Killing your darlings

Guest post by: Kate Belle

Thanks so much Rebecca for hosting me on your lovely blog and a big HELLO to all your regular readers! x

When I first started writing seriously I dreamed of having my books published, of writing full time and days alone at my computer, drowning in beautiful, beautiful words. Eighteen months ago I thought writing full time was an unachievable dream, yet through hard work and good luck I’ve managed to achieve it this year.

It’s been a long wait to get here but, like most big aspirations – marriage, children, owning a home – working as a writer has had its down sides. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’d much rather be here than anywhere else. But there are things about writing I wasn’t prepared for. One of them is killing my darlings.

There are times when the muse strikes and a story gushes from brain to screen (or pen) like a snow melt waterfall. These inspired moments leave me lit up with an almost post coital afterglow. I kid myself I’m a genius, it’s only a matter of time before the literati discover me and come to pay homage in my foul, dark study.

idea-funeral illustration

Then reality bites. Hard.

I’ve just finished a major rewrite of my second novel. I’ve made no secret of the fact that this novel has been a tough one to write. I didn’t expect it to come rolling out pitch perfect on the first draft, but I also didn’t expect it to be an exercise in hammering out lumpy, awful prose that looked unfit for my dogs dinner.

After sending it to my editor, forewarning her of its unworthiness, she emailed me back some suggested improvements. To my horror, she wanted me to lose one of the three character’s view points. She told me my book would be better without the one part of the novel I thought was good, my favourite character and the voice I LOVED most.

At first it was like a punch in the guts. All I could see was how pretty the prose was, how elegant, how insightful, why would you delete it? Being a professional I quelled the urge to argue, gulped back my protests and tried to digest why and how.

This character’s words took up a largish chunk of the latter part of the book, maybe a good 20,000 words of an 85,000 word novel. I’d have to rewrite the important parts of her story into another character’s viewpoint. Yes, this would be a lot of work, but it wasn’t my biggest problem.

It was the prospect of cutting out all that glory. I just didn’t want to do it. I was ATTACHED to the voice, the words, the character in a way that wasn’t helping the book as a whole. I had to do some serious mental acrobatics to come to terms with chopping her out completely.

After much rumination and nail biting I came to understand this character gave too much away. The style of her voice was too laden and literary to fit with the story. And she wasn’t someone readers would easily warm to.

So, the surgery began. In hindsight it might have been easier to just cut all her stuff out of the draft and start again, like ripping off a band aid. But doing it that way was just too hard to face. Instead I took a razor blade and slowly, painstakingly sliced pieces of her out. I remoulded some of her words into another character’s voice or dumped them in a ‘save for another day’ file. My reluctance has meant I will have to do yet another rewrite because I know I’ve left a lines and paragraphs in there that really need to go. It just hurt too much to do it on the first round.

Now I’ve completed the amputation I can see it was worthwhile. The story is richer for it, the character in question is richer for it. I have a stronger plot, a more consistent narrative, and my darlings aren’t quite dead. They’re just locked up in the cage of another file somewhere waiting for their time in a story to come.

Have you ever had to get rid of something you loved only to realise it was the best thing to do?

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~~~ Rebecca’s Random Spotlight ~~~

[Rebecca here: I LOVED The Yearning by Kate Belle so much (5+ stars) and would like to spotlight her books here!]

The Yearning

Yearning lo res

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Synopsis:

It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

Read an extract here.

NOTE: CURRENTLY PURCHASE ONLY FOR AUS/NZ READERS

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***

Breaking the Rules

Breaking the Rules by Kate Belle

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Synopsis:

Grace is a beautiful woman in complete control of her world. A long time ago she chose a career over children and marriage, and has never regretted it. Then Ramon Mendez walks into her office. Ramon is about to commence his PhD, a work on erotic literature, and from the outset there is something about him that makes Grace’s blood run hot. Aware of the need to maintain her professional reputation, she rejects his advances, but he persists. And during their intimate supervision sessions, her defences start to crumble, for Ramon’s work is exposing desires within Grace she never knew existed.

Amazon  |  iTunes  |

Bloom

Bloom by Kate Belle - lores

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Synopsis:

Thirty-six-year-old Emma’s life looks as perfect as could be. She loves her solid, straight-laced husband Gary, who has given her three beautiful, if spoilt, children and a secure life. But something is missing. Gary hardly notices her anymore and she feels frumpy and invisible. Her friend, Lisa, talks her into joining a social boot camp class at the local gym. Emma immediately recognises their instructor as the gorgeous runner she sees each evening while walking her dog in the park. He introduces himself as Ramon Mendez. In spite of herself Emma is besotted.

Before long her mind is filled with guilty fantasies of him. One evening, when things at home have become too much to bear, she bumps into him alone in the park. An opportunity presents itself and no one need ever know. Ramon promises and delivers everything that’s missing from her marriage – passion, romance and excitement – but Emma must discover if they are the things she really wants.

