Tag Archives: editing

Characters Across Genres

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Often I am asked, “What’s your favorite genre to write?”

And often I reply, “Um. All of them!”

It’s a completely honest answer. My first published novel, released this past summer, is of the spy genre. The next book, slated for June, is a dystopian. Fantasy was the genre of the first long story I ever completed (writing with my sister, good memories). An Oregon Trail journal turned into a seventy-page piece in sixth grade. In my writing thus far I’ve also dabbled in ghost, school, contemporary, perhaps gritty (I say perhaps because I’m still not sure what that means, Google refuses to clear it up for me—perhaps I should try Bing?), murder mystery, and sibling stories.

While I know some authors prefer to stick to one or a few related genres, I enjoyed different aspects of all of them and had equal fun while writing. Therefore, the first time someone asked me about genres—a reporter for my school newspaper—led me to spend about an hour and a half in deep contemplation. (The alternative was math homework, so it worked out.) I came to the conclusion I placed more value in the characters of a story than the genre, or even the plot. The plot, to me, is a device to portray characters. My characters are the personalities I slip into or interact with (fictionally), and I work a plot around them, creating believable and changed people by “The End.” Plus, the characters supply dialogue, description, action…the plot wouldn’t happen without them!

Because the plot is a tool my characters use to propel themselves to the last page, the genre is also a secondary matter. If my characters fit best into a ghost story because one feels guilty over the death of another, then a ghost story it is. If another set of characters need disguises and secrets to best be themselves, I formulate a spy story. If the characters in my mind are best suited for overcoming severe societal challenges and barriers not yet in existence, we create a dystopia.

So, in essence, I’m not sure which genre is my favorite—or maybe all of them are, because until my next character shows up in my mind calling out, “Idea! Idea! I have an idea!!!” I don’t even know what my next genre will be.

Kieryn

www.kierynnicolas.com

http://twitter.com/KierynNicolas

http://www.kierynnicolas.blogspot.com/

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Is Writing Hard Work? (Guest Blog: Gerald Weinberg)

Garrison Keillor had this to say about the question of how hard it is to write:

“Okay, let me say this once and get it off my chest and never mention it again. I have had it with writers who talk about how painful and harrowing and exhausting and almost impossible it is for them to put words on paper …”

I recommend you read the whole essay, then think about your own feelings about writing. Personally, I think he’s both right and wrong. He’s right because writing is easy—unless you don’t want to write. Then it’s hard.

I use this observation every time I start to think that writing is hard. I interpret that feeling to mean that I don’t want to write this particular piece. It might be because it stinks, or the subject doesn’t interest me, or it’s wrong. It might be because I’m sick, or tired, or just feel like playing with the dogs.

But, you ask, isn’t that the dreaded “writer’s block”? It might be, if writer’s block was real, but it isn’t. You don’t hear about “surgeon’s block,” or “bricklayer’s block,” do you? No, the writer’s-block myth is just another symptom of what Keillor describes as “… the purest form of arrogance: Lest you don’t notice what a brilliant artist I am, let me tell you how I agonize over my work.”

For more on so-called “writer’s block,” watch my interview on YouTube .

Writers aren’t that special. Everybody’s work hits snags from time to time. If you want to write (as oppose to wanting to have written), then you’ll find a way around these snags, and actually enjoy doing it. The principal way is to have a queue of many writing tasks, so if you’re stuck on one for the moment, you can switch to another. That’s part of my Fieldstone Method. (Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method.)

You can learn a whole lot more about Jerry Weinberg on his web site. It’s pretty interesting stuff. There is also plenty of info about his other books and works by visiting here.

Ultimate Release (Guest Blog: Sean Hayden)

Ya, I know what you’re thinking. “That sounds dirty.” Well it’s not. I’d heard the expression over the years, knew what it meant, but I can honestly tell you, “You’ve got it wrong!” The ultimate release is nothing of the sort. The ultimate release is knowing, within a few days or weeks, the book you wrote will finally, finally be available for people to read.

The release of Origins has been one HELLUVA ride. I don’t see it as being over, either. These long and winding months of waiting are drawing to a close, but that wasn’t the ride. That was the rollercoaster climbing the first incline after leaving the gate at the amusement park. The real ride is just beginning. When it’s available for purchase, the rollercoaster will just be cresting that first hill and the whole ride will be laid out and I’m expecting to yak over the side of the car at some point in time (the true sign of a great ride).

Many of you might not know, but I only started writing about a year and a half to two years ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The reason I started writing is very simple. I had read a lot of things out there that I couldn’t believe had been published. I bought them for their shiny covers (ya, I know I shouldn’t judge it from it, but I did. Sue me), brought them home, brewed some coffee, got through the first few chapters, and threw them down in disgust. “How the hell did that get published?” Ever have one of those moments? Ever have one of these? “I could write better than that!”

