Especially for Writers

Especially for writers, the “Starting a New Manuscript” edition.

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Don’t “Google” It

© Viperagp | Dreamstime.com - Computer Mouse And Globe Photo

© Viperagp | Dreamstime.com – Computer Mouse And Globe Photo

One of the fun things about being an editor–and I am one, in case you’ve forgotten–is trying to keep up with the ever-changing lexicon. Because of television and technology, we have new words thrown at us all the time. (Even though it’s not new, I just recently learned what TARDIS is.)

Editors have to stay on top of things, like when a client is using a trademarked brand name as a verb. Google is the perfect example. Even my 83-year-old mother asks me to “google” things for her. But according to “Google Calls in the Language Police,” the company isn’t too happy about the way their name is becoming a common household word. You can search the Internet using the Google search engine, but you can’t “google” anything.

Personally, I’m not sure I understand that. If someone wanted to go shopping for romance novels, I’d love it if they’d go yezaking. “Let’s go yezaking and find something good to read.” Yeah, I’d like that–assuming whatever they bought had my name on the cover. Which, I guess, is the point of angst for Google. I tend to google things on Yahoo’s search engine. No particular reason. I’d use Google’s too. Whichever. I’m not picky.

The way I see it, though, Google is fighting a losing battle, at least as far as spoken language is concerned. But we editors have to protect our clients from using brand names casually. Therefore, whenever their characters xerox something, we protect them from Xerox and have their character copy it instead. When they reach for a kleenix, we hand them a tissue. When a character asks for a Coke and he means Dr. Pepper, even here in the South where that’s a common occurrence, we pop the top of a soda can. One never knows when the head honcho at the corporate legal department will read the novel I just finished editing and explode lawsuits all over my poor client (who then will likely jump on me).

The in-house editor of one of my novels so avidly deleted brand names–even when they weren’t used as verbs–that she edited out a name I invented myself. Many authors, myself included, use brand names in our works. Chain restaurants, car brands, popular running shoes. I’ve heard that Disney and Walmart aren’t too crazy about the practice. I’ve also heard that if you use a brand name and let the company know, they may pitch in and help advertise for you, since it also promotes them. So frankly, I don’t know whether or not it’s okay to use these common, household names. But I do know it’s never a good idea to turn those names into verbs, at least not until it is such a part of the lexicon the threat of a suit is non-existent.

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Sluicing Away 40 Years

What can make you feel both old and like a kid again in one fell swoop? A 40th high school reunion. Memories come flooding back at the mere mention of a name, and “Do you remember when . . . ?” prefaces almost as many sentences as “Whatever happened to . . .?”

Bryan High School was larger than I remember it. Someone said there were roughly 700 in our graduating class. I didn’t remember 700 being in the entire school, but my memory tends to be faulty. This is the left third of the panorama of our graduating class:

Bryan high 1975I’m in there somewhere. The hubs found me right off, but it took me a few minutes. Anyway, like I said, this was about a third of us, and the next pic is of everyone who showed up for the reunion–roughly a quarter of us:

Bryan high 2015

 

 

I’m in there somewhere, too.

Looking past all the expanding waists, drooping jowls, and wrinkled brows are the folks I went to school with–some for as many as twelve full years. We had a book of remembrance to honor those from our class who’ve already passed on, and year books so we can get close-up views of how dorky we all were back then. And we had pictures taken as we came in, so we can see close-ups of how much we’ve changed since then. Of course, some hardly changed at all in looks or personality. A little age around the edges, a little more wisdom, but otherwise just the same.

Reconnecting with some of these people has been the highlight of this year. I can’t believe this is the first reunion I’ve been to. Can’t wait for the next one!

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Especially for Writers

Especially for writers–the proofreading edition (in celebration of finishing The Final Ride).

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What Comes After “Book”

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It seems to take an eternity to go from dream to book. I have ideas that float around in my head and never seem to navigate as far as the page, even to sketch the primary components. Others sit in loose outline form in a file on my computer, and still others, few though they are, have made it to Amazon.

For me, the hard part truly begins once the book is out there. You look at this picture, this meme, this almost-accurate graphic, and you see “Book” sitting on an iceberg, and although the reader boat is in the vicinity, it’s heading the wrong way. Smart sailing. No boat wants to collide with an iceberg. Somehow, you have to change the image to that of a welcoming tropical island. After all, islands go just as deep.

