fbpx

Tag: editing

10 Top Tips for Formatting your ebook before self-publishing #1

Learn-the-rules-like-aAs I continue to wend my way through my final edits, the issue of formatting my novel correctly for publication has started to weigh on my mind. This is mainly because my editor has been less than happy with some of my formatting and it has made me realise that I don’t know what the rules are or if there even are any!

For example, I have indented every first line of a paragraph or section in the novel. I did this simply because that was the advice given in a blog article I was reading about how to format your book in Scrivener. I didn’t think twice about whether this is the normal thing to do when formatting your book. So when my editor pointed it out, I went and had a look at some of the books I have read, ebooks, paperbacks and hardbacks and guess what? There was a mixture of approaches. Some publishers indent, some don’t and for ebooks, especially self-published ones, it seems to simply be down to personal taste.

I scoured the internet then for some guidelines and of course, there’s no single definitive list but there are some generally accepted guidelines that I thought it would be useful to reproduce here. Please note that this list is for ebooks. I have tried to consider formatting in both Word and Scrivener.

1. Use a 1″ margin on all sides (Done for you in Scrivener).
2. You don’t need page numbers in an ebook because technically speaking, there are no pages (Done for you in Scrivener).
3. Left align the text (not headings) but don’t justify it.
4. Make sure the text is single line spaced.
5. Start each new chapter on its own page about a third of the way down the page (Done for you in Scrivener).
6. The body of the chapter should start about four to six lines below the chapter title (Done for you in Scrivener).
7. Indent each new paragraph of flowing text but don’t indent the first line at the start of the chapter or after a section break.
8. Don’t put in asterisks to show section breaks. Apparently, these date back to the days when people used typewriters.
9. Use a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial or Courier and use 12 point size.
10. Make sure your hyperlinks work! (This will usually be links to your details so it’s very important!)

You will have noticed that I labelled this post as #1 because I know for sure that you will all tell me of other tips that I can add to the list in the future and I’m sure I will come across other things when I finally come to format my book. So let me have it if you agree/disagree/have other ideas and yes, in case you were wondering, I know that rules are there to be broken!

Good luck with your formatting if you’re tacking it yourself. Thanks for reading as always and I welcome your comments 🙂

P.S. I hope you noticed the snow!

Let’s talk about sex, baby…

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This week, I have been mostly trying to ‘sex up’ my story as I continue through my final edits of ‘From Here to Nashville.’ Despite my age and vast experience, it has not been an easy task 😉 It is one thing to have experienced romance, love, kissing, sex (eww, as my teenage daughters would say) but it is quite another to write about it. Not only that but there’s not much help out there for inexperienced writers either.

I had lots of great advice on my blog last week (thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments) and one of the first things I knew I had to decide on was the level of sex scene I am comfortable writing about. How to do this? I know I like to read all kinds of romance, from what I would call ‘closing the bedroom door’ romance to E.L. James, if you get my drift 🙂 However, I know that I’m looking to write something in the middle of these two extremes and I am certain about that. It was clear though that I hadn’t really achieved that in my book as yet.

As I said last week, I went on a course earlier this year which was designed to help writers put passion on the page. However, in a day, we only got as far as kissing! Crikey 😉 Still, I wrote a first kiss scene that I was happy with and it is still in my book almost exactly as I wrote it back in February. Apart from that though, my romantic scenes were very generic – ‘the kiss deepened’ – sort of thing and although I did have a scene where my characters finally made love, it was too far into the story. My editor wanted it to be a lot sooner and a lot more sexy!

I went to find my notes from my course and remembered the handout we’d been given about ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris, from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ You can find the list by Googling it but I’m going to reproduce it here for you to see what I did with it. The other advice my editor gave was to make sure to incorporate each of the five senses in every description of their romantic encounters. This wasn’t new to me. I just wasn’t doing it.

1. Eye to Body
I wrote this into my first chapter as the first time they see each other from a distance. They give each other a quick glance and register an initial attraction. This doesn’t have to be too detailed but needs to give the reader the idea that they want to get to know each other better.

2. Eye to Eye
In the same chapter, my two main characters meet and pick up more details. They now know they find each other attractive enough to begin flirting.

3. Voice to voice
It helps if your male character is from Nashville of course and has a sexy southern drawl. There aren’t many synonyms for ‘drawl,’ I can tell you. Otherwise, they just need to talk to each other and this is where you can really get going on the senses. Again, this all happens in my first chapter when they first meet.

4. Hand to hand
This could be a handshake during their first meeting or it could come later. I do both and it is the touching of skin that is intimate and charged.

