Mar 262011
 

If you haven’t taken a gander at part I, now’s your chance. For the rest of you out there, Part II by Terrance Foxxe.

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Checklists are a complete waste of time.

Every writer has to keep track of just about everything in their writing career. I have many lists going at the same time for different reasons. I have a calendar, planning my day. What needs to be done.

My “how to write well” checklist runs about fifteen to twenty pages. I say that because it’s a fluid thing. Most of the time I’m adding to it. I review all of it at least six times a year. Page one deals in scene construction.

My checklists are what I’ve found pertinent to the understanding of my writing. Stuff like, Resist the Urge to Explain, with an example: Rather than telling your reader your car is trash, tie a wire to your starter and touch the other end to your hot battery cable to start it. You can pump the gas with that lever thingee on the side of your carburetor.

Book after book after book, I did just about everything I could think of to figure out just what it was I was doing wrong, not realizing what I was doing right.

I cut or converted into scenes narrative summaries. I hardly ever mentioned emotion, writing scenes to show emotion and help my characters breathe. How I could have a character’s history in my head, and use only what was necessary of that history to highlight an action or reaction. Why too much technical information can kill a story.

Name it. I had it all and used it all. I rewrote just about everything I had those first few years more than ten times each, and used a lot of time doing it. I’m glad I made my lists. They do tend to keep me on the right path.

Use – to show an interruption. Use . . . to show a character’s conversation trailing off, or for a one-sided telephone conversation, use four . . . . Em dashes and ellipses can be overused, so sprinkle with care.

Start a new paragraph when starting a new speaker.

High energy verbs! Crammed! Attacked! Bloodied!

Two words into one list. Good grammar. “Incredibly hard to take” becomes “insufferable.” “The smell of the thing” becomes “its stench.” And little words too, “issued forth” becomes “erupted.” “Opened up on” becomes “revealed.” And about thirty other examples as I discovered them in my own writing. The find and replace feature in my word processing program is a wonderful tool.

I ask myself questions like: Does the story have a logical flow? Do I care about the outcome? Do I have enough conversation? When is too much, too much?

There are questions and examples that helped me gain empathy.

What and why does your character love? What limits would they breach in order to keep that love? What are they capable of doing once love is lost?

God is in the details. So, what details are you using?

If writing is a war, is there enough battle in the middle, or does it sag.

Action, reaction, more action, and more reaction.

Read it all aloud. All change is good change.

A scene dragging along? Cut it down.

Proper words for their proper jobs. Emotions need proper words.

Get rid of the “right foot, left hand” thing. The reader can decide for themselves which foot or hand is which.

Words to waste: And, that, even, up, just, besides, over, and about 40 more I sprinkle all too liberally within my first drafts.

The words most commonly mistaken for each other. That’s part of proper grammar. And, that list is huge.

Most of you are screaming at me for not including my entire list. I could have, but I didn’t. My list is personal. It’s geared to what I think is important for me to remember and understand about my writing.

In a fantasy I’m working on, I list descriptive words and phrases that apply to the world I’m building. Tall as a scarecrow, a bullock in length. You can figure it out from there. No modern reference points within the story. I draw on other’s words to show me the way.

I can list locations or draw a map, and the map concept is old news. I have lists of character names for each book, and what they do. Business names, street names, on and on. The thing is, lists are good.

I don’t usually get lost. I have a page of titles I might use some day. Lists of ideas. Words and descriptive phrases. I have many notebooks full of things I used (hard copies as well as computer files), can use or will use, helping me improve each story. I want to be one of the best out there today. I do try hard, and then harder still. I owe it to myself and my readers.

 

 

 

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

 

 

Mar 252011
 

Terrance Foxxe, author of In the Dreaming, is back again with another serial. :) I hope he doesn’t mind that I took some creative liberties with the title. :) Anyway, enjoy! And stalk his website.

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Get lazy. Don’t bother with researching squat. It’s not that important. You can fake your way through anything. They don’t call it fiction for nothing.

I have invented many a world. Some familiar, some strange, some extreme. Readers can tell if a story rings true. If it doesn’t . . .

