Progress Report

I thought I’d give a quick progress report for where things are in my preparations to launch To Love a Prince.

Butterflies with acid wings keep flitting through my stomach as I write this, so here’s hoping nothing goes awry!

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Now imagine that’s acid on their wings!

1. Cover

I found a cover artist without a six month wait list. I really liked her sample work, and I the butterflies got worse when I saw her first draft. I’ve asked to change a few colors, but I still can’t believe I’ve seen a mock-up cover with my name on it!

 

2. ProWriting Aid

I’ve figured out more about how to make the program work for me. It’s a good program, BUT you still have to be smart about it. There could be things it doesn’t like you must learn to ignore. You are not going to make all of the red flags disappear, which drives my OCD a little crazy. At least I didn’t make them all disappear, and I was still happy with how much stronger my writing was.

3. Figured Out More About Scrivener

Scrivener is another fabulous program I’ve just started learning. It has so much depth and complexity that it can be overwhelming. But, it is a magnificent tool. I own Scrivener for Dummies, but I haven’t been patient enough to work through it. Still, I was able to use the book and Google to figure out how to do some things I want, and I was able to save those things as a custom setting. Nice.

4. Finished running To Love a Prince through Pro Writing Aid. Again.

Once I figured the program out a little more, I re-ran my novel through it. Took some time, but I think it was worth it.

5. Finished a Final Polishing Edit

I’m not sure I will ever be “done”, but I have to let go at some point. I’m hoping this is it.

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More zen than I’ve felt. Ever. But still feels pretty good to be polishing up a final draft.

6. Met with a Pro to Get Help on the Blurb

I know attractive covers get books read. You’re not going to click on a less-than-awesome cover most of the time. I also know blurbs get books read. Once a potential reader has clicked the cover, the blurb has to convince them they want to read it.

No matter how many times I wrote and rewrote the blurb, it was flat at best. Yeah, it told about the story, but it didn’t grip you. I think the help she gave me will result in a much stronger blurb. I’m hoping I can take what I learned and apply it to the next blurb.

Next step is to format the book for ebook and Createspace. I have read tutorials on doing this out of Scrivener, but I am really considering purchasing Vellum. I want the end result to look as professional as possible, especially after all eleven drafts it took to get the story as good as I could.

 Soon I’ll be trying to figure out how to launch a book. If you have any pointers on any of this, either as a writer or a reader, please share them!

Progress Update

Thought I’d share a quick update as to how my quest to get a book on your e-reader is going.

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Truth!

Pro Writing Aid

I bought Pro Writing Aid to do a final polish on what I thought was a tidy manuscript. I figured it would take a few hours to go through and make any changes. Okay, stop laughing.

Yes, I have lots of red errors of doom.

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Yeah, lotta red.

I’m working through them, though after a few chapters, I’m learning I don’t always agree with all of their marks. For example, it tells me the word desire is “corporate”. But I’m a romance author, and this word is common in the genre.

I’m picking which reports work best for me and working through their recommendations, but this has already taken longer than a few hours.

More Edits

As I’m re-reading everything, I’m making changes. I know, but I can’t help myself. As I work on the technical side of my writing, I also find myself rewriting descriptions to make things flow better, revamping dialogue and the like.

I’ve been working on this novel for two years, and I can still find things to change. I’m starting to worry it’ll never be done.

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Starting to feel like this is me.

Cover Artist

I do not have talent with drawing or photo-manipulation, and I know we all judge a book by its cover. So back in August, I reserved a spot with a cover artist I really like for late 2017 or early 2018. She recently said she could start working on mine in February, so I’m hoping her schedule sticks.

My goal is to work with the same artist for all of the books I’m writing so my covers have a consistent look. As you can see from my works in progress, I have a few coming.

If this cover goes well, I’m hoping to use her again.

Editor?

Given everything that Pro Writing Aid has unearthed about my writing, I am seriously considering an editor. I have learned the lesson about compound sentences needing a comma, and that shows in Pro Writing Aid, but I’m still not sure what a hidden verb is.