5. Arm to shoulder
This one has to come a bit later when they know each other better in my view. It was during my characters’ fifth meeting. During the previous  three meetings, I went through stages 1 to 4 above again to reinforce their building attraction so that by the time he puts his arm round her to comfort her during their fifth meeting, it should seem quite natural. This closeness allows you to bring in things like your male character’s smell and you will find yourself wasting hours on the internet looking for ways to describe him that don’t sound weird 🙂 I liked this article, from Vogue here. It’s called ‘How Women Want Men to Smell.’

6. Arm to waist
I included this in their first kiss which comes on their first proper date, although it is about the sixth time they’ve met each other. She slips her arms around his waist as they move in closer for the kiss.

7. Mouth to mouth
This is their first kiss and needs to build on everything that has gone before. This takes place in Chapter 6 in my novel. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

‘As I looked into his dark eyes, he leaned towards me, tilting his head to one side. My heart beat a little quicker in anticipation of a kiss and suddenly, his warm lips were on mine, brushing them gently at first. His kiss was so inviting that I responded naturally, moving closer, taking in his wonderful masculine scent. I was very aware of his hands, one resting on my hip, the other clasping the base of my neck. I slipped my arms around his waist and the kiss deepened. He traced my lips with his tongue and when I opened my mouth a little, he took the hint and started to explore further.

I closed my eyes, and a moan of pleasure escaped me. He groaned too, pulling me closer. The stubble on his cheek tickled mine and I wondered what it would feel like if he was kissing other parts of my body. My face burned at the thought of it.’

8. Hand to head
The first kiss I have written also includes this step and according to the 12 steps of intimacy, this is really quite high on the list!

9. Hand to body
As Jackson’s hand is on her hip during the kiss, this is also achieved at the early kissing stage. However, it could obviously mean many other things.

10. Mouth to breast/11. Hand to genitals (blushing yet?)/12. Genitals to genitals
I knew for me that this was the point at which I wanted to stop. I don’t want to write about full-blown sex, although my characters do have it. I didn’t run and hide from it either, by closing the bedroom door and leaving it to my reader’s imagination. I just went for somewhere in the middle, leaving the reader in no doubt of what was about to happen. My characters make love for the first time now in chapter 8, much earlier than they did previously and I know that makes more sense.

There is no doubt that this is one of the hardest things for a romance writer to do. For most of us, it’s so personal and intimate that putting it on the page in a way that is enjoyable for a complete stranger just seems a bit strange. However, as romance readers, we expect it and so that means we have to learn how to write it. As I have gone through my novel, I have used these 12 steps again and again to help me write convincing scenes. I have looked up all kinds of things from male scents to signs that your date really likes you. Yesterday’s research was probably the best fun so far though – I was writing about great make-up sex! Oh the fun you can have sitting at your writing desk 🙂

For another useful viewpoint on writing sex scenes, see this post here.

Thank you for reading as always. Please do leave me comments about how you find writing this kind of scene and any tips you have for me or readers of my blog.

Surviving my final round of edits

2738476184_3c2da05e5d_z
Image courtesy of flickr.com

At long last, I am getting back to some kind of normal today. I have missed my last two blog posts and so it feels good to be writing one again. During my absence, I have been busy with my final round of editing of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and I have to admit that I have been finding it really hard. When I first looked through the edited manuscript, I could see that the majority of the edits were straightforward suggestions for improving the story but there were also some major issues which I knew would involve me in some lengthy rewriting. My immediate feeling was one of panic because I had already booked my proofreader for 8th December and I didn’t think I could keep to that schedule if I went ahead with the rewriting. I did the sensible thing and contacted my proofreader and thankfully, she was very understanding so I have now postponed the proofreading until the end of January to give me some more time. If I do keep to this plan, I could be self-publishing my book in early March.

However, one of the issues is that my description of settings is not detailed enough. This is a difficult one. I know that many writers write about places they have never been and so your descriptions need to be backed up with some good research if this is what you’re doing. I have done all this of course, for Nashville, but still my descriptions don’t seem to be quite good enough. So, is it something that would be improved by personal experience or is it just the quality of the description writing? As I’m going to Nashville next April, I have wondered whether I should wait till my return to finish the story so that I can add in description details from my personal experience but in the end, I’ve decided not to wait. If I delay any further, I won’t be publishing until the end of May and I will just be twiddling my thumbs, as far as this book goes, for the first five months of next year. This has been a very hard decision to make but, for now at least, I think it’s the right one.

