The editing continues – revisiting CoA (again)

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lucianotb remington

Sometimes, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my writing journey. When I’ve needed them the most, I’ve met people who have shown me that ePublishing is not only possible, but in some ways it is preferable to traditional publishing. 

During my year of querying agencies and receiving a whole basketful of raspberries, around the time I’d started to build my author platform, I quickly began to encounter other writers, some of whom were still querying, others who had decided to go it alone by self-publishing.

And as they proved to me that there is definitely hope after rejection, one author in particular steered me towards the tutorials that explained how I could complete the process myself.  Thanks Ryan!

I’ve also become friends with several other authors who went on to recommended exactly the right cover artist.

Thank you everybody! You are my guardian angels. Or at the very least, he recommended you all. 🙂

Now I am entering a new phase in my writing. By sheer chance, and some very fortunate timing, I have become friends with Tara, an aspiring editor who began by examining my first chapter, but went on to review the entire MS.  We are now working together on a complete and thorough edit of CoA.

When I wrote the post How to accept editing feedback I thought that accepting a professional critique would be much more daunting, but Tara has been fair as well as thorough with my MS.

She even likes my jokes… 🙂

As I write this, we have already made some major changes to the story and I now have several words to purge from the MS, on pain of nagging.

It seems that I use the words ‘just’, ‘like’ and ‘sigh’ a great deal (thanks, WordSmith!), to the point where it has begun to leap off the page at Tara. *Sighs* We are also discussing the intricacies of ‘forwards’ versus ‘forward’ and it looks as if I have sinned with ‘towards’ as well. Taking into account that I write in British English (BrE), we both understand that different rules apply on our respective sides of the Big Pond, but she may have me cornered in this instance. 🙂

However, Tara seems to enjoying the peculiarities of BrE and I’m slowly introducing her to some of our colloqualisms. I’ll soon have her speaking like a native of the UK and then we can be china plates for life!

Once we’ve finished my fish hook, of course. 

Toodle-pip!

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Published for a year…

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CoA post its

On October 17th, 2012, I clicked a button marked ‘Upload’ and sat back, nervously awaiting the delivery of a stream of electronic information to Amazon KDP. Twelve hours later, ‘A Construct of Angels’ was live and I realised that I had finally achieved my dream – to complete a novel and put it up for sale.

Thirty-seven years ago, I could never have dreamed that in this future age of flying cars, silver jumpsuits and daily trips to the Moon, my book would exist only as data and that it would be held in storage in a distant country. Readers would only have to tap it with their finger if they wanted to select, pay for and read it.

Cool.

I am still working to make the paperback version a reality, but with the recent bout of editing that I have subjected the poor thing to, that particular realisation has been delayed yet again. Configuring an electronic (Word-based) template with paragraphs, page breaks, chapters and the odd image isn’t as straightforward as it ought to be. *frowns* It’s now back with my new editor, Tara, after receiving some swathing cuts, including the complete removal of two characters.

In some ways, I hardly seem to have moved on at all. I am still editing and I really need to put A Construct of Angels to bed and pick up the sequel. But it will haunt me if my first book isn’t the best it can possibly be. Only when that’s sorted, can I let it go…

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, One Year On,  a great deal has changed for me in the last twelve months (plus I now have 300 followers – who’d have thought?) and I still can’t quite believe how much has been crammed into such a short space of time. I can only wonder what the next twelve months will bring, although I can’t imagine them being as crazy as the last twelve. The learning curve, I feel, is no longer as steep as it has been and for that, I am grateful. 🙂

Regular readers will know that my job sends me all around the UK. Well, by sheer chance, this week happens to have landed me back at the exact same desk from where I uploaded my book, one year ago. I am experiencing an eerie sense of deja vu – again.

It’s another reminder of what’s changed. If I could borrow Sandra Bullock’s time-travelling postbox (The Lake House), I would send my past self a message that says ‘hang on to your hat.’

Not that I wear a hat. I’m not Terry Pratchett. 🙂

Anyway, until Tara has finished looking over my new edits, I’m hoping to press on with the sequel,  ‘A Vengeance of Angels.’ I’d really liked to have completed it, one year on, but life has a peculiar way of rearranging even the best-laid plans of mice and authors.