While I don’t think the book will ever earn back what I pay for an editor, the expense may still be worth it if I learn something from the process that I can apply to future novels. This means finding a solid editor that doesn’t mind romance writing, and who’ll take the work even at mac and cheese prices. So if you know of any, please let me know!

New Story

After having a discussion with my writing group, I decided to start a new work amidst all of these revisions so I don’t lose the ability (and desire) to create something new. Rewriting is important, but so is creating.

 My goal is still to release To Love a Prince by the end of June 2018. Yes, I’m putting that out there. I’d like to have the next book ready by January 2019, but that’s still in the early stages of revision. Chronologically, it comes after To Love a Prince, but I wrote three other books before that one. I have some catching up to do if I’m going to be ready by then!

My Eleven Steps to Writing a Romance Novel

So, when I mentioned that I’m working on a romance novel, or several of them, I also said that editing them consumes much of my writing time.

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Editing is about like this for me.

Beth Turnage had a question on what I do to revise my novels, but it’s so integral to how I write, that I thought I’d share my process.

I’m not saying this is good or bad as every writer is different. As with most creative endeavors, what works for one artist won’t work for another. But here’s my:

My Eleven Steps to Writing a Romance Novel

1. Spend Some Time Thinking about the Characters

You’ll notice I didn’t say plotting. And I don’t. I wish I did, oh, how I wish I did! You may have noticed that I tend to be an organized person with a spreadsheet for most things. But I can’t do it with writing. Yet.

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But the plot will resolve itself if I’m mean enough to the characters.

But I didn’t say plotting, I said thinking about the characters. Who are they? What motivates them? Why do I care about them? If I’m really lucky, I can toss the characters around with my husband. Talk about them, about what they’d do in different situations. This is my sandbox time with them. Nothing is off the table. Sometimes, I’ll come up with characters and situations that lead to two stories. Sometimes, they bore me and I table them until later.

Honestly? This is one of the most fun parts of writing.

2. Write the Skeletal First Draft

I’m not kidding about it being skeletal. My first draft of the romance novel is very bare bones. Usually around 40k-45k words for a book that will end up being around 70k-80k words. I’m not sure why I write this way, but I’m not one of the authors that needs to cut a lot. Usually, I need to add more. A whole lot more. But that’s for the second draft. This first draft gets down the characters and what’s happening in the story. Mostly.

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Yeah, my first draft looks about like this

3. Take 6 Weeks Away from the First Draft

Yep. I now spend at least six weeks away from the first draft. I have plenty of other editing to do, or another first draft to write.

4. Go Back and Make the First Draft Coherent

At this stage, I read the first draft again so I have a clue what I’m facing. Then, I try to weave any themes I see later in the book into the earlier sections as I focus on adding all the stuff I skipped in the first draft. This tends to include, but is not limited to:

  • Writing better transitions
  • Adding details such as taste, sounds and smell
  • Giving a better insight into characters’ thoughts and feelings.

Many times, this draft will include adding entirely new scenes. In one story I wrote, it involved moving when the hero and heroine are married from the end of the book to the beginning. Yeah, huge change. But as I was reading the draft, I realized there was a huge plot hole, and to fix it, the hero and heroine required an earlier wedding. It meant using other things to “keep them apart”, but the novel was much better for the change. It was still a lot of rewriting.

5. Tidy Up the Second Draft

At this point, most of the stuff is in the right places. This revision has me looking more at are characters being true to themselves in dialogue tags and mannerisms. Tidying up word choices, particularly word repetition. I add more description, and I smooth over as many rough edges as I can find.

6. Send It to My Alpha Reader

I then send the romance novel to my Alpha reader. They are not a detailed reviewer. Rather, they tell me if they liked the story. If they liked the characters. If they wanted to see the hero and heroine get together in the end, and if the obstacles in the story were believable. They also tell me if there is anything unclear. If I have to explain a part to my alpha reader, then I need to go in and fix it to make it clear as I won’t have that option with a final reader.

7. Alpha Reader Revision

I go through the story again and make most of the changes my alpha reader recommended (usually all). I do another clean-up revision while doing this.

