For the Sake of It: An #Indie-Author Dilemma

Should an independent author break with traditions and standards or follow them? That is the question. I can’t discuss all of them but I would like to mention that one shouldn’t do either if it is only for the sake of doing it.

When your heart, gut, and artistic judgment tell you to go in a particular direction, you should listen and do so. I’m sort of going through this situation with my editor. She’s insisting upon a trilogy that follows the exploits of my main character, the master thief Daggorat and his confidant Cyril the mage.

I can foresee my fantasy world of “Tyrhennia” giving birth to 12 or even 15 novels. Different characters, races, and Kingdoms of an entire world can support a long series.

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A Thinking Man by Wesley Nitsckie used under CC Licence

Will there be a trilogy within that body of work? Perhaps there will be. I haven’t started to write about or even think about any other locations within Tyrhennia, so I can’t say how it will go.

My editor is not insisting on a trilogy because I’ve compacted too much in too few pages. I would understand that bit of wisdom and follow. However, she’s insisting on a trilogy because “That’s what everyone else does.”

I refuse to compromise the quality of my work for the sake of “what everyone else does.” I have two interesting plots for Daggorat and Cyril, and that’s all I see at this moment. I could have a flash of inspiration and move toward a trilogy. But as of now, forcing a trilogy would mean stuffing extra useless filler material into two novels simply for the sake of it.

Does The Godfather Part III or the latest movie trilogy based upon the Hobbit ring a bell? Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Jackson are no slouches when it comes to the director’s chair. Also, they have gobs of funding and skilled artisans working with them; and yet look what happened.

Always follow your heart and artistic intuition.

Are you ready to compromise your artistic creations simply for the sake of following everyone else?googlecov2

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The Queen and I (Part II): Let the Editing Process Begin

I’ve only published short stories; editing them was something of an easy task.  Because they are short, everything from proofreading to substantive editing can be done with each pass. After all, I was only dealing with 8-20 page stories.

A common rule of thumb I’ve read says to wait at least two months before picking up your manuscript to start editing. Well…NaNoWriMo ended two months ago, so the time has come for the grueling process to begin.

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Editing a Paper by Nic McPhee used under CC License

The first two editing passes will be a Substantive Edit. “The Queen” (editor, wife, p.i.t.a.) has never read the manuscript, and she wants to do a complete reading with her notes to me. Those tiny plot holes, character motivations, vagueness, passages that slow down too much, or dialog that doesn’t fit a character need to be addressed first. Essentially it’s a “big picture” edit.

It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but after looking over The Queen’s notes for the first eight chapters, the proverbial light bulb is on. I understand the issues being addressed and it didn’t take much “mental juice” to develop a solution for all of the little problems. Of course what helps me out the most is her ability to write specific notes.

Instead of something like “This is vague,” she’ll write “Seems like he (my MC) gave in too quickly here. Consider more of a discussion or explanation that…” The Queen’s detailed notes readily facilitate a solution. Also, numbering her notes helps. Her first note in chapter 2 will be called (2.1) and so forth.

Communication is the key when performing a substantive editing pass of an entire manuscript, and it’s a two-way street.

Of course, any changes that I make to the manuscript will be typed in green. When I pass the MS back to her, she will see how I addressed each suggestion. For the sake of clarification, I always include the number of her note to my correction. This system is very advantageous when a note calls for something in one chapter to be moved into another chapter.

What’s the first thing you do in order to edit a manuscript? Got a special system?

Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of

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Short Story Status Report: Stasis & Other Dystopian Tales

I’m hoping to release Stasis & Other Dystopian Tales by March, 2015. Here are the story titles and their current level of completion.

Stasis *extended edition              (Completed)

A Pound of Flesh                              (Ready for Beta Reads)

The Clinic                                             (3rd draft)

Preppers                                             (1st Draft)

Glossies                                               (3rd Draft)

A Most Generous Man                  (Completed)

There is another story that would fit in called Adrift, but I do not think that it will be done in time.

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Editing a Paper by Nic McPhee used under CC License

More short story news items.

I’ve reached a compromise with “The Queen” concerning the #shortstory Little Red Revolution. If it does not get accepted for publication by April, then it will be released as a short story single for e-readers. The Queen and I can see the possibility of some magazine editors shying away from its raucous and raunchy humor.

The first draft of the Sci-Fi / Horror short Night Flights is done. I have to give it at least two more drafts before I have the nerve to bring it to my critique group.