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How to accept editing feedback

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Professor at work

Within the last few weeks I have been on both sides of the editing fence, in a non-professional capacity, and it’s been a fascinating and emotional experience.

It’s surprising how much this editing lark tugs at the heartstrings…probably because I was working with friends’ MSs, not an ‘author unknown’ whose work I could have viewed more dispassionately.

At first. there’s the realisation that I am holding someone’s hard work in my hands. I handle it like fine china whilst wearing thin white cotton gloves. Eventually, once I have carefully tip-toed through the copyright page and the dedication page – pages that look uncannily similar to my own – I get down to reading the actual story.

Fairly quickly, I begin to read it as an editor, albeit an amateur one. I discover small errors. There are the obvious typos, misplaced words that the spell checker skimmed past, stray aspostrophe’s 🙂 Those are all straightforward and easy to highlight. At this stage, I feel no guilt for messing with someone’s hard work.

But then there are the ‘clumsy’ sentences; the ones that find you circling the same spot on the page like a buzzard as you consider rephrasing; ‘The stars appeared in a velvet sky along with the shining object that as a child, the cow had jumped over – the Moon – just before the clouds began to roll in.’

I should emphasise that no-one actually committed that sentence to ePaper. It’s just an example…but it’s awkward, right?

But I’ve stared at many similar sentences, wondering if I’m just being mean, picky or plain British-awkward by even considering the idea of changing them. If I correct it, will it then jar with the rest of the MS? Will I have ruined the artistry that the writer sought to inject into the words?

Will it change the mood if I type it up as; ‘Clouds mushroomed along the horizon, building quickly, threatening to swallow the moon – my childhood inspiration – and spoil the cobalt, star-spotted beauty of the late evening sky.’ That’s more my style – but do I have the right to impose it on another writer?

Guilty questions begin to rattle my brain;

‘Do I leave that alone?’

‘Is it actually wrong – or do I just not like it personally?’

It’s the same thing when I read ‘Phil pushed himself off of the table.’  Brits hate this – but it seems to be normal in the US.

With some phrases, I wonder;

‘Is that how an American would phrase it – or is it wrong?’

Take; ‘He dropped the tailgate of the pickup and drug out the fishing nets.’ Brits would throw up their hands in horror – but in the US? I honestly don’t know if drug is an acceptable past tense form of drag.

If it’s speech, then I leave it well alone. Characters can talk exactly as they want to – unless I stumble across someone suddenly saying ‘I did not want to…’ or ‘I shall not do…’ when they would normally contract their speech.

Then we have; ‘The teenagers hung around the park most of the day, but one by one they began to slope off home.’

‘Would American readers understand that term? Is it too British? Should it be international-ised?’

It’s been pointed out to me that I use a lot of British English. Yes, that’s probably true, but short of avoiding all words that end in ‘-ised’ or changing them to ‘-ized’ and cutting out the letter ‘u’ from words ending with ‘-our’, I’m not sure of the best way around that issue. I am (mostly) English, my story is set in York, my main characters are (for the most part) English and at no point do they leave the country. If I was to convert my MS to American English, I would then be turning my back on the very ‘Britishness’ of my story. It’s a no win, no win situation.

I find myself thoroughly quandried, plus I feel a growing respect for editors who must straddle these intenational conundrua.

On the receiving end;

The edited MS arrives as an attachment – I download it and crack it open, wondering how much red I will see.  The first comment pops up, and I instantly feel (in turn and within the space of a few seconds) the following;

Irritation

Annoyance

Anger

Resignation

Acceptance

Determination

Purpose

Is it just me? Am I unique in that I see red because someone has dared to question my writing? I mean – how dare they?

Oh, they’re editing it for me. Fair enough.

The ire quickly fades as my Muse nods sagely and persuades me (diplomatically) that the editor could well be right and that perhaps a small change would benefit the MS.  So I sigh, I change it, I move on to the next comment.

It’s a hard thing, to accept the critique of another. If you’ve a thin skin, it feels as if someone is simply telling you; ‘No, you’re done that wrong.’ If you’re thicker skinned – and writers need to be – then it should be seen as ‘fine tuning’, as necessary as – for example – a haircut. The hairdresser may not actually hate your hair, but they still need to take off a little bit here and tidy it up there. It’s not personal.