Amazon  |  iTunes  |

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About the author:

KateBelle-glamfrontlores

Kate is a woman of many passions who juggles her pens with the rest of her life. She holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

Blog/website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter @ecstasyfiles  |  Goodreads  |

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♥♥♥

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Eleven Helpful Tips on Editing Your Own Writing

Guest post by: Sandra Miller

A piece of art can be easily made by gathering up all of your thought and use the help of a keyboard.  The tough part of it all is the editing part.  Even the greatest writers in the world will surely agree on this.  Editing other people’s work is undeniably challenging but editing your own work is twice harder than that.  It is hard because it is your own work of art.  You are the one who made it so it will be very easy for you to understand even the smallest detail with the flaw.  Although self editing is really difficult, it is a must.

Below are eleven of the useful tips on how to effectively edit your own writing.

1.      Do not think of anything other than writing

Do not practice doing the editing while writing.  It will just consume more of your time and might eat up some that are meant for you to gather more ideas.  Just go on and just go back on the editing part once the writing work is fully done.

2.     Start spell checking

Although it is not at all time advisable to rely on online or spell checking tool, it is still a good way to start over.  Go right ahead and activate the spell checker before beginning your editing part but again, do not completely rely on it.

3.     Give yourself some space away from your work

English: Cappuccino at Coffee Break in Lund, S...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most effective ways to recognize the errors is to step away from the piece.  This does not necessarily mean that you have to go out of town and just go back in a couple of days to continue writing.  A simple rest room trip or having a cup of coffee is enough.  Right after going back to the writing piece, you will realize that it is either not that bad or not that good.

4.     Change the formats

Reading out your writing the way your readers will do is very effective.  Try to print or do print preview before reading.  It is also good if you try to save a copy of it in pdf format or send a copy to your email address and you will see how others would see it.

5.     Transfer to a different place

The first four steps are effective enough to do an effective editing.  However, some great writers also prefer to change the location and get a whole new ambiance and environment.  There was a reporter who tried to print out his story and edit it while sitting comfortably in the lobby.  Whether you believe it or not, a new environment opens up our minds to new ideas and wider perspective and awareness about the mistakes which gives us a great opportunity for improvement.

6.     Read your work aloud

Read your work aloud and by hearing your own voice, you will surely be able to know which part sound right and which does not.  You will also get to know if your work sound sensible enough to entertain and impress your future readers.

7.     Read the entire work through

Read your work from the first word down to the last one before marking down your edits and making some changes.

8.     Learn the art of macro editing

After reading out the entire writing piece, go ahead and check out if there are sections that need to be removed as they are not that relevant or sections to be added.  Do not start with polishing the work sentence per sentence.  Remove the big chunks first and then work into the smaller details.  Doing the other way around will just make you consume more time on editing sentences that you will just later cut or change.

Edit Ruthlessly

(Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

9.     Follow up with micro editing

Once you are done with the macro editing, go on and check the sentences.  We tend to use more words than necessary so it will be best to check each sentence to ensure that each word and sentence are relevant enough to be kept in your work.

10.   Read it again

Do not be tired of reading.  There are times that mistakes are committed while editing the work so you must make sure that your work of art will leave no space for any error.

11.   Another spell check session

As you did the reading part once again, it is advisable for you to repeat the spell check part again.  As mentioned, there might be some errors committed while editing the writing so there is nothing wrong on spending no longer than 5 minutes to activate the spell check for your work.

All in all, self editing is undeniably not that easy but it does not mean that it is not doable.  Following the mentioned 11 tips will surely make one a great and effective writer and editor at the same time.

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Sandra Miller is a writer from New York. Writes her first book and learns the art of self publishing. Uses editing services to improve her book and make it perfect. She has a PhD in English literature, NYU graduate. 

♥♥♥

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Rebecca Berto is the author of Precise and Drowning in You. If you want book-release updates, please sign up at this form (email only when news, not weekly).

Follow Novel Girl by the buttons in the top left corner of the home page to stay updated.

How to choose an editor

Guest post by: Lauren McKellar

I know you’re pretty sceptical, right? A post on how to choose an editor written by *cough* an editor? But hear me out; after all, as someone in the industry, I definitely have a fairly good idea on the subject matter.

Option A: The ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ approach

We’ve all been down this road before. As writer people, we have writer friends; and, if you have writer friends, chances are one of them has hired an editor.

Ask them their thoughts on the process. Did they like the person they worked with? Was the feedback helpful? Were the rates reasonable? Was the schedule met? And (most importantly) would they work with them again?

If you’ve asked all these questions and found someone who is truly happy with their current editor, it may be time you approached them for a quote.

Option B: Flying Blind

So, all your writer friends are with publishing houses and you’re stuck trying to find a good editor from scratch. Or your author peeps all hate their current editors and have strongly suggested you find a new one, one that likes Pina Coladas and walks in the rain (or maybe that’s just me).

Don’t go in flying blind. There are several things you can do to determine if you and this person claiming to have the editorial goods are a match made in heaven or two different sized shoelaces.

Don’t choose based on price.

