Monday Update and Editing a Series

Happy Monday!

It’s almost the end of October and there’s nothing better than fall weather in Minnesota! November is always fun because it’s my daughter’s birthday month (she’ll be 16!) and mine, too, but I won’t be sharing how old I am (haha!). I took Thursday off for Thanksgiving and I plan to make a turkey like I did last year–though I overcooked it and I’ll do better this time. There’s only two more months left of the year, but I don’t have any particular plan besides working on a new WIP because I miss writing. I could edit something, but I’m a little tired of that since I just read through and fixed some inconsistencies in my six-book King’s Crossing series and I need to cleanse my palette before more editing. I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo–I don’t need the motivation to get anything done, and the month is terrible for me all around. I do wish everyone who is participating very good luck, and I hope you all meet your goals!

Editing a Series

I didn’t have a plan for today’s blog post, but I did want to talk a little bit about how difficult it is to edit a series–especially if you don’t have help. You would think that after a few years of writing and publishing I would have enough coming in by now to afford an editor, but I don’t and the reality is, I’m not alone. Indies seem to make the same mistakes and that holds us back. Not always–some indies know exactly what to do to get to where they want to be–but others, such as myself, we flounder as we learn “the rules” of the publishing industry. What we don’t gain in royalties is made up in knowledge, but that’s small consolation when we were hoping our beloved hobby would help us pay a few bills here and there, or, at the very least, nudge us into the black after expenses.

Anyway, I have a beta reader who’s going to read them all for plot and consistency issues, and he’s a writer friend who will do it for free. He’s not a professional by any means, and all I can do is hope that I took care of everything on my end and that he catches the rest (if there is anything).

Because this blog is geared for the bootstrapping authors who pretty much do every little thing on their own like I do, I made a list of things that can make it easier on you if you’re editing a long series alone. No, it’s not optimal. I hope you have someone who can help you like I do (even if it’s just one person), but even if you do, you’re going to want to do the bulk of the work yourself to make it easier on the people who do take the time to help you.

Write them as quickly as you can. What was helpful was I didn’t spend a lot of time writing them, meaning, I didn’t leave a lot of time between books. I wrote them all in a smooth sequence that took about ten months because it’s all one gigantic story. There wasn’t time for me to forget anything, and if I had a question, I knew where to look because it hadn’t been that long ago I wrote it.

Use a series bible. I depend on my memory a lot more than I probably should. I remember eye color, hair color, features, pets. As I write, my characters become real people, and it’s easy to remember how they look if they are real to me. That doesn’t always mean things stay consistent, and during this last read through of my series I wrote down eye color, hair color, names, bits of background. You might already do this when you start a series or new book, and I do too, but this series was completed a while ago, and I’m not 100% sure where those notes are. I grabbed a new notebook and jotted down everything that was important. One of the saves I made this time around was thanks to my story bible. I had changed one of the character’s names from Alan to Nolan.

Give it a rest. I take huge chunks of time between each editing read. It’s how I can credit the two saves I found this time around. One save was at the beginning of book one when I mentioned the director of the FBI, but in later books I had demoted him to an agent. It was an easy fix, but I had already read these three times before I caught it. The other big save was when Zane, my MMC, knew something at the beginning of book three, but I didn’t reference in book two how he came into the knowledge. I had to reread almost the entire book to a) make sure I didn’t forget that someone told him what he knew and b) look for the perfect spot in which to write it in. Giving it a rest is probably the most helpful thing you can do, especially if you work on something else while you wait. If you can go back to the story with a clear head, it will feel like you’re reading it, maybe not for the first time, but the story won’t feel so tired.

Trust your reader. You may be tempted to repeat things, especially if your series is long, but all that does is give you opportunity to mess up details. I try not to repeat things, especially if I catch myself thinking it’s for the reader and doesn’t further the story along. Readers are smart–it’s why a lot of authors turn fans into beta readers. They have great memories. I remember one interview with Marie Force on the Self Publishing Show and she said she has betas who read her entire series over from book one whenever she writes a new book because they read for inconsistencies. If you have a beta reader who starts a 20 book series at book one to help you with plot issues, then you better believe she’s got a great memory. Readers picture your characters in their heads how they think they look. It’s not necessary to harp on the physical attributes of your characters. You don’t have to go over plot point after plot point, but if you do mention a gun in a drawer, you better remember to use it because your reader will remember you put it there. If you’re interested in listening to that interview with Marie, you can watch it here. She offers so much useful information, I loved it!

