Friday, April 29, 2016

More Scrutiny, More Revisions

Author and mentor Susan Carroll has done a masterful job with supplying content editing for my manuscript, Clouds Over Bishop Hill.

Carroll has given me a sorely needed outsider’s perspective.

Carroll’s comments/questions have sent me off into bouts of deep research and the creation of a brand-new character.

Carroll has led me to axe a ton of personal pronouns. (In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s been a lack of “she” used here.)

All this is great and good because I needed to do that research on the Pietism Movement, and the new character solved a problem that had always left me with a vague feeling of squeamishness.

Bonus feature: When I finished writing up the background info and backstory for this new guy, I discovered what really looked like a synopsis for another book. A book that would make a nice prequel to what I’ve got now. The new story might come out a tad bit on the romantic side, but that’s not a bad thing. I just have to do the work.

The most practical lesson I’ve learned so far from Carroll’s edits to my manuscript is that getting rid of “he, she, it, they, and them” helps the reader keep track of things like action and plot development. Good stuff. A lost reader can’t be a happy reader.

So, again, I’m still learning and I’m very grateful to Susan Carroll for her help to keep me on course to a (hopefully) successful novel.

P.S. Susan Carroll did NOT edit this post. Any mistakes are mine.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Trust the Process

I’ve read recently that you have to “trust the process.”

For me, it’s difficult to trust something that’s slow, convoluted, and sporadic. That seems to characterize my process.

I’ve had great news—I have a publisher—with the contract will come another round of content editing. I welcome it in that I want my work to be its best. However, I don’t like the feeling of inadequacy, like what I’ve got so far isn’t good enough. I don’t mind changes and improvements. I just don’t want to start over. I like how my protagonist has unfolded and discovered her strengths. It has meaning for me. But does it fit the exact formula for a cozy mystery? Usually the main character arrives on scene fully formed. She or he faces down conflicts and surmounts obstacles, their circumstances change, so do they, but not enough to create a whole new persona. They were whole to start with. Not with my new adult. She’s still coming into being.

I also began to write my version of a stump speech. What I want to say when I try to defend myself to the possible backlash. Stories need conflict, something to get things moving. I picked one that will probably offend a few people. I knew that, but now the time will come where I’ll have to tell real people just why I did it. Talk about being out of ones’ comfort zone.

In writing that speech, I realized I’d missed the boat in actually stating one of my main themes. One sentence doesn’t cut it. I had to go back in and fix this before the manuscript went off to the new editor.

I also have more feedback from another trusted source. I haven’t been through all of it. I know I have to, but I keep putting it off. I AM a big chicken and an expert procrastinator.

Times up. I have to dive back in and make the changes. Again, it is a relief to get going, to see that everything isn’t as bad as I might have imagined. It just needs to be BETTER.

For me, that’s the process.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Back Cover Blues

Late last year, during a time when I considered self-publishing my only option, I forged ahead and designed the cover for my book. I had my cloud photo, a general idea of what I wanted on the front, and not much else. I certainly didn’t have the all important text for the back of the book.

“It’s such an important thing-the whole cover (front and back) can sell a book or make a buyer walk away from it.”
Lori Perkins, Absolute Publishing Services

First of all, I have to admit that I never really had an outline to guide my writing. I spent most of my time being a “pantser” as in one who writes by the seat of their pants. As a process, it gets kind of messy, so I had to stop and make a list of what each chapter was about. I found it a very useful for tracking who was doing what, where, and when. It was also very useful when the time came to write a synopsis for my agent query letters.

I took my list and wrote out the story as it focused on six main characters. It took up far too many pages. I then condensed it down to five pages. Then three pages. Then to less than two pages.

For my back cover, I reduced the essence to less than 200 words. I tried to make it interesting. Give it a hook. But I was never sure if I really succeeded. Would I buy this book?

So, I’ve been fiddling with the back cover text ever since then.

Every time I got a new piece of advice, I went in to incorporate it into what I already had. But it never completely worked.

Every time I tried for a complete rewrite I ultimately found it lacking. My original kept holding its own. I guess I managed to find a pretty good feel for the back cover months ago.

It kind of surprises me. I’m happy, but I still plan to ask for second opinions before I make the final decision.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How Many Emails Does it Take…?

I started out with the free version of FundsforWriters around three years ago. Two years ago I bumped myself up to TOTAL FundsforWriters, the paid professional version of Hope Clark’s “Tips and Tools for serious writers to advance their careers.”
Recently, when my annual subscription came due I re-upped by buying Edisto Jinx. The book purchase served two purposes: I paid for my next year of info on competitions, grants, and freelancing opportunities (I’m currently not looking for an agent or publisher); and I got the chance to check out how she handled the second book in her new series.

I read the book, wrote a review, and was happy.

On March 31: I noticed one of her extra emails announcing “Free training to sell more books.” I’m sure I read it. However, I was not enticed enough to go further.

On April 4: I received another email “Reminder to register for free training to sell more books.” I read this one, too. The big difference … this one included a FREEBIE.

I learned the value of giving away free stuff from former jobs in the jewelry industry. Customers really appreciated getting small gifts, usually a service or something inexpensive. They came back. They became loyal.

The freebie included in the second email was a copywriting sample by Bryan Cohen—a before and after comparison of how to punch up your back cover pitch to readers. For me, that was the all important hook. I reread that part three times. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the rest of the email as carefully, so by the time I finally clicked through to the webinar it had already started. I didn’t try to join in. My loss for being tardy. So it goes. Or so I thought.

On April 7: Another email arrived “Missed the seminar yesterday? Get your replay….”

I listened. I learned a lot. I connected to usable ideas.

For one thing, I have a new appreciation for email contacts and their use in marketing. In my own real world case it took the equivalent of FIVE emails to spur me into action. Pretty darn close to what Bryan Cohen said it would take.

Many thanks to Hope Clark for making this bonus feature available. I will certainly try to read her next email a little more carefully.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Finding a New Font

My husband, the Sci-Fi fan, recently checked Lightless by C. A. Higgins out of the Davenport library. I saw it laying innocently on an end table and picked it up. I couldn’t help it, books will be books. But I didn’t have enough time to read the whole thing, so I skimmed a few parts, enough to get the gist of the story and the characters.

I made the most amazing discovery when I flipped to the end of the book. There was a nice explanatory note about the type used to produce the book’s text. I’ve seen notes like this a few times before. Nice. Interesting. I did watch the movie about Helvetica. I have a friend who collects different fonts. So yeah, I know there is life outside of New Times Roman. (I’ve been an Arial fan for quite awhile.)

The main point was where this type came from—Sweden!

“This book was set in Berling. Designed in 1951 by Karl-Erik Forsberg … in Lund, Sweden… A classic old-face design, its generous proportions and inclined serifs make it highly legible.”

That got my attention.

Swedes settled Bishop Hill.

News from Bishop Hill enticed an influx of Swedes to the Midwest.

It seems like yet another way to make my book a product of the Midwest.

It’s too perfect to pass up.

So, now I have a new mission. Find Berling and convert my manuscript.

How hard can that be?