Saturday, March 31, 2012

Editing is Just Like Cleaning House.


Editing is Just Like Cleaning House.
(No wonder I hate it!)


 
Got the editing blues?
You’ve written “The End” either on the page or in your mind. Are you feeling a euphoric sense of relief and accomplishment? Or a sinking feeling of despair because the worst is yet to come—the dreaded edits! If the second describes where you are with your writing, then you have a lot of company, myself included.
I’m having people over to my house tomorrow night to play bridge. My writing will be set aside today because I have to clean. Never being one to avoid doing things the easy way, I plotted just what had to be done. No need to worry about things they’d never see, right? It occurred to me that the dreaded tasks of editing my novel and cleaning my house have a lot in common, a rather depressing realization since I hate cleaning.
I decided the best way to move forward with either task was to have a plan. Just as I wouldn’t vacuum a room before I dust, I’d have to tackle editing in an organized manner in order to save myself from endless do-overs.
             
1.     The absolute first thing - Have the right tools and cleaning supplies at your fingertips: Dictionary, thesaurus, red pen, notebook, any edit notes you made while writing  your book.
2.     Pick up the clutter - Go through your manuscript and note any glaring problems. Fix spelling, grammar, typos, and conflicting details or (my personal downfall) consistency in character’s names, which also includes spelling their names consistently. During this read through, keep lists of anything in your story line that needs work. If you haven’t already done so, make character lists.
3.     Decide what has to be done Separate the lists you’ve made into categories. Now read through your book, preferably out loud, for flow, plot, interest, etc. Were the things you noted necessary changes?
4.     Clean house Make critical revisions based on your notes and your read through.
5.     Save the heaving cleaning for after the party - Only when you’re satisfied that your work flows, and your grammar, spelling, and typos are corrected, is your manuscript ready to send to your professional editor and beta readers. If you’ve done your housekeeping well, your final revisions and clean-up will be as smooth as a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Dear readers,
This list I’m offering is a simplistic approach, designed to help you get started on a what feels like a monumental task. If you need a more detailed advisory, I’d recommend picking up a book on editing. One I’ve used is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and David King.
I believe it’s vital to invest in a professional editor and proofreader. You’ve put a lot of precious time and effort into your book—don’t let it down by publishing a flawed product. Remember, the competition is fierce and readers demanding.

Wishing you good health and happy writing,
Marla

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Beware the Murderers of Motivation!


Beware, the Murderers of Motivation!


What is motivation? Call it a muse, being in the zone, or a creative surge, we all know what motivation means. On our good days, we have more than enough of it to keep writing.
The main enemy of motivation is a tendency to see ourselves as  hapless victims of circumstances over which we have no control. We can’t write because we have writer’s block. Life gets in the way. Family comes first. Too busy with other things.  Sounding familiar?
Staying motivated and preventing writer’s block sounds impossible. Maybe it’s time we look at what causes them in the first place. We need to examine what lies at the base of the problem and prevent it’s inception rather than crying for a cure.

Motivation murderers:
1.     Unrealistic expectations.
Your book didn’t go viral in its first months? Buck up. In the real world, success as an independent author is like a new business. It takes work and it takes time. Focus on what you have to do, not what isn’t happening fast enough.
2.     Perfectionism. 
There are two kinds of writers. The ones like me who dash off the story, then fine-tune it later and the ones who only commit a sentence to paper if it’s perfect.  While there’s nothing wrong with the second method, it isn’t always conducive to flow. Make your work good—and move on. (This applies to the editing process, too.)
3.     Coasting.
One of my favorite sayings is “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” I’ve changed it somewhat, but you get the point. Right up there with expecting too much too soon, expecting something to work when it hasn’t for months, will pull you into the dregs of depression. Analyze what you’ve been doing, then try something different.
4.     Taking on too much at a time.
a.     The biggest culprit is trying to maintain a presence on all the social media sites. Find the sites you are the most comfortable with and use them well. Don’t try to keep up with them all; it’ll make you crazy.
b.     Starting too many projects. I find I’m most successful when I actively work on one project, my novel, and only tackle a second one mentally, taking an occasional note or rough outline. Going in too many directions will detract from your final product. Don’t start another writing project until you’re nearly done with the first.
5.     Comparing yourself to others.
There are many success stories out there. Don’t glance at them and agonize over why you aren’t getting the same results. Spend time reading why these authors became successful and take a tip or two from them that you can apply to your own journey. Envy is costly—it threatens your creativity.