Proof your proofs. Lately I’ve also been listening to my books before I format them and create proof copies. Listening to your novel can point out syntax issues, typos (it’s funny when the voice says a word in a funky way), repeated words, etc. That’s a more micro editing step, and as you can tell, I’m more concerned with the bigger picture–especially when you’re dealing with so many books at once. I like listening to them, and I make the most changes when I take the time to listen. It’s a very time-consuming step.

Reading them in book form does something to my brain, and I find a lot of mistakes, both proofing-wise and content-wise. I binge them like a normal reader would, and since they feel like a book and smell like a book, they have a cover and all the back and front matter, it’s a different kind of reading experience. I used to print them out at Office Max, but that got to be too expensive and wasted paper. Creating a proof copy is cheaper, even if you pay for expedited shipping.


As far as using a software like ProWriting Aid, The Hemingway App, or Grammarly, I find those only work if you already know the rules and can decide for yourself if you’re going to take their suggestions or not. Not everyone has a degree in English, and I get that, but you should also learn the fundamentals or software like that will hurt more than they help. I don’t use any software, nor writing/plotting aids like Scrivener or Plottr. Among the edits I do on screen using plain old Word, listening to the manuscript, then proofing the proof, I hope I take care of most of the issues. At least, as far as I can tell. I don’t have any reviews indicating my books could use another edit (which is a terrible thing for a book–reviews won’t go away, even if you’ve done another editing sweep and your book is 100% better).

The biggest challenge I’ve had with editing these is boredom, and if your heart isn’t in it, that can make you miss things. I’m tired of reading them and taking time between edits helps. Not that I want to give anyone an impression I don’t like my own work. I doubt authors like EL James, Sylvia Day, or Stephenie Meyer are ever caught saying they’re tired of the characters that made them famous. I love them, but it will be nice to write something else while these breathe–again. I was hoping to start releasing them over the summer, but I don’t know how that will work out. I can only work as fast as I can work–especially alone.

Do I have any resources for editing a series? There’s nothing really out there that can help you edit alone. There’s no argument that a second set of eyes can go a long way–as long as that second set of eyes comes with a good memory and can remember inconsistencies and plot issues. The best you can do on your own is to remember your own work. Remember the plot points, remember your character arcs, write down plot twists so you can refer back to them later to keep details straight.

It’s tough not to have help, or be able to afford it. I have a couple of prolific readers in my real life who I know from work, and I maybe could ask them if they would be willing to proof the final copies before I hit Publish, but we’re talking six books here. I don’t know how long it would take to get through them all. It would probably be wise if one of them agrees, and I can afford to pay small fee, say $50 a book. That’s cheaper than you’ll find anyone to do it online. As I like to say, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I still have plenty to do before I reach that point. Until then, to give myself a break, I’ll write another stand alone. You can never go wrong writing another book!

I suppose that’s all I have for today! Have a great week everyone!

October is Prep for NaNoWriMo. Why I don’t participate.

Fall in Minnesota is my favorite time of year. The temperatures cool, the leaves start to fall, and the bugs die. The last is very important to my well-being. Haha. Seriously though, we get a couple sweet weeks of no bugs, and mild enough temperatures that you can still enjoy time outside.

I went for a walk with my sister last night, and the latter half the walk was in the dark since the sun sets so early now. But we saw a couple deer, lots of rabbits, and generally had a nice coffee walk in about 48F degree temperatures.

nanowrimo logoOctober is also NaNoWriMo prep month. It’s the month when writers who are going to participate in National Novel Writing Month plot their books, do their research, make character sheets, anything they have to do to write their book as quickly as possible in the month of November.

I participated once. And while I was a newbie writer at the time and that was probably more of the reason why I wrote a crappy book, doing so on a timeline didn’t do me any favors, and I’ll never participate again.

But that’s not the only reason. Everyone needs to make their own choices with their writing schedule, their publishing schedule, and what they want to accomplish, but let’s take a moment to go over a couple reasons why NaNoWriMo may not be an answer to a writer’s prayers.