The flash fiction piece entitled Everyone’s a Winner is almost completed. Perhaps I should not refer to it as a flash piece, because it is greater than 1,000 words. Most magazines / e-zines have a strict rule about the word count of a flash fiction story, so I think that submitting it now will be a lost cause. If I can trim it down a bit then I’ll submit it. If I can’t get it under the magic mark of 1,000 words, then I’m going to post it here as a freebie.

Two #StarTrek fan fiction pieces are in the works. The one for TNG is still in its 1st draft (#amwriting). The other which concerns ST original series is ready for a second draft. Both stories are of a humorous nature, because I just can’t resist doing things like that.

What’s your current writing / reading status?

Your Second Draft: Paragraphing

Now that #NaNoWriMo 2014 is over, many authors, including myself will be scratching our collective heads in the #editing phase of bringing our works to market.

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Journal Entry by Joel Montes De Oca used under CC License

What you should look for in your first glance at your manuscript is spelling, grammar, punctuation, and paragraphing. The first three, spelling, grammar, and punctuation are obvious enough, but you’re going to have brush up on their rules.

If I were to go into every rule for those three concerns, then this would be a book rather than a blog post. Try to obtain a copy of the Harbrace College Handbook, or if you’re in a pinch check out the Ask a Grammar Guru page on Facebook.

In the end, paragraphing seems to perplex quite a few #authors out there. After all, your paragraph can be spelled and punctuated properly and yet be considered wrong.

As far as the mechanics go, the general consensus out there for proper paragraphing is as follows…

When the speaker-tag changes, then a new paragraph is needed. If done right, then you can actually avoid the over-use of tags.

The action of one character causes a reaction from another character. The action-reaction dynamic needs to have its own separate paragraphs.

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A Crumpled Paper Ball by Turinboy used under CC License

A character can only think, say, or do something. Therefore, keep it all in the family in the same paragraph. However, this can lead to paragraphs that are just too long.

Keep the length of a paragraph to five or six lines. If your character says and does a lot, then keep any internal dialog separate in order to avoid a lengthy paragraph.

You can go as far as half a page in one paragraph, if your intention is to slow down the pace.

Did you find this helpful? Did I forget to address something?

Quality Editing: People Will Notice

I have a very strict and grueling editing process. After my first draft is complete it goes to my wife (The Queen) for a cleaning. I’ll make any suggested changes for clarity, verb choice, descriptions et al and pass it back to her. She’ll make another pass and then it’s ready for a critique group (I’ll go into these processes in detail in later posts).

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After the critique group (about 4-7 readers) is done, I’ll address any changes that I deem necessary.

Then it goes back to “Queen-editor and chief” for any further corrections. I’m still not done.

Now it is time for the beta readers.  The piece is mostly “clean” for beta readers, so their concerns can be addressed with a few minor tweaks.

Finally the piece is ready for public consumption.

All of my Amazon and Goodreads reviewers have been impressed. They’ve mentioned that they love the quirky stories and characterizations. However, some have also called attention to the quality of the work, i.e., the quality of the prose, the lack of passive voice, or no grammatical errors. They recognized the time and trouble taken to create a quality product.

Therefore, do not ever skimp on your editing process, because people will notice.

Have others ever remarked about the process that you’ve put into something?

The 12 Days of Editing

Now that #NaNoWriMo is over, let the editing race begin. However, it’s the Holiday season as well.

Therefore I’ve penned some new lyrics to that oldie but goodie called The Twelve days of Christmas.

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Image Courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Get ready fellow indie #authors and start singing to the melody of The Twelve Days of Christmas…

On the twelfth day of rewrites an editor gave to me

12 comma splices

11 passive voices

10 new verb choices

9 sentence fragments

8 p.o.v. shifts

7 dictionaries

6 beta readers

5 PLOT CHAN-GES!

4 show don’t tells

3 deletes

2 dialog tips

And  a Stephen King book “On Writing”

 

Hope you enjoyed a little levity to take the pressure off the stress of the Holiday and Editing seasons.

 

#NaNoWriMo 2014: +++ The End +++

I know that November isn’t over yet, but for me NaNoWriMo 2014 is done. I also know that I didn’t make the 50K word count, but that wasn’t my goal anyway.

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Image Courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

My #fantasy novel “The First Light” had a word count of around 38K on November 1st. My goal was to finish the first draft, and I had hoped that this year’s NaNoWriMo event would push me along. It did.

I added 23K words this month to the first draft of my manuscript, and I was able to type those glorious words “+++ The End +++”.

Yes, I’m glad that I got to do that. What #author wouldn’t be? However, I do feel like I’ve just lost an old friend. I know that my friend will be back when the editing process begins in a couple of months.

