Books, Editing, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Ironing Out the Wrinkles in a Plot

In some ways publishing Fried Windows in May of last year created a few paradoxes for the main character Brent. WARNING: If you haven’t read the book, you might want to before continuing on. I’m about to reveal some things about the plot.

There are some relationships Brent and characters in my other novels, particularly Andy Hunter, Terry Harper, Lee Anders Johnston and Caroline Henderson from One Over X (two of six books published) and The Power of X (as yet unpublished). There is also a loose connection between the mother  in Becoming Thuperman and Terry Harper – as they attended high school together. Brent meets Terry Harper while he attends Purdue University where the latter is pursuing aa doctorate in applied physics and eventually becomes a professor before taking a tenured position at the University of Texas.

Brent and Lee Anders Johnston hale from neighboring towns in rural Ohio. Both were musicians in their teen years. Brent actually played bass for a brief while in a band that Lee led. Lee was best friends with the lead guitar from Brent’s garage band – which is how they met. Ironically, as they were both the sons of farmers, their fathers knew one another, though not very well.

After the disintegration of Brent’s garage band over an issue about performing a Rock Opera Brent wrote for his senior English project – a piece on Beowulf – Brent and Lee perform an acoustic set at the Christmas party of a friend of Brent. It is the last time Brent and Lee perform together for nearly twenty years, though the two of them conspired during their connection to compose a few songs that will end up reuniting them in later years – and reinvigorating Lee’s career as a professional musician.

Lee departs Rock as his vehicle of musical  expression and begins playing Blues with a couple of musicians while he attends Purdue University – where he studies Engineering and meets Terry Harper, his professor of physics. In Lee’s Junior year at Purdue his folks sell their farm in Ohio and retire to Texas. Lee transfers to the University of Texas. The following year, Terry Harper is offered a tenured position at UT, based on his recently published best seller on astral physics the university. And, so Lee and Terry reconnect at UT and the Lee changes his major to physics.

While in Austin and immersed in the vibrant artistic community, Lee joins a country band called Faction. At a bar in Austin he meets Caroline Henderson, the daughter of Joseph Henderson, CEO of HENCO. They share a few dates before establishing a relationship.

When Lee is offered a research job in Colorado, three of the original members of the band follow him there. They form the nucleus of a new Faction that lands a recording contract. Lee and Caroline have a long distance relationship until she completes college.

To pursue his musical career,  Lee quits his job and accompanies the band to Memphis where they record their first album.  Then, against her father’s protests, Caroline joins Lee and goes on tour with Faction, actually performing with the band as a background singer.

So, where is Andy Hunter is all this? Anyone who has read One Over X, knows that both Andy and Lee have a relationship in another version of reality, where both work for Henco. Lee works at a product assembly facility while Andy is a coder for the instructions loaded into the devices the company makes. The company’s CEO is Caroline Henderson who took up the reins when her father, Joseph Henderson passed away – never knowing she is to the Andy who was born of an unwed mother who used to work for the Hendersons.

In the other world, the one where Caroline and Andy grew up as siblings, Andy studies applied physics at UT Austin and becomes enamored with Dr. Harper to the point that he begins writing a boot about him. In the process he attempts to create a device based on Harper’s hypotheses that can cancel out the effects of the electromagnetic fields of the Earth – theoretically opening portals to every other dimension.

The powers that be – as in the Universal Powers That Be – are not amused with Andy’s devise of how it throws a significant distortion into the over all matrix of fabricated reality – the shell they created as the distracting illusion of life. With it Andy can, pretty much, go wherever he wants – as long at he knows his destination. Therein lies the rub.  Andy knows that the device can do but doesn’t understand it’s potential. And in the process of exploring it he becomes genetically altered to be more like an extraterrestrial ancestor of humanity than a man.

Brent is a transplanted straddler, born into the world to correct the problems Andy will eventually cause. He gets sidetracked with his own issues and adventures but, moreover, he is intended to defeat Andy’s modification to the design. Brent is naturally drawn toward the people he needs to connect with in order to fix things. Yet he is uncooperative in dealing directly with any of his new found friends.  As a result, Andy changes many things both for Earth and Anter’x, a directly connect world – via wormholes – on the other side of the galaxy. There the wolfcats thrive – for a while anyway, along with a primordial ancestor of humanity called the Hovdin and a race called Sabatin that enslaved the Hovdin for a time.

In The Attributes, a two book set that I wrote a while back, all the timelines and plot lines are resolved. Imagine that! Me crop 2

 

Books, Editing, Publishing, Word, Writing

Preparing a Manuscript for Publication

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It seems that each time an ARC is created from a Word doc into Kindle MOBI a number of formatting errors appear. Amazon and CreateSpace have instructions on how to eliminate some common problems that will prevent a title from being accepted but, from experience, the guidelines do not cover every issue that may arise.

Part of the problem is that there seems to be as many different ways of creating a manuscript writing as there are authors. Some of us old timers started writing on typewriters and, at some point, graduated to word processors well before the advent of programs designed for personal computers. Since each word processor had its own set of rules, personal style was influenced by the hardware used. This created a lot of habits that complicate the use of Microsoft Word for producing a manuscript.

