One of my favorite Blog posts from May 2014. If I could pick the most important piece of advice. A quality editor! Not someone who charges you $100-300 and all they do is a spell check and minor punctuation, but a developmental editor who will suggest areas to improve, point out your flaws so you can learn to write cleaner, and hacks out all the extra wordiness. Editors are your friends, maybe not friends you like all the time, but someone who wants to help you be a better writer.
So may things to do AFTER the novel is written. For the non-authors that follow my blog, here is my typical process before Release Day (If you’re not interested *gasp!* scroll down for rafflecopter and free books info):
1. DETAILS: Mmmm, do I want New Times Roman, Arial, or Courier font? Most uploads will only support those three (we won’t talk about the hassle of embedding other fonts- I don’t want this to turn into a rant). Do I have an idea for the cover? This can take as little as a few days if you see the perfect stock art/photo picture (My Color Blind picture was so popular, I counted no less than SIX other authors that used the same one). My cover for Blind Faith was so frustrating, I finally resorted to asking a friend to pose so I could get the pose I wanted).
2. STYLE: In my case, I have a list of possible titles (as I use the word BLIND in my adult series, and RED in the PG-rated version). Usually, by the end of the current book, I have a theme for the next, so I can pull a name off my list. Book 5 will be called Blind-Sided. I have no intentions of writing a sixth book… but I started off thinking the Team Red series would be a trilogy, and we all see how that plan imploded.
** IF you’re curious… these are names my readers and betas have come up with for possible titles: Blind Luck, Blind Obedience, Running Blind, Blind Devotion, Blind Hope, Blind Dedication, Blind Corner, Blind Action, Love is Blind, Blind Date, BlindFold, Blind Ambition. Most I probably wouldn’t use (if you know the main character, Teresa, you’d know how ridiculous Blind Obedience would be for a title *snort*), but I never know what ideas will pop up, so I keep adding to the list. Feel free to comment if you have others to add.
3. OUTLINE: Some writers need a solid outline before they start– not me! There are normally two types of writers: Plotters, and pantsers. Plotter is self explanatory (but, if you haven’t had your coffee yet, plotter is someone who plots the whole book. Maybe has a nice outline their characters follow). I’m a pantser, a writer that writes by the seat of their pants… errr, off the cuff? Okay, we’ll simply say it; I write the story as I go. Sure, I try to do an outline. For Book 4, there was an intricate sequence I needed to follow, so I thought it would be helpful. It helped so I didn’t forget key points, but the characters completely ignored the script and ad-libbed. Book 1, Blind Seduction, was a perfect example- up until chapter 19, Bastian was supposed to get the girl. I was half way thru the chapter and realized that wasn’t going to happen. Book 3, supposedly the final book of the Team Red series, was supposed to be Bas getting a girl (he was going to win Gil’s love interest, Ashe). If you follow the series, you know that didn’t happen. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE.
4. WRITE. My goal is usually 75,000 words, which is approx 225 pages (Blind Rage turned into 80k+, and approx 260 pgs). In my case, I count everything, including dedication, bio, author notes, etc. Mainly because these things may change from book to book, and they all must be edited– if my editor counts it and charges me for it, by golly, I’m including it in the word count! My goal is 2000+ words per day. I am not a typist. I have arthritis, and am considered medically disabled and I don’t have full use of the left hand, and joints in the right hand begin to swell with overuse. I also have problems sitting in the same position, so I need to move around. On a bad day, I may only do 500 words, and spend the afternoon editing or reading passages. On a good day, I’ve been known to look up and see it’s 3am and I’ve written over 5000 words. By then, I’ll probably keep going, unless my hands are trashed, because I have to get up around 6:30 to take Molly to the dog park– might as well keep going, right? If you intend to make writing a career, treat it like a job. Set hours aside to dedicate to your craft. If you have writer’s block, work on edits, or read about writing/grammar, etc to make your words flow better.