But it can sure feel like it. >.<

Just think of it as the next little step towards presenting your best possible work to the world. Grit your teeth, thicken your skin, go get that haircut and let it happen.

So easy to say…so tricky to accept.

😀

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One year on from my first post – and look what’s changed!

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100th post

A few days ago, WordPress sent me a reminder that I’d just published my 100th post – and I was taken aback.

I suddenly realised that it has been almost exactly one year since I first created my first ever post; The best rejection letter ever?

And what a lot has happened in those twelve months – just look at the stats;

Last July                                      This July

1 post                                            100+ posts

2 WP followers                             235+ WP followers (update?)

20 Facebook followers                 900+ Facebook followers

no Twitter account                        475+ Twitter followers

No eBook published                      eBook self-published

No paperback                                 Paperback very close to completion

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This is all part of spreading the word, of building an author platform – and it’s looking quite good, IMHO.

Along the way, I have met some very talented people. Some of them are constantly beating a path for the rest of us to follow, whilst others are still following their aspirations to publish. Many are very, very close to that first eBook or printed book.

Then there are the non-writer bloggers who post recipes, amazing photographs or offer philosophical insights that leave me thinking ‘wow…’

I have learned a great deal since last July. Back then I had just exhausted my 102-strong list of UK-based Literary Agencies and whilst I’d received some encouragement along the way (notably The best rejection letter ever?), I was no closer to being published.

At that time I was on a knife-edge, wondering if I ought to begin querying US-based agencies – but electronically. I could never have afforded the postage costs. I was already several hundreds of pounds down (I still am) and further investment would have crippled me financially.

And then I began hearing, via Facebook and WordPress, about self-publishing. I was (at first) curious – and then intrigued. I wanted to know more.

The seed was sown. As the rejection letters continued to trickle in, I decided to learn all I could about creating and publishing an eBook, just in case none of the agencies picked up my book. They didn’t – so I launched myself into the world of ePublishing. The rest, as they say, is history. Very recent history – and something I could not have done without help from fellow bloggers.

Capture

Sharing – it’s the best part of blogging! It makes the lonely business of writing feel a lot less…well, lonely. We all get to read about other people’s experiences on a daily basis, both the good and the bad. Most notable is Ryan Casey’s runaway success with his short stories and novels and Michelle Proulx’s difficult journey with the publisher iUniverse. Both authors have flourished, but their experiences contrast greatly. But even bad experiences can teach us all something. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

What’s most encouraging is the great feedback that I’ve received. Every comment makes me want to post again…and again. I love seeing that little orange star at the top of my dashboard. It’s encouraging to know that someone had read and ‘liked’ my words. But even more heart-warming is that little orange speech bubble. Whatever I was about to do, whatever words I had in mind…they get sidelined as I click on the bubble to see the message that has been left.

A blogger once remarked that comments are addictive. They were right. I love them! They have delivered support and encouragement in so many different ways. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave me feedback.

I wonder if my second year of blogging will be as fascinating and thrilling a ride as the first?

See you all in July 2014!

Keep blogging (especially Shay Starcaller)!

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Post Script;

What I hadn’t expected – and this came right out of the blue as I was preparing to post, was this;

Capture

I really had NO IDEA that I’d been with WordPress for so long.  It’s true that I’ve chronicled my writing endeavours as far back as 1999 (see The Homeworld Saga), but that was all retro-written just to document where my modern writing began to coalesce properly.

But four years?

Wow…

Time does fly when you’re having fun doing what you love the most!

CreateSpace – Part IV of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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CoA post its

Isn’t this is the BEST justification EVER for ordering a Proof copy of your Print on Demand novel?

I used nearly three packs of Post-it strips marking out typos (not too many), weird spacing issues (loads) and missing or shifted text (scores – mostly at the bottoms of pages where text had been moved to fill the silly gaps).

I also took the opportunity to have one last crack at polishing the prose as I went. Who says a writer is never done editing?

Anyway, Big Lesson learned here; Never assume that because it looks fine on the screen, it’ll be fine in print. WRONG!

