Should Questions and Minor Formatting Problems Delay Publication?

After months or even years of working on a book you are finally ready for publication. You are thrilled to have it done! It will be so amazing to hold the finished product in your hands. You can hardly wait any longer, but . . . you hesitate. Fear has frozen you in place, finger a millimeter above the keyboard.

You tell yourself “All I have to do is click on that ‘Order Your Proof Copy’ or ‘Publish’ button and I’m done.” “Are you?” you ask. You nod. Yes. And a little fear nudges into that little crack you didn’t know was there. You try to push past and reach for the Enter key on the keyboard. In a rush, the questions come: You’ve done your best, right? Your editor has been great and hasn’t missed a single thing, hasn’t he? Your full cover has everything, doesn’t it? The interior design looked perfect, right? All the sections on Bowker for the ISBN are filled in correctly, right? What about the official Copyright with The Library of Congress? You posted an announcement of your accomplishment, didn’t you? Where? On Goodreads, your Amazon Author page (is it set up?), your personal Facebook page as well as your business page (do you have a business page?), What about LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, . . . oh gods, you suddenly think about all that still has to be done now that the book is done. You jerk your hand away from the keyboard letting panic replace the excitement and joy of publishing. You’ve been busy writing, rewriting, and rewriting, so when have you had time to do all of that?

For independently publishing authors this is a crisis moment. And whether you believe it or not, it will happen with everything you publish, not just the first book. You will always second guess, always want to do more editing. Every time you see your work in a different format you will find things you’ll want to change. The important thing for you to do when this happens is to Stop and Think whether those changes truly matter. I was encouraged to change the font of my manuscript while I was working on the third major wave of editing. I was amazed at the number of errors I found. Even saving the Word Document as a PDF changed how I saw it. (How could I, my editor, and beta readers have missed all those missing quotation marks?) It was enlightening and delayed my publication goal by almost two weeks while the text was reviewed more closely one more time.

Now, I did manage to get one proof copy of my third book, The Blades, in my hands before I got stopped once more. Through all of changes I was not prepared for the formatting of the glossary that was in that proof copy. I did not notice the difference in the PDF nor in any of the Word documents. It was different than the glossary in the second book in two ways. Was it really a problem? Yes and no. Could I live with it? Maybe. So, thinking that if I could live with it, I moved on to ordering a proof copy from KDP. And once again I was stopped – for reasons I still don’t understand but I took this as a sign that I needed the formatting to be corrected to match that found in the second book. Why waste money on another proof copy when I knew this was something I knew should be corrected. However, this again moved The Blades’ publication date to mid-November, if my interior designer could correct it in a day or two.

Everything else is good and excitement returns, but that excitement is tempered with the certainty of my decision. Is there truly a rush to get this wonderful story into the hands of my readers? They think so. And that encourages me to get this done right.

The fear and panic of all those questions has been pushed back. I can return to the list and crosscheck what’s been completed and what has not. I know not quite all are checked off, but most of them are. I know that even though this is my third book I am still learning. And I thank the gods and the Stones of Lrakira and Teramar I’m still capable of learning. Sometimes there are good reasons to NOT push that ‘Publish’ button, to take just a bit longer to ensure that your readers will be pleased with your finished product. You don’t have to do everything at once, but be sure to do the really important things – write a good story, get it well edited, get a good cover, get the LCCN and ISBN set up, etc. Then you can push that publish button and get excited to hold your book and show it proudly to your readers – Now You Can Sell It!

Addendum: the paperback version of The Blades: The Stone’s Blade, Book Three went live on Amazon on November 20, 2019. I’m so excited!!!! Please join me.

Visualizing P.O.V.: are you head hopping?

I am a multiple award winning author of science fiction, fantasy, and children’s books, stories, and articles. I adore reading science fiction and fantasy. One thing I’ve noticed, particularly in books and stories published in the past fifteen to twenty years is that there is a lot, A LOT, of head hopping in the majority of books within the genre.

Not that this is totally bad because I’ve read a lot and I still understand and enjoy the stories. BUT, does a reader really need to know how a minor character is feeling or what they’re thinking every time they speak? Shouldn’t their words and actions be enough that the reader does not need to get inside their heads?  A thought to consider: how many characters can a reader keep track of? Does the reader have to know or see the point of view of every character in every scene?