Blues for a Red Planet was one of those created-world stories. I took a manned orbital flight around a living and vital Mars, added a monumental disaster, an exploding planetoid between Mars and Jupiter, had that lone survivor get lucky and land on Earth roughly three million years in our past. His present, our past. What I had pointed out to me was, Earth would have been pelted with debris from the exploding planetoid, too. Life might have been wiped out on one planet, but the other planet would have suffered something terrible. Nuclear winter terrible.

My lone survivor lived in the sun, ate freely, and helped found modern humanity.

Logical progression. It’s not a concept, it’s a writing reality.

What is logical progression? One thing leads to another thing, which leads to another, which leads to another. A bowling ball gets knocked off a roof, hits a window ledge, and gets bounced out into the street. Five stories below is where you are. You hear a strange sound, possibly a shout of exclamation or warning. Maybe you hear the ball hit the ledge, a hollow thwok sound. You look up and see the ball falling. You either let it hit you, or you get the hell out of the way. That’s what logical progression is.

New writers tend to rush the process, and you can’t. Each scene has within it potential. Each scene moves at its own pace. Logical progression demands a scene is what it is, is detailed or not, takes as much time to unfold as it does, builds up a sense of what comes next, or builds up suspense, and does all this within the confines of your character’s perception. What they see, touch, taste, hear, smell, feel, physically or emotionally.

This is their world, after all, and you are simply their scribe. Your characters, they don’t know you exist.

Your characters don’t live in your world, but in their world. Do you know how their world works? Do you know the streets of their city, and the flavors of people you find section to section within their city?

Do they live on a space station, another planet, or as part of an alien culture?

Do you have what it takes in knowledge to define their existence? Can you find that knowledge? Probably, sure.

In building worlds you need to know mast from bow if you’re writing about pirates, and it doesn’t matter if the pirates are on this planet or another, solar sails or canvas sails. You need to know how things work, what to do and why you do the things you do. You need to know the details. God is in the details.

Your characters need to know what the consequences are to their actions. The characters you put in your literary world need to know what to do, but they act as themselves. What they would do, and not what you want them to do. Logical progression. Details.

In writing my second novel I had a lot to learn about Heaven and Hell. I had to learn the story of the Christ. Every word had to ring true in a horror story that relies on Revelations to make my plot points. I had to know the rules my world depended on in order to bend or break them. I had to know the details. Mix in logical progression, how one detail affects my character’s actions and/or reactions, you got movement, you got plot, you got a book.

What not to do!

deus ex machina. God in the machine. Angels coming out of nowhere to save, at the last minute, your hero.

The Soap Opera Effect. Life has its ups and downs, but you don’t go down in a jet every time you board a plane. The people who inhabit the world of soaps do, and they live through it, only to be saved by a fisherman, who then takes advantage of their amnesia, and on and on. Pointless suffering. All of your suffering should have a point to it.

Do your research. Examine, study, talk to people. Your average working Joe or Jane doesn’t mind talking to you about what they do. In fact, most will be thrilled that you sought them out, and are listening to what they have to say. They, indirectly, get to be in your book! And, it’s kind of fun. You don’t get to carry a gun and solve real crimes, but I have witnessed an autopsy. In real life, the inside of the human body reeks.

“Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.” – Mark Twain

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Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

 

 

Mar 202011
 

Rachel Haimowitz has a wealth of knowledge, and she’s back again today to continue her Work-For-Hire series. If you missed part one or two, definitely take a looksee.

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Last week, I went over all the different tasks required to turn a manuscript into a saleable book. While it’s true you can do many of those tasks yourself, there is wisdom in hiring professionals. I mean, you could stitch a gaping wound in your own arm, but it’s probably not a good idea. For one, it’d hurt like a bitch. For another, you’ll probably leave an ugly scar. You might get an infection. You might fail to seal the wound properly so it can heal. In self-publishing, things like proofreading or writing cover blurbs can be just as painful, self-editing can be just as unhealthy, and doing your own cover art can end in results as unappealing.

So if you want to set yourself above the rank-and-file and compete with the professional service package you’d find at a publishing house, hire the pros.

Sounds Great, but What’s It Going to Cost Me? (And What Will I Get for My Money?)

Short answer? You get what you pay for.

Long answer? Is long. Long enough to break into several posts. Bear with me. Today I’m talking exclusively about developmental editors, whose critical functions I discussed last Friday in my first post.