8. Send it to My Beta Reader

At this point, I feel like the story is pretty clean, so I send it to my beta reader. I only have one at this point, but she’s awesome. She gives me constructive criticism where I need it, but she also points out what I’m doing well. She does a much more detailed review, marking areas that feel rushed, transitions that need work, or spots that aren’t clear. She also makes sure my characters stay in character. If I get cheesy or whiny (which, I’ve gotten MUCH better about), she’ll tell me that, too.

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And she’ll tell me those doubts, too.

9. Beta Reader Revision

I go through the story again and make most of the changes my beta reader recommended. This sometimes has a few larger things to address, and as I do them, I do another revision of my own.

10. Detail Revision

This is the revision where I go through the work and look for word choice, punctuation, grammar, all the important things so that the writing itself is understandable and errors don’t pull you out of the work. I purchase Pro Writing Aid this year, and I am going to try that as well.

11. Final Polishing Edit

One last look through before I release my book baby into the wild.

I’d love to afford a real editor, but at $2 per page, I’d be looking at almost $700 to have a book edited. and that’s on the cheaper side. I’m sure they’d make my work better, but I just can’t afford them yet.

So, there it is. I will say that this is my most recent pattern. The first book I wrote after taking up the keyboard again is sitting mothballed, and that doesn’t include all the other ones I wrote ages ago that are also forgotten electrons.

The first romance novel I wrote that I actually plan to publish took a far more circuitous route to finish. But as I now have six novels in progress, not including the ones I started and kicked aside along the way, I’m starting to find my rhythm. It might not be perfect, but it’s mostly working for me.

If you’re a writer, what’s your process? Even if you’re not a writer, any tips or pointers on editing? Maybe you do something else creative? If so, what’s your process?

The Joy Of…

Editing. Even though I write romance novels, you totally knew I was going to say editing.

I spent half of September, and all of October, November, and December editing. Not just normal editing, but the process of turning first drafts into second. It’s been productive as I have turned three different first draft romance novels into second drafts, which tends to be the hardest revision for me.

Some authors a pretty awesome first draft. That would not be me.

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Editing takes me far more time than writing

 

I also did a late draft edit on Knight of Valor. This took about ten days because I’ve been polishing it for a while now.

Progress Ahead

You can always check out my WIP page if you want to see what I’m working on. One of my goals for 2017 is to actually press the publish button on Crowned Prince. Working on finding a good romance cover artist with space for a first-time author now, and I want to do one last edit of it as well. I also need to learn how to format an e-book and use Createspace to make a paperback of it.

Lots of learning ahead!

Rewriting, as hard and messy and unpleasant as it can be, has a certain joy of its own. You get to watch your half formed lump of clay look a little more like David and a little less like that play-doh project your toddler made.

I know lots of people think you plunk down your first draft, then you work through a revision or two as you  fine-tune spelling and punctuation. While that might have worked for my college term papers, I can’t think of a single college term paper I’d have spent precious free-time reading.

I have to confess, I am a bit tired of revising. While I am working through three different stories, I may need to take a break and write yet another first draft I will have to revise later. Still, it’s nice to have a pipeline of stuff to work on, even if it’s not always as exciting as writing new stuff.

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They say writing is rewriting, and I have found it to be true.

Have you found that to be true? Any tricks you use in your rewriting or editing process?

Facing Rejection

I hear myself telling DD1 all the time that it doesn’t matter if she succeeds or fails, I’m proud of her for trying her hardest. For really putting in the effort. She sometimes believes me, and other times I get the annoyed preschooler look.

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I totally don’t deserve it.

But, I have to walk the walk now that I’ve written, edited, rewrote, edited, rewrote again, and finally polished Crowned Prince.

I decided I wanted to try getting an agent and go the traditional publishing route if possible. There are pros and cons to both indie publishing and traditional, but I at least wanted to try traditional. Partially for their experience, but mostly for their amazing editors.

I know, I know, but one is not in the budget for us right now. While I take my writing seriously, I also take paying for two kids in daycare seriously. Don’t know if it’s like this everywhere, but where I live, my daycare bill is about twice the cost of an average mortgage payment. So, yeah, not much else is in the budget right now.

If I’m going to find an agent, I need to either meet one at a conference or query one. As a mom with two small children who works full time already, finding time or money for a conference also isn’t in the budget. So that means querying.