I said it, and I realized what I said as the words dribbled from my numb lips. Did I just say I was going to write a book? Could I? Would I? Should I? I did.

As the final words of Origins made their way from my imagination, through my fingertips, onto the keys of my laptop computer, and etched onto the screen and hard-drive of my computer, I SMILED. I had done it. Now I just needed to find somebody to publish it. That would be easy, right?

*Insert hysterical, maniacal laughter soundtrack here*

Okay. Let me tell you something. WRITING A BOOK IS EASY!

There, I said it.

Now let me tell you what’s not. FINDING A PUBLISHER!

The rollercoaster lap-bars had come down, the ride was starting to move slowly forward. GASP! There’s a hiccup in the rides internal circuitry. Now the car will sit for a few months while they repair the ride.

Uh, huh. That’s what happened to our brave adventurer. He had a completed manuscript, but because he knew nothing about being an author or finding an agent or finding a publisher, he relied on the greatest purveyor of ultimate truth. The internet. I mean, if it’s on Google, IT HAS TO BE TRUE? RIGHT?

Ya, not so much.

“You will never get you published if you ain’t got an agent, son,” said the carnival operator to our stranded hero.

“Gosh, I’m gonna have to get me one of those,” I said.

And so I wasted the next five months of my life looking for an agent. See, the problem was agents are busy. What I didn’t know at the time was that I wasn’t the only hombre who had hopped on the “I WROTE A BOOK” rollercoaster. I had a lot in common with those other folks too. Not only had they written about vampires, too, but they were also (forgive my use of foul language) unpublished authors! Duh, duh, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. See, we are the LEPERS of the publishing industry. Because we had never had our work published in so much as a school newspaper (I’m kidding, don’t put that down on your resume), agents wouldn’t even take the time to read our stories. The bastards (yeah, I said it).

“Well, no problem,” I said when I realized that my rollercoaster wouldn’t get going if I kept vainly searching for someone from the Dewey, Screwum, and Howe Literary agency to take a gander at his magnificent manuscript. “I’ll just go right to the source and find me a PUBLISHER!” HEAD –>DESK

Have you ever heard the term SLUSHPILE? Sounds nummy, don’t it? Like a big SLURPEE just sittin there waitin for you and a straw. Hope it’s cherry. Hope somebody actually runs out of suggested manuscripts from reputable agents, skims through said pile, singles out your manuscript, gives it a read, likes it, makes you an offer, and publishes you. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? So would going to a local convenience store, picking up one of those little pencils, grabbing a lottery form, making little black squares with #2 lead, waiting until drawing night, watching the blond in the shiny dress pull little numbered balls out of an acrylic tube hooked up to a backwards ass vacuum, and watching your numbers come up.

Then, one cloudless summer’s day, a ray of light shone down from the heavens, lit up my keyboard, and a choir of angels sang out in joyous three-point harmony as I hit “ENTER” on my latest Google search. I had heard the term “INDI PUBLISHER” and decided to give it a whirl. Hmmmm, Echelon Press, that sound’s cool. Let me give them a shot. “BEST DAY EVER.”

Slowly, the ride crept forward on its rickety wooden frame and iron tracks. I could feel my manuscript and the ride of my new career being propelled slowly forward.

That was several months ago. The ride was filled with exciting things like getting my cover, and being assigned an editor, and then seeing the different edits as the book changed into something a little less raw and something more akin to the dreams I had of holding my book. Looking back, I can honestly say, there isn’t one thing I would change about the whole ride. It taught me so much, not only about publishing and writing, but about patience and perseverance as well. It made me not only a better author, but a better person as well. I just can’t believe I kept my sense of humor through the whole thing. What’s that? My sanity? HEHEHE. That’s a different story.

Origins

Ashlyn Thorn was born different.  She was born with all the characteristics of a vampire, but in a world where vampires, elves, and werewolves work, play, and die side by side with normal humans, everyone knows vampires aren’t born, they’re made.  The only thing she ever wanted is to know her true Origins.  Ashlyn’s tale takes her on a quest to find out what makes her different and to find out the truth, but with every question she gets answered, she uncovers more uncertainties.  To make things worse she makes enemies of the most powerful vampires of the city who consider her powers to dangerous to let go unchecked.  She is saved by the government only to be trained and used to serve their purposes, and Ashlyn finds herself torn between two worlds.  She can either be a monster, or help fight the monsters.

Born in the suburbs of Chicago, Sean Haydeen moved to the frigid arctic climes of southeast Florida as a small child.  The son of a fireman and a proofreader (that’s what they had before spellcheck) he fell in love with reading at a young age.  When he hit the age of 35 he wrote his first novel, an urban fantasy about vampires and demons entitled Origins.   Unsatisfied with one novel, he penned the sequel Deceptions and both titles of the Demonkin Series will be available from Echelon Press soon.