The best developmental editors are both trained and experienced. That doesn’t mean your cousin Vinnie can’t give good feedback about the structure of your novel; it just means that the best of the best could (and may very well) teach workshops and use their own clients’ successful books as examples.

A good developmental editor (DE) will take the time to understand your vision of the book as a whole, as well as the purpose and vision of each chapter, scene, and paragraph. They’ll talk with you. A lot. They’ll question the value of every scene, every character, every primary and secondary plot point. They’ll quiz you about themes, and messages, and motives. They’ll seek to understand both your characters’ desires and your desires as a writer. They’ll make sure you’re getting your point across without jamming it down your readers’ throats. They’ll say, “I think this is what you intended to say,” and if you agree, they’ll work with you to make the text say exactly that.

Understandably, this is a painstaking process. You and your DE might go through four, five, even a dozen rounds of edits. If you’re very lucky and your text is already very clean, you’ll nail it in two or three.

The upper echelon of DEs may charge by the word or by the hour—usually somewhere between $.07 and $.15 a word, or $50 to $100 an hour. (Most will work in the $50 to $75 an hour range. I work for $60, if you’re curious.) They are professionals. They have worked in Manhattan publishing or a professional equivalent. They’ve been thanked in the acknowledgements of successful books, and have significantly contributed to said successes. They do not bullshit with you about how long the process will take or how taxing it will be, nor do they promise that their efforts will lead to a bestseller or even a publishing contract. They do not work on every project that comes their way; they’re busy enough to pick and choose, and know better than to edit a manuscript outside their field of expertise.

Nervous about paying by the hour rather than the word? I promise you, a professional will only bill you for the time they put in. When I first started hiring freelancers by the hour, I had some misgivings about this: How will I know how much time the job actually takes? How will I know if they’re screwing me? The answer is that reputation is worth much more in this business than a single project, and true professionals won’t throw their reputation away for a few hundred extra dollars.

Less-expensive DEs will work in the $.04 to $.06 per word or $25 to $50 per hour range. As I said at the top of this section, you get what you pay for; I’d give 50/50 odds that a person you hire in this cost range will be qualified to do the work—at least enough so to justify their fee. Not getting your money’s worth would be unfortunate, but not nearly as unfortunate as an editor who is actively destructive to your vision. Even worse, you may not realize that’s happening, or that you’re being ripped off—which can happen even when the editor has the kindest heart and the best of intentions. This kind of work is so specialized and difficult that many early-career writers don’t quite know how to judge the efficacy of someone’s developmental edits.

Anyone charging less than the prices I’ve quoted is very likely not qualified, although of course there are always exceptions. What you’ll find in the lower cost ranges are often professionals, but of the wrong kind: people with advanced English degrees, or journalists, or freelance magazine writers—people who think that these experiences qualify them to do developmental work. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. Even most successful authors will tell you they don’t feel qualified to do professional developmental edits on other people’s work. If you’re going to pay someone for this job, make sure that someone has actually done developmental edits in a professional capacity and has a track record to prove it.

As for how long the job actually takes? Well, that depends quite heavily on the state of your manuscript and your receptivity to being edited in such a fundamental way. Try to remember that the DE is your project’s greatest ally; she only wants what’s best for the book while staying true to your voice and vision. (Keep that in mind when you feel like she’s flaying you and your literary babies alive; this process is not painless.) In my experience, a 75,000-word novel will take anywhere from 30 to 150 hours to developmental edit. (At $60 an hour, that’s a serious investment—between $1,800 and $9,000!) This is a huge span, I know, but like I said, it all depends on how much work your manuscript needs and how adept you are at addressing the issues.

If you have $1,800 to spend, but not $9,000, you may wish to pay for an evaluation first. By which I mean you pay a (qualified!) DE to read your manuscript for the sole purpose of identifying issues. She won’t fix them, but she will point them out. She’ll leave you with an actionable list (either written, via phone call, or both) of items that need fixing, and she’ll be able to tell you (more or less) exactly how much it would cost to retain her services for said fixes. If her list doesn’t ring true to you, you probably don’t want to hire her for anything more. But if you keep nodding your head and going, “Ah, yes,” then you and she are likely to work well together.

