After Revisions: What’s Next

 I finally—finally!—finished the revisions for Ride to the Altar.  This is the first time I’ve ever had to revise so extensively after writing “the end.” But I’m glad I did. I really love the results.

But even now, I’m not finished. From here, it goes to my critique partner. And if history proves itself as repetitive as everyone claims, I’ll have a few more revisions/corrections to make once she is done. And, after that, it’ll go to my copy editor, and I’ll have even more corrections to make.

Meanwhile, though, I can’t touch it, but I also can’t sit on my hands. While Katie works her magic with the content edit, I need to be working on other things.

Jane Friedman, one of the gurus for the indie-publishing industry, has a terrific checklist of things that need to be done before a book can be released. I found my copy of it the other day, which is a true blessing. Since I printed the list, I’ve helped release a couple of collections without it because I kept forgetting about it. So finding it now was perfect timing, because it’ll make things so much easier.

At this point, following Jane’s list (or my version of it—of course I amended some things), I need to write the book description for distribution sites and the back cover copy. I also want a few quick one-liners that I can whip out of my memory and spout out to potential customers at sales events.

You’d think these would be easy, but they’re not always. They have to be concise and enticing, while conveying enough of the story to pique the interest of a potential reader. I approach this the same way I do all my writing: get it down, let it rest, read and revise it—repeat until it sparkles.

This is also when I need to review and update my bio, and write my dedication and acknowledgments and any other extraneous matter I want to include. One of the things I’m learning to include in my publications is my “also-by” list. All these books, also by—Me! I include cover images and brief story descriptions, along with the links for each book. For the print version, I simply list where the books are available (someday, I hope to say, “Available everywhere books are sold,” but I’m not at that point yet. Sigh).

I’ve learned my lesson about previewing or advertising upcoming books, though it took me two tries before it finally sunk in. In 2016, I announced the release of Ride to the Altar in 2017, not realizing what a booger-bear it was going to be to write. In 2017, I released the prequel to my Southern Challenge series in our Coming Home collection and got blasted because the first in that series doesn’t release until 2019. Announcing the year may have been a mistake also because I sincerely doubt I’ll have it done by then. So, from now on, unless the novel is already in production, or at least content edit, I’ll never advertise a future book that way again.

Back to Jane’s list.

This is the time to think about the cover design. My cover designer has a form she sends to me to guide me through what she needs, and she likes for me to have images for her to work from. While I search for these images, I also look for other pics that I can use for:

  • memes and ads for cyberspace (another place to use those quick one-liners)
  • a Pinterest board
  • banners for Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites, my website, blog, and newsletter
  • full- and table-sized posters for events
  • mail-out ads

Jane recommends that we finalize the cover after the edit, but she also lists only a copy edit (her list may be geared toward nonfiction writers, but I’m not sure). Since I have content and copy edits, I can’t finalize anything yet. The cover designer needs a page count so she’ll know how wide to make the spine for the print version, and I won’t know that. So, after Katie finishes her edit and I revise according to her recommendations, I’ll send the manuscript off to my copy editor and continue with my image hunt.

While my copy editor has the manuscript, there’s something else I need to consider that isn’t on Jane’s list: pre-release promotion. By the time Janet takes over, I hope to have a solid date when my novel will release, so I need to solicit opportunities to promote it. Friends’ blogs, for instance. Magazine articles. And I need to organize my street team and marketing pals. I even need a few pre-release teases to start cranking up interest.

And, since the bulk of the hard edits are done, I can send out some not-quite-error-free ARCs for readers, so when the novel goes live, I can have a few reviews. Advance reader copies come in handy, because some of my advanced readers are beta readers, and they catch things the others don’t. But aside from the betas, another reason to use ARCs is to gain endorsements and a few praise-laden comments from other authors in my genre that, with their permission, I could also turn into ads.

This doesn’t cover everything that will happen between now and the time the novel releases, but it’s enough to make me feel overwhelmed right now, so I think I’ll quit listing them. Later, I may fill you in on other things on the to-do list: purchasing the ISBN, applying for the copyright and listing with the Library of Congress, formatting the print and digital versions, deciding between Kindle exclusivity vs. broad distribution, determining pre- and post-release pricing, etc. etc. etc.

Let the fun begin.

 

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Especially for Writers

I’m sure you’ve seen this before. And I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve been revising Ride to the Altar. Guess which phase I’m in now . . .

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Especially for Writers

The daydream of every writer—readers.

Now go to work.