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Said…schmaid!

As a writer, I make all kinds of mistakes. It happens, I am human. I do try to clean them up before letting others read my work, but sometimes things slip through.

As a reader, I am always annoyed by mistakes in books, especially stupid mistakes. I understand that mistakes will happen, no one is perfect, but there are limits.

As an editor, I have numerous authors royally peeved with me right now because I have taken up a new crusade. Dialogue tags. You know, the things at the end of sentences that are supposed to clarify who is speaking. Okay, the key word here is clarify.

If it is already clear who is speaking, you DON’T need a dialogue tag. An action, perhaps. But you need not include he asked, she said, he queried after every bit of dialogue. It is ANNOYING!

Then there are the things I really hate.

These are things I was taught.

You don’t need a dialogue tag when you use an exclamation point. It is redundant.

No: “Get off me!” he shouted.
Yes: “Get off me!”
Maybe: “Get off me!” He shouted so loud everyone in the room stopped to stare at us.

Same thing with the question mark.

No: “Where did you get that gun?” he asked.
Yes: “Where did you get that gun?”
Maybe: “Where did you get that gun?” Michael asked the question looking very concerned.

Then there are the absolutely ridiculous dialogue tags: (dictionaries may disagree with this, but this is my rant, not theirs)

This is a HISS–no words, just sound

he hissed (try and say something while you are hissing. Hissing is a sound.

he giggled (again, can you say things when you are giggling?)

he grimaced. (Really people? This is a facial expressions–see J.R. Turner’s post on smirking)

she guffawed. (okay, I use she here instead of he because okay, a guffaw is kinda like a hearty laugh. Even if it was okay, most women don’t guffaw, men do.)

he groaned. (again with the noise, not s way of speech.)

A sigh is a physical action, not a dialogue tag. 

Can you speak when you are Guffawing?

A gasp is a physical action, not a dialogue tag. 

A breath (breathed) is a physical action not a dialogue tag.

I am pretty much opposed to any dialogue tag that begins with “he, she, they” because generally speaking the tags are not needed. it is just fluff, filler, extraneous words, poppycock.

And yet, almost EVERY SINGLE manuscript I read has hundreds of instances of these types of things. It’s crazy I tell you!!!

 

Shoulda-Coulda-You Better!

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So you’ve written a book. How many articles have you seen that begin that way? Well, here’s another one. I am going to give you some very specific tips on stepping boldly into the world of publishing. Actually, I’m going to give you some tips on what to do and not to do when loooking for a publisher.

DO: Submit the cleanest manuscript you possibly can. This means sending it through a series of edits with your critique partner and beta readers.

DON’T: You should never expect a publisher to do all the editing. Their job is to help you put the final touches on your manuscript. While an editor expects to do some editing on a work, it is not in the business of revising small and excessively repetative basic mistakes that EVERY author should be aware of.

DO: Make sure you do your research on the publisher you are submitting to. Talk to their other authors. You will always hear good and bad. Be prepared to hear negative comments from some of them. Not all professional relationships work out. But when you hear negative, don’t assume it is all bad. Double check and if it is a major issue, ask the publisher directly and give them an opportunity to defend negative claims.

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DON’T: Never sign a contract with a publisher you have not fully researched and NEVER sign a contract you have not read. If you are not confident that you understand each item fully, get legal help or ask the publisher to clarify.

DO: The time to begin building name recognition and visibility is when you finish that book, at the very latest. Let the world know you have written a book. If you make yourself visible during the process, you are in essence building a relationship with your readers/viewers and they become invested in your potential succes.

DON’T: Waiting until you have a contract to begin your marketing campaign is a huge mistake. In this age of the Internet, there are millions of people writing and publishing books. It is YOUR job to present your product (and for new authors that is YOURSELF) and to let potential readers know why your book is worht their investment of time and money.

DO: There are so many options available to authors for publication. You should research each and every one of them to discover what is right for you.

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DON’T: It is extremely unprofessional to go into a contract with a publisher or anyone when you are not 100% certain of your committment. When working with a publisher, you should be willing to do whatever you would do if you were doing it for yourself.

The publishing industry changes on a daily basis and there will always be some new thing to come along that looks shiny and bright. But keep in mind shiny doesn’t always last. Things tarnish and turn grey with time. What you think is a great thing today may evolve into something unrecognizable the next.

And for those of you who decide to self publish. I wish you the very best of luck and success. Your journey will be exciting and filled with so much; joy and heartache. Please remember that you are publishing for the readers, not for yourself. You wrote the book for you, but publishing means you want others to enjoy it. With this in mind, make certain you put out the very best product you can, from front cover to back. Your readers deserve the best you have to offer.