This was the situation I was faced with on my first book. I did not know I was head hopping between more than thirteen characters until my editor gently pointed it out after reading the manuscript for the first time. She gave it back to me saying “Your first task is to rewrite every scene from a single point of view and I want you to choose a maximum of five P.O.V. characters to write from.” I was surprised and a bit devastated. The manuscript was over 110,000 words long! It was a daunting exercise. We discussed which characters were of greatest importance and I whittled it down to five. It turned into an interesting exercise and one I ended up enjoying. I also reduced the word count to around 86,000 words, which turned out to be more manageable, too. I could see that the story was tighter, cleaner, and, to my surprise, better. And I also ended up getting to know my main characters better, which made for that better story.

After The Blood was published in 2014, I had to laugh at one of the reviews. A reader stated that they really enjoyed reading it, but they considered the per chapter or scene single point of view as unusual. It was unexpected and very cool. He did not understand “how” I could tell such a good story with only five points of view and there was only one P.O.V. at a time! Evidently they were fans of head hopping and my book was a totally different experience. Now, in 2019, I see that as a huge compliment and I will work hard to maintain this style of writing.

So when I started working on the second book, The Balance, I actually wrote it with only four points of view. The third book, The Blades, coming out later this year (2019), has those same four points of view and the fourth book, The Seventh Stone, still has four points of view with the fourth P.O.V. being a different character (she was introduced in The Balance and became a bit more important in The Blades – so she finally becomes important enough to be a point of view character in #4).

This entire process of learning how to manage multiple points of view without being in everyone’s head, led me to try a visual way to see how balanced my presentation was. This is what I came up with:

POV outline 2 for The Balance 1-16-2015

I set up a white board on an easel and then got pads of  3″ x 3″ “sticky” notes in five different colors. I then assigned a specific color to each character – writing the character’s name near the top of each note. Then the time consuming part, I read the draft and for each scene, after verifying that the scene was truly from a single point of view, I added the chapter number and the scene number (some chapters had multiple scenes in the same point of view and I needed to know how many scenes were in each chapter) at the top then wrote a brief summary of the scene with a desired maximum of four sentences. The first note was placed in the upper left hand corner of the white board. The second note/scene was place below that. I worked top to bottom then left to right. Sometimes I was not cryptic enough and I needed more than one note to summarize the scene. These longer notes were tucked beneath the first.

I discovered several things during this process. First, I could SEE if any one point of view was lacking in or was overpowering the story. Second, I could use the summarized scenes as an outline for a story summary if an agent might request one. I knew that if I typed the notes up I could further edit to pick out only the highlights. Third, the colored notes could help me describe a particular character arc. But the best part of it was the visual representation of the points of view.

Throughout the process I did find occasional scenes where I had bounced between two character’s P.O.V. and I was able to efficiently correct those as I went along. Sometimes I decided to change the P.O.V. to get across the action and information differently. I did wait until the draft was complete and I had started my first round of editing. I went through a total of three rounds of self editing before sending it to my editor. She stated that it was markedly better than the first draft she received of the first book with its thirteen points of view. It was easier and faster for her to do her job. She could already focus on the bigger picture of the story instead of worrying about any head hopping on my part. All this meant we ended up with fewer back and forth rounds of editing which led to less money out of my pocket in less time for a better end product.

It turned out to be such a great exercise that I used it with the third book. Again I waited until the first full draft was complete before I set up the white board again. With the third book I was astounded to SEE that I had neglected the antagonist’s point of view which I had opened the book with until nearly the end – the last five chapters his P.O.V. showed up four times. The same week I had finished the P.O.V. and scene layout, my beta reader called me to tell me I was missing some scenes in the middle. She pointed out that she kept wondering what the antagonist was up to and she suggested I add two to four scenes or chapters from his P.O.V.. I did so and the color pattern looked much better and the story was more compelling.