Here is a non-inclusive list of the known issues author can address and fix in advance of submitting a final version of a manuscript for editing and eventual publication. This list assumes you are using Microsoft Word, but it may apply to other, similar programs like Open Office.

  1. Do not use tabs when indenting. This throws off the spacing in an eBook.
  2. Use left justification only. At some point in the finishing stages of the editing process the document will be set for left and right adjustment.
  3. Do not use spaces to indent. Again this throws off spacing in an eBook.
  4. Regardless of what you were taught in school about two spaces between sentences, that is only used for scholarly work and is not done in novels. In the past typesetters charged by the character, including spaces, so publisher saved money by minimizing the use of spaces.
  5. Ensure there are no extra spaces at the end of a paragraph.
  6. Ensure there are no extra spaces at the beginning of a paragraph.
  7. Ensure there are no extra spaces between words throughout the document. A useful tool for finding extra spaces with Word is showing hidden characters. In the most recent version of MS Word it is turned on automatically when you show paragraph ends. Look for the paragraph symbol in the tool bar.
  8. Set the ruler in MS Word to automatically indent the number of necessary spaces at the beginning of a paragraph.
  9. Set up the Page Properties to single space between paragraphs. If your manuscript is later set to double space, as it should be for greater ease of editing throughout the process, when the document is converted, so will the spacing between paragraphs. Then, when it is converted to single space for publication, there will not be an extra 1 ½ lines between paragraphs (which is MS Word’s default). Word is designed mainly for business use. For writing a novel it must be adjusted.
  10. Book titles and chapter headers that are centered on the page need to be adjusted so that the centering is from the margin edge not the set paragraph indent. This also applies to any special characters used to indicate a change of scene in the body of a chapter. Also End or The End, if you have concluded your manuscript in that way, need to be centered from the margin not the indent.
  11. Now, here’s the biggy. Between chapters in a manuscript you will need to insert a page break. This forces the Kindle Conversion to start your next chapter at the top of a fresh page. Otherwise your next chapter will appear immediately after, as in the next line, following the concluding sentence of the previous chapter. Still, that may not be enough. If your chapter ends on the last line of the previous page, you will need to insert the page break at the top of the ensuing page, followed by a new line. For the sake of having the beginning of chapters look consistent through a book on Kindle, it may be necessary to insert a new line after each instance of a page break. A page break should be used on the title page, the dedication page, table of contents page and each blank page you wish you have in the body of the manuscript. If the table of contents page is longer than a single page allow the document to flow onto the ensuing page. Set the page break at the conclusion of the last page of the table of contents.

If manuscripts are created according to these standards or adjusted to them prior to submitting to a publisher in the editing process it will significantly reduce the amount of time and effort required for finding all the formatting issues created in the Kindle conversion process. Generally speaking, if the manuscript is set up for Kindle, the CreateSpace conversion will also go more smoothly, as will conversions to ePub and other eBook and print formats.

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Revisions Complete on The Wolfcat Chronicles Book 8

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Judging from how the past few weeks have gone with revisions to The Wolfcat Chronicles, I’m not promising a finished by date for the upcoming Book 9 experience. It could come sooner than later, but realistically I believe the end of February might be an accurate target.

Book 8 has been revised and submitted. The first half or so went smoothly, but I slowed down toward the middle as there were several rewrites necessary for the book to function as a part of the series and lead up to the conclusion I plan for Book 10. I’m figuring Book 9 is more like the last half of Book 8 in terms of its need for rewrites. That will significantly slowdown the process. Also, I’m expecting Book 10 to be more of the same up to the point requiring a complete rewrite. The good news is there is plenty of time for me to accomplish that well before the release of the first book of the series.

I don’t have a timetable yet for the releases of the books. That will depend on when the books emerge from substantive editing. I’m hopeful that the first of the series will make it through the process quickly, but we will see once I’ve responded to sub-edits. Also , in the background I’ll be writing a supplementary piece that will fill in some of the details that happen outside of the point of view of The Wolfcat Chronicles. Several beta readers have requested that. I won’t know how long that piece will be until I begin writing it, but at this point I doubt it will be novel length.

For the past two weeks I have been squeezing in revisions between working my day job and functioning as a publicist. That’s been a challenge. I have not been able to read draft material my friends post on FanStory. So, I plan to do some catching up tomorrow before diving into Book 9.

Photo on 3-8-14 at 12.07 PM

 

#revising #writing #TheWolfcatChronicles

 

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Next In The Queue

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Here we go again, right? It’s new Years Eve already and I thought at this time last year and the year before that I was on the threshold of having a dream year. Let’s say that previously I’ve been here and been wrong several times.

Although last year I published Fried Windows and have received a lot of positive feedback from fans and fellow authors, it hasn’t allowed me to write full time, which is my objective. Perhaps that is a longer journey than I expected. It tends to take several books before a sufficient number of readers discover a relatively obscure fantasy author like me.

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Yesterday, I submitted Book Six of The Wolfcat Chronicles. Revisions for the entire series continue to move along. I should be finished revising Book Seven in a couple of weeks. As I’ve said before the last three books of the series need the most work, though, and that will slow the pace of revision considerably – especially the rewrite envisioned for the last half of the final book. However, despite the generally painful experience of revision, I’m optimistic that I’ll complete revisions of the entire series sometime before April. I’m including interruptions in my expectations because, somewhere in the process, I will be doing substantive edits and content edits on at least the first book of the series.

