How to self-edit #amwriting #editing

editing

Like many educated professionals turned writers, I initially thought self-editing was all I needed. I have several University degrees; I don’t need an editor. Feel free to imagine the stomping foot. As with many, many ideas I initially had about self-publishing, I was wrong. Let me just repeat that. I. Was. Wrong. So now that I have a regular editor, I don’t need to self-edit, right? Wrong. Oh my gosh, so wrong. Don’t mistake me. My editor is awesome. But she’s only one person and she’s focused (rightly so!) on the grammatical and spelling mistakes. There’s are many, many other ‘errors’ to be edited out of a manuscript before publishing.

How do I self-edit? I spend a week after finishing a first draft self-editing before sending the manuscript to my editor. While the manuscript is at the editor, I don’t look at it. Not at all. Nope. Not even a little bit. When I have the edited version back, I’ll go through it for another week before declaring myself finished. Of course, I could spend a lot more time than this, but this is what works for me. You can get bogged down trying to make every single sentence perfect or you can actually publish your book. I chose to publish.

What do I look for while I’m self-editing?

Passive voice. I’m not saying that the passive voice is always wrong. Nothing is always wrong. But the passive voice can often be confusing and it slows down the action. I write in first person, which means the passive voice sounds convoluted. Grammatically, there’s nothing wrong with the passive voice, though, so it’s up to me and not my editor to get rid of that pesky passive voice.

Repeat of words. I’m really good at not repeating important words and phrases. My husband noted that I don’t repeat any of the crazy non-swear words that Anna uses in my new book, Bring Your Own Baker. That may be, but I do have certain somewhat inconsequential words that I repeat way too often. My personal nemeses are but, just and so. When self-editing, I highlight these words and then go through each and every instance. Do I really need the word? Is but the appropriate conjunction? Etc.

Correct verb tense. I hate, hate, hate when verb tense is messed up in a book. Unfortunately, it’s super easy to do. I write in first person, present tense. When I’m into the story, I hardly ever confuse verb tense. It’s when I’m struggling with a scene that it happens.

Timing. Who knew what when? I’m currently writing a series of cozy mysteries (the Death by Cupcake series) and it’s essential that information be parceled out in a certain manner to keep the villain secret until the big reveal. It’s important for other fiction to use correct timing as well. Nothing will make me throw the Kindle faster than characters being introduced to each other even though they met at a bar three chapters ago! (To be fair: a lot of things make me want to throw my Kindle.)

How do you self-edit?

Tips on guest blogging for writers #MondayBlogs #amwriting

guest blogging

A while back I talked about how to launch a book and presented my book launch marketing plan (see the article here). One of the essential elements of my marketing plan is guest blogging. Guest blogging is a great way to showcase your writing, highlight a new release, and find new readers. I frequently host guest blogs over on my Readsalot blog. Unfortunately, I’m often disappointed in guest blogs – especially those which are associated with blog tours. Let’s face it – they can be snooze worthy. Harsh. But true. (And yes I’m sure some of my guest posts have been beyond disappointing as well.)

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years of writing guest blogs:

Who is the audience? Often bloggers don’t give any specific instructions with regard to a guest blog. In that case, it’s time to do some research. Study the blog for which you are writing. Who are the readers? What is the specific purpose of the blog? What does other content on the blog look like? Make sure your guest blog fits within the parameters you’ve discovered.

What is your purpose? Believe it or not, not all guest blogs have to do with marketing a new book. Sometimes a blog is orientated towards helping new writers or perhaps specifically aiding self-published authors. Even blogs aimed at writing and writers will host blog tour stops for new books. If such a blog requests a guest blog from you, make sure your post fits within the purpose of the blog for which you are writing.

Be original. I’ve encountered writers who give the same guest blog to each blog stop on a blog tour. Bad. Idea. There are readers who follow each stop on a blog tour as well as ‘followers’ who read several blogs. They won’t be very impressed if the same guest blog post shows up on several blogs in the same week. I know I’m not.