Dollars

(Photo credit: Timo Heuer)

Yes, price will come into your decision at some point, but if you go for the cheapest editor around it could end in heartbreak. If something seems too good to be true, it very well could be.

Make sure you check for any hidden pricing loopholes (e.g. time spent on work incurring extra fees, questions about editing resulting in more finance) and check the quality of their work before committing.

Of course, there are some cheap and quite skilled freelance editors out there (this is the part where I could say I’m one of them, but I won’t, because I’m not a hard sell like that). Check the quality of work before committing by asking for a…

Sample edit.

Many editors will offer a sample edit to show you the sort of service they can provide. Some will extend this branch for free, and others will charge. This should give you a fairly good idea of your editor-to-be’s skills and their approach.

Do they have a membership?

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 8.12.17 PMLet’s be honest: we’re living in a time where people from Nigeria send you emails about the millions you’ve inherited from a goat farm, if only you’ll send your bank details over.

It’s a world of con artists out there, and editors are no exception. If you’re looking at a new editor, check their website for testimonials (with links to actual books!) and see if they’re a member of an industry body. These groups can vary according to country, but there are a lot of them, and they’re generally quite reasonably priced and require references for membership – you want your editor to be aligned with one.

What’s their bedside manner like?

This is definitely a negotiable point, but when you email your editor-to-be, do they sound professional? Friendly? Or is their tone short and their words misspelt?

Open up that initial email and judge – judge harshly! Do you want to accept editor-level criticism from someone who accidentally said ‘their’ not ‘they’re’? Do you want someone who sounds nice and easy to relate to, or someone with a very professional and courteous tone? You’re going to be getting a lot of criticism from your editor, so it’s important you know what you want.

Good luck on your journey to find your ultimate editing partner; I wish you a long a happy edit-marriage together.

♥♥♥

Note from me, Rebecca.

I’d like to take the floor quickly to tell you I personally, highly recommend Lauren. She has been perfect for me editing-wise and easy and quick to chat to.

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You might also like:

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936682_445804275510239_1270348041_nLauren McKellar is a freelance editor currently taking on new clients for late August and beyond. With over six years publishing experience, she is currently a Senior Editor for digital romance house Entranced Publishing.

For more information on her services, visit her website here.

Character Profile Template — ready to download

English: Venn diagram depicting the relationsh...

Venn diagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I began wondering about research for my next manuscript. So I hunted down a character profile sheet so I could fully flesh out my characters, therefore cutting down revising, rewriting and drafting time. (And freaking out time.)

The result is this table below. It profiled everything I wanted to flesh out/note down and much more I didn’t think of.

I cannot take credit for this amazing reference guide. I found it here, by someone on the NaNoWriMo site forums.

I’ve searched many times in the past and there are tonnes — it’s just a matter of finding one that suits your needs as a writer. Please share this post for all your writer friends!

To download
I formatted this into tables (unlike the plain text on the original site) and pretty headings and such. It will look the most user-friendly if you download this Word document:

Character Profile Sheet

Though, you can just highlight, copy and paste the tables below. It may just look messy. [NOTE: the following is for viewing purposes.]

Happy drafting!


The Basics

Assumed Name:
Full Name:
Nickname:
Race:
Gender:
Age:
Birthday:
Place of Birth:

Physical Appearance

Height:
Weight:
Body Type:
Skin:
Eyes:
Hair:
Scars:
Tattoos:
Racial Distinctions:
Any Other Physical Distinctions:

Family Relationships

Mother:
Relationship with Mother:
Father:
Relationship with Father:
Siblings:
Relationship with siblings:
Other Relatives:
Relationships with other relatives:
Almost family members:
Reason for closeness:

Social Relationships

Sexual Orientation:
Romantically Involved:
Martial Status:
Spouse:
Children:
Friends:
Allies:
Enemies:

Personal Characteristics

Physical Strengths:
Physical Weaknesses:
Mental Strengths:
Mental Weaknesses:

Skills

Fighting:
Magic:
Technology:
Stealth:
Secrecy:
Manipulation:
Thievery:
Piloting:
Persuasiveness:

History

Childhood:
Teenage Years:
Adulthood:

More Details

Life

How would you describe your life overall?
What is your most memorable moment?
What has been the most important event in your life?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your number one regret?
When were you the most afraid?
What is your greatest fear? Why?
What is the most honorable or “good” thing you’ve ever done?
What is the most “evil” thing you have ever done?
Have you ever been in love? If so, describe what happened.
Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor/relative? Does that affect you?
Do you have any secrets? If so, what are they?

Personality

What three words would you use to best describe your personality?
What three words would others probably use to describe you?
Why are you risking your life to adventure?
Do you tend to argue with people or avoid conflict?
Are you a listener or a talker?
How long does it take for you to trust others?
Do you hold grudges?
Do you tend to take on leadership roles in social situations?
Do you like interacting with large groups of people?
Are you generally introverted or extroverted?

Personal Emotions

What makes you sad? Happy? Mad? Why?
Do you have any biases or prejudices?
What do you think of love?
Do you believe in self-sacrifice for the greater good?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Personal Relationships

Who is the most important person in your life and why?
Who is the person you respect the most? Despise the most? Why?