So, my question to you is: Are you head hopping? Are you getting inside every character and seeing the action through their eyes in every chapter? Are you bouncing around so much the reader doesn’t know who the main character/s is/are? I’m not saying this is wrong, many well known authors do it particularly in science fiction and fantasy, but you might want to consider trying a different technique. Here’s how: First, choose a maximum of five points of view. Second, keep each chapter or chapter break in a single P.O.V.. Then step back and study the picture of your book. Why not give color-coded P.O.V. and scene breakouts a try. Some other ways to use this technique include: If you have a single P.O.V. you could do a simpler layout by chapter and scenes within a chapter. And you might try color coding rising and falling action or even the amount of narrative, exposition, and dialogue. Any way you use it, you’ll SEE your book in a whole new way.

 

 

Sometimes ideas need to percolate

Editing once again is the topic. There are times when you know your editor is correct about the need to remove a non P.O.V. character from a scene but you originally had them in the scene for a specific reason, which has been debunked by said editor. While you charge directly into the scene and start deleting you discover that it is not so easy to just delete the character. You are now so frustrated that you’ve spent the last two days trying to figure out how to rewrite the scene and you’ve gotten nothing accomplished. You need to get past this road block that has gotten larger by the hour.  The pressure is on and it is burying you.

Sometimes you have to let go and let the ideas percolate a bit. You need to set the manuscript aside and go read something entirely different – I’m reading a slutty, historical romance with all its “silliness” and over-written-heart-pounding, intimate descriptions. It’s been fun. I’ve smiled. I’ve laughed. I’ve escaped. Most importantly, I’ve let my subconscious work on my problem.

I went to bed last night asking the characters to help me. This morning in the shower (dreams and water often combine to get my imagination rolling in the correct direction), I discovered the solution.

During those two days of frustration I had packed a lot into the scene’s rewrites, trying all sorts of manipulations but nothing seemed to fit. I was digging the hole deeper (yes, I know that’s a cliche, but it works). By climbing out of the hole and doing something different to escape the self applied pressure, I allowed the characters to come up with a solution in my subconscious. You should know that my characters often pester me in dreams. No, I don’t believe I’m crazy because they really do help. I just have to be patient until they are ready to show me what they think will happen. I stopped the digging so I could calm down and hear what they had to say.

I likened the experience to making coffee. You can’t make it without grinding up the beans (your ideas) and putting them into a strainer. Then you have to pour the hot water over the grounds and you have to give the water time to flow over and through each grain, lifting out the best of each to color and flavor the water – That’s the percolation part. The results are then released into the mug (your brain) for you to enjoy. Savor the results because you now have the correct idea on how to proceed.

aroma aromatic art artistic
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The next time you have a serious stumbling block (this is not writer’s block), you should put the draft away and go do something different – allow your subconscious to percolate the perfect mug of coffee for you.  I’m off to savor my mug of hot coffee and get back to work. Are you?

Don’t trust auto correct -it’s probably wrong.

I am eighty pages into resolving the edits suggested by my editor on the third book of my science fiction series. I am frustrated with Word telling me where and when to put commas that are in direct contradiction with my editor’s markings.  Generally I am hedging my bets on my editor and The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)  Therefore, every time Word underlines the comma I go back to my notes and the CMS do it that way and then try to laugh it off. It is important to not trust auto correct application. It has nothing on CMS  and is often incorrect. Keep CMS within reach and take the time to study up on your own foibles.

In addition to CMS, I have a dictionary at my right elbow so I don’t have to reach for it every time I want to check my spelling (auto correct can be devious so check it in the dictionary) or if two words should be one (check out everyone and every one for example — they are different and you need to know which to use) or hyphenated or not. It is making my writing interesting because I often find myself reading it, and I am discovering how fascinating our language is.

The only down side is the increased amount of time needed to resolve the edits. In the meantime, I hope I’m becoming a better writer and the next book will have fewer corrections needed. Every mistake I commit costs me in time and money. I continue to learn how to write the best story in the best way.