Last week was fun. The day at my sister’s house in Palm Harbor was a good change of pace for me. I’m grateful for the invitation and glad I could arrange things in my schedule to take a couple of days off. While there I  met someone I didn’t know who has actually read my most recent book. If you;re not a writer you don’t understand what a big deal that really is. It’s also a little intimidating. You never know what a reader is going to say. They might tell you your baby is ugly.

All of us at the gathering were in rare form. You know how you wish you had a recording of the event just so you could capture the spontaneity and high spirits? Yeah…but somehow I think having a camera present wouldn’t have worked as well. People are naturally hams, you know? Playing to the camera would destroy the occasion, making it look too much like Reality TV.

Anyway, lots of laughs shared and good memories for all. Maybe we are supposed to recall such events without the aid of artificial recordings, just so we are kinder to all the silliness that probably – out of a family context – was not really all that funny. Such events tend to be you-had-to-be-there kinds of things, especially when you attempt explaining what was funny to others.

For some reason being around my oldest sister brings out the clown in me – not the scary kind but the playful, joking sort. It’s always been that way. Her clan is pretty much insane by any reasonable standard. So, of course, I fit right in. We each have our foibles, don’t we? It’s good to have a place you can go that you feel like you belong, even if it is just for a day.

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I like family get together because I sort of expect things – based on past experiences – but also I never truly know what will happen. This time it started with a dining room table discussion about something that happened years ago – something that was not even remotely funny at the time.

When there is a new member to the gathering a novel dynamic is introduced. More stories to be told and greater depths of experience to be fished for something worth sharing quirk the group. I think back to when I was a kid reaching point of realizing that discovering dirt on close relations is immensely interesting. That is probably the best thing about family get togethers. You discover that your personal strangeness when compared to other family members isn’t really all that bad after all.

Anyway, things progressed and evolved from the stories told at the table to other stories told, retold with embellishment, or outright fabricated. I’ve been known to do some of each but since I’m a writer the latter is where I reign supreme. For some reason memories of childhood remain vivid and clear while recalling what happened last week or even yesterday is shrouded in mystery. That’s how life works, though. And whenever you run out of true stories to tell there is always a chance stretch things a bit. Telling how things should have been is almost as good as how they actually were, right?

Yesterday, my editor informed me in an unofficial way that Book 1 of The Wolfcat Chronicles is next in the queue for substantive edits. That means nothing really except that the process is about to begin. I’ll be working on a list of terms, characters and places that have unique spellings so that a style sheet can be created for editing purposes. Otherwise how would we know that Mt. Kordha is spelled correctly each time it appears, right? I’ve decided it makes more sense to create an inclusive list for the entire series. I started working on that last night and the list is already going on four pages – and I’ve not delved into Book Two yet.

The Wolfcat Chronicles may seem to have a cast of thousands while you’re reading it but most of the names are merely mentioned as memorable faces in the crowd and are not actual participants in conversations. Still, a series with the kind of depth and scale of the wolfcat books has dozens of speaking parts. It’s a lot like going through one’s real life in a way. You meet people all the time. Some of them become friends others do not. However we all have momentary exchanges and those tend to affect us in some way.

One of the crazier aspects of writing an entire series is the total immersion required of the author. It begins with the actual creation of the first draft and continues through each successive revision. It becomes necessary to believe in the fictional world, actually entering it and living there for certain spans, just to understand the characters and their conflicts. I don’t know if it ends once everything is settled into final form and published. We’ll see.

This is one of many series I have created over the years but it stands alone as being the one most nearly complete for all its revisions over the years. It’s hard to think I’ll not continue living in the fantasy world to some extent. After all, with so many characters in the series there are other stories left to tell. I’m considering that as I go through this series of revisions. I know there is at least another book, possibly two. Such books would not be necessary to understanding and following the series but they would be interesting projects for me to flesh out more detail on minor characters. That is, after all, how one book evolves into two and three. The main characters may drive the plot but the subordinate characters that interact with the main characters propel the story into new directions. Soon, a trilogy becomes ten books.

I have confidence in The Wolfcat Chronicles because over the past dozen years numerous people have read it in draft. Each one reported loving this or that character and wishing to know more about their stories. I’ve taken a lot of that into consideration with the revisions. Also, it’s a good sign that the story works.

With recent technological developments in film production many beta readers have told me this would make a great movie – something along the lines of Avatar or Lord of The Rings. I don’t know, though. I can visualize it of course, but then I live in the fantasy world while I’m working on the books. It comes with the territory of being a writer.

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#writing #revising #editing #publishing #TheWolfcatChronicles #FriedWindows

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Realism in Character Development and Storytelling

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Way back somewhere and some-when I had a teacher named Kristin, though I didn’t call her by her first name until a few years later. We didn’t hit it off well, but after nearly four full school years of fairly close association, whether she was my English teacher or my faculty advisor for the school newspaper, we eventually reached a point of mutual respect. At some point I told her I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, not realizing that the whole point of becoming a writer is never needing to grow up. I asked for her advice and with pity in her eyes she told me if I develop characters that feel real to the reader then I might succeed.