Goals

What are your goals?
What goal do you most want to accomplish in your lifetime?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? Twenty years?
If you could choose, how would you want to die?
What is the one thing you would like to be remembered for after your death?

 ***

Do you use character profile sheets?

♥♥♥

Rebecca Berto is the author of Precise, and Drowning in You. If you want book-release updates, please sign up at this form (email only when news, not weekly).

Follow Novel Girl by the buttons in the top left corner of the home page to stay updated.

 

How to edit out crap from your manuscript

Photo credit: Dan Patterson (http://www.flickr.com/photos/creepysleepy)

Photo credit: Dan Patterson (“creepysleepy”)

Editing can be damn hard but there are aspects of copy/line editing that, as I detail below, are dead easy to implement while you edit your manuscript. Here are some of the classics errors I tend to make and then edit out in the next draft.

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Example of cluttered writing:

– Original –

“I pull my pillow over my face, clutch it to me with both forearms thrown over and scream.”

Note: where else would I be clutching it to? Just a waste of words that ultimately bulk up the text for no good reason.

– Revision –

“I pull my pillow over my face, clutch it with both forearms thrown over and scream.”

Example of repetition:

– Original –

“Her voice echoes down the house, all the way to the pool house, and it’s when her voice peaks in the middle that I know she’s coming up the stairs.

“Ciao?” She calls at the top of the stairs, three rooms down from mine.”

Note: what the hell was I thinking. Obviously, I’m cutting some shit, badly!

– Revision –

“Her voice echoes down to the pool house, and it’s when it peaks in the middle that I know she’s coming up the stairs.

“Ciao?” She calls at the top, three rooms down from mine.”

Example of unbalanced list:

– Original –

“She was referring to the type that kidnap you, rape and kill you.”

Note: always use the same structure. I.e. “running, walking, and swimming”, not “you like to run, do walking, and swim”.

– Revision –

“She was referring to the type that kidnap, rape and kill you.”

Example of overwriting:

– Original –

“Darcy puffs out two cheekfuls of pent up air and slams the cordless phone back into another cradle in the hallway.”

Note: too confusing and too much. Simplify.

– Revision –

“Darcy huffs and slams the cordless phone back into a cradle in the hallway.”

Example of the useless adverb:

– Original –

“Come back,” I say to him as he attempts to run off immediately.”

Note: tell me in what way, in anyyy way, how that stupid thing tacked on makes a difference? The reader will imagine “him” running off as the character talks, so adding that word anyway is dead weight.

– Revision –

“Come back,” I say to him as he attempts to run off.”

***

What simple tricks do you have to add to this list?

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>>> Enter to WIN and add my New Adult Contemporary Romance novel, Drowning in You to Goodreads. (Coming April 12, 2013)

Why the best writing tip is much easier than you’d think

The number one tip I learned from my writing in 2012 is to write cinematically, write like you’re laying out an already-told story, and the most important factor of this is writing truthfully (that means not trying too hard).

I don’t think I read a single book on plot, characters, writing, etc in 2012. And my fiction

Some favourites from 2012!

Some favourites from 2012!

writing improved off the charts. In 2011, I started off my professional writing by reading lots on the craft but in 2012 I amped up my reading of fiction. It was the smartest decision I made. I read every novel like a writer. I looked closely at:

  • why characters made hard choices;
  • what traits my favourite characters had;
  • what types of things the antagonist (bad guy) would impose on the protagonist (good guy);
  • how the author weaved in subplots to complement the main plot (and did they come together to make sense why they occurred subsequently);

and so on.

Don’t get me wrong—I love reading novels for satisfaction and to increase my appreciation of life. I read for romantic pleasure, thrills, poetic resonance, etc.

But I never waste an opportunity when it comes to improving my fiction writing.

Below, I list a few quotes from Precise, my first published book from 2012. In summary, this is what I show you in concise form:

  1. Putting your spin on something famous/well-known for shock value.
  2. Conveying an image and creating characterisation.
  3. Combining narrative and dialogue for a Hollywood-worthy entrance for an important character.
  4. Important dynamic between protagonist/antagonist.
  5. Mindset/personality of protagonist.

This is the opening quote of Precise. The original, famous quote is liked by almost 26,700 people on Goodreads. I loved it so much, shocked by the power of the truth, that I knew I had to twist it and create a spin of it, said by the twisted mind of my protagonist.

ORIGINAL:

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.”

MY VERSION:

“I am kind and beautiful. I have a soul.

It’s better to be known for what I am not. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”

Conveying a particular image and characterisation:

“He smiles his banana-like grin, so big that at times like this I just want to rip it off his mouth.”

This is early in the book and just as we meet this important character, mum Rochelle, antagonist. It’s vital her personality is clear and interesting to the reader:

“At a four-foot radius marker, she [Rochelle] hits the invisible wall and screws up her face. “You look horrible, Katie. You’re just horrible,” Mom says, and struts off …”

This dynamic between the protagonist, Katie and Rochelle is one of my favourite parts (not including spoilers):

“Mom glazes her eyes over my face, my shoulders, my body. It seems as though I should try to be a smaller person. That way she’d feel better.

