of micro presses but like everything else there are good ones and bad ones.

Above all, check the web site Editors and Predators to stay away from know bad publishers.

You also want to talk to people who have published with the press you are thinking of using.  The simple way to do this is to contact them through their author web sites.  You can get a list of names by checking the publisher's category of published writers.

If you find an author has no web site, then try Facebook to see if they are active there.

So good luck with your search; hope you find what you are looking for.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Voice and Tone

I was reading a call for submission to anthology the other day.  I do this from the small presses that I watch to see if:

a. The call for submission will spark an idea in my head for a story (I don't know why I do that; I'm busy enough, thank you)

b. I can, then, write something for their need.

This almost never works but when it does I usually hit on something good.

This last time got to write a short little piece that is very different from my usual stuff because it was written in the first person.  I almost never write fantasy stories in the first person.  But more importantly, the story relies heavily on the voice and tone of the narration.

The use of voice and tone is not an unfamiliar one to me.  I first learned about it while writing poetry.  My Last Duchess, by Robert Browning, is a perfect example.  And I have some poems that rely on voice and that work well.  But I've not used that technique in fiction, except perhaps, when written dialogue.

And as I think about it, first person stories work best when the voice and tone of the narrator matches the character that is speaking.  That means you've really got to know that person well so you can write the narration the way he or she would.  It requires close attention to the words used and the way thoughts are expressed.

For example, in my story, the narrator hates humans.  He hates their smell and their taste and says so.  I focus on these two senses because for the narrator these senses are the most important.  To that end, the story opens with the narrator describing the joy she feels in the smell of her cave.  The rich aroma of stone and gold mingling.  And the cool air which she prefers to the hot wind driven by the sun outside.

So if you are writing in the first person spend some time with your narrator first.  It will pay off in the end.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Constructing your Own Site

One of the topics I meant to touch on in my last posts was what you need to do to make your own web site.  Making a web site for an author is important because it lets you probably information to readers about your work.  This is very important for marketing your stories.  You can also use the site to let readers know more about yourself and to promote all the way to contact/follow you.

In general, you need the following items when creating a web site:

Content (what each page will talk about)
Navigation (what will you call each link; will you use menus)
Design (what will each page look like)

Let's start with navigation first.  You need some links and you'll need text for these links.  These are the categories of information you will provide in your site.  You shouldn't have too much.  Nine or less is good.  Five is even better.  If you find you need more, you might need to group a few together can provide some menus in your navigation.  That makes it much more difficult; providing menus means including a script of some kind.  Such scripts can be found on sites like Dynamic Drive.  But if you aren't really a coder, try to keep it simple and avoid the need for menus.

Note:  I am a coder and I will eliminated the use of menus in my site.  A word to the wise.

Once you have the categories for your site, you can probably write or collect the information you need for each page.  We are writers after all.  You might need to spin the information so it has a more marketing twist (I sort of suck at that and had to rewrite some of my content several times; I'm still not happy with it).

Lastly, the design.  There are two parts to this:  one is fitting your content into the pages.  That's not so hard.  The second is determine what your site will look like.  Obviously, you need design skills to do this and knowledge of HTML and CSS so most authors will need help with this.  There are templates you can use which are predesigned.  You can find them on the web.  (I'm assuming here you already have a hosting location; if you don't or don't know what that means, read on pilgrim).

Another option is to sign up with a site that simplifies the whole process.  Such sites host your site (give you a place to store your site on the Internet) and provide simplified templates for you to use.  The tradeoff here is you lose much of the power of the coding the pages directly.  But since you probably can't do that (or you'd have used a design template) that's not a big loss.  I've seen several author sites with Wix, web site builder.  And while I'm sure the authors who made them are happy with their sites, I wouldn't be because the sites aren't especially interesting, at least from a design perspective.  One might say the same thing about my site but I'm working on that.

One last thought:  Obviously this post is just a high-level look at making your own web site.  If you want to go deeper, you'll need to study HTML and CSS if you don't know these already, and web design.  You might want to hire a designer (I know a really good one, so ask if you want her services), or you might decide to do want I did initially, make your blog your web site.  Whatever you do, good luck with it and make it the best site possible.  Your readers deserve nothing less.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Building a Web Site

About two weeks ago, I blogged about Amazon's review policy.  How they do not let authors add reviews from other sources so that all the reviews of a book are in once place.  To help deal with that, I decided it was time to rethink my web site and really build it out.

Up to now, I've been using a single web page I created for Aure the Topaz and this site (my blog) in a joint effort to get out my information and my message.  I decided to move away from that and build a web site to handle everything, except this blog.  Instead, I settled on using the RSS feed from the blog to display the latest five entries on the home page.

My main goal with the site was to provide a location where I could collect all my reviews.  I realize this is not ideal but at least it will give me and my readers an alternative to Amazon's one-sided reporting.  After all, Amazon is not the other book store and I receive comments from folks who read the book independently of Amazon.  So if you want the full picture, you'll have to go my web site.

Determining the content was easy.  I had already done most of that work.  I'd need a page about me, a home page, a page for books, a page for my short stories, and a page for my poems so you can see all the kinds of things I write.  I also decided to include information about the world in which my fantasy stories are set.  This include a map, some background, and a glossary.

Pulling the site together was harder.  I think this is where most writers (and most people in general) have problems.  They don't know the technology that makes a web site work and they don't have the patience or time to learn it.  Fortunately for me, I ran a small web site consulting service in a past life.  So the technology and the coding of the pages was not the issue.  The issue I faced was the need for some scripts.

To start, I realized that I needed a script for handling the comments I planned to post.  I also found I needed a script to open flyout menus in the navigation I planned to use.  I ultimately backed out of that when my design changed.  And I needed a script for handling the blog RSS feed.

As it turns out finding these scripts on the web and implementing that was straightforward enough, but as the site came together, it didn't look good.  Especially the home page.  It was flat and didn't grab me.  So I rethought it and looked for author web site template that might be available.

These templates gave a few ideas on the design to use.  I wanted an image of me (so you know what I look like) and my name had to go in the banner.  The navigation I decided could be just a line of links and the home page should show the book and stories available along with the blog feed.

Suddenly I realized the point of the site wasn't to give you information about me so much it was to sell my work.  Suddenly cover images began to appear on the home page and the site came together.

I'm still tweaking it a little and I'm not happy with the color scheme but these are minor points.  It is up and working at  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Catching Up

I've been sick with a bad cold these last few days and in bed with a fevered brain, a box of kleenex, and several dogs.

What I find amazing is how buried I am now.  I have so many things to attend to and no time to do many of them.  Just the morning I am hopping between two computers working on about five things and none of them have anything to do with my novel.

Sigh.  Good thing I finally spent time over the weekend on it.  But my momentum is slowing.  Perhaps it is all the work I've been doing on my website.  Perhaps it is the contract negotiations.  Perhaps I'm just tired.

I don't know.  I think when I have a lot of new material to write I slow down because I don't necessarily know what's coming next.  Eventually, I'll sort that out but sometimes I need to force myself to sit and write and make it come out.  I've hit on several unexpected twists that way.  Nothing I thought of consciously but it came out while writing and I went with the flow.

And that's what's missing: a flow.  A circle where I write regularly so I don't freeze up like the Tin Woodsman.  But that's kinda hard just now and this blog is taking precious time away from my other work.  Maybe it is time to stop this because as far as I know writing the blog has been an exercise in talking to myself and I get enough of that on a daily basis.  I don't need to put it in written form too.

But what I'm more likely to do is roll up my sleeves and get the work done.  So if you'll excuse me, I've got some decks to clear.