Editor Comments Bring Work and Smiles

Yes, this is the second post today. This was suppose to be published two weeks ago. At least I thought I had it scheduled to do that. More learning must take place I guess on how to schedule postings. Without further ado:

This post was originally written ten months ago when the first draft of The Balance was sent to the editor, Melanie Mulhall (http://www.DragonheartWritingandEditing.com ). It has been sitting in my draft box since then. Now that the major edits which were only hinted at in Melanie’s comments have been completed and the manuscript is in the hands of a proofreader, I need to, once again, distract myself from working on the second book of the series. Looking for things to do I found this and realized that it is still worth publishing. All writers need to step away from their manuscripts and let second, third and sometimes more sets of eyes look it over. Granted the major work is done on The Balance, unless the proofreader discovers a major problem, and both Melanie and I hope there are very few things to be tweaked. In the mean time here were my thoughts on the editor’s first response to this exciting second installment of The Stone’s Blade series:

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July 2015 – My editor is done with her first run through of The Balance: The Stone’s Blade, #2. She will send me her notes later today. It has been a long month. I created a long distraction list so I would not be tempted to open the manuscript document while Melanie worked. Though I’ve gotten about half the list complete the draft was never far from my thoughts.

While waiting I have read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for recreation, though it was difficult not to read as a writer. It had many examples of techniques I need to learn how to use.  I also read and took notes of Story Physics by Larry Brooks (suggested reading by Melanie and has been on my Kindle since last summer) to get familiar with plot points. This is an excellent read and should be on the top of your resource book pile.

All this reading led me to send several e-mails to Melanie particularly aimed at some changes I am considering for the ending. However, from her comment below I may have worried about the ending too much. I am confident there will be many changes once I get it back but I am smiling with relief and excitement.

Here’s part of what she said: “I just made my way to the end. And what an exciting ride it is as the reader nears the end. . . . I won’t comment here except to say that the way you have pulled it together at the end (with the exception of the few paragraphs with Reslo) is very satisfying and leads the reader forward well. Well done!”

My favorite parts? “Exciting ride. . . pulled it together . . . very satisfying and leads the reader forward. . . Well done!”

The real work begins as soon as I get it back from Melanie. I promise to do my best to make this second installment of The Stone’s Blade series better than the first. I hope you will find the ride exciting and satisfying and that you look forward to the third installment.

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Back in the present, ten months after that was written I am struggling with keeping my hands off the manuscript by beginning to outline the third installment, currently titled The Blades. I truly believe that the second book of a series is the most difficult to write – especially when the characters are forced to lie.  Good grief, try not to have that happen! However, in this one they had to and while they tried to keep to the truth as much as possible Melanie and I spent hours and hours on the phone trying to track when who said what to whom. We may have to go on tour speaking about the trials and troubles of writing a series. Anyway, publication for The Balance is coming up soon. I hope you enjoy it.

– An extra note here on April 1, 2016: I received the manuscript back a week ago and with more cutting and smoothing to the infamous Chapter Twenty-six it has been sent to the book designer. Hopefully his having already designed the first book and planning to use many of the design elements throughout the series, the time it takes to bring The Balance to publication will not be much longer. We look forward to the end of April, I think. We are planning to enter it in the Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s EVVY Awards whose entries are open now until mid-May. Plan to get your copy as soon as we can get it up on Amazon as a paperback and ebook. You can also get it directly from me with an autograph if you want one. As soon as I see the cover I will post it around so you will know what to look for. A little more patience and then we can celebrate before heading back to the notebooks and outlines for the third and fourth books.

Thus the day goes

Writing, writing, rewriting, erasing, cutting & pasting, saving, forgetting where I wanted it to go, erasing, deleting (oh gosh did I just delete the entire chapter??), recovering from heart failure by pulling weeds in the garden, washing dirt off hands and knees so can touch key board, opening program (again), writing, rewriting, finding the missing piece – still haven’t figured out where it was supposed to go, erasing, pasting, saving, writing, . . .  Thus the day goes. So how is book two going?

Then the question “How is book two coming along?” enters every conversation, and I mean every conversation. Just because book one has been out for over one year (one year, three months, and six days if you really want to know) every one(who is NOT a writer) thinks I can whip off the next one in a couple of months all while working to get the first one off the ground. And I’m not going to tell them how long it took to write the first one – that’s too scary for me to think about. Yes, book two is not taking near that long but good things take time. I promise I am not just lazing around like some chipmunk waiting for a handout. I will let you know as soon as it’s out, I will even tell you how many book stores or places you can purchase it. I am sure I will have a stack of them in my car, too.