A lot of time was spent in college pursuing secrets insights. In the process I worked on writing, attempting to find my author’s voice and toying around with methods of storytelling. You see – I figured out that it’s better to be a good storyteller than a good writer, especially if you plan to make a living as an author – not that I have arrived there quite yet. Still, all along the way I kept focusing on my characters and making them as realistic as possible. Basically, what makes them real for a reader is not the author’s narrative descriptions but how the character is portrayed through dialogue. If the spoken words sound right, more than half the battle of selling the character to the reader is won. And so, that has always been how I have approached characters. I start with a few the main characters, at least two, and have them converse. Pretty much they tell me the story while introducing me to the other characters that populate their fictional universe. They clue me in on what’s bothering them lately (the conflicts). From there the plot (the storytelling) takes care of itself.

It is not easily accomplished. Sometimes characters misbehave and their dialogue must be tweaked for it to sound real. Also driving plot through dialogue takes a good deal of practice. You also need to pay attention to real world conversations and how people talk – not stuff you hear on TV but exchanges between family members, friends and strangers. In this I benefitted from spending so many years in retail dealing with the general public and a number of fairly diverse employees. Over my nearly thirty-year career I probably have a few thousand stories to tell just from my associations.

For dialogue to be effective in helping to create a character’s realism the writer must sell it without drawing undue attention to the written words. What I mean is this: at some point within the first two exchanges of dialogue the reader must be immersed in the scene along with the characters. Suspension of disbelief takes place almost immediately if the reader fully embraces the characters as human beings (or in the case of my fantasies, just beings). The reader cannot be cognizant of the plot elements entering into the dialogue. A test to see if you’ve gone to far as a writer is to read what you have written and actually hear the voices of the characters as if they were talking. Would they say those things you wrote? There is an art to achieving this and it is why some writers succeed at capturing a reader’s imagination while others don’t. I call it being sneaky.

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One of the best examples I can think of for realism in dialogue and character development is Steph Post’s A Tree Born Crooked. Her characters feel as real as the guy sitting down at the end of the bar or your aunt that no one in the family wants to invite to social gatherings. Her novel is filled with characters you can avoid noticing even though you probably wouldn’t go out of your way to talk to them. It is dialogue driven in a way that probably should be studied in school because it is done that well.

When properly written dialogue-driven plot enhances the quality of the story as well as the experience of reading. A good deal of narrative, which is inherently more boring than dialogue to a reader, can be eliminated. The story will take on a blocked format where narrative is used to frame interactions between characters, primarily setting a scene and directing a reader’s attention to characters’ actions. The result is that the author will invite the reader into the story instead of just showing or telling what happens.

In preparing to write, the more detail an author puts into a character profile the better. Think of it as writing a short biography of someone you, as the author, know extremely well. It should include the basics like date of birth, place of birth, where the character grew up, family, friends, schools and the like, but deviate from a traditional biography in giving a complete description of the character’s height, weight, skin tone, eye color, hair color, and interesting features like a mole or a proportionately large nose. You may or may not use all the information you put into the profile but you must know those details including backstories. What crushes did he or she have growing up? What became of those people – if the character knows? Such information creates depth of the character and lends realism to the person created on paper.

Some authors pattern characters after people they know. It is best to create composites of several real world people, though. You don’t want opinions of living persons to enter into a piece of fiction. However, taking four or five people and using them as a pattern to create a character that shares their attributes and background will often make for a realistic subject in a work of fiction. For The Wolfcat Chronicles I patterned many of the characters based on profiles from a role playing game in which I was involved for a time in early 2000. The character Ela’na is based on a real person with whom I became close friends. She served as a muse throughout the creative process for composing all ten books.

The Resurrection Colonial Authority

For The Attributes, a science fiction environmental piece set in a colonial world in the future, the characters are based on musicians in a rock band whose work I follow. I composed the novel over the course of a summer as sort of a birthday gift for the lead singer. Although the book has not been promoted that much I consider the story one of the best science fiction pieces I’ve done. The dialogue flows very well and it was one of the first stories that I used dialogue extensively in driving the plot.

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Occasionally the main character of a book is an alter ego of the author. In my books, for example, Brent Woods, who appears in Fried Windows, serves that role to a large extent. Although he does things I would never do and is more outgoing than I ever was he shares a good deal of my background. We attended the same schools and, of course, knew some of the same people. Since Brent has some amazing abilities and visits other worlds some people have questioned just how much he is like me. I suppose that as a writer I do visit other worlds and I have special powers while there as the creator of the alternate universe.

Part of the process of making characters feel real is believing they are real. A fellow fiction writer once told me that in order to make a contrived world believable an author becomes a part of the fictional world he or she creates. While writers tend to live in the story while we write, it may seem to others that we have lost touch with reality from time to time. We may pop our heads in and out of the real world to carry on the business of being alive like eating, sleeping, paying bills, attending mandatory family things like birthdays and such, but mainly we are immersed in our creations while we are composing them.