“You need to wait until you are worthy of having a child of your own.”

She pats her hair down, which is rock hard. Her action is pointless, but she’s worried about appearances as usual. “And someone like you who’s responsible for killing my babies—your own siblings—is not worthy.”

And I leave you with this. This, I love because it shows off Katie’s mindset and allows the reader to get to know her and her struggles:

“In my hands, the box is nothing. I could crush it. I could crush this box and show her. I lean into it and scream wordlessly. My grip is taut. Instead of crushing, I find myself spinning it around, to the underside, flipping the top open and peering in.”

As you can see, I’ve pulled out these lines from Precise to show you I didn’t write these with a formula in mind. I had these characters planned out (to the point they live with me as friends in my head) and I know how they’ll react. I don’t tell what they do above (Katie mum, Rochelle, is screwed up) I show it happening (someone like you who’s responsible for killing my babies—your own siblings—is not worthy).

The key is to discover the point of the scene you are writing and enhance it with the knowledge you’ve learned from applying your favourite techniques your favourite books/authors use.

We are at our best by learning first-hand (lotsss of reading) and then practising (lotsss of writing).

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Click to buy

♥♥♥

Buy Precise from Amazon for kindle or from Smashwords for all types of eReading devices. Or, follow my blog by the buttons in the top left corner of the home page.

Look… No, You Look: Writing Male and Female PoV by Rayne Hall

This post is awesome today. I have Rayne Hall to talk about the differences when writing in male vs. female points of view (PoV). She has the best tips, so soak it all up!

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Men and women experience the world differently.  In the same situation, they’re programmed to notice different things first. This is important for authors who write from the point of view of the opposite gender.

Things men tend to notice most:

  • Body postures
  • Female body shapes, especially breasts (regardless of whether or not he fancies the woman)
  • Anything to do with hierarchy (especially their own, and other men’s, place in the pecking order)
  • The size of things, especially their height
  • The speed of things, especially cars
  • Anything to do with motors
  • Tools
  • Weapons

Things women tend to notice most:

  • Facial expressions
  • Subtle changes in the sound of a voice
  • Clothes (colour, cut, fabric, design, fashion, quality, style)
  • Interpersonal relationships (who is on what terms with whom)
  • Other people’s emotions
  • Textures
  • Flowers
  • Children
  • Furniture and interior decorating

Click to view on Amazon

Of course, individual characters may be different. Gender is not the only factor; personal interests and training also play a big role. A male fashion designer will pay attention to clothes and fabrics, and a female mechanic to motors and tools.

Here are some examples of typical female and male PoV

Female PoV:

She scanned the contents of the trunk: an embroidered shawl, a wide-skirted gown of crimson brocade, several pieces of old lace, a velvet cloche hat, a toy car and some tools.

Male PoV:

He scanned the contents of the trunk: three slotted screwdrivers, a clawhammer, combination pliers, a matchbox-sized model of a Chrysler Imperial, and some old clothes.

Female PoV:

Mrs Browne wore a princess-cut dress of cerise silk with a tight-fitting bodice.

Male PoV:

Mrs Browne’s breasts strained the fabric of her pink dress.

Female PoV:

Joan chose the comfortable armchair with the velvet cushions.

Male PoV:

John chose the tall seat on the chief’s right.

***

If you want to discuss this concept or share some examples, please leave a comment. It would be fun to see some ideas for male/female variations.

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About Rayne Hall

Click to view on Amazon

Cartoon representation of Rayne Hall (Image credit: Rayne Hall)

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), and Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies. You can view her complete Amazon listing here.

Her short online classes for writers are intense with plenty of personal feedback. Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing about Magic and Magicians, The Word Loss Diet and more all available to learn more about here.

For more information about Rayne Hall go to her website.

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Rebecca Berto is the author of Precise, and Drowning in You. If you want book-release updates, please sign up at this form (email only when news, not weekly).

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Confessions of a Middle Grade Indie author and other tips to maintain your sanity

Today I’m welcoming Julie Grasso, Middle Grade author to share some seriously amazing tips all the way from writing to publishing and much more!

Image credit: julieannegrassobooks.com

She now has the floor …

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I had a dream to write children’s books.

As a registered pediatric nurse I spent the better part of 13 years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day I witnessed great courage and resilience which lead me to write a story about a little girl elf just like them, but that is the end of the story, let’s start from the beginning.

Confession 1: I didn’t know how to write a children’s book, so I bought a few books

  • Ebook, Become A Children’s Book Writer by Jill McDougal
  • Writing Best Selling Children’s Books by Alexander Gordon Smith
  • Writing Children’s Books For Dummies by Lisa Rojany Bucceri and Peter Economy

These books were absolutely brilliant, but they did alert me to the harsh facts about children’s book writing.