One of the other major issues the editor has flagged up to me is the narrative voice I have used in the story. In fact, it’s narrative voices and this has been an issue I have worried about and blogged about all the way along this journey. Just to remind you, the first part of my story is written from the female character’s point of view in first person; the second part is from the male character’s point of view, in first person and the final part, alternates between them. The editor has suggested I rewrite it all in third person or rewrite it all in first person from Rachel’s point of view. After I’d got over the initial shock, I tried rewriting a section in third person and I didn’t like it at all, which leaves me rewriting it all from Rachel’s perspective. This would mean losing Jackson’s perspective on Nashville, which is quite a large chunk of the novel. It would have some advantages though, in that I could lose some of the minor characters who are stacking up quite high and it would allow me to lose a lot of words from the story, tightening the pace a bit too. I haven’t reached this part of the story yet to see what the effect of rewriting it would be but I am willing to give it a try and see what happens. The hardest thing is having to make these decisions on your own, without the benefit of advice from a publisher and I have really been struggling under the weight of that responsibility. I have talked it over with a number of people but in the end, it has to be your decision if you are self-publishing and I want to make the right one for my book.

The final major issue is that for a romance, the editor thinks it’s not sexy enough! Following the advice from a partial edit earlier in the year, I did try to inject more emotion into the story but apparently, I haven’t gone far enough. I went on a course last year about how to write passion on the page and at the time, we were given a handout on ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ I did try to use this to help me build up the sexual tension and I had succeeded to some extent with it but I only went so far, forgetting that I need to keep it going all the way through the story. This is another difficult one in that I like to read quite sexy stories myself but writing them is a completely different thing. I don’t want to go too far and alienate readers but nor do I want it to be a so-called ‘sweet’ romance. It needs to be somewhere in the middle and this is not as easy as it sounds. The research for this one is good fun though 😉

I have to admit that I have felt quite despondent over the past couple of weeks because every time I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it moves away from me again. Now that I have started working my way through the edits though, I know I can deal with them. I realised that I would need more time and I’ve built that in. I’ve had to accept that I’m the one making all the decisions, including whether or not I agree with all the editor’s suggestions and comments, and I’ve started making them. For the time being anyway, I can see the light again.

Thanks for reading. Do leave me a comment and let me know how you dealt with your final round of edits. I’d love to hear from you.

How much does it cost to self-publish?

DiceAs I approach the end of my path to publication, money has started to occupy my mind quite a lot. Having made the decision to self-publish my first novel, I have obviously had to think long and hard about how much it’s all going to cost me and the dilemma I have had to face is how to publish the best piece of work I can whilst having no real budget to speak of. I have read enough ebooks to know that many self-publishers just aren’t thinking about quality at all before they hit the publish button or maybe they were but they just didn’t have the money to spend on quality control before publishing their first book. Whilst I understand and sympathise with that situation, I could not do that myself but there is no doubt that it’s expensive and if, like me, you want to publish a high quality piece of writing, then you need to give some thought in advance to the potential costs involved.

1. Editing
It is generally agreed that if you want to end up with a high quality book, you will need to have it edited by a professional. I had my first professional edit done by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as part of their New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme which includes a read through of your work in progress by an author. My reader sent me a three page report and made comments on my manuscript too. This was invaluable advice at the time. This edit equates to the developmental edit I guess in the round of edits that you could decide to have done. It cost me £120 to join the NWS for the year. Prior to that, I had asked a number of close friends to beta read for me and I had also made friends with a writer who beta read it for me, all of which was done for free.
As a result of attending the RNA Conference, I made contact with a couple of other professional editors too. When I approached them about editing though, I realised that I just couldn’t afford to pay for their professional services which started from £400 upwards. I felt caught then because I knew I had to have a professional edit and of course I wanted to pay people properly for their services but I couldn’t stretch to this. In the end, one of the editors was offering a special one-off deal of £90 and so, my problem was solved. In all, with some partial editing to my first three chapters, I have spent £150 on editing. With the fee to join the NWS added to that, this brings my total for editing to £270.

2. Cover Design
As you’ll know if you follow my blog posts every week, I have recently finished working with a cover designer for my novel. You can read the post here if you missed it. This service has cost me £187 but there will be a bit more (£50) when I go back for the print version of the cover. I know I could have spent less than this but I don’t think I would have ended up with a cover that I love as much as the one I have. I consider this to have been a very good investment and as you know, people do judge books by their covers and so it was important to me to get that right. Total cost then spent on cover design  will be £237.