5. CONSISTENCY: I keep a second document open as I write, called my Blind Notes. Every time I open a thread for a sub-plot, or confusing action, I note things in this file. In my Blind notes, I have things I can cut and paste to keep my book consistent — examples:
a) Teresa has an audible bedside clock, the notes remind me how the clock verbally tells her the date and time;
b) there is a clock on her mantle, it chimes in the morning hours, and has a ‘gong’ noise in the pm hours;
c) if Teresa is in a car with friends and guards, I keep track of which pair of guards have accompanied her, so I can keep track of who would be adding to dialog (in Book 4, there are 6 guards in the Team Red detail)
d) an open thread readers emailed, commented and IM’d me about from Blind Faith– what’s going on with Miami? I had a note carried over from book 3 to address in book 4.
e) I track the fonts used for Red’s mental speech, hand/sign language, and date stamps- so I can use each they same way through all the books.
f) love interests, even flirting, is documented in case I want to carry on with a pairing.
g) There are currently over 70 people named throughout the Team Red series (even if its a doctor who was named once, I track it so I don’t accidentally use a name too closely related, or I can refer back to it again). I have a spreadsheet with the full names of all the characters, even those not introduced by name (for example, in Blind Rage, I mention there are six men brought in for PreClan’s security detail, but a few of them are not referred to by name in book 4). The spreadsheet has ages, occupations, physical descriptions, characteristics, and even a “x” to tell me which books they featured in. Animals are a big part of the series, so pets are included for tracking purposes.
The Blind notes also have small snippets of dialog that I didn’t use in prior books– possibly edited out (Drat, Tara and her red pen!), or the book isn’t ready for it yet. The notes contain information regarding Mustangs, military slang, and other useful tidbits I can draw from, as they relate to the continuing story lines.
5. EDITOR: I have written a book in three weeks; that will probably never happen again. In most cases, adding up self-editing, re-reading, and changes, my Team Red books are 6-8 weeks in the writing before I even consider handing it over to an editor. At the beginning of each novel, I have a good idea how long the book will take, and I schedule my two appointments with my editor, Tara, of Shaner Media Creations. She can be booked out as far as two months, so I want to get my book reserved so she can perform red-ink magic when the book is ready. I am getting better at self-editing, but I read the manuscript so often, I often skip right over the errors. Word of advice to newbies: when researching your editor:
a. know what it is they will do for you. ASK for details. If they charge $150 you will probably get spell check (you do know, you can do that yourself, right?), and punctuation (again, you can do that yourself by performing a line-by-line read-thru of your manuscript). For $250-300 you will probably also get some decent grammar nazi to review the novel. I pay premium cost for Shaner Media Creations WordSmith edit. Tara is worth every dollar, and I feel I get full value. Tara can be contacted through Facebook.
b. ask the editor for examples of books they’ve edited, then go to Amazon and READ the Closer Look to see the quality of their work. After 1-2 chapters, you will know if they are qualified.
c. read thru the reviews of the books your prospective editor has done. Reviewers can be brutal, if the book is badly edited, the reviews will consistently mention the poor quality.
c. find out when your editor can schedule you in. If they can do it right away, it’s clear they had a cancellation, or they don’t have clients. This is not a bad thing, but I suggest you ask them to edit a couple pages for free so you can see the quality of their work. A new editor should be willing to do this to prove their value, and to try and gain clients– after all, you will be a huge success, and they would be the first person you look to for future work, right?
6. EDITING: Depending on the editor’s personal life (i.e. does he, or she, have a day job?), a book of 75k words will take 4-8 days to edit– well, unless you’re really, really sloppy. Then, count on a few weeks and them asking for more money. Here’s the truth of the matter- the editor is there to polish your book, but as a writer, you should also have some pride in the work you’ve handed them to review. If this is what you want to do as a full-time career, you need to put effort into it, as you would any job in which you plan to excel. Has it been awhile since you’ve had creative writing classes? Might I recommend a good expository writing class? Re-learn those basics. Get some books, from the library, if you’re poor like me, and read up on grammar. There are books on how to develop a plot, and build suspense, cripes, there are probably books on writing sex scenes, too. You should be handing your editor a well developed manuscript, not depending on them to find all your mistakes. Have some pride in what you do. Treat this like a job. My editor usually has my book back in 4-5 days. Tara makes corrections in red to indicate “Must change this” areas, such as missed/incorrect punctuation, past/present tense corrections (Yup, this is one of my downfalls *sigh*), grammar changes, etc. A good editor will notate their changes for you to approve. Also take this as a learning opportunity to improve the next book(s). My first time mistakes?