  • It is a very close-knit industry and many publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
  • Very few agents in Australia take on new clients.
  • It will probably take you several years to hone your book before it is even remotely palatable.
  • They suggested that I read lots of children’s books to get an idea of what other authors are writing about.

So I read a lot of kid’s books. Some I loved, some I couldn’t finish, but they gave me a great insight into the market and what kids are reading.

Confession 2: I do not speak literary

I thought that a Widget was a worm that got into your ear, a Meme was a typo, MC (main character) meant Master of Ceremonies, MS (manuscript) meant Multiple Sclerosis, WIP (work in progress) meant something you use to handle cattle, I can keep going if you like but you get the picture.

Here’s Julie’s Twitter profile (click)

  • When I joined Twitter only about six months ago, I didn’t know what all those words meant, but after following lots of authors and reading their tidbits and profiles and blogs and websites, I began to pick up the language.  I am proud to say, I think I now speak Literary and Twitter and I have found so many useful resources and made many new friends along the way, like Rebecca Berto’s fabulous blog Novel Girl. [Rebecca here: thanks!]

Confession 3: Honey, I shrunk my dream

  • When I started I had high hopes of dazzling the agents and publisher’s alike. I even managed to get the attention of an Aussie publisher, but sadly, there are only so many books they take on per year and they rarely take on unsolicited clients, but they did give me some encouragement. They liked my story; it just didn’t fit for them.
  • I got sucked in by the Agent Pitch Contests: Don’t bet me wrong, they are fabulous, they give you great feedback on your query; I even used some of my query as the back cover for my book so it was not all lost. However, I found myself getting so disappointed that I didn’t get the agents attention; despite having what I thought was a really great story that rivalled the other entrants.
  • I also queried a bunch of children book agents and didn’t get offers, but I feel a path I had to pursue before I was really ready to change my dream of publishing to seriously focus on Self Publishing.

Confession: 4 Honey, I maxed out the credit card

Well, not exactly but my self-publishing dream was not free and there were some costs that I decided I would absorb with the chance that I may never ever recoup. Here is what I spent money on.

  • Early in my drafts, I had a manuscript assessment. This was a paid service through The Writers Workshop in the UK. Val Tyler is a children’s book author. She gave me an honest critique which I used like my bible. I even resubmitted to her my redraft for a further fee, but it was still not ready.
  • I would have to say it was probably another five edits later that I felt my story was ready for professional editing, which I also did. Not for the feint of purse but certainly worth the money.
  • I had an awesome cover created by an animator friend. It was exactly what I wanted but I had a really clear vision of my cover from very early on in my writing. I managed to impart that to my illustrator, David Blackwell of www.drawshootmove.com

Confession 5: I did the formatting myself for print on demand and eBook

  • I posed a question early on my blog because I was not sure if an eBook was going to reach my middle grade audience. I realised I had to do Print On Demand as well as eBook if I was going to even remotely get my book into kids hands. My research showed that the eReader technology is not yet that accessible and affordable for a lot of families.
  • I also researched a few self-publishing companies but I realised that they kind of lock you into their distribution channels making it difficult to get Amazon reviews. I realised that I simply didn’t need them.
  • I used Createspace, which took a bit of learning but their do it yourself stuff is really great. I had my husband help me edit it as he is a computer whizz, but at some point I had to say no more edits, it’s time to go to the mattresses. (Godfather quote FYI).
  • Once my book was ready on Createspace, It was actually very easy to go to Kindle Direct Publishing.  I thought I would not be able to figure this out and would have to pay, but my hubby helped me research it and it wasn’t that hard.
  • I bought my own ISBN in a block of 10. If I had used one of the Createspace generated ISBNs I would not be able to republish using that ISBN in the future if my secret dream of getting a publishing deal ever comes to fruition.
  • I found a great blog site that had a run down on how to get an EIN so that I wouldn’t have to pay 30% tax to the US government as a foreigner. Have a look at http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/02/24/non-us-self-publisher-tax-issues-dont-need-to-be-taxing/.
  • I read an awesome post by fellow twitterer Christine Nolfi @christinenolfi, about how to get rave reviews www.molly-greene.com/how-to-get-your-book-reviewed. I have been collecting book bloggers sites in a spread sheet for nearly six months and I have narrowed my list down to about 40. I started submitting my review letter to them about three weeks ago after I launched on Amazon. To date I have 16 confirmed bloggers happy to accept my title for review and six author interviews and giveaways. Not bad for a little indie.

Confession 6: Self Publishing is hard work

As my sister once told me she would have given it in a long time ago. However, I want my daughter to one day know that her mum had a dream and she pursued it and this is the result.

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Click image to purchase at Amazon

Check out my cover to the left and you can find me at:

Website: www.julieannegrassobooks.com

Twitter: @jujuberry37

Book at Goodreads:

Escape From The Forbidden Planet

Facebook page:

Julie Anne Grasso books

Buy Julie’s book in paperback:

Amazon

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Click to add my book, PRECISE to Goodreads

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Indie or traditional publishing: what’s right for you?

Click for details!