Yes, yes, I do very much appreciate how much you enjoyed the first and how much you are looking forward to reading the second. It is for that reason that I am working to make it worth while, make it enjoyable, make the characters hold true to themselves, work at adding just enough twists and turns and new information that you will be hounding me for book three less than one month after book two is published. I want this to be the very best it can be and the best takes time.

Want me to get to it sooner? Don’t stop talking about how much you enjoyed the first book  – tell everyone. Post your review on every social medium you’ve got. Even word of mouth is good. Tell your friends, co-workers, enemies, your dentist, your pediatrician, your children’s friends’ parents to pick it up at The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, at the Bookworm in Gunnison, at the Book Mine in Leadville, Hearthfire Books & Treats in Evergreen, (all locations are in Colorado) and perhaps check it out to read from the Custer County Library in Rapid City, SD. If not any where near those then you are encouraged to encourage them to get The Blood from Amazon – either as a paperback or on their Kindle or Kindle app. If you do all of this along with the limited time I have to keep spreading the news then I may have more time to concentrate on completing the editing of the second installment so that I may be able to make my self-imposed publication deadline of near the end of 2015. Only then are you allowed to start quizzing me about the third installment.

However, if you do keep in touch with me during this whole process you may be asked for your opinion on possible cover designs, or what kinds of things you might want to see in the second book that are not present in the first such as maps of my two worlds, character list with pronunciation guide. Let me know if you would be interested in seeing those.

Contact me here, on Facebook, LinkedIn, or via e-mail.

The EVVY Awards – “The Blood” is a finalist!

EVVY Award logo 2014Basically, I can state: my science fiction/fantasy book, The Blood: The Stones Blade, #1, is a finalist in at least two of the five categories in which it was entered. I am still waiting on the results for the other three categories as to whether it made it through to be a finalist. The award ceremony is just over two weeks away on August 23, 2014 and I can’t seem to hold back and be patient. I have been checking the CIPA website once a day though I was told it could be as late as the 15th before the other category finalists are announced.(That’s a whole eight days from now!) I’m not sure I can wait that long!

I am delighted to announce that Nathan Fisher of Sci-Fi Book Cover Designer (www.scifibookcoverdesigner.com) entered The Blood for his cover design and his interior design. Congratulations to Nathan for designing one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen on the shelves. There is so much to see on that cover, too! So many little details waiting to be changed just a bit for when book two, The Balance, is ready. Make sure you have a paperback copy so you can enjoy this fine piece of artwork. If you are looking for a cover artist for your upcoming science fiction or fantasy piece, check out his website and contact Nathan. If you believe in what you have written make every effort to have it covered in a piece of art.

When I dropped off the books to be dispersed to the judges, the publisher, Joe, who was collecting the 270+ entries, was impressed with the unique interior design as well. He wondered aloud if Nathan would be upset if Joe used a similar technique for the chapter heading design on a book his company was designing. I hope that Nathan’s efforts garner him two awards – His sense of the story and knowledge of sci-fi and fantasy readers and their expectations have given me the opportunity to entice the reader visually as well as enhancing the text at the opening of each chapter. Nathan has figured out how to make my imagination visible. That is the gift of a true artist.

My editor, Melanie Mulhall of Dragonheart Editing and Writing, is expecting to announce that her entry of The Blood in the editing category will also be a finalist. She is meticulous and exacting – almost to the point of frustration on my part. However, she is not just an editor. Melanie is a writing coach with amazing talent and she often connects with her clients on an intuitive or spiritual level. An added benefit is that she enjoys a great cup of tea and I’ve been pleased to share cinnamon orange tea from Awful Annie’s with her. If you don’t know what that means you need to read not just the story but the acknowledgment. Her website is http://www.DragonheartWritingandEditing.com).

The last two categories I entered The Blood in were Fiction: Science Fiction and Fiction: Fantasy. Since it is a crossover between the two genres I had to cover my options by entering in both. Whether it wins or not I am delighted that the Colorado Independent Publishers Association continues to support self-publishing with these awards. One of the longest running awards for independent publishing, The EVVY Awards, bring to light hidden jewels in the publishing business. Come along for the ride. Own The Blood before it wins it’s first award. Then you can say, “I was one of the first.” You have until August 23, 2014 so get it now! Click http://alturl.com/fbn43 to get your copy and let me know what you think.