Folks who are great at marketing know how to make their books appeal to readers. They know how to have the palm tree fronds waving in the breeze, and the smell of tropical fruit and pig roasts and frosty coconut drinks with little umbrellas wafting over the ocean to entice that little boat in. And considering that there are far more writers competing for a only a handful of readers these days, that’s exactly what we need–a big ol’ continuous luau that’s bigger and better than everyone else’s.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible and learning about Amazon’s lists and how to get on them, and about categories and key words, and all these other things that have been vaguely mentioned sometime or other in my past, while I was trying to learn how to write. I truly believe that writers conferences do their members a grave disservice when they don’t offer more comprehensive courses on marketing, promoting, and playing the game of internet distribution. Many authors will never find their books inside a physical store, so internet distribution is the only way they can go–which is hardly a bad thing, considering that only through the World Wide Web can they hope to attain world-wide sales.

But it’s so complex and complicated, it seems, and time consuming. You really have to stay on top of things. Gaughran even suggested running your key words through Google’s key word search to see if they’re popular. Well, he admitted getting the idea from Joanna Penn–and who doesn’t get ideas from her? But it’s all like turning “Hit or Miss” into a precise science. First, you must understand Amazon’s algorithms, then if you have the right category lists and if you have the right key words and if you have enough sales and if you have enough reviews, you might land on one of Amazon’s coveted lists and might even be poked up to the top of the list of other books whose authors didn’t know the correct formula to get theirs noticed. And if you are truly lucky and trade winds blow in your favor, you might get to stay on the lists for a while.

Well, I’m belly-aching. Groaning and complaining because I really do hate this part. True, most of this falls on my publisher’s shoulders. All I have to do is continue promoting my books so their manipulations of Amazon’s quirks will work in my favor. Play my role in the hit-or-miss science of marketing and promotions.

There’s another meme floating around Amazon–one I’ve seen a thousand times, but can’t find it now that I need it. It says, “All I really want is coffee and a million dollars.”

Yes. Oh, yes. I’d down the coffee and buy myself a market/promotion/publicist expert.

 

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It’s Done, Now What?

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While I was at Mom’s last week, I read The Final Ride to her. Because of her macular degeneration, she’d never be able to read it herself, which is reason enough to read it to her, but I have another, more selfish reason: Reading my story aloud helps me catch mistakes and awkward sentences, and, in getting Mom’s reaction to certain scenes, lets me know if the scenes will get the emotional responses I’m after.

I know, I know–a relative isn’t a good judge of your work. That is why I have several others go through it too. But Mom’s no push-over. We’ve argued over things as simple as word choice to things as major as characterization. She has learned over the years how to be a valuable critique partner. Darn it. I would love to have at least one person who’ll just sing my praises and tell me I’m wonderful, but no, everyone’s a critic.

I came home from her house with a print-out version of the novel that is covered in red marks and tons of notes of how I can make this thing better, meaning I am officially in the editing stage. As I’ve said before, because I edit as I go, there isn’t a lot to do, but my primary weakness is word count. I tend to write short books. They’re not short enough to be novellas, but not really long enough to match the full-length novels expected by most publishers. So, my editing phase usually entails finding places to crank up the word count.

While I’m editing this, I’m also keeping in mind that I’ll have to launch it next year and I’ll have to market it in all the years to come–at least until I just get sick of it and give up. Hopefully that won’t be for a long time. Anyway, in preparation for this, I’ve found a book that is different from other marketing books.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve read a lot of books about “getting out there.” I’m beginning to consider these tomes to be more about building a platform than about actual marketing, and they all say pretty much the same–have a blog, be on social media, be friendly and accessible, don’t be in “sales mode” 24/7, etc, etc, etc.

visibleThen I found this one–and I forgot who tipped me off about it. So far, I’ve read only the prologue, but I already love it. In Let’s Get Visible, David Gaughran focuses on sales for self-published authors, but I can see how it’ll be great even for trad-pubbed authors. He discusses how to work Amazon: how to work the sales rank, recommendation engine, best seller list, etc. And he discusses strategies–is “free” a good idea? What are the benefits of running a sale?