Costs for evaluations vary widely, but a good rule of thumb is $1 to $3 per page. A “page” is generally considered 250 words, so an evaluation for your 75,000 word manuscript would cost roughly $300 to $900. WORTH. EVERY. PENNY. If nothing else, you can use her list to self-edit to the best of your ability.

If you’re on a fixed budget, you can ask prospective editors if they’re willing to do a less-detailed job for a specific cost. If an editor is willing to do this, she’ll prioritize issues to address the most pressing ones within the time you’ve given her.

If developmental editing is out of your price range, your next best bet is to hire the most brilliant copyeditor you can find. I’ll talk about those obsessive-compulsive workhorses of the publishing industry—and I say this with the utmost love, as someone who’s both performed and depended on this skill for almost a decade—in my next post.

 

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Rachel is an M/M erotic romance author and a freelance writer and editor. She originally dipped her toes into cable news and book publishing, decided the water was cold and smelled kinda funny, and moved on to help would-be authors polish and publish, write for websites and magazines, and ghostwrite nonfiction.

Currently she has a contemporary BDSM collection (Sublime: Collected Shorts) and two M/M erotic romance novels (a high fantasy adventure titled Counterpoint: Book One of Song of the Fallen, and a modern-day slavery alternate universe story titled Anchored: Belonging Book One) in print. Her third novel, Crescendo: Book II of Song of the Fallen, will release in the fall of 2011 with Guiltless Pleasure Publishing; and her first novella, an M/M cyberpunk story co-written with Aleksandr Voinov titled Break and Enter, will release with Samhain Publishing around December of 2011.

You can find Rachel at RachelHaimowitz.com, tweeting as RachelHaimowitz, chatting in the Goodreads forums, and blogging at Rachel-Haimowitz.blogspot.com. She loves to hear from folks, so feel free to drop her a line anytime at metarachel (at) gmail (dot) com.

Mar 182011
 

Should You Buy ISBNs?

By

V. J. Chambers

Most aspiring indie authors who’ve been researching the best way to self-publish have run into advice on ISBN buying. The general feeling usually is that if you want to be a serious self-publisher, you need to set up your own imprint and buy your own ISBNs. At $250-275 for a block of ten, ISBNs are not cheap, making them a serious expense for a self-publisher. Should you bother? My thoughts.

Why Should You Listen to Me, Anyway?

I’d like to start with (as Stephen King would call it) an annoying autobiographical pause. I started self-publishing my books in the summer of 2009. Everyone said you had to buy ISBNs, so I did. I got a block of ten and set up my publishing imprint, which I called Punk Rawk Books. That year, I published four print books, and used four of my ISBNs. (What can I say? Publishing books is just kind of addictive for me.) My block of ten cost me $250. That first year, from self-publishing, I grossed about $600. What with various other expenses (pro-plan for Createspace for four books, buying proof copies, etc.) I only made a profit of $182 for the year.

That, as far as I was concerned, was crap. I immediately began wondering if buying those ISBNs had been an actual good investment. After all, I figured, if I hadn’t bought them, I would have made a whole lot more money that year.

Why They Say You Should Buy ISBNs

You need an ISBN to be listed on Amazon, which is a big market, and a place you definitely want your books listed. You also need it to get into things like Ingram and Baker & Taylor, which are book distributors. This kind of stuff is important if you’re trying to get your book into bookstores. Without an ISBN, your book has less visibility, and it’s harder for people to find it. So, I wouldn’t recommend going without one completely.

However, you don’t have to buy one yourself. Createspace, (which I highly recommend for POD endeavors), will supply you a free one. Now, people say that using the free Createspace ISBNs is a bad idea for the following reasons:

-Your book will be listed as published by Createspace. Therefore, everyone will know you’ve self-published.

-If you ever decide you want to remove your book from Createspace, you will lose that ISBN. Then, if you decide to go with a different POD printer, like Lightning Source, you’ll have to buy a new ISBN. Your book will then have two completely different ISBNs, which will make tracking confusing and create all kinds of issues.