Tie in to your book. If you are writing a guest blog to promote a particular book (launch), this is a great opportunity to get readers interested in not only your writing but the subject matter of the book as well. If your book is about a certain historical period, tell readers about an event from that time period with which they may not be familiar. Be creative! My current book series, Death by Cupcake, centers around a cupcake bakery. I just wrote a guest post with baking tips from the main character. My previous books series, The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives, featured a bunch of old ladies who thought they were God’s gift to matchmaking. I wrote several blogs of dating tips and matchmaking tips – all in good humor of course.

Do you frequently guest blog? What are your tips for writers?

I don’t have to blog? Really? Why didn’t you say so? #amwriting #blogging #authorplatform

to blog or not to blog

When I started on my self-publishing journey, everyone (seriously, ev-er-y-one) said I had to build an author platform. An essential part of this platform they said is a blog. Like a good little girl (something I’m usually not), I set up a website and added a blog to it. In the beginning, I absolutely hated it. Hated. It. I could never think of anything to write and no one was reading it. Why was I even bothering?

On Monday, I read an article on blogging on how writers didn’t actually have to blog (see the original article here). Say what? Really? Why didn’t I read this three years ago? And why am I still blogging if I’ve been given an escape clause? I’ll tell you why.

Last year, I had a little hiccup with my copyeditor, which ended up with me having a few weeks of downtime while she edited my book. I absolutely refuse to start a new manuscript while in the middle of editing a book, which meant I finally had time to pick up my to do list. The first item on my to do list was to change my blogging platform. To my surprise and delight the mere changing of my platform increased my readership and number of followers. By the time I finally read the article on Monday about not having to blog, I was not as disillusioned about readership as I had been. And since my New Year’s Resolution was to blog often and consistently, I seem to spontaneously sprout blog ideas now.

My initial problems with blogging were blown out of the water. Here are some of the other reasons I continue to blog:

Showcase my writing style. I try – try being the operative word here – to write witty and funny blog posts. My books are – or at least the idea is that they are – funny. Blogging is a great way to show off my writing style and maybe, hopefully, gain some readers for my books.

Good practice. In addition to showcasing my writing style, blogging is a great way to practice my writing on a small scale.

Share my knowledge (such as it is). I write a lot of blog posts about writing. This isn’t because I’m an expert, but rather that I wish I had read about this or that topic when I started out. When researching a blog article about author interviews last week, for example, I found tons of articles on questions to ask, but nothing on how a writer should answer those questions.

Analyze marketing results. I’ve been embarrassingly lax in analyzing the marketing pushes I’ve done. Instead, I’ve concentrated on trying just about anything (except running through Times Square naked, although I’ve thought about it). When I got serious about blogging, I decided to write an article or two on marketing and this forced me to start analyzing what was and what wasn’t working.

I have a lot to say. All the above are perfectly valid reasons for blogging but one of the most obvious reasons I blog is because I have a lot to say. I’ve always been a nerd who likes to research anything and everything. I also like to discuss topics (some would say ad nauseam) and boy do I love to argue…erm… debate. Although I do try to stay away from political topics, my blog is pretty much a free for all. I’ve written about everything from trying to find English books to Istanbul to walking through a demilitarized zone to finding reviewers for my books. Some may say I never shut up. They would be wrong because – unlike my husband – I don’t talk in my sleep.

Do you blog? If you do, why? What keeps you blogging?

i think ie i blog

Getting back on the wagon #amwriting

For those of you who are about to congratulate me for my sobriety, don’t. Although I suffer from bouts of sobriety, which are normally linked to yet another attempt at dieting, I will never ever give up the happy juice for good. (If you’re a nerd like me, you can read the explanation behind the phrase ‘on the wagon’ here) This blog is about my attempt to get back on the writing wagon.

If you follow my blog (thank you!), you’ll notice I’ve been AWOL this week. That’s right – sick again. And just like the three weeks of bronchitis in March, I’m coming back from this cold not in the mood to write. Which is a pisser since I was going strong with only a few chapters left to write in my current manuscript before being struck down by this cold.

According to the dictionary, writer’s block is defined as: the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.

writers block

As a writer who has published eight books in the past three years, I know how to deal with writer’s block. I’ve got my strategies for handling that problem down pat. (In case you’re wondering, in my humble opinion, there’s really only one effective way to deal with writer’s block – Just. Keep. Writing.)