  1. Craft gets lost.
    If you have the motivation and skill to write 50,000 words in a month, you don’t need the the contest to spur you on. If you’ve got the craft thing down already, maybe craft doesn’t get lost when you write, and that’s great! But there’s always a question of quality when a writer who is new at this decides to participate. You don’t have time to think about how sentences sound, where your paragraphs are going, if your scenes are relevant to the story, what the theme of your novel is. Writing is already hard enough as it is, and putting a deadline on it makes it worse.
  2. Lots of writers will abandon a current project to start something new.
    This is a tough one because not everyone writes to publish or query. I’m not the type of person who likes to have three different projects open. I adhere to writing and publishing schedule. It’s the only way I can make any headway at all. Dropping everything to start a new project to write for NaNo would derail everything I’m trying to accomplish. I get distracted by new things, too, but I try to keep that under control and finish my current projects. I don’t think I’d have as many books out as I do if I let myself write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I understand not everyone is hardcore about this writing thing as I am, and that’s okay. But 30 days of writing something new is still 30 days of time, and in 30 days I can do a lot that will actually move me toward my goal.
  3. It makes us question what a “book” is.
    Let’s be honest. I mean, really and truly honest. 50,000 words, in most genres, is not a novel. It’s a good start to a novel, say, in high fantasy, or women’s fiction, but for the most part you can “win” and still not have a finished book.

    how long is a novel graphic

    Click on the graphic to read the corresponding article by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest.

    If you have trouble with subplots and character development while meeting the ideal word count, I don’t recommend trying to write under a deadline. Not always, but you can run the risk of having a full “novel” in word count, and it being incomplete in other ways. This is especially important if you ever want to query this book. Fully-developed plots, subplots without loose ends, full character arcs, and a spot-on beginning and ending are all things agents are going to require to sign you and your book.

  4. You’ll probably have a lot of editing to do afterward.
    This is a personal preference, of course, but I would rather spend a little more time writing and a less time editing after the fact. Editing is hard. Especially if you have to rip the book apart because you wrote yourself into a corner and there’s nothing that will fix it except scrapping the second half of your book, for example. Weaving character motivation and character growth into a book is hard enough as it is without having to go back and fix scenes.
  5. You shouldn’t have to depend on the NaNo energy to see you through a project.
    Most writers I know who participate, participate because they like the energy and the camaraderie. It’s why they do NaNoWriMo camp in July. They like to write with the buddy system, someone who will hold them accountable. The problem with this, though, is that NaNo is only once a year (besides the camp that’s held in the summer). What are you going to do during the other 11 months the contest is not going on? Writing is a solitary endeavor, and if you don’t get your butt in the chair and put the words down, if you can’t do that without a competition, well, I don’t have to tell you your productivity is going to tank. In my very humble opinion, striving for your own writing success, be that publishing yourself on Amazon or other platforms, querying, or whatever the case may be, that should be your fuel. Not a contest.
  6. What could your book be like if you hadn’t written it in November?
    We all have regrets when it comes to our writing. We write through sickness, or when we have a family emergency. Sometimes it’s what gets us through. I wrote through my divorce, I wrote (when I shouldn’t have probably) while I was healing from surgery. I wrote through one of the nastiest winters I have ever seen in Minnesota, and it happened to be the first winter I was a single mom. I have to admit, I write the best when I’m happy, when I’m not stressed out. When I can enjoy sitting at my laptop and not think about anything else but the story.
    We often say “let children be children” but sometimes we need to let our “books be books.” What I mean by that is, you may be doing your characters and story a disservice by rushing them. What could your book be if you write it organically? We meet word counts every day, but I’ve never preached you have to write every day. Sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes you simply don’t feel like it. To reach 50,000 words in the month of November you need to write 1,666 words a day. That isn’t too bad, in all reality. But I know for me, November is a packed month: my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving. We may have snow by then. Then there’s Black Friday shopping if you’re inclined to get a head start on Christmas shopping. It’s not hard in November to realize you haven’t written for a few days, and you’re behind. What kind of book could you write on your own time? 

I don’t see NaNo as some evil thing that writers shouldn’t participate in. I think it can be fun and motivational if used correctly. The month of November can be used to celebrate writing and books in general. There is a camaraderie just being a writer. We’re all in this together, and one month designated to writing doesn’t change the fact that we all enjoy writing every day. We don’t need one month set aside to enjoy it.

I create all year round. I’m involved in a lot of Facebook groups. I edit for my friends; I help them with formatting. I celebrate the writing and creation of books all the time. I don’t think a month goes by when I haven’t bought a book or ten. What I suggest you to do is harness how you feel in November and keep that momentum going all year round.

How do agents feel about NaNo? Here are a couple articles about their opinions. (Hint: it’s not a coincidence agents close their slush piles to submissions in December and January.)