Everything he’s mentioned here is a mystery to me. I hate this part of the job, and would rather focus on writing–just like almost every other writer I know. But unlike every other writer I know, I’ve avoided having to learn this and am suffering the consequences of my ignorance.

But not anymore. I’m diving in.

I belong to several groups that specialize in marketing and sales strategies, but you really have to stay on top of them. Some are organized enough to have notes on file pertaining to the discussions they’ve had on different sales topics and techniques, but, organized or not, they still tend to be a bit helter-skelter. I need something more like Gaughran’s book. At least to start with. I need to learn the terminology and the very basics of this mess.

So–what’s next? Editing and studying and scheming out a marketing plan. We’ll see how effective all this is in about a year.

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Especially for Writers

Especially for Writers–the “editing” edition (in honor of the completion of The Final Ride).

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From One Extreme to Another

While I’ve been finishing up the manuscript for my romantic comedy, The Final Ride, I’ve been reading as much as possible–of course. My books of choice last month reflected my eclectic tastes.

lindaThe first, The Scarlet Letter Opener, fed my love for cozy mysteries. This is Linda Au’s first attempt at a cozy, but she’s not a novice writer. She writes a lot of comedy, and her experience with making readers laugh is evidenced in The Scarlet Letter Opener.

Maggie Velam is a divorced empty-nester and a work-from-home professional proofreader, with a mother who cooks (unlike her) and a son who wants to move back in. She has a friend named Helga who works at the local newspaper for which she freelances.

During one of her trips to the office for a meeting with the new editor, Lee Gerber, she finds him slumped over his desk with a letter opener poking out of his back. Clues are non-existent, but Maggie and her clan set out to discover, in their own, bumbling ways, who killed Gerber Baby.

Lots of humor in this novel, but word of warning to my more sensitive readers: this one contains some language that extends just a hint over “mild.”

bettyIn Annabelle’s Ruth, Betty Thomason Owens tells a poignant story of two women, Annabelle and Connie, that is deeply reminiscent of the Biblical story of Ruth, as the title implies. Annabelle and her daughters-in-law, one of whom is Connie, all lose their husbands at the same time in a boating accident. For Annabelle, it is a severe loss. She must sell the house to afford burial for her husband and move from California back to her home in Tennessee.

Connie loves her mother-in-law, and can’t bare to lose her as well. She follows Annabelle to her family in Tennessee, but as a Hawaiian, she isn’t easily accepted by many.

This beautiful story is told gently and thoughtfully–trademark of Betty’s writing. Readers of women’s fiction will enjoy this one.

I haven’t decided what I’ll read next yet, I just know that I will read! So many books, so little time.

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It’s Done!

The End

I did it! As I announced in my post “Attacked!,” I intended to finish my western romance manuscript, Riding Herd, by the end of the week, and I did! Despite that stupid trojan horse, I wrote “the end” on Riding Herd Saturday evening at 6. That was first deadline I’ve met since I started making deadlines for it.

Let me tell you, the final scene is my absolute favorite story-ender of any I’ve ever written–and many I’ve read. The idea for this precious scene came to me while I was washing dishes, and I don’t think I even dried my hands before heading for something to write it on.

But, I had title problems. The subplot that I had to pull out of the story (see “Big Ol’ Flop“) was the very thread that gave the book its title. I’m saving that thread for book three, so there may be a Riding Herd yet.

The next title idea was One Last Ride, but a friend pointed out that it had already been used on an erotic book. As a Christian romance, my book is definitely not erotic. I played with the idea of keeping the title, though, so whenever someone searched the name, my book would come up too. But I chickened out.

So, the book title is The Final Ride, assuming my publisher lets me keep it. I think readers of Give the Lady a Ride are going to love the sequel!

Because I usually edit as I go, this thing is just about ready to send to my publisher. One more run-through after my monthly trip to Mom’s, and I’ll send it on its way. A year from now, I’ll hold it in my sweet little hands. Can’t wait!

The Final Ride short blurb:

She wants to begin her new life in Texas, but her family wants her back in New York.
He wants to return to the rodeo circuit, but he promised her he wouldn’t.
When one’s promises clash with the other’s desires, who will take The Final Ride?

What do you think?

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Especially for Writers

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Posted in Authors, Misc., Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged | 4 Comments