But coming back from an illness doesn’t feel like writer’s block. My characters are still talking to me. Anna (the heroine of my latest mystery) is in fact begging me to finish her story, which basically translates into a pink-haired pixie jumping up and down and stomping around in my head. Instead, I’m feeling tired and my head is fuzzy. This in fact feels like those deep, dark winter nights when my depression tries to bury me in a pile of bed covers from which I never want to emerge.

Despite the fuzzy head, tiredness, and just plain blah-feeling, I’ve somehow managed to write two chapters this week. How did I manage that? First of all, I gave myself a break. I normally write a chapter a day. This week I’ve only written two chapters and you know what? That’s okay. I’m not putting myself under pressure when I’m physically and mentally just not up to writing, writing, writing.

writing

And those two chapters? They’re probably crap. And that’s being generous. They’re most definitely crap. I’m giving myself a break on this as well. I’m a big fan of just getting a story out and then re-writing, re-writing, and editing until I feel like the story is good enough for someone else to read. That doesn’t mean that I feel that most chapters I write are crap. Au contraire! I do several re-writes of the day’s chapter on the day itself. By the time I shut down my computer to go for my run or – if I’m lucky – play a game of tennis, I feel pretty happy with what I’ve written. This week? Not so much.

rewriting

I guess the lesson here is not to be so hard on myself. I don’t need to get up on the wagon and start wagon surfing (or whatever it’s called), I can just sit on a bench and hold on for dear life. Not forever, mind you, but for a few days, there’s nothing wrong with just being a benchwarmer.

wagon

How to do an author interview ~ the reader’s perspective #marketing #writing

Let me start by saying that I am in no way or manner an expert in marketing or being an author for that matter. I am, however, a voracious reader. I read at least one book a day, sometimes two, and on the not-totally-rare occasion three. I’m a huge supporter of indie writers because – duh – I am one and I try to read as many self-published books as I can. In order to find these books – because we all know Amazon isn’t much help – I follow a ton of blogs on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc. I read heaps of author interviews and guest posts as well as book excerpts. What will make an author interview stand out for me? Enough that I’ll 1-click the book?

Fun. My number 1 advice to writers doing an author interview is to have fun. Sure, writing is serious business and – okay – reading is sometimes too. But picking out what book to read and finding an author you want to follow? That should be fun. Unless the interview is for a writing blog aimed towards other writers, don’t be too serious. Although many readers are nominally interested in the vocation of writing, you’re here to sell a book – not educate readers on the art of writing.

Don’t overdo it. A lot of blogs or websites that do author interviews have ready-made lists of interview questions and it’s up to the author to choose which questions to answer. Limit the amount of questions you answer to keep the reader’s attention. If I’m doing a blog tour and get several requests for interviews, I try to pick different questions from each blogger (many of the standard interview questions overlap). If you have readers who are following the tour, they won’t end up reading the same answer over and over.

Vary your answers. Oftentimes it’s unavoidable that you answer the same question with different bloggers/websites. There are just some questions that keep coming back. What’s your favorite book? or Who is your favorite author? are all-time favorites. I try to vary my answers. Not only because it’s impossible to pick a favorite book or favorite author, but also to provide different material.

Just a word of caution. It’s important that the interview reflect your writing as well as your personality. There’s nothing worse than reading a super funny interview from a writer and then grabbing the book expecting tons of laughs only to be disappointed when the book is super dark and depressing.

Any other advice for the writers out there on how to do an author interview?

Is it okay to give a book a bad review just because you didn’t like the end? #bookreview #MondayBlogs

This topic is near and dear to my heart. My novel, Life Discarded, has a somewhat unconventional happy ending. Yes, I said happy because no matter what anyone else says, I think the ending was the best possible outcome for Morgan. Apparently it doesn’t matter that I intended Morgan to have a happy ending, many reviewers hated the ending and gave the book a rating which corresponded with their ‘dislike’ of the conclusion. This lead me to the question: Is it okay to give a book a bad review just because you didn’t like the ending?

imagesN4TI49YI

Initially I wanted to answer this question with a loud ‘F*ck no!’, but then I got to thinking about it and I mellowed (only a bit because I’m never truly mellow). I think it’s important to first of all look at why you didn’t like the ending. Was the book classified as suspense but the ending was a dud that didn’t get your heart pounding in anticipation? Maybe it was a mystery but whodunit was obvious from the very beginning? In those cases, no matter how much it pains me to say this, I’m going to have to agree that it’s perfectly acceptable to give the book a bad review. Not only was the ending a disappointment, but the reader had a right to expect more.