Editing and revising the draft becomes a painful revisiting of the overall creative experience, much like reliving the events of real life – the good along with the bad. It is a necessary evil in the writing processes but much less fun that conjuring substance from nothingness. The objective of a revision is not creating as much modifying and sometimes deleting. If a writer spends too much time immersed in a story its hair grows too long,  shaggy and unkempt. Think of a good revision as basic personal grooming for the story. Professional editing is more like seeing a barber or going to a hair solon to fix a bad hair do before being seen in public.

#Writing #Realism #CharacterDevelopment #Storytelling #Fiction #Editing #Revising #FriedWindows #TheWolfcatChronicles #StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #TheAttributes

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Where and How I Write (and Where I Have Written)

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Yesterday was a pretty good day for progress with my writing. In fact this whole week has been fairly productive. I completed  revisions on book four of The Wolfcat Chronicles and sent it to my publisher. Also I began revisions on another book in the same series. Yesterday I received a better desk chair from an unlikely source, my ex-wife. And it came on her birthday! Yeah, well, it makes some sense but only in my ass-backward universe.

My ex heard about a place that was updating its office furniture so they were throwing away stuff like office chairs, The once she snagged for me has padding which makes it much better than that I was using. And it is not too worn out.

You might thing it is an odd arrangement between my ex and me, but we have always been on speaking terms, even when all we did was argue. We drifted apart over the last ten years we were married and it got to a point that we didn’t get along well enough to still be married.

Over the twenty five years we were married I became more and more engrossed in writing and she became more involved with her friends. He stayed together mostly for our three  children who were all in their teens at the time. They knew what was going on. If nothing else our kids were always smart.

Besides having issues with how much I worked outside of the house – upwards of 70 hours a week – my ex was jealous, accusing me of cheating on her, which is something I had neither the time nor the inclination to do. However, in a way I suppose I was doing just that, except I was taking what free time I had creating a universe and populating it with people I could at least marginally understand.

The main reason or our problem were financial. We had it all and lost it all. In some ways I’m glad things worked out as they did. I think the kids grew up with a much more realistic perspective and I seriously doubt I’d be published had I maintained wealth. You see, it’s easy to think of writing as a hobby and extremely easy to accept rejection and not pursue ever publishing anything. It happens all the time.

Some of my at home situation while married comes through in my writing. For example, the main character, Brent, in Fried Windows has a life that closely parallels mine, when the kids were younger, anyway. There are many differences too, but that’s what makes it fiction, right?

Over the years I have written in many different places. Usually I had a desk, but not always. In high school and college I always had a small writing desk in my room, apartment or wherever I was living. I continued to write after college and while serving in the Air Force, though I really wasn’t working on fiction at that time.

When I was preparing to exit military service I picked up on writing stories again, spending an hour or two each day after I came home from work. That grew into a routine and the hours devoted to it expanded as well. When I began writing One Over X my son was an infant and I used the kitchen table and a Brother electric typewriter. Although that is not where all of those stories began it is when I began assembling everything with some structure and started calling it From the Inside. As I have said several times before in this blog, portions of both One Over X and The Wolfcat Chronicles can be traced back to high school and college, especially my first attempted manuscript titled Tarot. But everything began coming together on Saturday afternoon in San Angelo, Texas while I was babysitting for my son and my wife was shopping at the mall that was within walking distance of where we lived.

In case it is of any interest, here is a list of the towns and cities where I’ve lived while writing (by state):

Ohio: South Charleston (home) and Springfield (apartment)

Indiana: West Lafayette (dorm, fraternity and apartment)

Texas: Mission (home), Austin (apartment), San Angelo (dorm and apartment)

California: Monterrey (dorm)

Republic of Korea (dorm, apartment)

Florida: Palm Harbor (home), Dunedin (apartment) Melbourne (home), Satellite Beach (home), Kissimmee (apartment), Orlando (room)

Connecticut: Meriden (home), Wallingford (home, apartment)

Most recently I have been renting a room. Throughout the summer I used an end table as a desk. Also, over the past three years I have used a dining table a few times and even a lapboard sitting on a stack of boxes. I’ve used laptops, desktop computers and even an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard to write, edit and revise. A time or two while traveling I editing on a plane and in an airport between connections using that configuration. The point is that I have and continue to write anywhere I may be. Having said that, I prefer writing at a desk or at least something like that environment. At the moment I have that again.

In my present arrangement I have been using a laptop with a non-functioning screen. It is connected to an external monitor. That computer has a battery that doesn’t work anymore, so pretty much it is a desktop computer as configured. It is much faster than my previous laptop, which also has a battery that no longer holds a charge. I still use that laptop to research stuff as that is about all it’s good for anymore. It is painfully slow at times for editing, so I have removed MS Word from it altogether. Both computers use Mac OS. Although I have used Windows and Linux int he past I prefer Mac OS.