Why I Think You Should Just Take the Free ISBN

In regards to distribution and bookstores, I basically think that’s a losing battle (or at least an uphill battle) that’s not worth it for the self-published author. Most bookstores are not going to carry your self-published book. If you’re dedicated and have oodles of time to devote to shoehorning your book into bookstores, by all means, buy an ISBN, publish with Lightning Source, and have at it. Personally, I’d like to spend my time writing my next book. But some people have found success this way. I tend to think that print is not the place to be focusing your efforts in this day and age, but more on that later.

I’m not the kind of person who’s trying to hide the fact I’ve self-published. I’m completely open about it, so I don’t really see why it’s a big deal for everyone to know I published the book with Createspace. So I really think that’s not much of a reason not to take the free ISBN.

In regards to the book having several ISBNs, I don’t really get this argument either. Technically, if you change your book significantly (serious revisions, write a new introduction, slap a new cover on it), you’re supposed to give it a new ISBN anyway. So, there are authors whose books have gone through several printings from a commercial press and that book has several editions and each edition has a different ISBN. If you moved the book to Lightning Source, it would probably make sense to update the cover, etc. So, technically, it would be a new edition and require a new ISBN anyway.

Overall, I think the free ISBN from Createspace is the best choice, but your mileage may vary.

Save the Trees, Save Your Money—Go Ebook First

I don’t publish books in print at all anymore, because I just don’t make enough money (yet) self-publishing to justify the expense and time involved. It takes me about two hours to format a book for ebook publication, and several weeks to format it for print. Last year, my print books didn’t even sell enough for me to make the minimum Createspace payout, so they are not lucrative enough (for me) to want to spend more money on the ProPlan or on buying proofs. My ebooks, however, are selling much better, and my numbers for ebooks are steadily rising.

This is the business plan I wish someone would have suggested to me before I sunk so much money and time into publishing print books.

Start with an ebook. Upload your book to Amazon Kindle’s site and to Smashwords. On Smashwords, opt into their distribution plan, so your book will be featured on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other ebook sites. Smashwords offers you a free ISBN so that you can get into the Apple iStore. (Amazon doesn’t require its ebooks to have ISBNs.) Yes, that ISBN will list Smashwords as the publisher. If this really irks you, Smashwords also offers the option of selling you a $10 ISBN (which they will deduct from your profits), which will then list your publishing imprint as the publisher. Smashwords can afford to offer you the ISBN so cheap because they have more money and can buy blocks of 1000 ISBNs. At that point, the price per ISBN becomes much less expensive.

Maybe your ebook will take off and you’ll make hundreds of dollars your first year self-publishing. (Don’t hold your breath, however. We can’t all be Amanda Hocking.) If so, fabulous. You now have the money to buy a block of ISBNs if you want. If not, you’re not in the hole or barely breaking even.

The truth is, though, ebooks are gaining lots of ground in publishing. Who knows how important print books will be in five or ten years? The great thing about self-publishing an ebook is that it’s easy, it’s low risk, and it’s cheap (or free) to do. It’s the perfect way to get your feet wet self-publishing, to gain experience, and to start building a fan base. Worry about ISBNs when you’ve got a thousand fans clamoring for your print book. That’s what I think, anyway.

An Annoying Attempt at Self-Promotion

I’m an indie author who writes for teens and adults. I write horror, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance. Find out more about me on my website: http://vjchambers.com. Right now, I’m hocking my 99 cent ebook novella, Little Sister. Here’s a blurb:

Ever since Jane Cassidy’s big brother was killed in a car accident six months ago, she’s been taking solace in watching cheesy vampire movies and yelling at the characters on the screen when they do stupid things. She can’t control the tragedy in her own life, but in the movies, the characters can find ways out of the grip of death.

A chance meeting with Bailey Westfield, her brother’s best friend and her childhood crush, catapults her out of her cocoon of grieving. Bailey’s kiss makes Jane feel tugged under a rushing waterfall of cold, sweet darkness. She only sees him at night, and she longs to feel his icy fingers trace the outline of her jaw.

Jane doesn’t realize that she’s been (literally) sucked into the plot of a vampire movie. And she’s not so snarky when there are teeth in her own neck.

You can buy it here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/42146 or here: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Sister-Vampire-Novella-ebook/dp/B004NNV52W/

Thanks for your time and happy writing and publishing!

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