My current project is giving me a lot of trouble, more so than any other story I’ve attempted before. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that’s blocking the flow, but every time I look at my story, I feel lost.
Some writers are like architects: everything is beautiful and precise and structured. Some writers are like gardeners: their ideas grow more organically. I am a rather disorganised writer, my ideas are like seeds that I germinate and encourage to grow and bloom. While the main thrust is ever upwards, there are branches that I go back and cultivate or trim as I need, pruning and grafting until I have a complete form.
I usually start with a sentence and let the words flow out of me, happy to be carried along by the stream. Occasionally I come back to fill parts in, rearrange sections, & add scenes I thought of later. This has never bothered me before. I have never planned out a plot from beginning to end, more often than not, I have no idea how a story is going to end until I’m at least halfway through. This hasn’t bothered me either, except that you can’t really write a blurb when you don’t know what the point of the story is going to be.
Okay, I admit it, I do get a certain perverse pleasure from writing scathing reviews of books that I find to be utterly terrible. Not just bad, not “Fifty Shades of Grey” bad, but really, really terrible.
A review can be ‘bad’ because the review describes why the book isn’t worth reading, but it can also be bad by being unhelpful. Or, it can be both. It can be hard for authors to see the wood (the quality of the review) for the trees (the reader’s reaction), as I mentioned in an earlier blog post. So, when you don’t like a book, but you’re compelled to write 250 words about it, it’s difficult to stay on the right side of the good/bad review line.
I recently started using Inkspand, a site that will pay you $10 to ‘beta read’ novels. It seems too good to be true: getting paid to review books and you get to choose the books? In some ways it is, the book selection is limited & you generally have to be on your toes to get one of the few available slots, which go exceptionally quickly on the better books. But, if you enjoy inspirational non-fiction, boy have I got a deal for you! There are usually several books with open slots if you’re a How to Win Friends and Influence People meets Chicken Soup for the Soul reader. You could make a mint if you read swiftly.
When I was preparing Speak for the Dead for publishing, there was no question that I wanted to make it available as an eBook. Unfortunately, my desire to do so wasn’t one of the things I considered when I formatting the manuscript for print.
Having the freedom & the skill to do so, I decided that I wanted to make the interior of Speak for the Dead a little more interesting than “1. Chapter text goes here”. If you’ve read the book or the free preview, you will have seen this:
All of the chapter headings in Speak for the Dead are done in this style, & I think it looks pretty darn fancy pants. But, when it came time to convert my print-formatted manuscript for digital delivery, things started going wonky.
I know half a smattering of html, & I don’t really understand how it works, I’m a bit like a dancing bear in that respect. I can do some basic markup, but I don’t really have that connection to why it works, only that it does. No more than a dancing bear knows why standing up on his hind legs earns him a treat, but so long as the fish keeps coming, he’ll keep dancing.
Last week I wrote a blog post about the trials of editing my first complete manuscript ahead of submitting it to be published on CreateSpace.
What a hectic week it has been since then.
But, I thought it might amuse you to know that I ended up having to resubmit my manuscript three times before I was happy with it. Yes, after all that soul-draining & exacting work I did, it still wasn’t perfect!
In fact, as I settled in to read the PDF proof, the very first thing I noticed was a typo: I’d accidentally inserted the wrong correction during that final spell check, leaving an error in one of the early chapters. Disaster! I’d been so excited to hit that “approve” button & declare myself a published author (in a fashion), and here I was, staring down the barrel of another 24-hour review period.
In the end, it was worth it. I adjusted the margins outwards so the side margins (the outer edge of each page) was nice & narrow, & widened the centre. Today, I received the very first print copies & – holding them open – it was the right choice. To think: if I’d been too stubborn to resubmit, my book would have looked terrible.
It was a long journey, with an astounding amount of hard work, but it was a labour of love & I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, for this November, I’m planning on using NaNoWriMo to draft the sequel: Following Suit.
Recently, I’ve been writing about self-publishing. I’m relatively active in the CreateSpace community space, reading previews and answering questions here and there, but mostly reading other people’s questions & answers to add that knowledge to my mental database.
One of the things that no one talks about is just how… tiring the process of editing will prove to be. Maybe I’m a perfectionist, & maybe I lack patience, but when handing out tips on how to make your layout look as professional as possible, they don’t mention just what kind of ordeal you have a head of you.
I’ve just spent the last two days going over my copy of Speak for the Dead with one of those super-fine metal combs used to find lice & nits. Having finally submitted the final version for print approval, my eyes burn & I’m ready to spend a week away from the computer. I think I was lucky, that I’d finalised a lot of the parameters in the weeks leading up to this monumental proof-read of doom, or there might have been even more work ahead of me.
With my trim size & margins set up; my preferred font selected, sized, & line spacing set; my manuscript pasted & formatted into chapters; and my front matter written and positioned; I was ready to begin the process of laying out the copy exactly how it would print. Continue reading
I’ve never been one for patience, so as soon as the manuscript for Speak for the Dead was drafted, I wanted to get it ready for submission. But, I have my pride & there was no way I was going to send something as poorly edited as Fifty Shades of Grey to be published.
Reading the First Way
The first step was, simply enough, to read what I’d written. This comes with it’s own problems, namely that, as an author, I am far too “close” to my own work & it can be difficult to see certain flaws. I know that I have a bad habit of skimming when I read, even when I think I’m trying to read closely, & my brain just skips over minor errors as if they weren’t even there. To combat this, I’ve been putting the manuscript through a spell checker every single time I make an edit. Probably excessive, but the readers <strong?are going to find every spelling and grammatical error I make, so the more I can catch now, the better. Continue reading