3. Proofreading
This past week, I have been looking into proofreading as the final step before publication. Once again, I knew that this was going to be a fair expense because I was going to need a professional. I have joined the UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders myself because I wanted to do their Introduction to Proofreading course and so I had an idea of what sort of cost to expect. Last week, I also took the plunge and joined the Alliance of Independent Authors and I was able to seek the advice of their members for recommendations which was very helpful. Still, it has been a difficult decision when all the people I’ve contacted have been equally well-qualified and professional in their response. They all have excellent references as well. So how you do you decide? In the end, I’ve reached a conclusion based on qualifications, availability, costs and personal recommendation. This is going to cost me around £250. I don’t think I could have paid less than this and still felt that I was going to get a professional service.

4. Everything else
This final section would include things like formatting, which I’m going to attempt myself with some help from my friends (!) and it might also include marketing. I have just run a giveaway on my Facebook Author page and it got me thinking about the promotional materials I might need to get before I launch my book. This would include postcards, bookmarks, business cards etc at the very least but I can’t really commit more than £100 to this.

In total then, for someone who has no budget, it looks like I will have spent about £850 to self-publish my book to a quality that I will be happy with. As these costs have mostly been staggered, I have managed it reasonably well. My understanding is that if I price my book at £1.99 on Amazon, I can expect to receive 70% royalties from them for every book I sell. By my calculations, that will mean that I will need to sell 610 books in order to make my money back. Now all I need to do is make it visible enough for readers to know it’s out there. And that will be a story for another blog post!

Thanks for reading as always. I welcome your comments about your experiences 🙂

The 7 Stages of Editing I have used from First to Final Draft

Poker-sm-228-7h
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

I started writing ‘From Here to Nashville’, my debut romance novel in April 2013. By the end of October that year, I had a first draft which was over 100,000 words. As this is my first novel, I really had no idea how to go about the next stage so I turned to the internet to help me. Naturally, there was a whole ton of information and advice out there so I had to sift through it and work out what was right for me. I thought then that it might be useful, as much for myself as anyone else, to summarise the stages that I have gone through with this first novel in the hope that I will be better at it next time round!

1. Reading aloud
It is generally accepted that this is a good first step to take after writing that messy first draft without having stopped to edit along the way. This was the approach I had taken with this first novel and it’s also what I did with my second which was written during NaNoWriMo 2013 when I discovered that there is simply no time to stop and edit. For this process, I printed the story out. When I came to reading my story out loud, I realised that this is not something you can do quickly and the very act of slowing down meant that I found lots of little mistakes and was easily able to highlight them for editing later. This included the repetitive use of some words and I also found, for example, that I repeated characters’ names too much so I deleted quite a few of these. I noticed that I hadn’t been consistent with my writing of numbers, dates and times so I decided on a style and then I stuck to it. I found some obvious plot-holes that would need correcting later and I was able to ponder the structure of the story and think about whether it needed tweaking.

2. Replacing Passive sentences with Active sentences – E-Prime
I first wrote about this on my blog in May this year and you can read the full post here. In summary, this involves finding and replacing the verb ‘to be’ with a more active verb in your writing. The example I gave in the article still holds good, I think but here’s another one for you:
Before – ‘We were strolling along the promenade…’
After – ‘We strolled along the promenade…’
You won’t be able to do this for every instance but when you can do it, you will notice that it definitely improves your writing.

3. Over-used words
As I use Scrivener, it was really easy for me to see which words I was over-using using the ‘Text Statistics’ function which is an option under the tab ‘Project.’ I have taken a screenshot today of the most used words in my manuscript and I can still see that ‘I’ is at the top, as it was in May! I have managed to reduce the number of times I use it though 🙂
Screenshot 2014-09-08 09.47.08
As you can see, these are all every day words and I feel pretty happy that I have managed to eradicate over-use of most of them. Words like ‘that’ are often put in unnecessarily and can bump up your word count no end. There are lots of articles about these over-used or filler words and you really should have a look at eliminating these during the editing process. Here are just a few things to look out for:

  • over-use of adverbs.
  • using clichés. Work out what you’re trying to say and then write it differently.
  • using ‘began to’ or ‘started to’ or ‘decided to.’
  • using ‘seemed to.’
  • using ‘very’, ‘really’ or ‘just.’

4. Showing not Telling
Once my manuscript came back from the RNA, this was the first big thing I had to tackle. This was to be expected as it was my first novel so I didn’t beat myself up about it too much. Half the battle is in working out when you should show and when telling will be alright. Once again, I wrote a blog post about it here and there are also lots of articles written about it which you may or may not find helpful! The best one I found is listed in my blog post and remains the one I found the most useful.