Yeah, we all look like that when we write, don’t we? 😀

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New Christian Titles for February 2018!

Starting a little early to announce Lynnette Bonner’s newest title, Soft Kisses & Birdsong, which doesn’t release until March, but since she’s doing a pre-release promo, I thought I’d let you in on it. She’s got some wonderful giveaways for three lucky winners. Follow the link. It’ll tell you all about the book and the giveaway. Good luck in the giveaway!

February 2018 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical:

A Passionate Hope, Hannah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith — Hannah has spent her life trusting God, loving her husband, putting up with abuse from a second wife and still she has no child–until one day she discovers the secret to her own heart’s longings and rejoices in what will soon become God’s promised hope. (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Contemporary Romance:

Focus On Love by Candee Fick — In the standalone sequel to Dance Over Me, photographer-turned-actress Liz meets a freelancer who has put his career on hold, but when Ryan shows her what true love is all about, her life may never be the same. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Love by the Numbers by Laura V. Hilton — When false allegations by the bishop back home catch up with Lydia and threaten to ruin her reputation, can she clear her name and find lasting happiness? Or will her sunny disposition fade away into heartbreak? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

Historical Romance:

This Treacherous Journey by Misty M. Beller — Widowed and with child, Emma Malcom is fleeing arrest. Innocent of her husband’s crimes, she and her brother hope to make it through the Rockies to Canada for a clean start. When a city woman, heavy with child, appears on Simeon Grant’s doorstep with her injured brother, her presence resurrects memories he’s worked hard to forget. Widowed and childless because of his own bad choices, can he overcome the past that haunts him to give her the safety she needs? Will Emma break through the walls around Simeon’s heart before it’s too late, or will the dangers of these mountains be the end of them all? (Historical Romance, ACFW Qualified Independently Published)

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron — Ellie Carver arrives at her grandmother’s bedside expecting to find her silently slipping away. Instead, the beloved woman speaks of a secret past and castle ruins. Of a hidden chapel that served as a rendezvous for the French Resistance in World War II. Of lost love and deep regret . . . But her grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s, and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family’s history. Drawn by the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty—a castle so named for Charles Perrault’s beloved fairy tale—Ellie embarks on a journey to France’s Loire Valley to unearth its secrets before time silences them forever. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

The English Lieutenant’s Lady by Evelyn M. Hill — I’m not your enemy.” He held her gaze, willing her to believe the lie. It’s 1845. Britain and America both claim the Oregon Territory, and neither side is willing to back down. To survive, British Lieutenant Geoffrey Montgomery and American Lia Griggs both are pretending to be someone they’re not. The last thing either of them wants is to fall in love. And as the threat of war grows stronger, choosing to stay together could cost them everything they have. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Widow of Rose Hill by Michelle Shocklee — Widowed during the war, Southern slave owner Natalie Ellis strikes a bargain with a Union Colonel to save her plantation and her son’s inheritance: in exchange for use of her family’s property, the army will provide workers to bring in her cotton crop. Natalie Ellis is everything Colonel Levi Maish loathes: a Southern slave owner. But the plight of the beautiful Widow Ellis stirs to life his compassion and the heart he’d thought hardened by war. While the army camps on her land, Levi finds himself contemplating a future with Natalie and Samuel. But when he learns where her husband perished during the war, he knows a life with Natalie is impossible. How could she ever forgive him for what he’d done in battle on the banks of the Bull Run? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin — As D-day approaches, an American naval officer and a British Wren work together on invasion plans. But if he succeeds, will he destroy what she loves most? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Across the Blue by Carrie Turansky — A determined young aviator who strives to be the first to fly across the English Channel also longs to win the heart of an aspiring journalist who is secretly covering the race across the Channel. (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

The Mail-Order Brides Collection by Megan Besing, Noelle Marchand, Donna Schlachter, Sherri Shackelford, Michelle Shocklee, Ann Shorey, Liz Tolsma, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Nine advertisements for brides lead to inconvenient complications in romance. Traveling west alone on a promise of marriage, each woman has her reasons to accept a husband sight unseen. Some are fleeing poverty or abuse while others simply seek hope for a brighter future. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

High Treason by DiAnn Mills — CIA Operative Monica Alden and FBI Special Agent Kord Davidson face the challenge of their careers when a Saudi Prince’s life is threatened on American soil. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