An Agent’s Take on Nanowrimo by Fuse Literary

Better yet, DON’T write that novel
Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy

Did You Win NaNoWriMo? Let Agent Eric Smith Guide You Through Your Next Steps!
Leah Schnelbach

How do you feel about NaNo? Are you going to participate? Let me know!


end of blog post graphic

Happy November!

Happy November

 

November is finally upon us, and that means we only have 61 days until the New Year!

I’ve been moving steadily along with my goals. In fact, I disappeared from social media for a bit while I released my new book, All of Nothing.

Here’s the lovely cover:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

I did the entire cover in Canva, and I bought the photo on Canstockphoto for seven dollars. It’s not very fancy, but I do take pride in the fact that I did it myself. and it printed just as nicely as it looks online. It’s in KU, and I’m running a free promotion on it November 9th. It will be included in the Freebooksy newsletter that day. Because  I tried a Bargain Booksy on Wherever He Goes that didn’t do too well, I’m also putting that book for free that day to see if I can’t piggyback some downloads from All of Nothing‘s promotion.

As an early birthday present, a dear friend of mine gifted me a Mac and the formatting software Vellum. I was very excited in that since I had been doing all my own formatting, I could replace the interiors of all my books, and that’s what I’ve spent the last three days doing for Summer Secrets, my erotica novella series, and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Because formatting is so easy with it, I put together a box set of my trilogy, so that is finally being offered on Amazon as well.

Nothing is ever easy though, and since I was doing the covers and insides, I went ahead and moved my trilogy over from CS to KDP Print. I hadn’t done that yet, so I wanted to get it all out of the way.

The second book in my series got lost in the conversion, and it took KDP four days to find it. It was over the weekend, and they did eventually restore it, so I was grateful for that. 🙂 If you haven’t moved your books over yet, I recommend you do so. My book was still for sale on Amazon, so it didn’t completely disappear, but it’s better to get all that taken care of sooner rather than later.

But I did redo the covers for Summer Secrets, being that I’m a bit better at covers now, and I redid the box set I created, inside and out. Though someone pointed out a typo on the first line of the first paragraph, {rolling eyes hard here} I’m still very happy with they turned out:

 

 

It wasn’t a big change, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, nonetheless. I didn’t get so different with my trilogy, so I won’t post them here. But I did redo them in Canva, which gives them a higher quality than when I used to do my covers in Word. A very warm shoutout to my friend Aila Stephens who told me about Canva so long ago. She’s just starting up a blog series about covers herself, so make sure you follow her blog for indie tips and publishing tips!

Anyway, so next up for me is my May/December romance that I’m already 8,000 words into. I’m so excited for this book! I’ve been thinking about a May/December romance for a long time now, and I was delighted when a plot popped into my head. All of Nothing is over 80,000 words long, and I don’t think Matthew and Zia (my book doesn’t have a title yet) will end up being quite so long. But I’m still excited to be mulling subplots and backstory as I get into writing.

 

This kind of sums up the whole story, and as a contemporary romance author, you know I’ll always dish up a nice happily ever after. I just make my characters go through hell to get there first.

In other news, I’m going to submit All of Nothing into the RITAs, a contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. The contest is open to both trad-pubbed and indie-pubbed authors, so in reality, I know I don’t stand a chance. But if my book could move on to a second round, or if the judges have some good feedback for me, I’d consider it a success. At any rate, it something I’m going to try, and I think All of Nothing is a solid book. It’s getting good feedback already, and my betas didn’t have anything bad to say about it. So, wish me luck!

Along with entering the contest, you also have to judge books in the first round, so I’ll be needing to dig out my Kindle and settle in for some serious reading coming up. Which suits, because I’m going to have carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on my left hand/elbow in the middle of January. I’m going to try to get Matthew and Zia at least written by then, so while I recover I can do some small edits. It will do me good to rest my hands while I help in the judging of the first round. I’m very much enjoying being part of the romance writing community!

What else is going on? NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! I won’t play, I haven’t played for a couple years now, but I may meet up with my group. Sometimes it’s nice to see people in person, talk shop. Catch up. I used to work with a couple of the members, so it will be fun to see them, too. But after the colder weather hits (I’m in MN) it gets harder to get out of the house. Even for pie and coffee at the local coffee shop.

I guess that’s all I have to report! I hope you all are doing well, and tell me what your end of the year goals are! Remember, you have 61 days! Do your best!

2019 is right around the corner! What do you have left to do in 2018_

 

Drop me a comment, and have a great weekend!