After NaNoWriMo: Self-Editing

Buzz shows Woody that there are adverbs everywhere. Disappointed.

The 50k word challenge is done! Now is the time to self-edit. Why am I tired of it already?

I have been self-editing book one and two of my historical fiction thriller, Fodder for Pigs, the entire month of November and then some. Editing is hard work and I appreciate people who do it as a job.

Even though there are professionals out there to help us, it is still essential that we writers learn to self-edit. A polished manuscript gets more constructive attention from alpha readers, beta readers, editors, agents, and publishers. They have to be able to see the story without getting distracted by mistakes we can fix ourselves. Once they see the story, they can focus on the nitty gritty details, if that’s what they are ultimately there to do.

I’ve noticed several things about writing during this process and will list them here in order of completion:

The first draft is crap

No matter how much I thought I polished it (7 times!), the first draft was just a draft and never progressed to second draft status. I got great feedback but more disappointing feedback. This is why one should do developmental edits before reaching out to readers. Continue reading

On John Ross and Perseverance

John and Mary Ross

This photo is from the Oklahoma Historical Society

I don’t often share themes from my stories but I will say this: they boil my blood, and they show me perseverance.

Today I had to brush up on my John Ross timeline. Can you imagine spending your life and energy in Washington to keep your people in their homes, and coming back to find that your own house has been taken? Given away, actually. Everything you built, every memory, signed away by people not authorized to speak for an entire nation. It is in somebody else’s hands and there is nothing you can do to get it back. None of the 17,000 people who backed your petition are of any consequence.

How did this come to be? Why is this important? WHO IS THIS GUY? If one is not familiar with the Cherokee Nation’s struggle, that person is probably thoroughly confused by now. Here is some background information. The entire story is so much more complex than what I have written here, and I encourage each reader to follow the links at the end of this post and also do more research.

Who is John Ross? Continue reading

Vanity, Hybrid, and Traditional Presses VS Self-Publishing

stacked booksIf you spend a lot of time in writers’ groups, chances are you’ve seen this scenario. A poor, unsuspecting newbie asks the dreaded question:

“I got an offer from a publisher but not sure I can afford it! What should I do?”

Said unsuspecting newbie gets buried in proverbial excrement and feels shamed they don’t know about the difference between vanity, hybrid, and traditional publishers.

Thankfully I had spent enough time lurking in the groups to know a traditional publisher doesn’t ask for money, and a vanity press is one an author pays to get their book “published”. I was able to avoid the onslaught of “run away!” remarks.

As well-versed as I thought I was, I still hit a wall on the definition of a hybrid press. Is publishing not as black and white as I thought? If a hybrid is not as suspicious, what do they offer that a vanity press does not? I set to find out the difference between all these options.

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Writing Terms and Definitions

notebookThere are writing terms out there I never thought existed, and ones I thought I knew but didn’t. When I got into writing, none of these things mattered, but now I need a place that is not the corners of my brain to store this information.

I’ll update this list as I go, but here are a few writing terms to get started:
Agent

A paid middle-person who can represent a novel to a publisher and negotiate contracts.

ALPHA reader

A reader who sees the manuscript first, in its infancy. They are used to first and second drafts and can sort through the clutter, but it’s still best to clean up a little so the mistakes are not distracting.

ARC

Advanced Reader Copy. These are book copies for people to read right before the author or publisher releases said book. In this stage, the author encourages reviews for launch day.

BETA reader

A person who reads a manuscript in its final stages before the author approaches publishers or self-publishes. Unlike ARC readers, these ones offer feedback that will be highly considered in the next edit. Many people confuse them with Alpha readers, and it honestly doesn’t matter that much as long as people are up-front about their expectations. See my handy list on how to get and maintain relationships with these readers.

Critique partner

A person to bounce ideas off of and who trades portions or entire manuscripts with the author. This person usually is a writer and will give and take advice.

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Avoid Using Google Images in Your Work

Tree roots in a tangle

Take some images. Even tree roots are interesting!

Google Images.

You can find just about anything there. Google pulls images from every website it can index and displays them in the order it thinks you want to see. It’s kind of like a menu. A poisonous menu.

Don’t use them in your work.

I spent a few years in marketing searching for just the right images and I can spot a popular stock image model a mile away, but I still insist on one thing: do not use another person’s unique images as your own.

The desire is understandable. People want something different, something just right. However, these images do not belong to anyone but the person or entity who has purchased them or made them. Using those images can be a copyright infringement.

People have lame excuses for using “found” images. Heck, I’ve even used a few of these, but we have to accept the consequences of getting caught. Here are a few popular excuses, and sadly I have used all of them at one point. Many of us have, but we need to stop.

Lame excuse #1: Just use a citation ‘Google images’

The image does not belong to Google. This is not adequate.

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Unraveling Point of View: Can of Worms

Let’s see if I can use point of view to make you want to reach out and slap me through the screen.