I’m on tour with Melissa Foster today! She’s been kind enough to write a post on traditional and self-publishing. Click her name above (for website) or the picture to the left (for blog tour) to learn more about her. Or perhaps you love free books? Yup, she’s giving away books too if you get on over to her blog tour page quick! (click the pic too!)

Read on for Melissa’s specialist, insider info!

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I’m a line straddler, and I love it!

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the lines of publishing.

Those who know me, or have read my blog posts, know that I don’t believe in drawing lines in the sand. An author is an author, no matter how they publish. However, there are definite differences in the avenues to publication.

I’m often asked if authors should query agents or publish independently, and that’s not a question I can answer for any writer. The answer must come from within. For me, I hope to straddle the independent and traditional lines of publishing.

I think there is much to be learned from traditional publishers—and yes, I hear your comments about how independent authors can make more money and sell more books while maintaining control of their product, but I believe there is value in both avenues, and I also believe there are many aspects of publishing that independent authors are not privy to, and might benefit from learning.

I’m not personally fearful of publishers changing my voice—I might learn how to be a better writer from their changes. I’m not worried about the prices being higher than indie books—I believe readers buy what they want to read. The waiting time is a bit painful for someone like me—oh ye of little patience—but I tell myself, perhaps it will be worth it.

If you are deciding whether to query or publish, here you might want to ask yourself.

Goals

What are your publishing goals? Do you hope to see your book on brick and mortar bookstore shelves or do you simply hope to sell books?

If you hope to see your book on the shelves of bookstores, what are your other goals? Even independent authors can get their books into Barnes and Noble bookstores. You cannot do so if you publish through CreateSpace, but you have a strong chance of succeeding if you use an independent distributor and are willing to increase your price and give B&N 55% of the revenue.

Patience

How patient are you? Querying agents and publishers takes time…oodles of time, and that’s just the beginning of the hurry up-and-wait process.

Most authors will wait 4–12 weeks to hear back from agents regarding their initial query, then there’s another 4–12 weeks of waiting while the agent reads the partial or full manuscript. If you are lucky enough to be offered representation, often there are revisions required before submitting to publishers—and that’s when the real wait comes in. Editors can take 8–10 weeks to read your manuscript, and if you think that once you have an agent, your manuscript is a shoe-in, you’re dead wrong. It simply means you are above the rest—in the preferred read section.

If your manuscript passes muster, you then go through months of revisions—hurry up and wait—before publication. Read this post by Greenhouse Literary to get a feel for the waiting process.

Control

Are you willing to give up control of your cover, possibly your subplots, and your title? Yup, that can happen.

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Wow, that seems like a lot of reasons not to try to traditionally publish, doesn’t it? After all, if you self-publish, you can do so in 24 hours and on your own terms.

Let’s look at another set of questions, and you might see why I’m pro both independent and traditional publishing.

Why

Why do you want to publish independently? Is it because you do not want to wait through months of editorial changes? Do you think your book is just fine the way it is?

Is it the work that’s making you say, “No way!”? Is it the idea that a strong editor might redline a 15-page document indicating changes to your manuscript?

Or is it a rush to publish?

Perhaps you have had your book edited and you feel it doesn’t need anything further.

Editors (and hiring)

Many people who call themselves editors have no real editorial experience. They’ve got a degree in English (or not), and they’ve written newsletters for companies, or they’re avid readers and feel they’re capable of “knowing” what’s required for a strong story. Guess what—most don’t. And no, beta readers and critique partners cannot replace a strong developmental edit.

While it’s true that sometimes traditionally published books are too dry, or they aren’t risky enough, a poorly edited book is far worse than a slow story. Don’t judge an editor by their price—some will charge $2000 but have no experience to back it up, while others will charge $1200 and can make your story shine.

Once you’ve worked with a strong developmental editor, you’ll never go back to a run-of-the-mill editor. That alone might be a good reason for some to strive for traditional publication, to hone their craft with experienced editors.

The “rush”

What’s the rush? Books should be the best they can possibly be before hitting the virtual shelves.

All too often, authors finish writing their book, and two days later it’s available on Amazon. Most books should be put down after completion, at least for a few days, then revisited—and professionally edited. There is no rush to the finish line. Take your time, nurture your story. Readers aren’t going anywhere—you aren’t missing sales by taking your time. Several literary professionals critiquing your story might just make it possible for your good story to be excellent.

Marketing

Marketing is hard to do. However, in some cases having a big name publisher behind your book can help your book find its wings among readers that are not tuned in to the indie connections—there are thousands of readers that are not using social media. There is no guarantee that a publisher will do anything for the marketing of your book, but for some, traditional publishing is a smart marketing move.

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Some of you simply want the thumbs up that comes with traditional publication, and guess what, that’s okay. We are all free to dream our own dreams and create our own paths. Don’t let anyone make you feel badly for wanting something on your own terms.

The choice to independently publish or traditionally publish your books is not an easy one, and there is no right or wrong answer. If you are an author, keep an open mind, do what is right for you at that moment in your life, and what is right for your specific manuscript. Some manuscripts are meant to be indie books, while others find homes with publishers.