As many issues as i have with MS word, especially its auto-correction, grammar and spelling checkers, I still use it for composing and editing. You need to understand the program’s purpose: business communication. It has improved greatly over the years as a word processor that can be adapted for longer projects, but it still suffers from the legacy of trying to do everything imaginable. It is mediocre for writing novels, in my estimation. It is a cumbersome process to use for revision unless you set up your book as separate chapters or even separate scenes and leave it that way until you finally assemble it into a book format. Since my writing often uses multiple storylines and follows several characters it is difficult to organize everything in any other way using MS Word. It is cumbersome and time consuming putting everything together as a book and making adjustments Fried Windows took most of a day just to turn it into a manuscript for submission

I am in the process of learning Scrivener, which is an effective writing program but it is especially well-suited for editing and revising. It imports MS Word documents (and other word processor formats) and allows them to be broken into chapters and scenes and rearranged easily before being compiled into a manuscript document or a finished product ready for eBook or print publication. And it is cheaper than MS Word!

The downside of the program is that all of its advanced features take some time to learn. Once acquired it is one of the simplest programs out there to use for editing, though. I foresee using it extensively during the publishing process for The Wolfcat Chronicles. Since my editor also uses the program we should be able to email the files directly in the program’s  format. That will same some time.

#writing #editing #revising #TheWolfcatChronicles #OneOverX #FriedWindows

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The Wolfcat Chronicles – An Update

And so it goes…the revision that is. I’ve been crunching through the manuscript adding here deleting there – mainly deleting, actually. I’m on Chapter 26 of 32. I might finish the revision today.

Early this morning I made a decision that, though hardly irreversible, affects the beginning of book 1. You see, sometimes an author has to choose between telling a story as he or she would like it to be and having the correct pacing and flow to enhance the reader’s overall experience. Everything these days is rush, rush. In a previous revision I broke up longer chapters from the original draft into shorter chapters and, at times, deleted long narratives that gave backstory.

A lot of times the backstory is superfluous. Writers use it for connecting other details into the story later on. Some of the information may or may not have a direct bearing on the story at hand. Usually it can be discarded or at least removed from the story without impacting the experience for the reader. Mainly its like knowing and explaining how to build a clock when all the reader wants is to know what time it is.

What I did today was eliminate the entire first chapter of book 1. Why? Because it was all backstory and history, perhaps of interest if you are into the story already but it would have been a boring way to start out the story for most readers. Besides, the information contained in that chapter does not really advance the story and pertains to matters that are covered elsewhere in the series. It may have also gave away too much information with its foreshadowing of events that occur later on in the series.

Rather than delete the chapter completely, I saved it as is. It might be included as a prologue in a special version of the novel in the future. In fact I have saved much of the material I have deleted for the purpose of creating a backstory piece later on. Don’t know if that will happen, but those were my thoughts. As you may or may not know, writers suffer over what they delete from a story. The pain is lessened if, at the time of removal, there is a potential of using the material in some other way later on. We’ll see how that works out.

The purpose of a revision is to make the story more readable. What I’ve done has accomplished that. Both books are now below the magical 100,000 word goal I set. I plan to keep them there as it would make for a book of around 350 to 380 pages depending on line spacing. Even though I know that in the course of publishing these books I will read and revise them many more times, at least two more times but more likely five or six times before turning loose the content editor to whip it into shape for prime time, each time I revise something I fully intend for it to be the last.

Nothing has changed in the story line, which is good news for anyone who has read early drafts and enjoyed the tale. Structural and substantive changes take more time to work out. Each book will have to endure a fresh set of eyes from new perspective – one that knows next to nothing about wolfcats – before the books can enter into the production process. Every book can benefit from that level of scrutiny because the author easily overlooks things that someone new to the story will pick up on. Those details if left be can adversely affect the reader’s experience. It is a level of editing that publishers require but many self-published authors do not bother with.

Substantive editing can be expensive, especially if a manuscript has not been worked over extensively. A good example of a substantive flaw would be having a character owning a red truck in the first chapter but suddenly the truck is blue in chapter ten. Readers notice things like that and it ruins the story for them.

Content editing focuses on spelling, typos, and grammar. Most editors are reading each sentence and perhaps checking to see if the paragraph makes sense in terms of its construction but there is little or no substantive focus. Where content editing can cost a few hundred dollars substantive editing can cost considerably more. Few self-published authors can afford the expense.

Following the current revision I may venture into book three and continue on with The Wolfcat Chronicles. Or I may take a break of sorts and work on the sequel to Fried Windows, Ninja-Bread Cookies. I would like to see the sequel release somewhere between book two and book three of The Wolfcat Chronicles in order that a subsequent book involving Brent, the main character in Fried Windows, could be released between Books seven and eight of the wolfcat series. That would lead directly to the books that continue the One Over X series that brings together all the plot lines of the various series. Each of those books has been written in draft except for the sequel to Fried Windows. That one is incomplete at this point.

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#writing #TheWolfcatChronicles #Author #editing #revisions

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Reblog: Steph Post Writes About Writing and Her Busy Life

A Tree Born Crooked author Steph Post: Writing Under Fire

steph-post  A Tree Born Crooked

Steph Post is the author of the recently published novel A Tree Born Crooked. She lives, writes, and teaches writing in St. Petersburg, Florida. Connect with her at http://www.stephpostfiction.com. 