5. Cutting Scenes that are not relevant to the story
This speaks for itself and has been painstaking because I have found it difficult to be sure whether every one is relevant or not. Sometimes it was very clear and I was able to delete without any worries but at other times, it was hard. I suspect that this comes with practice. If you write a good outline for your story and keep to it pretty much through the first draft, then hopefully, the redundant scenes will be fewer at the end. I’ll have to let you know on that one next time 😉 For now though, only you can know what you think is relevant or otherwise to your story but the general advice is that a scene is not relevant if it doesn’t move the story forward.

6. Killing your Darlings!
We’ve all heard this phrase, I’m sure but I hadn’t really absorbed it until I was advised that I had too many minor characters in my story. When I thought about it, I had to agree and I realised that this would mean quite a change to the plot of the story. Once again, it has been hard to make these changes at this stage but I know it has helped my story to improve and that’s what all this editing is about. We’re trying to make our story tighter and to make it a great read. To be honest, most of my secondary characters weren’t all that ‘darling’ to me and I was kind of relieved to release them off into the sunset. Who knows, maybe they’ll find another home in one of the books I have yet to write?

7. Adding Emotion to your Romance
The final piece of advice I have been given so far is that there needs to be more emotion on the page whenever my two main characters, Rachel and Jackson, are together. This advice came as a result of the partial edit I had done on my first three chapters and was really useful. The reader knows that your main characters are going to fall in love but you have to keep ramping up the tension every time they meet and although I knew this and it’s what I want as a reader, I could see that I hadn’t really written it into my story as much as I could have done.

And there you have it. This is only a brief summary of what I’ve done so far. I hope to send it off for its final edit next week and only then will I really know if I’ve done everything I can. It has been a steep learning curve for me as a new writer and I couldn’t have got this far without the help of a lot of other people, including the early readers of my novel. In the beginning, I allowed a fair few friends and family members to read parts of the novel and to tell me what they thought. This was only partly helpful because they all said it was great, of course and only picked up on typos. Some did want Rachel to go with a different love interest and that was certainly useful for helping me to develop the plot. Next time, I won’t ask so many people to read it in the early stages though. I will stick with my beta reader and writing friend, Cat, if she’ll still have me (!) and I have another writing friend who has offered to read my final draft this time (she knows who she is but she may have changed her mind since making that offer!) It is a big time commitment to beta read and you need writers to do it for you because they can be impartial, unlike your family and friends.

Good luck with your editing if that’s where you’re at and if you have any questions for me, do ask in the comments below or tell me of something you’ve done which has been really helpful for you. Thanks for reading and see you next week 🙂

Writing a great blurb for your contemporary romance novel

DSCN9080After a great break away, it’s time to get back to writing and I always find that this weekly blog post breaks me in gently on a Monday morning. I thought I ought to start with an update of where things are with my writing journey. This photo shows one of the mountains we saw whilst we were away in the French Alps last week and it reminds me a lot of where I am with my writing right now.

Before I went away on holiday, I got in touch with a freelance editor I’d met at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) conference in July and asked her to do a partial edit on the first three chapters of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. I have sent her the final draft of those chapters so I hope that these represent as close to the finished work as I can make it on my own. I am nervously awaiting her feedback which is due by the end of this month. Dependent on what comes back, I may or may not have a lot of work to do to polish the rest of the story to the same standard as the first three chapters will be after her help.

The other thing I have done is to contact a cover designer and I am all set to go with them this week in starting work on an e-book cover only, in the first instance. They have a lot of experience in book cover design and also in the romance genre and I’m looking forward to working with them. The cover should be ready by mid-September and I will keep you up to date with its progress.

In the meantime, I am still implementing the revisions suggested by my RNA reader following my manuscript assessment as part of the New Writers’ Scheme. This should keep me busy whilst all these other things are going on. On top of this, I have started working on a blurb for my novel, just another one of those seemingly easy but actually quite difficult jobs you have to do as a novelist. I read an interesting blog post at the weekend by Tara Sparling called ‘What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books’ which you can read here on her blog. The three things that came out of her survey that encouraged people to buy were the cover, the sample and the blurb. As I’ve got going on the cover and the book itself is on its way to being professionally edited, I felt it was time to turn my attention to the blurb.