And don’t order TWO copies in the naive hope that the print will be fiiiine *casually dismisses problem with a wave of his hand* and you would be able to send one of them to…for instance…your mother.

So glad I didn’t…

Unless you are planning to use an editing buddy, someone who will be reading the second copy, don’t waste your money. Order ONE, fix it, THEN order another proof – just to be certain.

Sure, it all takes time…an interminable period during which you are champing away, desperate for the process to be completed. But as I’ve posted before, patience is most definitely required in this self-editing game.

So, now that I have completed my read-through, I only need to update my electronic version and re-submit the document to CreateSpace…and order another proof copy, which must come all the way from the US… by snail mail..and then read through THAT…and identify any remaining errors.

*drums fingers in agitation*

How long is the average human lifespan?

Muse; Patience, Mister Toynbee, patience.

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CreateSpace – Part II of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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books and pages

Following on from my previous post, I have moved a little further along the road towards creating my first-ever paperback *shivers as a life-long dream seems possible*.

Firstly, I set up a CreateSpace account alongside my Amazon author’s account, then proceeded to navigate CS’s user-friendly set-up menu. I was offered a plethora of differing sizes for my physical book, and after having discussed this with other bloggers, I finally settled on the 6×9″ format.

I then downloaded the novel template (6×9″), after which ‘A Construct of Angels’ (already formatted in Word) was pasted into the template so I could make any adjustments to the layout.

Here’s where the gnashing of teeth began…

When I scrolled through the virtual book (complete with flipping pages feature…it’s looking more like a real book already), I found a problem. Not Major by any means, but nether was it minor.

For some reason, my the formatting contained within my original layout caused the whole MS to leave random (it seemed) spaces at the bottom of every page, giving it a chewed-off appearance . I had to spend three nights inside the Word document copying and pasting text from the top of the previous page into the end of the text from the one above. Sometimes there was only one blank line; other times there were five.

Weird. This was the point where I wondered if I should finally make the move to Scrivener…

Patience required, definitely. Still, I wanted it to be right, so I put in the time to set it all up properly.

Save, copy, paste and check the format on CS once again – more flicking through virtual pages with a beady eye on the spacing.

Then the next problem reared its head. I use two images within my text. CreateSpace’s automated formatting checker decided that the resolution of these images was too low to print properly. Now, this is an image of some handwriting – some very poor handwriting, as it happens…if you think ‘spider that scuttled through a puddle of ink’ then you won’t be far off. Yes, it’s ncessary to the plot.

Guys, it doesn’t NEED to be hi-res.

I DID try to change the resolution using Paint and then PhotoImpact, but to no avail. I can live with it. The question is, will CreateSpace let it pass?

The next stage is the cover.

I sent the details of the size, page colour and page count to Ravven who has tweaked the original artwork to match.  Thanks, Ravven!

Now that the final piece is in place, and CreateSpace is happy with the format (low-res image notwithstanding), I have ordered the proof copy from the US printers (the proof has to come from the US, but subsequent purchased copies are created in the UK for UK buyers) and wait for its arrival with teeth gound and breath held.

The tension mounts…

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CreateSpace – Part I of my anticlockwise journey towards a paperback

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books and pages

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but never really imagined that it would be possible for me to have my novel on a shelf alongside the likes of of Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and David Eddings (I did say I’d been writing for a long time).

But when I began to imagine that it could be possible, I began to write with a serious aim – to see my work in print.

However, I could never have imagine the circuitous, nay, labyrinthine route that my journey would entail.

I’d imagined that I would complete my book, send it off to a publisher and they would dance for joy at my having approached them. And for a while, I continued to entertain this (flimsy) dream.

But then things began to shift within the literary world. It became de rigueur to approach an agent first if any hope of publishing was to be entertained. So, with my first attempt at a novel completed in 2011, I began to make the Royal Mail postal service earn their keep by querying over one hundred UK-based literary agencies.  

To no avail.