Dear readers,
Frequently, I find myself in a dark place during my efforts to become a successful novelist. Sharing with you what I’ve come up with when I’ve tried to tackle my problem was the inspiration for this blog. Prevention isn’t always easy, but hopefully, easier than clean up!
Happy writing,
Marla

Saturday, March 17, 2012

That Baffling Back-Story!


That Baffling Back-Story!



Are you guilty of back-Story Dump? One of the first writing lessons I learned from my writer’s group was about back-story. Yes, I was guilty. At the time I’d never heard the term back-story, much less the dump.
As a writer, I’ve had to learn to deal with it. In the process of writing my second novel, I added practically none, and I’m filling it in as I edit.
As a reader, I often skim over it, figuring if it’s vital to the story, I’ll find out about its relevance anyway. I don’t want to know all about the protagonist’s family history, how the parents met, what childhood was like or how he/she met their spouse or lover. Not in the opening chapters and maybe never.
The danger of back-story is that not done properly, it can bore your readers, even lose them. For mystery/suspense/thriller writers, too much in the opening chapters may destroy the suspense you’re trying to build. And if your books are listed on Amazon, where readers are free to (and usually do) read the opening chapters, overdone back-story can sway a decision to leave your book on the virtual shelf.
We need to be artful and subtle in delivering back-story as part of the narrative flow, rather than spelling it out.

Rules of back-story:

1.  Keep it short. Include it only if you're absolutely certain the reader would be completely lost without the information.
2. Add the information in bits and pieces, not all at once in one scene or even one chapter.
3. Tie the information to some type of action.
4. Create situations where another character needs to know the information.
5. Make sure it's realistic. Don't have someone talk about something they wouldn't normally talk about or spill their darkest secrets to a stranger just to get it out there.

After adding any back-story, ask yourself:
1. Is it absolutely relevant?

2. Is it short?

3. Is it inserted all at once?

4. Is it tied to some type of action?


Dear readers,
            I’m sharing this with you because it is another of those lessons I had to learn the hard way. Having been a reader forever, I should have known better. I’m utterly ruthless when I read and have no qualms about paging over endless backstory. I’ve set aside books that insisted on telling me the protagonist’s life story in the beginning chapters. Certainly not all readers are that brutal, but there are enough of us to make learning how to put back-story in artfully, a necessary skill. This short blog merely touches the surface of its use. There is a wealth of information available on the use of back-story. Take advantage of it.
            I’m still working on it.
Thanks for visiting,
 Marla


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sharpen your hook!


Before You Publish—Sharpen Your Hook!