I have had a go at this in the past but found it quite difficult so I did some research and found an interesting piece all about it here, on Digital Bookworld’s site. Their advice is to follow four easy steps to writing your blurb: first, describe the situation your characters are in at the start of the story; then explain the problem; next, tell the reader what the ‘hopeful possibility’ is; finally, describe the mood of the story. I found this incredibly useful and have even managed to produce a first go which comes in at just under 150 words. It’s not as good as it could be yet but it’s a start. I also spent some time looking at blurbs for other books I’ve read and enjoyed on Amazon to see what I should be aiming for. Whilst doing this, I noticed that most blurbs start with a separate line of just a few words which aim to hook the reader in. For example, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ blurb starts with: ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ And ‘Can Baking Mend a Broken Heart?’ from Jenny Colgan’s ‘Little Beach Street Bakery.’ In keeping with this idea then, mine is ‘Can Music Really Make Your Dreams Come True?’ Once again, it’s a first go but it’s made me think about my story and how to hook readers.

Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts about writing a blurb, do let me know in the comments below. Good luck with writing yours!

Highlights from my first day at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference 2014

RNAI returned from my first ever writing conference yesterday evening, completely exhausted and with a bit of a brain overload from all the information I had taken in over the two days I was there. The main feeling I had afterwards though, was a sense of utter contentment from having been amongst like-minded, lovely writing people for a whole two days!

Naturally, I want to share with you some of the things I learnt over the weekend and today’s post is going to tell you about a few tips I picked up from the sessions I attended on the first day of the conference.

The Chemistry of Reading – Arousing your Reader by Nikki Logan, President of RWA Australia
Nikki gave a fascinating talk about this topic (she has even written a book all about it here). Nikki explained that people are becomingly increasingly addicted to experiences that arouse them and we are conditioned as human beings, to seek out this arousal again and again. A good example of this is when you read a good book and don’t want it to end. When it does end, you may experience what’s called ‘A Book Hangover.’ Women, in particular are experiential and seek the emotional experience that a good romance story can offer so if they read one good book by an author, they will go and look for others so that they can repeat the experience. Nikki explained that as writers, we need to write characters that the reader can connect with, giving them experiences that the reader can respond to. This is why a series of books by the same author can be so successful because the reader keeps coming back for more because they have come to care for the characters.

Self-Publishing Trends and Revelations – Alison Baverstock and Hazel Gaynor
This session revealed a number of interesting statistics. 65% of self-published authors are female and 60% of them are between 41 and 60 years old! That made me feel quite young 😉 In addition, 76% of them have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. From her research, Alison suggested that most people choose to self-publish through a desire for control over the whole process from beginning to end. 59% of people surveyed used a professional editor. Some people were surprised at how low a figure that was. The average cost of self-publishing a book was £1,500 with most of that being spent on editing, formatting and a professional cover design.

Going Solo: Publishing and Marketing an E-Book – Ian Skillicorn, Corazon Books
This excellent session was full of good tips so I can only pick out a few points here. I wasn’t aware that e-books don’t need an ISBN to be published on Amazon and as they have 91% of the UK market, it is simplest to just publish with them to start with and keep outlets like Apple, Kobo, Nook and Smashwords for further down the line.

Ian suggested that although you should have a marketing plan in place before you self-publish your book, you shouldn’t do any publicity until it’s out so that readers can click on it and buy it at once. He said that book bloggers should be contacted about a couple of months before the book is going to be out.

These are just a few of the things I learnt whilst at the Conference but there were so much more and I know this will all be invaluable as I continue on my path to publication in the coming months. I’ll be back next week with my highlights from day two.

Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome any comments or indeed, questions.

Looking Ahead to My First Writing Conference

Julie - RNA 2014As many of you will remember, I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) this year on their New Writers’ Scheme and this means that I am able to attend their Conference which is taking place in Telford, Shropshire next weekend. Although it starts on Thursday, as I work during the second half of the week, I have decided to make an early start from Bedfordshire on the Saturday morning. It will take me about two and a half hours to get there so I’m going to stay until the Sunday evening so that I can make the most of it. It will probably take me that long to recover from the journey!

There are so many good workshops/seminars taking place over those two days alone that I really was spoilt for choice and there were several time slots when I could have happily attended every workshop that’s taking place.  Each time slot has three sessions, as well as the chance to book an appointment with one of a number of publishing houses/editors/agents who will be in attendance. I didn’t book any of those appointments (partly because I was too scared!) but also because I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet. Maybe I’ll be braver and a bit more experienced about all that kind of thing next year!

I have focussed instead on editing, self-publishing, the path to publication and tips for newbies, as well as meeting up with other people on the New Writers’ Scheme. All in all, I should be attending twelve sessions so there will be a lot to take in but I know I will learn so much and that’s what I’m most excited about. I feel lucky that there were so many sessions to choose from to help me at this particular stage of my journey, especially about editing and self-publishing. I am really pleased that Debbie Young from the Alliance of Independent Authors is going to be there, as is Joanne Phillips, an independent author whose journey I have been following with interest since I started writing in earnest myself. I am also looking forward to a number of sessions concerned with improving my writing.