Good luck!

A ‘Spooky Times’ Blog Tour Guest

Heather S. Ingemar on Confidence

So you took a leap of faith and wrote a story. Hell, you even edited it and polished it until you’re certain it’s perfect. But now, you find that manuscript sneaking toward the darkest end of your file drawer. You tell yourself that you only wrote it for fun, or that it’s for your enjoyment only, but the words feel hollow.

Sharing your work with someone else can feel like the hardest or scariest thing on earth. Those are your words, after all, and what if that other person doesn’t like them? Here are some things to consider before letting that story go hide with the dust bunnies forever:

  •  You are not your work. Sure, you wrote those words, you imagined the plot. But characters do tend to have a mind of their own, and you have to remember that your characters’ actions are not necessarily your actions. Also, most readers identify with the characters – not the author.
  •  We all need an extra pair of eyes. The truth is, none of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes we can’t see. Regardless if it is helping spot typos or plot holes, having someone read your work will help it become more polished. They’ll help you catch the things you miss.
  •  If you love something, let it go. Especially if you’re serious about seeking publication, you have to get used to the idea of other people reading your work. Consider the last, best book you just read. Where would you be if that author never let it go free? Your story could very well be the same.

Sharing your work can feel like a bad idea. But with the right critique partners and with an open mind, the benefits to your writing can be limitless.

* * *

The woman known as Heather S. Ingemar is a bestselling author of dark short stories for teens and adults and an accomplished folk musician. She loves coffee, tea, intravenous Mountain Dew, cats, and motorcycles. She is currently at work on her next tale, or maybe avoiding work by shooting around canyon corners on her Suzuki Savage LS650.

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Join Heather for her next stop on her
‘Spooky Times’ Blog Tour, October 30th at The Dark Phantom Review!
http://thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/

To learn more about Heather S. Ingemar, please visit her website:
http://ingemarwrites.wordpress.com/

Don’t miss Heather’s recent release:

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A Word to the Wise

Okay, for those of you who have recently had some kind of interaction with me or one of my staff at Echelon Press, please read this in the spirit it is intended. How is it intended? It is a gripe, not a rant. I am not angry, I am just frustrated. I don’t dislike you, but I did experience moments of annoyance with regard to you if you did what I am about to discuss.

Free editorial service. Yup, there I said it. When you submit your work to a publisher it it supposed to be the very best that it can be.

  • It should not need to be reformatted to fit our guidelines.
  • It should not need to be spell checked by our editors.
  • It should not need to be grammar checked by our editors.
  • It should not need to be rewritten to resolve major issues.
  • It should not need to be rewritten to resolve minor issues.
  • It should not need to be rainbowed (some of my auuthors call that the great was, were, that hunt)

Seriously. This is how MOST of the manuscripts we are getting have to be addressed. I understand and will accept some flaws, you are after all human. But let’s be serious folks. It is NOT an unwritten rule that you must send a fully edited manuscript to a publisher for consideration. It is written all over the place. 90% of our submissions need to be 50% overhauled.

Now, the free part. My editors are very considerate. I have always had a policy that if your work is rejected, you know exactly why. This means notes, suggestions, advice. You can take it or leave it. But I feel that it only serves to help the author better his craft. It is a courtesy.

Well, it seems that Echelon has gotten a reputation for being really easy! We have had an influx of authors who submit to us, I should say submit work that needs serious work, with the notion that we will edit it. Okay, we will HELP.

But those same authors are getting all kinds of input and help with revision suggestions, notes on grammatical and spelling errors, stuff like that BEFORE they have a contract. Okay, that stops here! Right now. From this point on, Echelon will only give editorial comments and the like on contracted materials. Why?

In the last month, we have had about a dozen submissions where a pending offer was made, the editor began working with the author, time was spent, MONEY was spent, and then when it came time to actually sign and mail the contract, the author decided to go with another publisher or in the case of five different authors, they decided to self-publish.

For pete’s sake people, you can’t make this decision BEFORE you submit and get a gander at our contract which is not for public viewing? You wanna self-publish, good for you. And I don’t mean that in a snarky way. If you are willing to make that commitment and follow through, then I applaud you. Sincerely. But do I have to pay the price?

I am, after all, a publisher, not a FREE editorial service. I have to pay my editors and when you get their work and then don’t sign the damn contract, I still have to pay them, or they quit. Are you following what I’m saying?

For those of you who fit this bill, I’m really not mad, but I am disappointed because we do put a lot of work into what we do, and when it is for nothing, that means you have taken the time we could have been devoting to someone who really did want to be published by us.

Be courteous. Is that too much to ask?