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Not this kind of querying.

And being rejected A LOT.

I have a feeling your chances of getting in to Harvard are probably better. After all, they accept 5.2% of their applicants. But, if I want to get an agent, I have to query them.

This is like a lot of things in life.

  • Maybe you don’t like your job, but that means putting yourself out there to find a new one.
  • Maybe you’re single and want to meet someone.
  • Maybe you want to be an actor, but that means showing up for the auditions.

Everything is life is scarce. And the more you want it, the more of yourself you have to put out there to get it.

That means facing the very real risk of rejection. Of failure. Or not being good enough. Talented enough. Just not enough.

The platitude of at least you tried your hardest feels less genuine then, though, really, that’s when it matters most. Trying. Not giving up.

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Persistence in the face of rejection is especially hard when you put so much of yourself into something. Like a job. Or a relationship. Or writing a book. Because this feels like a personal rejection. And we’re a heard animal. It’s ingrained in us to be part of the pack as those that weren’t usually didn’t have a happy ending.

But, I must face failure. I have to try, as I tell my daughter she must.

So I started the process. Looking up agents, trying to see who they represent and what they sell to see if I’ll be a fit. I even queried a few.

And got my first rejection.

It hurt less than I thought it would. But it still hurt.

 

How about you? Ever put yourself out there for something? Maybe a new job? A relationship? A book query? How did it go? Did it go better than you thought? If it didn’t, was the rejection or failure as bad as you thought it’d be?

 

A Professional Editor and the Indie Author

I am contemplating self-publishing, and one of the things I have considered is hiring a professional editor.

But I can’t afford it.

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Yeah, about what it feels like

Yes, yes, I hear many of you now saying, “of course you must hire an editor. It’s how you get your best work.”

I’ve heard this refrain a lot, and I mostly agree. But I still can’t afford one.

Let’s do the math together.

Most content editors charge anywhere from $0.01 to $0.03 per word. If you calculate that out for a 75k romance novel, that’s anywhere from $750 to $2,250. The higher end of this is more than I gave for my first car. I get that they’re spending a lot of hours on the process, so the price is the price. Line editors are around the same cost-per-word from what I’ve gathered as well.

I understand these people are putting forth hours of effort and are probably (depending on the editor) worth it. But, I maintain the indie model can’t really support it.

Most indie published books sell around 250 copies over the life of the book.

No, I’m not missing a zero there.

If you price your book at $2.99 and sell 250 copies, the total gross made by the book is $747.50. Yeah, not enough to pay for a single edit by the least expensive editor. And let’s remember, the author doesn’t get the full $747.50. Depending on where they sell it, they can expect about 80% of the total. The percent they get drops if they ever discount the book to $0.99.

So, assuming the author keeps it at the $2.99, and sells all 250 books at this price, they are looking at $598 in lifelong earnings. I’m not even going to bother discounting this for the time value of money. Because really, it’s not worth it.

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Okay, forget I mentioned the time value of money.

But, but, but, you say. My book is going to do so much better! I had an editor.

Okay, I hear ya. Maybe it will help. And giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will say you do two standard deviations better. You sell 500 books at $2.99 each. You’re still looking at total author earnings of $1,196. Barely enough to pay for the base editor.

And the chance of selling that additional 250 books? Depends on the standard deviation to the mean, which I don’t have the underlying data to calculate, but given the standard bell curve, we can assume it grows increasingly less likely.

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Image from Wikimedia Commons

Still, there are other expenses like marketing, book cover, etc. that also need to be considered beyond just editing. And, that’s assuming you’re looking to just break even and not make anything for the time the author devoted to writing the piece.

This doesn’t mean don’t hire an editor. If you can afford one, do it!

But what this usually means for me is when I can’t afford to have a professional do a job, I learn to do it myself. Like back when we first bought our house and I learned to paint a room and lay Pergo flooring.

I’m working on perfecting this process, but it does make a sound argument for trying to publish via a traditional route, if for nothing more than the professional editing.

But if it doesn’t work out, and I do go indie, I’ll look forward to the day I can afford an editor.