I received a smattering of replies (less than half) from the agencies, during which time I began to take notice of the rumblings regarding self-publishing for indie authors. In July 2012, when I received John Jarrold’s extensive rejection letter, it prompted me to write my first-ever post and I plunged into the world of electronic authorship, swimming with my other published and want-to-be-published fellows. In the three months that followed, I learned a great deal fom my fellow bloggers (thank you, one and all!) and October saw me uploading y debut novel, ‘A Construct of Angels,’ to Amazon.

I couldn’t have been happier. I’d achieved a life-long ambition – to create a novel that could sell.

But now, thanks to potential buyers’ feedback, I find myself in the peculiar position of considering a paper book once again, except this time, I will be the publisher, agent, publicist and distributor. CreateSpace, the printing arm of Amazon, has opened up whole new possibilities for the independent author. Books and novels (for they are not the same animal) can be created for a modest cost and shipped directly to the buyer via Amazon or bought in bulk and delivered to retail outlets such as Waterstones.

This work-around route to getting a paperback novel published still seems a little crazy to me…but, hey, we gotta do what we gotta do.

I’ll keep you posted as to how this all works out. 🙂

In the meantime, Write On!

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To CreateSpace…or not to CreateSpace?

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hbrinkman bookseller

Over the past six months I have introduced ‘A Construct of Angels’ (using my bookmarks) to hundreds of people. In that time, a clear pattern of responses has emerged from my endeavours.

Pretty much everyone is initially startled by my ‘Do you read much?’ query, but they soon settle when I hand them a free bookmark and ask them if they’d care to try my book. Most stare at the bookmark, then at me and I can almost hear the penny drop as they say; ‘This is YOURS? You actually WROTE this?’

It always surprises me how people change when it dawns on them that they are standing next to someone who has (self) published a novel. Having had six months to get used to the idea, the shock and awe of finally completing a book has worn off, and I often forget how humbled I always felt in the presence of Jenna Burtenshaw, the author of Wintercraft and Blackwatch. Last year, I attended her book signing in Darlington and there she was – a published author and there I was, a newbie wannabe unpublished speck of nothing. I wasn’t fit to stand in her shadow…and so on.

It’s very strange hearing people using words like ‘honoured’ and ‘amazed’ when they talk to me – words that I try to shrug off. I’m not a movie star. I’m simply a writer who managed not to succumb to the depressing idea of never having a book see the light of day – nothing more.

Generally, the people I talk to are quite receptive to the idea of the bookmark and most will assure me that they will have a look at the free chapters available via Amazon. Of those who tell me that they don’t own eReaders, most are surprised that Amazon will offer them free software, ‘Kindle for PC’ that allows them to read Kindle books on their PC, Laptop, Netbook or Tablet. I’ve probably been responsible for a few dozen non-Kindle readers now being able to buy and read Kindle eBooks. 🙂

I also point them towards Smashwords, where ‘A Construct of Angels’ is listed in ePub, pdf and several other formats.

With the remainder, I have hit a stumbling block and I feel that the time has come to address that problem. Some readers, for various reasons, remain committed to paper books – something that I am currently unable to supply for sevral reasons. For one, I have been rejected by every genre-relevant agency in the UK, which is one of the reasons that I decided to self-publish. The other reason for my remaining entirely electronic is that the cost of a paper book was so far above that of an eBook, it seemed prudent to sell my work at the lower cost rather than try to push the more expensive paper version.

But I have seen so many faces registering disappointment when I admit that my book doesn’t exist in physical form, I am now reconsidering my decision to remain purely and unshakably twenty-first century electronic.

CreateSpace seems, for the moment, the best option for me. My book is already uploaded to Amazon, so having it available on the same site would appear to make sense. I’m currently using Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and Scribd to shift copies (some with better success than others), so a fifth site would just complicate things – unless of course that new site was far better than CreateSpace.

If you’re also in the position of thinking about offering a paper book, Karen Inglis has posted a huge amount of information on the subject. As a UK-based children’s author, Karen is favour of using a combination of CreateSpace and UK print-on-demand company LightningSource to save on shipping costs and delays.

*One day later;*

A couple of my blogging friends (thanks guys) have advised me that CreateSpace may now be advanced enough to be able to use for distribution on both sides of the big pond.

Sounds like a plan…although the goalposts are constantly shifting.

Watch this space…I might be entering the twentieth century once again. 🙂

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