As I always say, take the path that makes you the happiest. #YouMatter

Why did you choose your publishing route?

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Melissa’s site links:

Website 

Facebook 

Twitter: @Melissa_Foster

My social network for women: 

World Literary Café 

Fostering Success 

Goodreads  

>> Melissa Foster’s latest release: COME BACK TO ME (Women’s fiction, 116 reviews, 4-star average)

I want to buy your book but — (Part 2, Editing)

but …

Now — let me backtrack a step. I assume you read my first post in the series, Covers, and re-did your cover ASAP. Now your reader is impressed and has allowed you to show them the next step: the content.

Before we continue there’s logic to the title of this series. It suggests a few things, but it’s not about your potential reader finding your book through a personal recommendation – in that case you don’t need to read this series. Your book works!

This series assumes your potential reader has found you because:

  • they noticed a Facebook/Twitter conversation about your book;
  • they saw your book advertised on a blog/website; or
  • they were randomly perusing the list of books on sale at a store.

They are intrigued. However, they know nothing about the quality of your book. In order to impress your readers, there are a few teeeny little editing issues you must execute well:

Copyright page for THE BOOK THIEF

1. Front Matter — Copyright page

This is a necessary page in any book — fiction, non-fiction or another type of publication. A page with quotes and praises is nice but not necessary, so are other superfluous content.

Some readers may not notice little errors but writers do, and if you stuff it up enough, any reader with an IQ above 85 will realise you’re an amateur.

Immediate thought? If they can’t get this “simple” stuff right, how can I trust them to write a good book?

A professional-looking copyright has these features:

  • Something very similar to Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Berto (but other variations are okay);
  • First publication of the work such as Published in Australia by Rebecca Berto in (June) 2012;
  • [For fiction] The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author;
  • The location of printing (books)/producing (eBooks) such as This eBook produced by Rebecca Berto Press, Melbourne, Australia;
  • ISBN; and
  • The reservation of rights such as All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced, scanned, electronically shared or uploaded without the permission of the publisher.

I’m just sayin’. Miss out on this and you’re already losing points for professionalism.

2. Structural/developmental edit [for fiction]

I’ve mentioned this briefly before. I will do it now. And later on.

Your book needs story editing. This means either you hire a professional structural/developmental editor or you use the kindness of writers and readers who will critique and advise you of the following:

Characters

  • Characters: need believable motivations for all decisions that affect plot, especially for important events; need to be empathised with and relatable (note I did NOT say likable. This is amateur. Who liked Professor Snape in Harry Potter books 1-5? Not me!); and they need to be 3D by ensuring they have legitimate and related wants (what they think they need), needs (what they actually need to achieve to get their goal) and a story arc where they change and learn something.
  • Plot (moment at climax)

    Plot: you need the three-act structure, meaning you have features such as hook/inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, second plot point, and climax (read more about this here); and you need to moderate pacing which means high-action scenes are mixed with lower-action scenes and they are all high in conflict that grab the reader more so as they reach the climax.

    Theme

  • Theme/resolute message: your book needs to be written for a message that backs up the plot; you need a theme, one-sentence explanation, and ideas of what your story is really about (think of this as your characters and plot are chucked into the story to bring this theme/resolute message to “fruition”).

3. Copy/line edit (+ proofread to eliminate errors)

Ideally a copy/line edit will ensure consistency, clarity, and conciseness of sentences, but a proofread should always be done after the copy/line edit to pick up any typos or missed errors.

Marked-up manuscript

This stage differs from the story edit regarding a “DIY”, low-cost approach. A strict observation of grammar and spelling rules is needed and readers don’t have the skills necessary and neither do most writers. Therefore I strongly suggest you hire a copy editor to rectify the following issues:

  • Redundancies: E.g. 1 not the big, strong, tall man but the “hulking man” (choose the best-fitted adjective over many sort-of-fitted words). E.g. 2 not my own book but “my book” (“my” says the book is yours; adding “own” suggests your reader is too dumb to figure out the former explanation).
  • Conciseness: E.g. not this was when it all seemed to end for the little girl who was only naïve, but “it seemed to end for the naïve girl.”
  • Length: E.g. replacing three long sentences each of 25 words to two, twenty-word sentences followed up by a three-word sentence fragment.
  • And other sentence- and grammatical-errors such as: subject-verb agreement; correct forms of verbs; dangling, squinting, and misplaced modifiers, tense, run-on sentences, parallel constructions where intended, coordination and subordination where necessary, etc.

4. BONUS TIP:

First paragraphs of a book, chapter and after a line break are always hard-up against the margin. [Click Amazon preview for proof and scroll to the first sentence] Here’s this in Twilight, a modern bestseller; and here is this in the classic that inspired Twilight, Pride & Prejudice.

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I hope you are enjoying this series. I have an idea for the third — and perhaps final — part in the series, but what do you want to see me blog about in “I want to buy your book but–”? 

Q: * What do you think about the editing needs for a book? *

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