The other main focus of the weekend will of course, be getting together with new friends made on Twitter. When I attended the RNA Summer Party in May, I didn’t know if I would know anyone there at all but a lovely person started chatting to me as soon as I arrived, drawing me into a group of people she’d been chatting to and there I found Ros Rendle who I had been talking to on Twitter since joining the New Writers’ Scheme in January. It’s funny trying to work out if the person you’re talking to is someone you’ve met on social media and it’s lovely when you realise that you do know them! I am so looking forward to meeting other friends that I have only spoken to online.

There are many other writing conferences out there for people not connected with the RNA. Another one I had been thinking of going to is called ‘The Festival of Writing’ and is organised by The Writers’ Workshop. This one takes places in York in mid-September and has a similar selection of fantastic sessions and the chance to pitch to agents etc if you’re interested. It is quite pricey but they sometimes offer deals so do take a look if you think it might be of interest to you. I will be back next week with my review of the Conference. Until then, I will mostly be looking for a new pair of shoes and packing!

Editing using E-Prime and reducing repetition, repetition, rep…

Image from flickr.com
Image from flickr.com

During this past week, I finished working through the beta readers’ comments I’ve had in so far for the third draft of my novel. However, following some very useful comments after my last blog post, I decided to ask my husband to read the current draft to get his take on whether my male character’s point of view (POV) is realistic enough. I await his comments with interest – sadly, I may be waiting a long time because he is a slow reader, only managing a couple of pages a night before he falls asleep 😉 As I’ve set myself a deadline of the end of May to complete my edits on what has now become the fourth draft of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ I’ve decided to crack on with my own final edit of the story.

At long last, the time has come for me to turn to all those useful articles on editing I have been bookmarking since I first joined Twitter last year. When I took a quick glance, I could see that I had bookmarked 46 articles in total! Some of them are more proofreading-type articles which I’m going to save for the final, final round of editing when I get my manuscript back from the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but the rest are about line-by-line editing and I decided to try and work my way through as many of these as possible before my self-imposed deadline of the end of the month.

Therefore, I thought it might be useful for other new writers to see what I’ve been getting up to. The very first article I’d bookmarked can be found here on The Procrastiwriter’s website, a site I’ve found useful on many occasions. The title of the article is ‘The Secret Way to Energise Any Kind of Writing (even Poetry)’ and it focuses on a particular type of editing called ‘E-Prime,’ which involves finding and replacing all variations of the verb ‘to be’ in your writing. The idea behind this is to make your language clearer and to strengthen your writing by making it more active and less passive. It is described as a prescriptive way of writing and I agree with that but I decided to give it a go because I knew that many people advise writers to cut down on the passive voice in their writing. The first thing I noticed is that it is virtually impossible to cut out all instances of the verb ‘to be’ so I stopped trying to do that quite quickly, deciding only to change those sentences that I could and that I thought would benefit from the approach.

Here’s an example of a before and after in my novel:

Before: ‘The feel of the strings against my fingers was as reassuring as always and helped calm my nerves.’
After: ‘The feel of the strings against my fingers reassured me as always and helped calm my nerves.’

The downside of this approach is that it takes a long time to do but it has helped to give the story a bit more energy and so I’m going to plod on with it.

The other bit of editing I’ve been doing at the same time (for when I get bored with just the one job!), is to try and sift out my repetitive use of certain words. Thanks to Scrivener, I can see under ‘Text Statistics’ exactly how many times I use every word in my manuscript. I know how to have fun, right? Unsurprisingly as my novel is in the first person, I use the word ‘I’ a massive 5,008 times in my story. I still feel this is probably too much though and so I’m going to see if there’s anything I can do to cut that down a bit as I go through. The next highest word after that is ‘to’ which can be found 4,577 times. Obviously, some of these words you wouldn’t even notice as a reader perhaps but if the word was ‘gallivanting’ for example, you might feel differently. You’ll be glad to know that I only use this once! Anyway, the week ahead looks like it could be a bit tedious from a writing point of view but I’m hanging in there because I know it will improve my writing. I’ve also noticed that it’s reducing my word count and that’s a real bonus.