Kill Shot by Susan Sleeman
As the ballistics and weapon’s expert for the FBI’s special task force nicknamed the White Knights, Rick Cannon has known the Department of Defense was developing self-steering bullets and feared their effects in the hands of the wrong people. Now his fear is coming true. The ammunition been stolen, and the Knights are called in to find the thief and stop the killings. When therapist Olivia Dobbs discovers one of her military clients moments after he is murdered, she becomes both the FBI’s prime witness, and suspect. But with a sniper now training his rifle on her, Rick must recall all the skills he learned as a Marine sniper to make sure the next bullet fired isn’t a kill shot that takes Olivia out. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])

Supernatural Thriller:

The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart — In this fresh take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, James L. Rubart explores the war between the good and evil within each of us—and one man’s only chance to overcome the greatest divide of the soul. (Supernatural Thriller from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Western:

Cheyenne Sunrise by Janalyn Voigt — Can a woman with no faith in men learn to trust the half-Cheyenne trail guide determined to protect her? (Western by Mountain Brook Ink)

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Especially for Writers

In keeping with my posts pertaining to character emotion . . .

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Character Emotions

During my revisions yesterday, I reached a critical scene, one that should’ve popped and sizzled and made my hair stand on end. It didn’t.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I wrote notes all over the page, scratched out words in favor of more powerful synonyms, added a few action lines. Nothing really gave me the results I wanted. Switching from one word to another wasn’t what I needed. Adding yet another action line to the character’s activity didn’t do anything to amp the tension. Actually, the scene read well, so I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong.

Then I backed up and read it again more critically, and it dawned on me that I had ignored my own advice in “Authors Emote!” I didn’t dramatize the event quite to the degree it deserved.

In the scene, Talon wakes up in the middle of the night to find a note on his bed. The note provides the key to why the Circle Bar Ranch has been under attack for several weeks. It’s also a gut-puncher that sends Talon reeling.

And here’s where I went wrong: I showed him reeling. Jumped straight to it, from Note to Reel, without taking him through the emotional stages that logically occur in between:

  • Confusion
  • Shock
  • Rage

Oh, my. That opened a whole new door to intensity.

I grabbed my usual go-to when trying to picture how someone deals with certain emotions, The Emotion Thesaurus. You probably already know about this one. It’s a great little cheat when you’re stuck trying to illustrate an emotion. It gives you physical reactions—both observable and experiential—and mental reactions to the listed emotion.

And, like I said, it’s a great little cheat, but it didn’t help for this. I needed clues to help show the gradation of emotion, the slide and escalation from one to the other, and I needed more than just the pumping heart and sweating palms provided in The Emotion Thesaurus.

So, I whipped out my copy of Creating Character Emotions  and went to work. I think this one is out of print (sigh) but still available as a used book. I love it because it’s not just a list of actions and reactions, but an analysis of the feelings themselves. The author provides some terrific insights into portraying emotions artistically and realistically. She provides “Bad Examples” and “Good Examples” and exercises to help you develop your skills (you know I’m a fan of writing exercises!).

If you don’t have The Emotion Thesaurus, you should. But if you don’t have a good manual about writing emotions—and still dare to call yourself an author!—then, you’re falling down on the job.

As I continually harp about on this blog, action is empty without emotion. Emotion intensifies. It draws readers in and allows them to develop an empathy for the character. It gives them a stake in the outcome. If you don’t understand how to write the emotion you’re trying to portray, you may take shortcuts that cheat the reader. Books like Creating Character Emotions can help.

Do you have an “emotion manual”? Tell me about it.

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Authors Emote!

You’re likely getting a tad tired of me writing about Donald Maass and his Writing 21st Century Fiction, but it’s the writer’s guide I’m studying right now, so . . . well, deal with it. Besides, if you read it yourself, you’d understand why I’m so enthusiastic.

Anyway, he says something on page 120 that I have been trying to get across to my clients for quite some time:

“The problem with most character-driven manuscripts is not that they go over the top, but that they aim too low. They underwhelm. Events are not dramatic enough. Surprise and delight are in short supply because  the author is too polite, restrained, style-conscious, or afraid to incite a riot.”

The line I really want to focus on is “events are not dramatic enough.” I can think of two reasons for this: (1) while we write, we are so focused on the action that we forget how the action affects the character, and (2) we are so terrified of that fine line between drama and melodrama that we’re afraid to cross it.

We need to fix this.

  • Amp up your action scene

The easiest way to amp your action is to show it affecting your character emotionally. If you’re doing your characterization right to begin with, you’re already thinking of your hero as a living human being, so climb into that person’s head and under  his skin and show your readers how the character is reacting to the event you’ve set him in.