BOOK GIVEAWAY! To win a SIGNED COPY of A Tree Born Crooked, share the link to this post on Facebook or Twitter (by using the links at the bottom of this post) and leave a comment below with your Twitter handle or email so I can contact you if you win. The winner will be chosen randomly on Friday, November 7. You can also use this short link in your share/tweet: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-nH

Note: Click on this link for the original blog post for the links to enter contest:

A Tree Born Crooked author Steph Post: Writing Under Fire

For me, the dreaded question of “What’s your book about?” has always been paralyzing. Most people who ask are looking for about a ten-second synopsis, even shorter than an elevator pitch, and I find it challenging to sum up an entire novel, an entire year’s worth of work, in the amount of time it takes a person to unwrap and start chewing a stick of gum. Or check a text message. Or look over my shoulder at something more interesting. All of which that person is most likely doing while I’m trying to explain one of the most important things I’ve ever created in my entire life.

I’ll admit that I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve distilled my novel down into short, easy to manage, 21st century sound bites that hopefully catch a spark in the listener’s eyes, depending on what he or she is into. Southern. Literary. When the eyes start to drift, I ramp it up. Thriller. Crime. Guns. Then I narrow it down, hone in on what the reader is really looking for. I’m getting somewhere. Florida. Dirty Motels. Alcohol. Road Trips. Banana Moon Pies. I sold a book last week just because the woman had a huge crush on Timothy Olyphant (well, who wouldn’t?). She had no idea what my book was about, but she hauled out the cash as soon as she saw the word “Justified” on the cover.

So I thought I was nailing it with the sales pitch. I was feeling pretty good about it. And then I had a true deer-in-the-headlights moment the other day. The question was the same as always — “what’s your book about” — but I froze. “Um. Er. Stuff. And then some stuff happens. To these people. In this place. And then some more stuff. There’s all kinds of stuff in the book. Yep. That’s right. Lots of stuff.” I don’t have to tell you that I lost that sale…. But it wasn’t because I didn’t know how to pitch my novel. It’s because I suddenly couldn’t remember which novel I was talking about. And now an entirely new author challenge has been thrown my way: how to balance promoting a novel, shopping a second, and writing a third. All without losing my mind.

I have always thought of writing as a war. In addition to being an author and editor, I teach high school students how to write. When we get ready for the state writing test, my students have their battle faces on. During writing boot camp, we plot out sneak attacks, counterattacks, revision strategies, grammar arsenals, weapons of diction, hand-cramping survival tactics, and the ultimate ways to blow up the enemy (the state-appointed essay scorer) and win the war (be eligible to graduate). Some of my students look at me warily and edge away, some roll their eyes, but those who struggle with writing get it. Those who struggle and those who have the demon of a novice writer stirring deep inside of them.

Whenever I’m in the middle of writing a novel, I always feel like I’m deep in the trenches. I’m slogging away, looking out over no-man’s land, wondering if I’ll ever see daylight again. It’s messy and can be disheartening, though filled with explosions of brilliance and moments of adrenaline-fueled panic and triumph. I sit in front of my notebook or computer and imagine what people out in the “real world” are doing. Having fun. Going to parties. Interacting with other human beings. But I’m stuck in the trenches with gritted teeth, banging out chapters because the characters won’t let me sleep until I’m finished. Sounds like fun, right?

Now, I’d give anything to be back, safely ensconced in my trench, shutting the rest of the world out with only my notebooks and my keyboard, my music and my dogs for company. But there’s no going back. I’m running across the field now, grenades being lobbed in my direction from all angles, bullets whizzing past my head, the ground on fire. I thought writing was a battle. No. Writing is a walk in the park on a summer day. Being an author is a battle. Being an author is a fight to death.

Instead of being able to focus, with blissfully intense tunnel-vision, on one story, I have three jostling around in my head at all times. My debut novel, A Tree Born Crooked, was just published in September. I had moved on from the story and its characters in the year’s time from writing to publishing, but now the world of Crystal Springs and its bedraggled inhabitants are right back in the forefront again (and being packaged into ten-second pitch-bites). During this past year, I wrote another novel, so on top of promoting one book to readers, I’m promoting a second book to agents and editors. And then I’ve spent the last three months working hard on research for my third novel, which I hope to begin writing this month.

So when the unassuming reader asked me what my book was about and I provided the elegant response of “stuff,” what was really going through my head was a frantic moment of trying to remember which book they were asking about. The one with the crazy Pentecostal preacher or the one with the Alligator Mafia? Or the tattooed snake charmer? The one set in rural Florida or in a traveling carnival? Wait, is there mythology in this one or is that the one I’m working on now? Literary, noir, Southern Gothic? It must have all shown on my face, because the potential buyer of A Tree Born Crooked carefully set the copy down and backed away slowly.

Three books, one part-time job as an editor, one full-time job as a high school writing coach, occasional forays into book reviewing and short story writing. I’m not claiming to be a multi-tasking soccer mom, but I do have a lot of writing- and reading-related activity going on. I’m taking fire on all sides, so it’s time I created a new battle plan. Hunkering down in the trenches just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Reserve the weekends for working on the new novel. It’s the most important thing, and will always be the most important thing, because writing is, well, the point of being a writer. Period.
  • Do everything else (promoting, querying, blogging, tweeting, editing, reviewing, teaching, living) during the week.