a. That. This word can often be dropped completely or switched with who, which, or the.
b. Just. This word can often be dropped or switched with often, only, normally, or simply.
c. Its. For clarification, re-read sentence to see if you should name the object. For example, “I wondered about its current status,” may read better as “I wondered about the book’s current status.” It won’t always work, or isn’t always needed, but sometimes, I find it clarifies my paragraph.
d. Said. Gets boring, there are other words that can replace this word and add to the drama, humor, or suspense of the ongoing dialog.
e. Consistency (the reason for the Blind notes).
7. REVIEW: Once I get the edited manuscript back, review and accept the changes or re-word problem areas. After I have fixed the whole thing (Usually 3-4 days for me) I do a line-by-line read through to double check. It’s easy when making changes to accidentally delete a word you DID need. My editor, as part of her service, does a second edit, we call it a verify edit. She reads the complete book out loud to herself (and her dog, or husband- subject matter not appropriate for her youngin’) to catch any additional errors. Once she gets it back to me with final changes (Yep, no matter how good you are, or how many times you review it- you will always find something additional to fix). I do MY line-by-line final review. If there is something unclear, or I question a change (not too often, she shoots me down or quotes grammar nazi rules of proper grammar at me *another, heavier, sigh*), we handle those via email or IM.
8. FINISHED… or Not. Now the book is completed, and for me, the un-fun stuff begins. I load my books to KDP (Amazon’s Kindle platform), Createspace (Amazon’s paperback platform), Barnes and Noble (Nook), and recently, Smashwords. You know how when you go to the grocery store, and all the debit/credit machines are different? Yep! You’ve got a head-up to the publishing world. As examples: B&N wants ‘section breaks’ and ignores ‘page breaks’ – a direct opposite of Smashwords which doesn’t want ‘section breaks.” Createspace (CS) wants gutters and margins, and page numbers. Can’t use page numbers in Smashwords, and you can’t use the Table of Contents with linked Chapters. Smashwords has their own preferred format. So, the bottom line? After each book is written, it must be formatted differently for each platform — you can see the potential for more fun, when the book comes out and readers start emailing with the additional errors they caught that need fixing. Sigh… off I go to my 4 documents to make changes (in the case of CS, I need to make sure those changes don’t mess with my chapter length). And each book is uploaded separately.
9. MARKETING: I hate this part. I’m a writer, damn it. I’m ready to start the next book… instead, I need to create swag (short for swaggar– bookmarks, postcards, and other marketing nick nacks), to help advertise and promote my new masterpiece. Daily, on my facebook, and weekly on my Goodreads and this blog, I now want to generate interest with blurbs, bribes, err.. I mean complimentary ARCs (advance reader copies) , contests (usually flash giveaways, or rafflecopters- which mean time spent contacting other writers to get some of their swag or ebook commitments for my prizes), and contacting bloggers for cover reveals, release day blitzes, interviews, and reviews. There are people you can hire to do these things, but after the first two books, I found many of them were doing what I already was doing anyway. They may know a few more bloggers willing to do a tour, but I still have to spend time compiling blurbs, links, bio, and other info.
10. RELEASE: Finally. Now I can get to the next book. After I address the rafflecopter and flash giveaway prize envelopes and email the free ebooks, and contact the participating authors as to winners for their stuff.
So, its a process. I will never enjoy the marketing aspects. I find promotions are frustrating. One day, I hope to find a great, reasonably-priced tour company to handle all that for me (I’ve tried a few, and while they do a good job, for the most part, I have often had the impression there were so many tours going on, they didn’t care about my book). Most tours companies will not have an interest or opportunity to read your book, especially if you are an unknown Indie writer, such as myself. How can they promote something they have no passion for?
Now you have an idea of what steps go into the writing process. Its a great job, but if you want to be taken seriously, you need to put time, effort, and monetary investment into your craft. In my case, I spend about $1500-2000 per book, in postage, free paperbacks, swag, and editing. It can be done for cheaper, but that’s what I average.