11 Ways to Attract Your Readers


             One of the real challenges to eBook sales is the sample of the book available to readers. This sample is the bait—it better be enticing to the reader we anglers are trying to attract.  But the bait can’t do its job without a sharp hook.
            Think about your own purchases. How many of you, when considering whether to make an eBook purchase, have read a page or two, yawned, and moved on to the next option? An avid reader, I must confess I do it regularly. Just as an author trying to publish the traditional way needs to hook his potential editor, the eWriter has an even more challenging a job—attracting each and every reader.
            From the book, Don’t Murder Your Mystery, by Chris Roerden, here are eleven excellent tips for making your sample pages so compelling, that the reader will be panting for the whole book. It’s all about the hook. Not just the first sentence or the first paragraph—the sample chapters are critical.
Characteristics of a good hook:
1.     Arouses curiosity about who, what, when and where.
2.     Introduces the main character as soon as possible and makes it clear who is in the lead.
3.     Begins with the problem, predicament, conflict, threat, or change.
4.     Plunges into the middle of the situation.
5.     Uses tone to create a mood without piling on adjective and adverbs.
6.     Stirs emotions that keep reader identifying with the central character’s feelings.
7.     Sets a tone consistent with the main character’s attitude.
8.     Avoids being clich├ęd, boring, or hokey—not contrived solely for shock value.
9.     Sustains curiosity well past the first chapter.
10. Keeps action going without submerging it in back-story or description. (This one, to me, is the chief villain of lost interest. Drowning an otherwise interesting story line in endless “showing, not telling” marks the amateur writer.)
11. Suggests a contradiction of some kind.
Seem like a rather formidable list? It is. But we need to weigh it against our opening chapters if we want our novels to rise above the hundreds of thousands being ePublished ever day. We need to have both the bait (good style, formatting, and error-free), and a compelling hook to make the reader want to keep reading.

Dear followers,
Thank  you for reading this blog. I'm no expert, just another writer trying to promote my book. There's room in the marketplace for all of us, and helping each other is something our blogs can do for us. Roerdan's book is an excellent tool for the beginning writer and I strongly recommend it. I've read my copy and refer back to it often.
Have a wonderful week and a fun St. Patty's Day,
Marla

Chris Roerdan's book:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chin Up!


5 Ways to Stay Positive in a Maniacally Competitive eBook Market


You’ve published your eBook. The first two months you had quite a few sales as your family and friends bought your book and spread the word. You’ve joined social media sites, and made a frantic effort to keep your participation organized. You’ve applied to reviewers, begging them to publicize your book and you’re discovering the good ones are backlisted until 2014! Sounding familiar?
If you haven’t discovered it yet—you have lots of company! Two traits of lucky people are that they look at failure as an opportunity to try new things and stay positive no matter what befalls them. For the rest of us who easily tumble into a hole of hopelessness, is there any way out?

1.     Forget about the hundreds of thousands of eBook writers out there, all fighting for their place in the sun! The important fact is this—there are millions of eBook reading-device owners getting in line to buy eBooks. The opportunities are out there. Make that your mantra.
2.     Keep writing.  It is easy to give up, tell yourself “okay, I tried it,” and move on to something else. I’ve said it before, but here it comes again—if you’re a new author, struggling to find yourself in the sea of uncertainty—join a critique group. If there isn’t one in your area, start one. Being in a group keeps you motivated, writing, and constantly improving your product.
3.     Take a short break.  The only one who can get you out of the dark place is you. If it’s a walk that works for you, a visit with a supportive friend, a funny movie, or an intimate evening with that someone special—do it.
4.     Set the book aside, but don’t stop writing.  Have an idea in your head for novel #2? Start outlining it. Belong to a writer’s site that has short story contests? Write an entry. Journal. Anything to keep honing your skills and reminding yourself that you’re a talented writer.
5.     Find new ways to promote your book. The same thing won’t work for every writer and the same thing won’t work every day. The more you make yourself visible, the more things you try, the greater your chances for eBook success. No matter how crappy you feel about marketing, you have to keep moving forward. It is not a fast process. Don’t let reports of a few overnight successes slow you down. Can it happen? Sure, but so can winning the lottery. You buy a lottery ticket but keep your day job, right? It’s okay to wish for that longshot, but in the meantime don't forget the turtle won the race!

Dear readers,
Thanks for reading. For those who have followed this blog from day one, I'm still working on my 2012 weight loss goal. My weight has been stubbornly staying the same, but I've learned from years of dieting, that's how I lose weight. So, like book marketing, I keep going and consider the 1 1/2 pound I've lost as a good beginning. March is the perfect time to revisit those New Year's Goals.
Marla