Pick a scene. Does it read like a laundry list of things your POV character is doing? He does this, then he does that—for whatever reasons you’ve designed in your head for him to do them. Why is he dancing to your tune? What’s at stake for him? If you were doing exactly what he is doing right this minute, given all the circumstances you’ve created for him, how would you feel? What would you think? What would you worry about?

Illustrate that.

While he is doing what he does, let us into his mind—what is he thinking? Into his heart—which emotion is he feeling? Into his body—what physical reaction is he having to the situation you’ve put him in?

Show us that.

Sometimes our thoughts contradict our emotions—our heads are at war with our hearts. That’s called conflict, which amps the tension, which is a good thing. Emotions are illustrated through sweaty palms and cold shivers. Throw all that together—mind, heart, and body—and toss them into the action mix, and you’ve amped the tension. You’ve made your action scene dramatic.

I’m not talking long, drawn-out passages. Sometimes only a few words are necessary to transport the reader from being a fly on the wall, watching all the action, to being an intimate participant in the story with as much at stake in the outcome as the character has. And that’s what you want. When your reader feels she has a stake in the outcome, she’ll want to see what the outcome is.

  • Amp up the drama

This is going to make you crazy, because we sometimes have a problem measuring how much is too much. We’re so afraid of becoming melodramatic that we shy away from the dramatic entirely. So let me give you permission to howl. Wail. Throw things. Stomp your foot. Dance in the rain. Smile too big, too bright, too often.

Just as I wrote in the segment above, climb into your character’s heart and mind and show us what’s going on inside. Magnify it. Blow it out of proportion. Break every rule that limits you—every single thing that would make your editor or critique partners write nasty notes, do it.

Start at the extreme, then dial back.

Read over whatever you’ve written and delete the obvious terminology for the emotion you’re aiming for. Then delete clichéd actions related to those terms. Use these tools: Simile, Metaphor, Symbolism, Hyperbole, High-impact Nouns and Verbs, Sentence Structure and Punctuation.

Emotion is best illustrated, more memorable, when it is finessed, but finesse doesn’t mean minimized. Learn to go big using the tools of finesse I listed above.

If you’re not sure of your results, send the passage off to your critique partner for feedback and, if necessary, adjust accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to strum your readers’ heartstrings. That’s one of the reasons they read.

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Especially for Writers

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Revisions: Transforming Sand into Castles

For authors, this is one of the most encouraging quotes around, along with all the ones that remind us our first draft is supposed to be imperfect. Rough. Bird-cage worthy. As professional authors know, you can’t edit a blank page.

Then comes the “later” part, where we get to start building castles. But as we build, we have to utilize some of our more aggressive writer tools: axes, guns, garrotes—whatever your weapon of choice to cut the dross, kill useless scenes, choke out pointless characters.

Or, as a euphemism for those of a more sensitive nature, we make frequent,  judicious use of the delete key.

Newer writers believe that editing involves nothing more than smoothing sentence structure, switching things around to make better sense, maybe adding a thing or two. But there is so much more to it. Every aspect of story crafting needs to be scrutinized during the revision process: structure, plot, characterization, plot and character arcs, dialogue, text and sub-text, theme, setting and description.

One of the best books I’ve found to help guide the newbie writer through the editing and revision process is James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for PublicationI’ve found some self-editing checklists online, but the ones I found would be more effective after the revision stage. They all tend to be about copy or line editing—feeding into the newbie’s ideas that this is all that’s involved in turning a first draft into a publishable book. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen me, in my capacity as a professional freelance editor, preach about the proper order of edits: content edit first, which leads to revisions, then copy (line) edits, then proofreading.

And for content edits, which include every aspect of the craft of writing, Bell’s book is one of the best resources.

As in Maass’s and Weiland’s booksRevision & Self-Editing for Publication has a series of exercises and questions to help you focus on ways to make your manuscript better. I’ve read the first edition cover to cover, but I still pull it from the shelf when I have a problem child in my manuscript. For instance, if I’m having dialogue problems, I go to that chapter and read “12 Tools for Great Dialogue.” Sparks my imagination every time.

There are a lot of good books out there about self-editing. In the early stages of editing—content edits or revision—look for one that hits on the craft of writing. Something that will not only identify problems, but provide ideas of how to fix them. Then dive in. A good attitude helps.

 

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Especially for Writers

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