That moment when you eat an apple and fat worms greet you with smiles on their faces. I threw that apple so hard I hurt my arm. She spun around, holding her arm, and ran into a low-hanging branch. Curse that tree. Curse those worms! Little did she know the worms would stage an attack later that day.

Mother of God. That was second, first, third, and omniscient all in one paragraph.

tin can full of wormsOpen a can of worms with me and explore point of view

Point of view shows the story through a lens. Notice the tense, as in past or present, sometimes changes with whatever sounds best.

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NaNoWriMo Episode One: The Pantser Tries to Plants

Grammarly suggests replacing "pantser" with "more pants"As I gear up for my first NaNoWriMo, I find myself challenging my aspirations to plot ahead of time. I have an outline for book two, but I don’t feel like working with it. I want to just slap all my written snippets together and sort it out. Bad…very bad pantser! I’m trying to be a plantser this time and maybe graduate to a plotter next time. After all, that’s how people pump out a book every three months, right? Take a look at this other post for the difference between Pansting, Plantsing, and Plotting: Pantser Vs. Plotter.

Introspection shows two problems with my first plantser try.

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Story Minds all Start Somewhere

By the time I was old enough to have pet rabbits, a power-hungry rabbit with malocclusion (misaligned teeth that don’t stop growing) took over the world and sent people on a run for their lives. In college, I made an animation out of it just for fun. Trust me, it was bad.

Our rabbits were sometimes proof that one such occurrence hid just over the horizon. They had pen pals, you see, and thus co-conspirators. You should have seen the crap they talked about us! Ungrateful beasts.

One of them even growled at us as we walked by, and took care to show us just how far her bite could reach, but we kept her because she was show quality.

Her neighbor, Ida, did not care for such ambitions. She lay like a lump on a log—or in our arms—or on the couch—or laced in a bonnet, happy as can be. I imagine she would be the comic companion in the quest for independence.

But what about some the famous authors? What did they first write?

Margaret Atwood

She began to write plays and poems at age six.

Age six! I was still discovering fish sticks and relishing in extravagant grape juice at age six!

Steven King

He started by copying comics and seeing his mother’s disappointment when she found out they were copies. On to bigger and better…comics of his own such as I Was a Teenage Grave Robber in 1965.

JR Tolkien

He made a few of his own complete languages in his teen years and knew several real languages as well.

I tried a secret language once with my sister. We wanted to be like Harriet the Spy. It never really took off.

Jane Austen

She wrote stories and plays and poems from at least age eleven on, probably performing a few plays with her family. Her first works from between 1787 and 1793 were compiled into a novel she called Juvenilia. She titled them Volume the First, Volume the Second and Volume the Third. According to scholar Richard Jenkyns, the works are “boisterous” and “anarchic.”

John Steinback

He locked himself in his room at age 14 and began his writing career over poems and stories. As with most writers, it took some years to get going. His work is influenced by the Salinas Valley, which is fairly close to me. I’d like to read Grapes of Wrath again with an adult mind that can pay attention.

So what about you? What did you first write?

Every writer and author started somewhere. Even if you are working on your first work right now, I’d like to know!

Who Can Compliment Authors’ Babies on Amazon

Such an angry baby

Nothing hurts more or feels better than reviews on your written work. But it seems hard to get reviews when authors are just starting out.

Let’s say you go into a grocery store with your baby and:

Your babysitter happens to be shopping as well. She looks over and coos “my, chubby cheeks is looking happy today! So cute!”

An employee glares up from stocking veggies and says “you haven’t spent enough money here to compliment babies.”

A woman compliments your baby from across the store. She hasn’t even seen the child. The manager asks her to leave.

Your spouse walks in, winks, and says “hey, nice baby.”

The managers and employees all gather around and point at your spouse. “No family or friends can compliment babies!”

As your spouse looks on in dismay, a person pushing a cart piled high with fish sticks swerves around the corner, slams into your cart, and makes the baby cry. “Ugly baby. Shouldn’t have been born,” the cart owner growls.

Nobody reacts at first. Then, one by one, everyone at the scene starts to chant “you have to buy the baby before you can review it!”

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Writer Pages: Do it right the first time

confusing signs

Hi friends!

It’s time. I am taking the plunge! This subdomain on WordPress.com will soon be redirected to my own domain. But whyyyyy?

I don’t like ads, and I already pay for my host site, so why not go for a more professional look.

It’s painful, I know. But followers have multiplied faster than I thought they would, and I don’t want to risk losing them by making this move too late in the game. I intend to migrate everyone with the transfer so nothing should be done on your part.

Please let me know if you receive errors. It should be about 24 hours before everything propagates, so I’m trying to be patient! Hopefully you get to see this post!

Here is why I titled this post the way I did

Moving everything, paying for the redirect from WordPress.com, tracking down broken links, navigating SEO damaging 502 errors, all these things are a pain in the butt. If you start an author page, do something more like this:

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