I’d love to hear from you if there’s a special editing approach that you’ve used on your manuscript. Until next week, wish me luck and good luck to all of you writing and editing out there 🙂

Writing from a different viewpoint and other POV issues

Nashville Book CoverNow that I have finished Camp NaNoWriMo, I have had to get back to editing ‘From Here to Nashville’ with a vengeance. My aim is to go through my three beta readers’ comments and do a final edit of the story before the end of May, at which point I will send my manuscript off to be assessed by the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association). I’m now on my fourth draft of the story and I’m finding it so difficult to apply some of the points that have been raised. The proofreading type edits are easy but it’s the more meaty comments that would involve a lot of rewriting that are so hard to deal with. So I thought it would be useful in my blog post today to raise two of the more difficult issues I’ve been trying to handle, for you to consider.

Writing in a different gender My story divides quite easily into three parts. Part one is set in Dorset and is written from Rachel’s point of view. The second part sees the story move to Nashville and is from Jackson’s viewpoint. The final part moves between both settings and so I alternate between the two main characters’ points of view. I’ll come back to point of view in a moment but I’d like to look at this problem of writing in a different gender. Obviously, it was always going to be much easier for me to write Rachel’s point of view because she is a woman, like me, and I can understand what’s going on inside her head that much more easily for that. When it came to Jackson, I didn’t really ever think consciously, now I need to write more like a man. I had the character in my mind and just wrote his part the way I saw it. However, the feedback I’ve received from two of my beta readers is that he’s not enough like a man, in fact, he’s too much like a woman. The problem with this is that I have created a character in my mind and tried to put him on the page the way I imagined him to be. I can accept that maybe he’s a bit too feminine and work on some of what he says and does but I worry that if I try to make him more ‘manly’, I may stray into male stereotype territory and I don’t want to do that either.

As always, I did some research on the internet and came across this useful article from Janice Hardy’s ‘Fiction University’ blog. If you’re interested in this issue, you really must read the full article but I would like to pick out the main points that I found useful for me in my current dilemma. Firstly, she says that ‘A well-rounded character is just the same, no matter what the sex.’ She says that we’re often tempted to write gender stereotypes when writing about the opposite sex to our own but this will only lead to us writing flat, two-dimensional characters and our reader won’t believe in them. What we need to do is to look at people we know who are of the opposite sex and ask them what they would do or say in the situations our character finds themselves in.

For example, I asked my husband what he would say in answer to a question about whether a wedding had gone well. Jackson says ‘It was really lovely’ in my story but my husband said he would never say that. He thought he would probably say ‘it was really nice.’ Well, that’s a bit bland for my character but it made me think about my choice of language for a man. I don’t think my husband is a typical man’s man but his language is definitely not as flowery as mine.

Another tip Janice gives is to focus on the character, not the gender, seeing them as a person first and foremost. I liked this point a lot. Everyone is different and should be treated as such and for the reader, that’s what makes a character interesting. My question for myself needs to be not whether Jackson ‘needs to grow a pair’, as one reader advised (!) but whether his character is genuinely more in touch with his emotions and whether that reads right in my story. Her final point is to get a beta reader of the opposite sex to read the story and to see what their take on it is. I am going to take that advice and see what happens.

Point of View I want to come back to the question of which point of view you write in. As I’ve said, my story is told in the first person, either by Rachel or by Jackson. I have had some surprising reactions to this. One reader a while back told me that she had only ever read one book written in first person point of view! I was shocked by that statement. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I have read in the first person and it doesn’t bother me at all. It did knock my confidence at the time she said that though because when I did some more research, I found that some critics believe that only inexperienced, first-time writers (like me) would make the mistake of writing in the first person. I blogged about it here. Anyway, I got over it and decided that, whilst I respected that view, it was not something to focus on. However, I’ve had this comment again recently, thus stirring up the same storm for me all over again. This reader has carried on and adjusted to that point of view and she is no longer bothered by it but it is still a worry for me, now that a few people have mentioned it. To change it now would be really hard but I am wondering whether to change the third part of the story to third person instead. I have heard from other writers that Carole Matthews, a very successful romance novelist, writes in first person from different characters’ points of view, concluding with a change to third person and so I feel heartened by that. I need to get round to reading one of her novels very quickly to see how she does it!

In summary then, it is a hard job editing your novel and trying to work out which comments to take on board and which to leave out. The important thing is to consider them all and then make your own decision. It is very important to have other people read your work of course but at the end of the day, it is your story and these are your characters. Only you, as the author, can decide what exactly it is they would say and do in certain situations but it helps to have other people give your their opinions to make sure that you have written the best characters you can write for your novel.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog today. As always, I would appreciate any comments you might have on these topics.