A current #wrtitetip states that an author should put their manuscript away and leave it alone for two months. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to cease writing. I have a backlog of short stories to edit. Those stories will afford me the opportunity to hone my editing skills before going back to the novel.

Has NaNoWriMo 2014 been good for you too?

Back to “The First Light” and Other Indie Author Musings

Man, it’s tough to get back into writing a novel after a ninety-day hiatus! I opened up my files, dug through the first 35K words, and finally discovered for myself something I’ve heard several times. An author really must put down the work, walk away from it for a while and then go back. I’ve never understood before why that’s important, but now it’s painfully clear.

Upon re-reading my first draft, I realized it was rather thin at times. Sometimes I made things happen too quickly; other times I didn’t get deep enough into the mind of a character. Armed with that knowledge, I’m hoping the first draft of the second half of the novel will flow much better.

On the bright side, plot lines are clear. I didn’t see any plot holes or points where the “path of least resistance” was ignored. Also, the dreaded “second-act malaise” hasn’t occurred either. I’m sure you’ve heard of the second act or middle third of a novel labeled as the place where great novels go to die.

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I also have a backlog of short stories that I need to polish and release as my second short story collection “Stasis and other Dystopian Tales.” I’d originally released “Stasis” as a single short. However, I’ve discovered that I have a knack for dystopian themes, and had too many stories in my head that needed to get out. “A Pound of Flesh,” “Media,” and “Preppers” are all in various draft/editing stages.

I also have a comical horror story, “Little Red Revolution,” currently in the editing process, along with “A Generous Man” and “Night Flights.” These two aren’t humorous, though they do fit in thematically with the first.  After a lot of thought, I decided that the entire collection shouldn’t have to be comical to work well together.

So I have a lot of work to do over the next few months. How go your efforts?  Keep reading and keep writing!

The Queen and I: Working with your Editor

According to Stephen King’s On Writing, “The editor is always right.” My editor never misses an opportunity to remind me about that quote. Therefore I’ve created a system for editing, revisions, et al that prevents arguments about the placement of a comma or about the start of a new paragraph.

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Editing a Paper by Nic McPhee used under CC License

I #write out my first draft and look it over for something glaring like misspelled words. Then I save the document to a memory stick and pass it off to my wife, a.k.a the Editor and Queen (Grammar Nazi is too over-used).

She will read it over and type in notes and comments with Word’s highlight tool. For suggested omissions, she’ll change the text to blue and will use red when she wants a stronger verb. I think you’re getting the idea.

The memory stick comes back to me and I’ll make the revisions, and pass the opus back to her. The process will repeat a few times before we present it to a critique group. Of course, when she says “get over here and give me that stick,” it has caused some confusion and has ignited spontaneous romantic sessions.

After the critique, she’ll compile all of the notes and then I’ll revise again. Then the piece is sent off for beta reading and the story will take its final form. See how sa3gk459Sj03*49jkwregpioj (sorry, the cat walked across my keyboard) easy it is?

What’s interesting is that throughout the process, my wife and I don’t usually discuss the revisions face to face. It prevents the fur from flying and maintains shalom (peace) in my home. Now I just need a way to keep the cat away from my desk.

Tell me about your #writing / working environment.  Anyone else have a live-in editor?

Progress Report: #amwriting

I’m plodding through the first draft of my fantasy novel The First Light. I’m into chapter 16 and it stands at 35K words. However I broke a major rule and let the editor look at the first sixteen chapters. To my surprise I didn’t hear a tirade about cutting and slashing. Rather, she told me I needed to add more material. News like that really made my day, because I always find it easier to add than to remove.

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A Crumpled Paper Ball by Turinboy used under CC License

I also have three more short story collections waiting in the wings. I had wanted to publish one short per month as per my new year’s writing resolution. However, marketing considerations have forced me to adjust the timelines and put stories together in collections rather than singles.

The next collections to be released will be:

Stasis and Other Dystopian Tales

  1. Stasis (new extended edition)
  2. A Pound of Flesh
  3. Glossies
  4. Persons of Interest

(Stasis is finished, and A Pound of Flesh & Glossies have their first drafts completed. Persons of Interest is still in the first draft stage.)

The Lighter Side of Horror

  1. Little Red Revolution
  2. Dungeon Paths
  3. The UFOs
  4. Kindred Spirits

Liars and Fools

  1. The Psychic
  2. Wings
  3. The Candidate
  4. Adrift

I don’t have a specific timeline for these any more, as my wife and I are ramping up to move, and my time is being eaten up by a lot of other responsibilities. I hope to get at least two of these collections out by the end of the year, though.

How is your work progressing?