But what about personal feelings? What if you didn’t like the ending because it angered you? The ending wasn’t what you expected? Was violent? I could go on with the questions, but you get what I mean. On the one hand, I want to say – well, shout really – that basing your rating on only the ending is unfair. What about the rest of the book? Was it well-written? Well thought out? Contained character growth? Reluctantly, I have to admit that a review and rating are based on personal feelings. If the conclusion left the reader with a bad taste in her mouth, then *shiver* she has the right to give the book a bad review.

And thus I have to admit that it is indeed okay to give a book a bad review just because you didn’t like the conclusion. Man, that was painful to admit. Instead of wallowing on this, I’ve looked at some of the good reviews I received of Life Discarded and noticed many readers asked what happens in the next chapter of Morgan’s life. Hmmm… maybe if I write a sequel I can get rid of those pesky complaints about a bad ending? No promises but I do have an idea and have even commandeered one of my precious journals for notes on the possible sequel.

 

What the heck is a clean read anyway?

I thought I knew what a clean read was and, realizing that the majority of cozy mysteries are clean reads, I ‘cleaned’ up my latest release. No swearing and no sex is to be found in Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker. That’s what a clean read is, right? Um, I guess not. I had arranged two blog tours with tour companies who promote clean reads and they both backed out of the tours when they saw this cover:

NTaSCB

My husband designed the cover – based on my ideas – and I was freaking proud of him. (See? I can use clean language.) It looks super cool – mysterious (is that blood dripping from a cupcake?) and a bit sexy. Apparently, that’s the problem. It’s too sexy. Huh? It’s a drawing of a pole dancer not a naked person. Guess I don’t have a clue what ‘clean’ means after all.

I googled ‘clean read’ to figure out where I’m going wrong because I’m definitely going wrong somewhere if two blog tour operators refuse to work with me. I discovered there is no one definition of ‘clean read’, although most agree with the following parameters: no sexually explicit scenes, no graphically violent descriptions, and no streams of profanity.

Let’s start with the easy stuff first: violence and profanity or, rather, the lack there of.

No streams of profanity. Having sisters who are strictly anti-swearing, I’ve taken this to mean no naughty words whatsoever. It makes writing sometimes difficult. I’m always trying to come up with ways for characters to swear without using dirty words. This leads me to write strange sayings like ‘Holy Cows of India’. But I’m down with it. At least for my cozy mysteries. My other books could be a lesson on how to use profanity. That’s me – a potty mouth.

No graphically violent descriptions. Normally, I don’t have any issue with this one. Although I was a military police officer and have seen my share of blood and gore, I don’t find it necessary. In fact, I’ve even written some complaints to magazines like Newsweek for putting bloody pictures on the cover. But this one worries me for my next book. The next book in the Death by Cupcake series contains a bloody scene and it’s the first chapter in the book. After hemming and hawing about what to do – should I just delete the scene? – I’ve decided to include a warning in the description to make sure I don’t offend anyone.

Sexually explicit scenes. Ah ha! The heart of the issue. Here’s the problem: who defines what is sexually explicit? To me sexually explicit means anything that’s more than fade to black and by fade to black I mean kissing can get hot and including touching in the naughty areas but when the underwear starts to come off, the scene fades. And there can definitely be references to the actual act of sex, in my humble opinion.

But where do others draw the line? Because that’s the issue, isn’t it? Personally, I don’t care if a book I’m reading is clean. I’ll read anything from a sweet read (although if kissing is deemed as ‘hot’ I’m probably going to find the book too tame) to erotica and everything in between. Once again, my solution is to include a disclaimer after the synopsis of the book.

Pff… it’s hard work trying not to offend people.

What does everyone else think is a clean read? I’d love to hear your thoughts because – as you can see – I’m a bit dazed and confused over the issue.