Also:

  • Stop sleeping.
  • Forget about ever having a clean house.
  • Teach my five dogs how to take themselves for a walk.
  • Tell my husband that I’ll see him sometime. Maybe in the next year. Possibly.
  • Ditto to all my friends.
  • Hold off on having kids.
  • Pretend holidays don’t exist. (Plus side: save money to buy wine)
  • Sell the television.
  • Buy a wine cellar. Fully stocked.
  • Remind myself over and over that I’m an author not because I have to be, but because I want to be. I’m doing this because I love it. It’s frustrating and irritating and painful and heart-wrenching and has completely ruined my social life forever. But I love it.

And I’m open to suggestions. For now, I’m suiting up, checking my ammo, and heading into battle.

#StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #Promotion #Blogging #Publishing #Editing #Teaching

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What An Author Goes Through

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There are a lot of copies of Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce out there being read. I’m happy about that because that is the primary reason I write. I believe it is the only reason any author goes through the more difficult aspects of the writing and publishing process. The reward at the end of the struggle is reading a review from someone who read the book, enjoyed it and got the point of the story.

As many of you know, for the past few months I have been working on publicity for other authors. At times that has drawn me away from promoting my work. It has also, of necessity, forced me to schedule time to work on my upcoming books. A couple of months ago I started a job that also requires me to budget my time. Sometimes it seems like there are not enough hours in a day but usually there are if you look hard enough. Who need sleep, right?

The reason I write is because I enjoy doing it. I don’t consider creating stories as work. It’s not exactly playtime either. It is an escape into another world that i can control. Perhaps it’s a little like plying a video game except that I generate the scenes and the characters as I go.

Everything after writing the rough draft is the necessary evil of the publication process. The draft needs to be revisited. Once revised, it need to be edited prior to submission to the publisher. Even once it is accepted it need to be edited again, looking for substantive changes (sub-edits) in the story so that the detail coincide – like the main character drives a red Ford early on in the book but it suddenly becomes a blue Chevy in Chapter 11. That would be a substantive edit point..

Sub-edits require the reading of the entire story as any reader would do. Although minor editing points like typos and such may be pointed out in the process, that is not the focus. The purpose is to make a good story arc with the necessary elements of story development and conflict resolution. Sometimes it is determined that chapters need to be rewritten or other chapters added for the sake of building the story. At times entire sections are eliminated altogether – even whole chapters.

Next the book goes through content edits. This is when the typos are picked up. Also grammar, spelling and word choice are scrutinized sentence-by-sentence. Paragraph structure is adjusted. Redundancies are removed along with some sentences that just aren’t necessary for advancing the story. Some characters may disappear or be consolidated into other characters for the sake of eliminating confusion. Names of characters might be changed for the same reason. Entire sections may need to be rewritten. Before the manuscript can be called a book it must conform to accepted standards of style. There is some latitude for author’s voice allowable within he standards, but for the most part this experience is comparable to have an English composition teacher going over an assignment you turned in for credit.

Content editing is an exhaustive process that for the first time transforms a manuscript into a novel. The success of the process depends upon the working relationship between the editor and the author. A good editor improves the story without rewriting it. A good author has a thick enough skin to take the criticism as it is intended, with the purpose of making the book as good as it can be for the overall reading experience. After all a novel is designed for a reader’s appreciation not an author’s ego.

Somewhere between subediting and content editing the cover design process begins. This is a collaborative effort between several people including the artists, the author and a representative of the publisher. Usually the publisher has the final say on the book cover but it is always good if the author is onboard with the choice. Also the author can contribute his or her advice for what scene in the book might constitute a good subject for the cover.

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

Part of the cover design is the inclusion of a brief blurb about the book. It tells something about what the story is about but it is also a promotional pitch directed to the potential reader. Although the author usually contributes to the writing of the blurb, it may or may not resemble what the author produced at the outset. It is edited, tweaked, revised and re-tweaked and becomes a marketing element for the book more than a brief statement of what the book is about.

When the cover design is completed it is revealed publicly as one of the initial steps in the promotions process. By then the edits are finished, ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) are produced and distributed for the purpose of book reviews to coincide with the launch. Each review is critical to the success of a book as most readers look at at least some reviews prior to deciding on a purchase – especially when buying a book from an online source.

Once a book has launched the author continues with promotional efforts, attending events, book signing, soliciting interviews and attempting to spread the word through many means in order to entice people to read the book. This is the point in the process with Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce where I am at the moment. Of the entire process, this is the most difficult point for an author. The writer inside wants to write something new. But what is the point of writing a new book if the present book isn’t selling well enough to attract attention to any new book?

Sometimes it is difficult for an author to appreciate that publishing is a business. It provides readers with a product and, hopefully, the author with royalties. But there are many, many steps between the author’s inspiration to write a story and the point at which a reader opens a book and starts to read the story.

I always knew there was a lot of coordination of effort involved in the production and distribution of a book, even before my first trip around the publishing track. But each time I go through the process I am profoundly humbled. Several people worked very hard to produce the quality of product that now bears my name. To think that all this effort came from a somewhat silly idea I came up with a couple of years ago in the quiet corner of my apartment in central Florida.
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#writing #author #editing #publishing #promotions #newreleasebooks